Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Author Interview: Shelli Johnson

Glad to have you on my blog, tell everyone a bit about yourself.

I'm glad to be here. Thanks so much, Theresa, for having me. I used to be journalist and an editor (well, still am free-lance), but what I mainly write now is novels.

Has writing always been a passion of yours, or did you discover it at a later age?

I've always loved writing. The earliest memory I have of it is writing a story in the first grade & having it be selected by the teacher to be read to the Kindergarten class. I don't even remember what it was about. But I do remember thinking that writing was all I wanted to do.

Do you outline or write as you go?

Write as I go. Outlines don't work for me. What I love most about writing is getting surprised by the story, having it veer off in a direction I never anticipated, never planned for, & so I'm just as shocked as a reader would be about what happened. Anyway, I find that outlining doesn't allow for that in my case. I know too much about what's going to happen, or worse, I don't let the story do what it wants because I'm trying to stick to the outline.

What inspires you?

Music. Certain songs get stuck in my head when I'm working & then they feel like part of the story. When I was writing my novel, SMALL AS A MUSTARD SEED, Tim McGraw's Red Rag Top was playing all the time on the radio and so that song set a kind of tone for the writing in that book. Strange how that happened, but it did. I also love running, which some people think is an oxymoron ~ lol. But after a few miles, it clears my head right out so I can think of ideas and hear the characters instead of my own mind chatter.

Do you get inspired by a certain element(Water. Fire. Air. Etc)? 

I love water. Love it. If I could live in it, I would. I've noticed that when I'm near water, I have an easier time writing. But there's something to be said for fire, too. Nothing like a few blue-tipped flames and some logs turning to ash and caving in on themselves to bring out a story.

Do you listen to music or multitask while writing?

I don't actually. Songs get stuck in my head so I'll be thinking of them while I'm writing, but I don't actually have a radio on. I can't multitask and write. It just doesn't work for me. I have to go in a room and close the email program and ignore the phone/internet/kids/husband/etc. Otherwise, I just get too easily distracted. Wish it weren't that way, but it is. :)

What is your favorite genre, and least favorite?

I'll read just about anything. Favorite is probably horror. I am a zombie fan. But I love literary stuff and fantasy. Anything beautifully written <-- that would be my favorite, some gorgeous language to go along with a great plot. Least favorite is romance, I think. I don't read a lot of it. Although, I did get on a Sidney Sheldon kick for a while one summer and read everything he wrote.

Who are among your favorite authors?

I've been a Stephen King junkie since I was 12. I just read Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell, which is a phenomenal book. I'm currently reading Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, which I have to put down and step away from because it's so well-written that it feels real & the subject matter, suicide, is hard to take. So that's three guys. So women: I love Geneen Roth, who actually writes non-fiction, but she's fabulous. Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird is probably the best book on writing that I've ever read. Okay, fiction ~ anything by Toni Morrison. Poems by Mary Oliver. Jeanette Walls (The Glass Castle ~ memoir) is fantastic.

What is your favorite piece you’ve written, and what is it about?

It's a scene from my second novel. One of the main characters, Helena, is held prisoner in a concentration camp brothel during World War II. Her husband, Oskar, is also in the same camp, but as a prisoner in the barracks on the other end of the compound. That scene is about when they finally see each other after nearly a year apart and Helena realizes her husband is being starved to death and Oskar realizes that his wife is being forced into sexual slavery and they both realize there's little they can do to change any of it. It's a sad scene & I was okay writing it, but it just about broke my heart to read it afterward. Although, as a writer, that always makes me glad: to make somebody feel something so intensely that it sticks with them long after they've closed the book.

Let’s change things up:

What is a hidden talent of yours?

I can swear in French. Comes in handy sometimes. Nobody knows what I'm saying & the words sound really pretty.

Do you have any animals?

Not at the moment, unless you count the occasional snake, lightning bugs, water spiders, frogs, and other assorted things my little boys bring into the house. We had an outdoor cat, but sadly she went missing a while back.


TV shows

Damages ~ love Glenn Close; The Daily Show because Jon Stewart doesn't try to BS anybody; Supernatural because, let's face it, those boys are easy on the eyes; The Walking Dead because it has zombies.


Ocean's Eleven (great acting & a great plot); The Shawshank Redemption (best movie ever, I think ~ about a prison break and based on a Stephen King novella); Blue Valentine (just saw it & thought the story-telling was tremendous); Life is Beautiful (will shatter your heart); Monster's Inc. (yes, a kid's movie but one of the best endings ever); Thelma & Louise (ditto on the ending).


Other than the ones above, here's just a few: Martha Beck (who does motivational stuff, she's hilarious); Terry Brooks (Sword of Shannara series); Clive Barker (horror master); Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games trilogy)


Other than the ones above, here's just a few: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson; Push by Sapphire (excellent, excellent book); East of Eden by John Steinbeck; Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh; The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton





And last but not least, tell us all about your upcoming novel.

Well, it's out now as an eBook. 
PRICE: $2.99
As a child in 1960′s rural Ohio, Ann Marie Adler finds herself caught between her father, Frank, a veteran who survived the war in Korea but with devastating post-traumatic stress, and her mother, Adele, who is blindsided by the mental illness that accompanied him home. In a series of escalating dangerous episodes, Frank confuses reality with soul-searing memories, believing he’s still a soldier fighting for his life in battle-torn Korea. During the delusions, Ann Marie and her younger sister, Jolene, become the enemy, which leaves them fearing for their lives. Unable to fully protect her daughters, Adele scrambles to keep order while her husband’s threatening and unpredictable outbursts slowly tear the family apart.
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