I’ve had the honor of knowing Kerry Johnson for years and years via the blog sphere and other social media sites. We developed our writing craft along side each other, encouraging each other with our posts and our own personal writing journeys. I’m so excited to watch my friend receive two nominations for the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Contest and win first place for her Young Adult fiction, The Golden Orb! Please join me as I interview Kerry, asking her the key questions that all aspiring authors want to know!
Interview with Kerry Johnson
Question: How many books have you written and entered into the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest?
I have three completed manuscripts (and a fourth, book two in my MG trilogy, that’s still being revised). My women’s fiction story is the first book I wrote and entered in Genesis. That first year I entered? Dismal scores and questioning whether God really planted this dream in my heart. The idea of publishing a book felt like flying to the moon on a deflated balloon. But some of the judges’ comments stuck, and I entered again. The third year I entered Genesis, my women’s fiction story semi-finaled. Because it’s edgy, I’m not certain that book will ever see the light of day. And it finally got through my
thick skull to keep writing more stories. I wrote The Golden Orb in late 2014, and entered it in Genesis in 2015 (it finaled under the title Round Remembering). In early 2016, I wrote Name Game, a contemporary romance. Golden Orb didn’t final that year, but Name Game did. Then this year (2017), I was beyond thrilled that both stories finaled.
Question: How did it feel to finally stand behind the winner’s podium and receive your award? What are your fondest memories of the moment and of the entire weekend?
Surreal. Huge. Breathtaking. Fun. It’s such an odd feeling to want something that you’re also quite scared of. I love one-on-one interactions and small groups, but standing in front of hundreds of people is intimidating. Make that hundreds of people who write books, who I’ve looked up to for years, and whose characters I’m so fond of, and it’s super intimidating. But I had friends and family praying for me for the conference, and I was overwhelmed with peace. Afterward I felt bad because I had written two short speeches, just in case, and I could only take one up there. So, I accidentally left out two people I really wanted to thank (but I thanked them both in private later).
My fondest memory of the overall experience is getting back to my seat and meeting my mom’s damp eyes—seeing that, “I love you, I’m proud of you, and now they all know what I know” expression. Also, how genuinely happy people are for you. So many well-wishers and congratulations. It means so much.
Question: As an award-winning author, what advice would you offer to other writers who are trying to develop their craft?
Ask writers you trust for the best books on craft. Why did the book help them? I purchased Self-Editing for Fiction Writers five years ago, and it’s the main one I regularly use. It gives good examples that resonated with me, examples of showing verses telling, point of view, etc… Go to a writer’s conference and network. Find a local writer’s group. Pray and ask God to lead you to the right critique partners. (But I would caution: don’t spread yourself thin. Too many voices and opinions drown out your voice. I don’t recommend having more than two or three critique partners to start). I also cannot recommend enough—read, read, read. Read the genre you write in and other genres. It’s a balance, yes, carving out time to write let alone read, but you must read. My creativity is seriously sparked after reading an amazing story. Case in point, I just finished Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, a general market YA. The story and writing did something to me—intrinsically pushed me to up my author game. It’s about dangerous water horses and these wild November races and has a touch of romance. It seriously wrecked me as a reader (and animal lover) and inspired me as a writer.
Question: Describe your writing process? What inspires you? How many hours do you dedicate to writing? How do you motivate yourself to write?
Oh, it really depends on the season in my life (what’s going on in my kids’ school schedule and the time of year). I wish I could say “I sit down and write 1k words a day, come rain or shine or hurricane.” Just not always the case. During NaNoWriMo, I do 1-5k a day for sure. But if I look back over the past four or five years, I’ve written about one book a year. I write a pretty rough draft then spend the majority of my time revising. I’d say it’s a 30/70 process—30 percent first draft, 70 percent revising.
I work part-time, so on my days off I write or edit one to two hours a day. I’m definitely in need of better self-discipline. Always a struggle. Probably the hardest part of being a writer for me is sitting still for that long. Those close to me know I don’t sit still well. I think maybe you’re that way, too? We’re physical people. Sometimes I stop and do jumping lunges or two sets of 10 pushups. Or go outside. Walking and being outside inspires me, too. God’s creation, the nuances of this broken but beautiful world. Conversations around me. Things my boys say. Real life events. I have an idea for a story loosely based on the Sandy Hook shootings that would definitely be an edgy women’s fiction story (as I’m from Sandy Hook, I felt that event deeply). I’m not sure I can pull that one off, though. The idea for The Golden Orb came from something Cole, my older son said one day about our memories, and having them taken away and stored somewhere. Recently, one of our boys mentioned something about a pen that writes your homework by itself—boom, I’ve already got a middle grade story plotted in my head.
I also have an historical YA burning up my brain cells, and it was sparked by one of the picture books we borrowed from the library three years ago. Horse-drawn fire trucks at the turn of the century …. I can picture the gorgeous draft horses and smell the smoke from the burning building. And there’s a contemporary romance with an inherited house and two very stubborn people I’m itching to write.
Sigh. I have lots of ideas but I must be faithful in the follow through. And I have to finish book three in the Round Remembering trilogy first!
Question: How has social media encouraged you on your path as a writer?
I wouldn’t be here without social media. Or at least, this journey would’ve been vastly different. Lonelier. Yes, social media can be a wasp’s nest of envy and discord, but it’s also a blessing. I found ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) through writer friends I met on social media, and then just kept connecting with more writers. I started blogging in 2010 at a friend’s urging, and met more people through that (you were one of them—I always admired your blog and writing!) Social media is a double-edged sword, though: seeing writer friends signing contracts while you’re learning and waiting and dreaming; book releases showcasing gorgeous covers; conference pictures, etc… Overall, it’s been a good exercise in walking out Proverbs 3:5 & 6. Trusting the Lord with my path, and not worrying about your path, or that writer’s path over there.
I’ve also gotten lots of great book recommendations through social media, not to mention met some wonderful friends and fellow writers.
Question: How did you know that God was calling you to write? Describe the process that has gotten you to where you are today?
It’s easier to say I always knew I’d write. And I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. I’m not talented in anything else (okay, I bake a mean brownie). But writing was always “my thing,” even from elementary school. In college I was a lit major, immersed in Shakespeare and Chaucer and poetry and writing papers as well as getting ready to teach. I started a story when I was pregnant with my older son, but it’s hidden on my computer somewhere. I’d say the time just wasn’t right until our boys were about three and five, and that’s when the gentle hum in my heart turned into a resonating song I couldn’t ignore. I read a lot when I stayed home with the boys, mostly romance and historical romance, but I’ve always gone back to childhood favorites—Where the Red Fern Grows, anything Jack London, Anne of Green Gables, and Little House on the Prairie. I’m pretty eclectic with books—just give me a good story and memorable characters and I’m a goner.
God first gave me the idea for my women’s fiction story in 2008. I finished the story in 2009 and (naively) sent it off to a contest. *Ducks in shamed embarrassment* It was so poorly done, point of view was off and there was so much telling. I feel like I need to send the people who read it brownies and sympathy cards. But through entering Genesis in 2011, getting helpful feedback, and paying attention to craft, I learned so much. When I first semi-finaled in 2013, I truly felt like I’d stepped onto the next ladder rung in my writing journey.
There were dozens of times I just wanted to quit writing and go back to reading. I love reading. I love stories, the smell of books, the feel of a new one in my hands as I leave the store, even the ache when you flip the last page and say goodbye. Now that I know what it takes to write, I’m even in more awe of writers. It’s your heart on the page, your imagination spread out in ink for the world to see, and hundreds of hours of fixing and revising and deleting and rewriting.
Here are Kerry’s social media sites! She will inspire you with her faith and her writing! Also, I’m thrilled to share the first chapter of her award winning novel with my readers! Please enjoy The Golden Orb!
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/candidkerry/