Monday, September 22, 2014

2014 St. George Book Festival Interview with J.R. Johansson

J.R. Johansson is a young adult thriller author. Her books "INSOMNIA" and "PARANOIA" are with Flux books. "CUT ME FREE" will be come out January 2015 by FSG/Macmillan. When Johansson isn't writing, she loves reading, playing board games and sitting in her hot tub. Her dream is that someday she can do all three at the same time.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? I wasn’t one of those authors that has always known that I wanted to write. If someone had asked me when I was in high school or at my university if there was any chance I would end up as an author, I would have laughed and said no. I started writing around six years ago because I was going through some struggles in my life. At the time, there was a story in my head that kept bobbing to the surface and I essentially started writing it as an escape. I never expected it to turn anything and I never expected to enjoy it. I basically didn’t realize I wanted to be a writer until I finished my first book…it’s possible that I was a little slow to catch on. J

 Where did the inspiration for Cut Me Free come from? It started with the idea of a girl and a puppet and a scary attic. Then everything kind of evolved from there.

What made you choose to write a novel?

What is the main message or theme that you hope readers of this book come away from it with? The main message I would love for them to come away with is one of hope and healing. I truly believe that humanity has more strength inside of us than we think and Charlotte is a shining example of that kind of strength.

 Who is your favorite author?

 Do you have a writing routine? A special pen, a certain type of music, time limits? I like to create a playlist for books to set a tone before I start working on them. When I’m actually writing though, I can’t listen to any music that has lyrics. So I either write in silence or to a musical score if I can find one that fits. I generally push myself through drafts at a rate of around 2-4k words per day depending on my schedule. I invest more time in the idea development stage (before I start writing), and in the editing and revising stage than in drafting. Drafts aren’t meant to be good on the first try…it’s in the polishing and fixing that they become what they can be.

 Do you enjoy edits/rewrites, or not? Very much. They are my absolute favorite part of the writing process. I love the part where I can take the rough project and really start to hone it until it shines the way I wanted it to.

Please tell us a little bit about your journey to publication: As I said before, I wrote an entire book before I knew I wanted to be a writer. Then I made the very common mistake of reworking and reworking that book way past when I should have moved on. I learned a lot and really improved my craft while doing it, but it definitely needed to be shelved. Once I finally was ready and moved on to a new project, I applied everything I learned and that new book was the one that landed me an agent and became my debut novel, Insomnia. It has sold in eight languages and actually sold first in Germany at auction before ever selling here…but that’s another story. J

What is the hardest part of being a writer? The hardest part is probably how isolating it can be. There are very few people who aren’t part of the business who can understand the way publishing works. It can make you feel very alone in your struggles. And there are always struggles, no matter where you are on your journey. It is the main reason why being part of the writing community and having friends who are authors is so crucial to our sanity.

Are there any common themes that you feel are particularly important to write about?

When you're not writing, what are your other hobbies/passions? I obviously have a long held passion for books. I love playing board games and video games with my sons. I’m also a rabid fan of football, specifically the Green Bay Packers. My husband and I try to make it out to see at least one game in person every season.

 Are you working on any new projects? Yes! I have the third and final book in the Night Walkers Series that I’m doing edits. I’m also editing a new stand-alone thriller that will be releasing in January 2016. And I’m also getting ready to start drafting a new top-secret project. Writing is keeping me very busy!

Quick Fire round:

Coke or Pepsi? Diet Coke
Chocolate or Vanilla? Vanilla
Rainy winter days or blazing hot summer days? Rainy winter days
Hard Copy or e-book? Hard copy at home, e-book when traveling.
Favorite book? Impossible question, I have too many. For today, because I’m currently on a plane back from the U.K.—I would say Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Last book you read? SHUTTER by Courtney Alameda. It was fantastic! I highly recommend it. It comes out in February 2015.
What's a quote that inspires you? “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw of the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
What's your favorite comfort food? Red Vines. I’m fairly certain they have something in them that is addictive.

St. George Book Festival October 20-25, 2014 - Learn More at

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