C. S. Johnson (1989- ) was born in western Pennsylvania, but considers world travel a top priority (one of the perks of living in Atlanta, where she and her family currently reside). Her novel, THE STARLIGHT CHRONICLES: SLUMBERING won 2nd place in the 2012 Munch Writing Contest. It is the first in an epic young adult series. She writes in a variety of genres, including young adult, fantasy/sci-fi, and spiritual/apologetic fiction.
What inspires you to write?
Anything and everything can inspire me to write. I think a lot of it – the majority of it – comes from pain, however. There is so much pain in the world, and I write to help understand it, alleviate it, and negate it; but I also write to help others with their pain, too. I can tell you a lot of the Starlight series features pain in a variety of ways – denial, loneliness, alienation, addiction, conflict, and unfulfilled desire. I began writing the series began with my own high school troubles. The rejection, the insecurity, and the awkwardness of youth and the shame that comes along with it…these are all still there, inside my heart. And having worked in a high school setting as a teacher (for English, of course!) has allowed me to recognize those same characteristics in students today. I write with them in mind, seeking to offer hope and comfort as well as humor to them.
Tell us about your writing process.
I usually daydream a lot to begin. Daydreaming is nice, because it’s not a lot of work but a good story requires a lot of it. A LOT of it. It’s like the 90% of the iceberg you don’t see. For me, knowing the characters are the most important part. I have to know how each character will react in any and every situation to be believable – and that really makes the difference with good writing. And that process takes a while to get right! From there, I usually do make a rough outline, but I have more recently been able to write down the whole story without the dialogue, and explain how it should come across, and then I will finish it, okay it, and then go back in and add all of the writing. It’s like a reverse summary, I suppose. It is helpful when you are really busy and you think really fast.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I speak for my characters. My characters are all understood through me by me (if that makes sense). I know myself very well, for example, so I need to know the reactions of someone anywhere from almost like me, or like me in this and that way, to someone completely different from me. That makes the characters much more round and believable. So I will try out different forms of speaking. A good example I can think of is how most of my characters in my novel “Slumbering” ask questions. They ask questions by dropping the question words: “You going to the party tonight?” or “You think that’s good enough?” Since most of the characters are teenagers, and teenagers today talk and text a lot, it is a sign of their love for communication and convenience. So in dropping the word you have a quicker sentence while maintaining the same meaning, just like in texting. LOL.
Once the characters have their voice, their lives are more easily shaped, and they become nearly real.
What advice would you give other writers?
Be prepared to do a lot of work. And not fun work. Most of which you will have to pay for, in some form or another.
I’ve had a lot of ideas on how to save money in publicity. I recommend making a fool of yourself on a Youtube video and having it go viral for publicity. I’m not that brave, but if I was, I would totally do it. Several times, too, probably.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I entered into a writing contest. It was the 2012 Munce Manuscript Writing Contest, and I won 2nd place out of over 250 manuscripts. Part of the prize was to be published. I didn’t have to pay anything for it.
As far as advice goes, I am probably not the best person to consult. I am not very patient, and I can’t handle rejection very well, so…yes, I don’t really have any good advice there. I guess knowing someone in the biz is the best place to start. But whether you decide to self-publish or try it the traditional way, I would recommend thoroughly researching your options and considering why it is you want to be published. The different options out there can be tweaked for your consideration.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
While there is still a shadow over self-published books, I think the way things are going it won’t be long before self-publishing is put on the same level as the traditional publishing method. I can name a lot of instances where self-published books have been picked up by a traditional publishing house once it has ‘proven’ itself, and I see that as becoming more of a norm, just because it will be more cost-effective on the publishing house, and it will allow a test-drive for the novel, so to speak. It will also let them see how much the author is willing to work and how people respond to her.
What genres do you write?
Young adult lit, epic, fantasy, sci-fi, short stories, novels
What formats are your books in?
eBook, Print, Both eBook and Print