Have you ever wondered how authors learn to write? Or how they picked their genres? Johnnie Alexander’s back to give us an inside look at her writing process.
Hi, and thanks for your willingness to appear on my blog! What genre do you write? How did you pick it?
I wrote a historical when I became fascinated with WWII history. I wrote a contemporary romance series based on a mid-nineteenth century brick house I lived in as a teen. And I’m now writing cozy mysteries because my agent asked me if I wanted to try one and I said yes. LOL!
Genre-hopping makes it harder to build a readership, but this seems to be the path God laid out for me so I’m trusting Him with the journey.
What are your favorite genres to read? Why?
The classics, such as stories by Jane Austen or Charles Dickens or George Eliot, are fun (though sometimes difficult to get through) because of the old-fashioned language and the still-true-today insights into a different historical era.
I’m a fan of The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien because his creation story is imaginatively fascinating.
A good suspense or thriller passes the time on road trips, and I love time-slip or parallel stories. Juxtaposing the present with the past creates an engaging tension.
How long did it take you complete your first manuscript (published or not)?
The first novel I completed, meaning revised and polished, is the third novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo. The initial pages had won the Best Novel award at the 2009 Florida Christian Writers Conference. An editor asked me to send him the completed manuscript by the end of September so that gave me seven months. I worked diligently to turn that messy 50,000-word NaNoWriMo draft into a completed manuscript.
The novel didn’t lead to a publishing contract but Tamela Hancock Murray signed me as a client because of it. I love the story, which is one of those fun time-slip tales, so I’m revising it once again with plans to indie-publish later this year.
Have your follow-up novels been easier or harder to write? Why do you think that is?
The second and third books in the Misty Willow Series were the first books I wrote from scratch and with a deadline. That was scary! But as difficult as that was, the writing was easier because now I have more confidence and more experience. I always learn so much through the editorial process for each book.
What’s surprised you the most about the book-publishing process?
I’ve worked with four different publishers—two for my novels, one for a historical novella, and one for a short story—and now I’m working with a fifth for the cozy mysteries. I don’t know if it’s surprising but it’s interesting how each house has their own process. They’re similar yet different.
What’s been the most challenging part of getting a book published?
The number of fiction slots at Christian publishers is decreasing so the competition is tough. Readers also have an overwhelming number of options. So I think the challenge is finding and growing a loyal fan base.
What’s your favorite part of the publishing experience?
I have a three-way tie: 1) going through edits; 2) getting the final cover; 3) finding the finished novel in a bookstore.
Readers, when you see one of my books in a bookstore, please send me a photo of you with it. Or if you already have one of my books, take a selfie with it and send the photo my way. I’ll put it on my website’s Photo Fan Page.
For learning the writing craft, which do you prefer – books or conferences? Why?
Tough question! I love taking classes at conferences and especially love the networking, but at this stage in my journey, I think I learn more from books. I can study them at my own pace.
If you could recommend one writing conference, what would it be? Why? (If you haven’t attended one, which one would you like to attend? Why?)
The Florida Christian Writers Conference will always hold a special place in my heart because of the experiences I gained there when I was just starting out.
I’m on the planning committee for the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference, a one-day conference near Memphis. It’s small, but growing, and provides tremendous value for the cost.
Another favorite is the Autumn in the Mountains Novel Writing Retreat held in October in North Carolina. The numbers are small, the schedule is leisurely, and the atmosphere is restful. Plus Yvonne Lehman, the director, is hilarious.
If you could recommend one writing book, what would it be? Why?
The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass and not just because it’s the one I’m currently reading. It’s deep, thoughtful, and challenging.
If you could pick any of your novels to be made into a movie, which one would you pick? Who would you want to play the lead roles, and why?
What a fun question! I’d love to see Where Treasure Hides made into a movie but as a historical set in England, Holland, France, and Germany, it would cost a fortune. All three novels in the Misty Willow Series could probably be filmed for less. But for a question like this, money is no object and neither is casting possibilities.
So I’m staying with Where Treasure Hides starring the incomparable Ingrid Bergman and the talented Joseph Cotten. If I must choose contemporary actors, then let’s go with Amanda Seyfried who was terrific in Les Miserables and Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey).
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you so much, Karin, for showcasing each one of my novels on your blog over the past couple of years. I always enjoy your questions.
What Hope Remembers, the latest book in the Misty Willow Series, may be purchased from most online retailers. Links available on my website’s Bookstore page.
Thanks to everyone for stopping by!