J. Evan Johnson is the author of When It’s Too Late to Tell and When It’s Too Dark to See the Light, with more books coming soon. Find out why he’s an author you’ll want to read.
What’s the hardest part of writing a book, for you?
J. Evan Johnson: The hardest part of writing a book is getting the words out onto paper in a way that presents a story the same way I’ve seen it in my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever really hit that mark yet, at least not consistently. The stories in my head are so fantastic, I feel that words alone make them difficult to convey. But that’s always been a challenge I love to take on. The book I one day will call my masterpiece is the one where the words perfectly convey what I was thinking in my head.
Tell us about your writing habits. Do you have a certain time or place you write, food or drink, particular rituals you have to do to get the words flowing, anything like that?
J. Evan Johnson: To get my best writing done, I have to know what scene I’m doing next (I’m such an outliner), and I listen to classical music (both traditional and contemporary, movie scores, video game scores, trailer music, I love it all), preferably a song that matches the tone of the scene to be written. I listen before writing, then I need complete silence to write.
Some authors say that the stories write themselves or that being an author is just being a channel through which the stories flow, because the stories are already written or already exist and the author is just a channel. Others say that they create everything themselves, and fight it out, tooth and nail. What is your experience?
J. Evan Johnson: I am an outliner, so I lean more towards pulling a story together piece by piece. It always starts with a single idea in the form of an amazing scene. I slowly build a story around that by examining as many possibilities as I can, then choosing the one that fits best to me. I repeat that process until I have a full outline for a story.
Which part of When it’s Too Dark to See the Light do you think readers will like the best?
J. Evan Johnson: I believe readers will be drawn to the way they can relate to each of the characters. I’ve tried to build these characters to be as human as possible. That means they have victories, but they have some shortfalls, some of which are their own doing.
What advice do you have for beginners?
J. Evan Johnson: Write. Write a lot and don’t be afraid to let people read it, even if you know it’s garbage. At the early stages, a beginner writer should take some time to figure out what works for them and what doesn’t. Use readers to confirm that.
Has having me for an editor served you well? How?
J. Evan Johnson: Having Jennifer as an editor has helped me beyond the simple line edit. I think she “gets it,” and she gets me. My goal in writing (and in life, I suppose) is to give people a different way to look at things. She ultimately seems like the perfect person to support me in that.
Many people would say your stories don’t fit the mold for Christian Fiction. Some of your characters have affairs and keep secrets. Why do you write messy Christian fiction?
J. Evan Johnson: Ha! Life is messy. If your life isn’t messy at one point, well . . . you’re doing it wrong [he smiles]. Seriously, I write “messy” Christian fiction as my response to the traditional works, and the current CBA guideline-driven works. I’ve found that many books that are labeled Christian fiction portray too many model Christians, and not enough struggling Christians. That’s simply not realistic. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for that kind of work. It just shouldn’t be the whole; i.e., the Christian-fiction genre shouldn’t just say, “Go to church,” but it should say that AND show what it is for a broken person to go to church and still find things difficult.
When did you start writing? Is there a story behind it? What happened to get you thinking that you could be a writer?
J. Evan Johnson: I started writing when I was young . . . like in grade school young, but I always kept it to myself. It wasn’t until my wife saw an old journal of mine that I started thinking I could do it for real. She actually pushed me to write.
What does it take, and how will someone know if they’re cut out to be an author?
J. Evan Johnson: It takes work, a lot of it, no matter where you fall on the skill-talent spectrum. If you don’t want to work to get better, if you don’t want to put in the work to understand what you’re doing to a greater degree, don’t think you can become an author. Like most art, being an author is painful. Sounds weird, I know, but don’t run from the pain. Let the pain refine you into something, into someone better. Of course, that is just the way I see it, as I am sure there are many others who think differently.
The way you went about finding and hiring an editor is amazing and shows how serious and immensely dedicated you are when it comes to your writing. Will you /may I tell readers about that?
J. Evan Johnson: Yup. Go for it. I don’t mind at all.
Evan conducted a Google search for freelance editor and found me, along with several other editors. He followed our blogs and, over the course of a year, narrowed it down to just a couple of us. He then sent us an email and after some back-and-forth emails with me, he hired me to be his editor. In my first email to him, I asked how he had heard about me because I didn’t know him from any of my circles and he didn’t start off with “So-and-so told me about you,” which is what most start off saying (referrals are how I get most of my clients, Michael Port style). Evan told me what he had done, and I was so impressed by it that I wanted to work with him just because of that, before having seen any of his writing. Anyone who would put that much time and effort into choosing their editor—anyone who would be that conscientious and care that much about making sure to find a good author-editor fit…. That was nothing short of amazing, and that man had to become my client. I knew he’d put at least as much care into his books and that he’d be great to work with. He does, and he is.
What’s your favorite . . .
. . . book: The Lord of the Flies – Is it strange to say this book changed my life and the way I look at it?
Not at all.
. . . movie: Terminator 2 – Don’t laugh. It’s the only movie I can watch over and over again without getting tired of it.
. . . song(s): Battle by Steve Jablonsky from the Transformers: Dark of the Moon soundtrack; Leader of Armies by Epic Score—Both songs I can and have listened to over and over again on repeat. I listen to them in the gym, before writing, just to wake up in the middle of the workday, blasting in the car . . . I’ve listened to them a lot.
What’s your Myers-Briggs personality type? DiSC profile?
J. Evan Johnson: This one makes me chuckle. I’m a mix between a lot of different categories. So, I was given ENFJ, ENTJ, INFJ, INTJ. I believe a lot of this has to do with the fact that I’m highly analytical (blame the day job for that), but within that space, I am highly creative. I use analysis to determine the pieces I’m working with, and creativity to put them together differently and/or more efficiently. I’m mostly introverted, but you would find me being very social with a small group (no more than 2 other people, otherwise I shut down). At the same time, I love public speaking (not too bad at it, either). So, what does one make of that?
That you are very much like your editor. I’m a mix of those, too, most frequently scoring INFJ. You’re adaptable and able to relate to all kinds of people—fabulous for an author.
Tell us about your family. Married, children, siblings? How does your family affect your writing?
J. Evan Johnson: It’s me, my wife, and my three-year-old son. Quite honestly, all we do is laugh. They make life richer for me, which in turn makes my writing richer.
In addition to some different ways to get to know authors, like the favorite things and personality type kinds of questions, I always like to ask at least one off-the-wall question, so . . . why are aliens depicted as green?
J. Evan Johnson: Aliens are green? I thought they were reflex purple or blue-gold silver! Behind the 8 ball on that one . . . .
What’s coming next?
J. Evan Johnson: Lotsa good stuff! I have a short novel coming out early 2016 about forgiveness. The subject matter is pretty intense, but there’s plenty of food for thought there. Summer 2016 I plan on closing out the “When it’s . . .” series, in heartbreaking fashion. November 2016, I plan to release another short. This is all while coming up with content (newsletter, stories, videos, etc.) for my mailing list. Shameless plug here. SIGN UP FOR MY MAILING LIST! Get access to free stuff and news on upcoming stuff. Yes, FREE. Sign up TODAY!
J. Evan Johnson is one of the lifelong clients I am honored and blessed to serve. Readers find that his books are impossible to put down. If you like characters you can relate to and stories that matter, I hope you read his books, if you haven’t already.