Let's dive back into my favorite pool, science fiction, with our next author interview!
I have LM Johnson with me, author of The Price of Saffron, and the upcoming Raptor City books! Cyborg velociraptors? Tell me more!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing for fun since I was a kid. A friend convinced me to do NaNoWriMo a few years ago as he was beginning his own publishing journey. It was exciting and fascinating to me. It had never occured to me to let people read what I wrote, much less pay for it, and I decided to try. I won, which sparked an intense desire to keep writing. I’ve never had this much passion for anything else in my life. The rest, I hope, is history.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Ideas can come from anywhere. Sometimes they come on their own (I once came up with the idea for a superhero with octopus powers just from seeing a black trashbag stuck in a bush), sometimes I have to consciously create them. My favorite source is history podcasts. I have so many pages of ideas based on historical people and events. All my ideas have to have something interesting about them, something I can latch onto. If I can latch onto it then I know readers will.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I work and go to school, so I fit it in when I can. I write better first thing in the morning and late at night. I’ve learned that around 2pm my creative well shuts off for a couple hours, and it’s harder to force my brain to work. I didn’t realize writing in the morning would work since I tend to be more of a night owl, but after experimenting with it, I know I can fit it in if I need to. My best writing is always around 10pm and always has been. But I’ve learned to work with my schedule and accept that sometimes I’ll have to write when I’m not at my peak.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I’ve been writing for fun since I was a kid. My oldest story dates back to when I was about eight years old (and it will never see the light of day). After college, I wrote my first serious story that unexpectedly grew into a full-length novel. I didn’t know anything about how to actually write a story—I just went with guts and instinct. I have no idea how long it took me but it was a fantastic experience. Since then, I’ve learned more about writing and I have thousands of more words under my belt. After I get my Raptor City series underway, I’ll be turning back to this novel and I’ll launch it as a new series.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I have some hobbies I dabble in, but I LOVE reading. I read between 100 and 150 books a year and it’s always the reason I’m up too late at night. I grew up with predominantly classic Sci Fi, which is what I love writing. Reading is so important as a writer, exposing us to different techniques, plotlines, tricks, tips, and trends. Plus it’s incredibly fun and I can’t wait for people to read my book.
What does your family think of your writing?
My dad is also a writer, which is a fun dynamic. We’re on different paths, but we talk about writing all the time. My poor mom gets to read all of our stuff, and I do not envy her that position.
Everyone in my family has been incredibly supportive and have encouraged me to pursue this as a living. They’re not exactly unbiased, but I trust them enough to believe them when they say they like what I write. It helps build my confidence on the days when I feel down.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
You can write however you want. If you can’t write in order, you don’t have to. If you hate outlining, you don’t have to. You don’t have to write every day if that doesn’t work for you. You don’t have to get up two hours before work to force yourself to write if that doesn’t work for you. The process is yours.
Study the rules so you know how to break them well.
Don’t dismiss criticisms because of pride.
Find a community and develop friendships with other writers. Some people can write in a vacuum, but it’s more enriching to have friends.
What do you think makes a good story?
Worldbuilding and an exciting plot are good, but characters can carry a book. Readers will follow a great character to hell and back.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Paleontologist. (It might be why there’s a dinosaur in my book.) Last year I got to go on two digs, both of which were absolutely amazing.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. Sometimes, when I’m in the middle of something exciting, writing is incredibly energizing and my fingers can’t type fast enough. But sometimes pouring out all that emotion, or even on the days when I have to rip my story word by stubborn word, it’s exhausting. Something as dynamic as writing can’t always be one or the other, but I’ve learned that I need to be ready with techniques to deal with the tired, empty days.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Getting stuck trying to write the perfect novel.
Seeing someone else’s book and feeling that imposter syndrome so hard that you want to quit.
Refusing to accept criticism because you don’t like to be told that your book isn’t perfect.
There are so many traps. I think with all of these it’s important to step back and try to have a clear purpose in mind. If you’re writing with the intention of selling lots of copies, your focus will need to be on delivering the best quality product. If you’re writing for yourself, stay true to your message.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Both (my favorite answer). Going too original can be shocking, and reading is, for a lot of people, a comfort, which implies at least a certain level of familiarity. Some genres rely on that reader expectation, which is like ordering your favorite meal over and over. There’s slight variations, but it’s the same great experience repeated. But it’s nice to balance that with something new.
What does literary success look like to you?
Success is a subjective term, especially in this business. It can be tangible (X amount of dollars a month or a year), or it can be abstract (feeling proud of your work). My definition of success is constantly changing, and I think it always will. Goals are important for making progress, like publishing three books a year or making a certain income a month, but success for me isn’t a tangible goal. Writing is something I’ll be doing for the rest of my life, and there’s no way I’m going to stop after I hit some arbitrary mark.
What do you have coming next?
The first book in my Raptor City series featuring a delightful cyborg Velociraptor will be out later this year, and I have a paranormal science fiction story coming out in an anthology also this year. If you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll be the first to know about release dates, cover reveals, and more.
Extra special bonus! Download a sample from The Price of Saffron below!