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Adam Interviews...TF Johnson!


Why, hello there!

You didn't think I'd let you get out of February without another interview or two, did you?

And speaking of February, can you believe it's almost gone?

Of course, one of the things I love about where we live is the weeather. Seriously. We're in southern Colorado, and when they say that the area gets 300+ days of sunshine a year? They're not kidding. It's still February, and it's midday, and it's 61 outside. The scallions I left in the greenhouse over the winter - an unheated greenhouse, so it gets cold in there at night - are ready for harvesting again.


Anyway, you're not here for the weather report. You're here for an interview!


Let's bring out today's first contestant, TF Johnson! TF Johnson spends her days in imaginary worlds swordfighting, defeating monsters, and talking with dragons. TF Johnson has a degree in Interior Design, which she has never used, is addicted to chocolate and coffee, and would spend her days with her head in the clouds if she had the choice. She has an incredibly understanding husband and an English Bulldog who is the best writing companion ever – even if she does have a habit of putting her head on the keyboard and leaving it there. In her spare time, TF Johnson collects books to read, which is a completely different hobby to actually reading them. She has 125 books on her to-read shelf, a number which is steadily growing.



When she’s not reading or writing, TF Johnson can be found trying out new hobbies and spending time with her friends and family.


Star Trek or Star Wars? Star Wars, always - The Jedi have my heart! The original trilogy is, of course, the best. My favourite of the more recent films is Rogue One, and I’m loving the TV shows as well.


Firefly – gone too soon or overrated? Gone too soon - I would have so loved to see more of it.


Coffee, tea, or cacao? In all honesty, all of the above. I love my coffee good and strong, but it doesn’t like me so I have to drink decaf. I’m obsessed with tea and teapots - I have so many in my cupboard that it’s requested that I don’t bring home any more! And who doens’t love a good hot chocolate?

 

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? I started ‘writing’ when I was about 4 or 5 years old, making up stories in the car on the way to my grandparents house. I don’t think I realised what I was actually doing for a while, but that storytelling instinct has always been in me.


Where do you get your information or ideas for your books? I’ve had this world living in my head since I was about 14 years old. It’s grown and developed a lot in the past decade, but the world of Rhealgo is the base for all my ideas. Usually, if I read or watch something and there’s an interesting premise, or a character quirk I love, or a villain doing something interesting, I’ll wonder how that might translate into Rhealgo. And, sometimes, those little ideas turn into characters and stories.


When did you write your first book and how old were you? I started writing my first book when I was 14. That one is still in the works, and is actually the story of the current High Lady of Silvaein, the coup that deposed her parents, and how she came back into power. I started writing Piper’s story when I was about 16 or 17, and technically finished the first draft at 18. It was only 49,000 words, and very different to the now-published novel, but it was a great start.


What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I love animals, and just about anything to do with them. Like most writers, I love reading, and given a good book I can easily finish one in a day. I love spending time with friends and family, usually playing board games or drinking wine, or some combination of the two.


Is there a trope you find yourself going back to in multiple works? Or one you avoid? I try to avoid love triangles. After a certain novel when I was a teen, I just don’t have the stomach for them anymore, and I prefer to avoid them reading, too. I do have two love triangle ideas for two different series that I’m not currently actively writing, however I’ve tried to twist the trope quite significantly. One is told from one of the men’s perspectives, instead of the woman, and another is two people in one body in a kind of Jekyll and Hyde situation.


Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they? My biggest suggestion is find what calls to you. Don’t write to make money or become famous, because trends and tropes pass. Find what you love - in my case, it’s fantasy in general and Rhealgo in particular - and that will show in your writing. You can work on your technical skills, but if you find that topic that you love, it will be easier.


Do you like to create books for adults? I do, I prefer to explore characters who are closer to myself in age (rather than say 16 or 17). I love being able to explore more complex topics, like (SPOILERS!) an underworld figure with his hands tied by a threat to his daughter, debt both monetary and non-monetary and the value of their word.



What do you think makes a good story? For me, a good story starts with characters. No matter how interesting or convoluted a plot is, if it doesn’t have good characters, it falls flat for me. I need to be able to connect with a character, to root for or against them, in order to enjoy a story.


What is the first book that made you cry? The first and possibly only book to ever make me cry was The Bridge to Terabithia, which I think I first read in about 7th grade. It was beautiful and tragic and remains, to this day, one of the only books to ever make me cry.


Does writing energize or exhaust you? Writing energises me. If I’m in a bad mood, or I need to decompress, or I’ve had a long day, I sit down with either a book or with my manuscript. This always makes the day better for me.


What are common traps for aspiring writers? Thinking traditional publishing is the only way to be successful. Traditional publishing is just one way to be successful. You can be successful, or not successful, through either indie or trad publishing. Either way, you will have to work hard.


Who shot first, Han or Greedo? Han shot first, and no one will change my mind.


If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? Don’t stop writing. It’s so worth it when you hold that book in your hands.


What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Definitely in my editor. She is absolutely brilliant and someone I plan to work with for years to come, if she doesn’t get sick of me first! She helped me identify weak points in TSEOF and refine it so that it was really ready for other people to experience, and hopefully love, it.


What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? Celine Kiernan’s The Poison Throne trilogy. It’s a YA series that follows the story of a girl who comes home to find everything in her kingdom has gone wrong. She must leave her home to find one of her best friends, the kingdom’s prince, to try and set everything right.


Do you write novels, novellas, short stories, episodic fiction, poems, screenplays, or something else? What is your preferred format? I write predominantly novels, with the occasional companion novella or short story thrown in.


Are you traditionally or self published? Or both? Do you feel there are advantages to one over the other? I’m self published. I don’t think one is ‘better’ than the other, but I think there are different advantages to both. Traditionally published authors have more help and little to no upfront costs for their novels, which is a great starting point. Self-published authors have to learn a lot more and do a lot of things themselves, such as sourcing their cover design and editing, and learning to format or otherwise paying for these services. However as a self-published author you also get unlimited control over your novel. So I think both are valid, just different.



How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? This is a scary number. I currently have the next two books in TSEOF written, #3 in need of polishing and #2 currently in editing stages. I have three other first in series written for other characters in Rhealgo, none of whom you have met yet in TSEOF. Aside from that, I have ideas for 16 other series that I would like to write and put out, all set within Rhealgo!


What is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything? 42. Always.


What do you have coming next? The next book I have coming up is the sequel to TSEOF! It will be called THE COLD BLADE OF FEAR and will release late-2024. We’re about to enter the editing process for it, so it’s all happening!

In this sequel, Piper is accused of a murder she didn’t commit and forced into hiding. But when she uncovers a clue to the whereabouts of someone she swore to find, she must leave the city she’s stayed in for the past fourteen years. Without allies, will she be able to secure their release? And what will happen when she uncovers another clue in the Shiv’ek’s plot?


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