A little bit about Liz...
By day Liz Johnson works as a marketing manager, and she makes time to write late at night. Liz is the author of nine novels—including her latest, The Red Door Inn (Prince Edward Island Dreams, book 1)—and a New York Times bestselling novella. She makes her home in Nashville, where she enjoys exploring local music, theater, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her nieces and nephews. She writes stories of true love filled with heart, humor, and happily ever afters. Connect with her at www.LizJohnsonBooks.com or www.Facebook.com/LizJohnsonBooks.
How to connect with Liz...
Purchase: The Red Door Inn
Get to know Liz...
You and Writing
Tell us a little bit about yourself...
I’ve been writing almost as long as I can remember. It started off as a hobby, a pastime. All through junior high and high school, I was plugging away at the computer, creating wild stories—all of them romances, even then. I blame most of the bad westerns on Gilbert Morris, who I read into the early morning hours of most nights. But somewhere along the way, my writing became less about the joy of storytelling and more about recognizing that God had given me a talent that I didn’t want to waste. That’s what keeps me going now. When life is busy and writing isn’t always easy, I remember that parable of the talents and the servants who were faithful with little. I want to be faithful with whatever talent I’ve been given. And that means I keep writing, no matter how easy or hard it may be.
Tell us a little bit about your book...
Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
I think my favorite character is Aretha Franklin, a native of Prince Edward Island, who introduces herself as no relation to the singer, even though that’s clear to anyone with eyes. She’s a pale, petite woman in her sixties. And she’s an absolute spitfire. But she’s also infinitely compassionate. Her own losses have taught her how to be truly empathetic, and she reaches out to the other characters with a special tenderness.
Emilie here: Ha! I love it! Sounds like she's quite the character.
What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
My hope is always that readers of my books would be reminded that God is with them and God is for them. In the midst of difficult times, it’s easy to feel forgotten, but I hope that The Red Door Inn reminds readers that God is always working even those hard things in our lives for our ultimate good.
What made you choose the setting for the book?
This book was always going to be set on Prince Edward Island. In fact, it could only be set there—a place so peaceful and magical. On my first visit to the island, I daydreamed a story that eventually became The Red Door Inn, and on my second visit, I walked the boardwalk at North Rustico. I imagined a woman walking that same boardwalk, seeking the peace that so readily abounds there.
What’s your favorite snack while writing?
I like to have a Diet Dr. Pepper within arm’s reach. And when the mood strikes (or the writing is lagging), peanut butter m&m’s are always appreciated.
Emilie here: Yum!!!
Let's talk about your writing...
How long did you write before you got published?
I wrote my first story at 7 and signed my first book contract at 27. Of course, I wasn’t actually writing with a goal of publication for much of that time. But I was consistently writing, and there are some really terrible novels in a desk drawer somewhere to prove it. We can all be grateful those won’t ever see the light of day. I didn’t really start thinking about publication until after college when I took a two-year writing course. By then I’d gotten into a habit of poking at a story idea but never quite finishing it. It wasn’t until I was 25 and a coworker challenged me—and kept me accountable—to finish a story idea I had that I began to really write toward publication. After a year of writing and revising, I submitted that story to Love Inspired Suspense. And was promptly sent a very nice rejection letter. It didn’t meet their guidelines. So I wrote back and asked if I could revise and resubmit. The editor sent me back two pages of requested changes. I got to work, and we went back and forth three more times over the next 7 months. And then finally the call that I’d been waiting for came. They published The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn in 2009, and I’ve been writing professionally ever since. I’d been writing a long time and took a lot of classes before I was offered my first contract, and I’m grateful for those years of learning and growing as a writer.
Emilie here: I love the progression of this because it shows that writing really is hard work - even if it's a passion and something you love!
What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
Yes, keep writing. That’s very important. But I also like to remind writers—especially those just starting on the journey—not to be afraid to write badly. (tweet this) It’s easy for creatives to want to be perfect, to have a vision for what our art could be. But it takes a long time and a lot of practice to get to the point where what we envision actually makes it to the page—or the cd or the canvas. It’s easy to become discouraged when what’s inside doesn’t make it outside. I love what Ira Glass said on the creative process. He says we get into creative work because we have good taste, but there’s a gap. In the first few years that you’re making things, it’s probably not very good. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is a bit of a disappointment. He goes on to say that the best possible thing you can do is create a lot of work. Yes, even the bad the work, the disappointing work. So, yes, keep writing. And don’t quit. Even when your work is bad. Because if you put in enough time and enough effort. Eventually your work will get better. And it will close the gap to your taste.
Emilie here: Great advice!
Are you a Panster or Plotter?
I used to be a major pantser. All of my pre-published books and my first two published novels were written without any plotting. But on my third book, my editor asked me for a very detailed synopsis—more than ten pages—with my proposal. I discovered how much easier it was for me to write from that synopsis. Sure, I change things as I go along. I add characters or swap points of view or even change conflicts. But when I have a solid vision of where my characters are going and what their motivations are, my writing tends to be a little smoother and a lot quicker. I’m officially a plotter now.
Emilie here: I'm heading in that direction myself...it's funny because I do that for my work as a freelancer, but I don't like to adopt it for my novels. I may try being a hybrid *hehe* :)
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Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you listen to?
Yes! I love to listen to music while I write. It helps me keep a rhythm to my typing, and it always sets the mood. When I’m writing something suspenseful, I love to listen to really intense music, like a soundtrack from an action movie. And when I’m writing a romantic scene, a good love song is always in order. I often find an album or artist and play them over and over. Needtobreathe is generally on repeat, and lately so is Elvis.
Emilie here: Oh yes, you can't beat a good movie soundtrack!
What is your favorite season and why?
I love the fall. It’s always such a relief after the heat of summer. And the rich colors of the leaves always feel so alive and vibrant. Plus, sweaters and scarves. And the return of football. What’s not to love?
What is your favorite genre to read? Why do you enjoy it?
It’s hard to pinpoint just one genre, as I read fairly broadly across fiction and nonfiction genres. But lately I’ve been reading more historical romance—mostly in the regency era. Julie Klassen is one of my favorite authors. I love the history—I always learn something new—and the feeling of being completely transported into another time and place. Plus, I’ve always wanted to visit England, so reading about it is the next best thing.
Emilie here: Thanks so much for this lovely interview Liz! I can't wait to read The Red Door Inn and I'm so happy to have you here on the blog!