Johnnie Alexander writes stories of heritage and hope while raccoons and foxes occasionally pass by her window. Where Treasure Hides, her debut novel and a CBA bestseller, won the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Contest. Where She Belongs, the first book in the Misty Willow Series, was a Library Journal Pick of the Month. She is marketing director for the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference and president of the ACFW Memphis chapter.
Johnnie lives near Memphis with Griff, her happy-go-lucky collie, and Rugby, the princely papillon who trees those pesky raccoons whenever he gets the chance. Join Johnnie at www.johnnie-alexander.com to experience the charm of country living, the love of ambling travel, and the joy of treasured memories.
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Get to know Johnnie...
You and Writing
Tell us a little bit about your writing journey...
The dream of writing has always been with me, but it was too big of a dream to do more than dabble here and there. After all, this was a dream that came true for other people—I never thought it would for me.
An important turning point happened in 2003 when I heard about a relatively new challenge called National Novel Writing Month. I joined other participants in writing a 50,000-word novel in the thirty days of November.
And despite ending up with an incredible mess, I loved how the characters came to life, did the unexpected, and became “real.”
A few more years passed before I decided that if I was ever going to make a go of this, I couldn’t wait any longer. (A milestone birthday probably had something to do with this “now or never” attitude.)
I attended conferences, entered contests, and wrote more stories. My debut novel came out in January 2013—a little over nine years after that first NaNoWriMo experience.
Let's talk about your book...
The hero of When Love Arrives is Brett Somers, the “bad boy” of the series’ first story (Where She Belongs). From what I already knew about him and as part of his character growth, I knew he needed a heroine unlike anyone he’d ever been attracted to before. Additionally, she needed to be immune to his famous dimpled smile.
In my thinking-about-how-they’ll-meet stage, I realized the heroine intensely disliked Brett because of something he had done. Though it took a long time—months in fact—to understand exactly what that was, the themes of vengeance and forgiveness were a natural part of the story.
Was there a passage of scripture you came across or used while writing it that you’d like to share?
Two Scriptures are important to the story. The first only appears at the beginning of chapter one:
Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege (Psalm 31:21).
Brett is definitely “under siege” in this story, and his eyes are gradually opened to the wonders of God’s love.
The second occurs in one of my favorite scenes. When Brett experiences his darkest crisis, his moment of confronting who he’d been, he is comforted by his cousin’s fiancée’s seven-year-old daughter. She tells him a verse she learned when her father was killed:
I trusted in the Lord when I said, “I am greatly afflicted” (Psalm 116:10).
This verse sticks with Brett and becomes a kind of mantra for him.
Did you get to do any fun research for the book?
I tried. One of the early scenes is set in the historic Ohio Theater, and I very much wanted to go inside and look around. But I live in Tennessee, and the timing didn’t work out.
I was only able to stop there one Saturday on my way to the airport and take photos of the exterior. Fortunately, one of my cousins had once taken interior photos which he shared with me. (Thank you, Tom!)
What’s your favorite snack while writing?
Twizzlers. And Coke. The closer I get to deadline the more Twizzlers I eat and the more Coke I drink.
Let’s talk about your writing life...
Are you a Panster or Plotter?
On that spectrum, I’m more of a pantser, but I prefer the term organic writer. I begin with a few ideas about the characters and things that should happen. Then I write and wait to see what surprises will show up. Sometimes it’s rough going, but the characters haven’t failed me yet.
However! My next contracts are for two cozy mysteries. The proposal for the first required a chapter-by-chapter summary. So now I’m writing my first story as a plotter. I’m eager to see how the process will be different.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
I always answer this question the same way: attend writers’ conferences, enter reputable contests, and join a critique group. Each of these proved to be an invaluable milestone on my own writing journey. I learned so much from workshops, the feedback from judges, and my critique partners. Conferences are also a great place to network.
Are there any books or resources you could recommend to younger writers looking to grow in their craft?
Two of my favorites are Story Trumps Structure by Steven James and The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. Next up on my reading list is The Art of Character by David Corbett.
What's one chore you hate doing?
The litter box I do not like.
It makes my nose go closed.
But kittens go then go again.
“Outdoors! Outdoors!” I propose.
They stare at me with cattish eyes
While I scoop scoop scoop the gross.
And after taking a few cleansing breaths
A silly poem I compose.
What's your favorite chore?
I love to run errands.
To the post office, gas station and store.
The dry cleaners, the car wash, the vet.
B&N, Target, and more.
Then lunch with my Kindle
And the story du jour.
This is why I’m better known for my fiction than my poetry.
If your book became a movie, who would you cast for your main characters?
In Brett’s eyes, Dani is an adorable “slip of a girl” who is nothing like the women he usually dates. A brunette Shailene Woodley, the star of the Divergent movies, is perfect to play Dani.
But who is perfect to play Brett?
I haven’t a clue.
The guy is too handsome for his own good with blond hair, blue-eyes, deep dimples, and a charming smile. And he’s thirty years old. Any suggestions?
September is Classical Music Month (who knew?). In keeping with that theme, do you have a favorite character from a classical novel?
Oh, yes! One of my favorite novels is Les Miserables and its protagonist, Jean Valjean, is an amazingly complex character.
I’m also going to say Milly, Adam’s bride in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The movie may not be classical music but it’s a classic musical. :)
What are you currently reading?
After watching the first season of Poldark, I got hooked on the twelve-book series written by Winston Graham. I’m on the eleventh one, The Twisted Sword. Mr. Graham also wrote Marnie which Alfred Hitchcock turned into a movie.
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