I'd like to wish today's guest Kate Johnson a happy publication day as her latest book Impossible Things is published today.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Maybe not always, but since my teens, yes. I always wrote stories and silly things, and gradually got more serious about it until I realised it was the only thing I really wanted to do. I was probably about sixteen then, so it’s certainly been my whole adult life.
How long did it take you to get your first book published?
That’s a tricky one to answer, because the first books I wrote are not the ones I got published (looking back at those books, that can only be a good thing!). I started out selling short stories and novellas to erotic romance publishers in 2005, but there were still some books I’d written before that which got published later. Some of those novellas were written very quickly and published just as fast, but something like The Untied Kingdom, which was my first UK novel, took years to get any interest.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book Impossible Things?
It’s a fantasy romance set in and around the Ilani Empire, where an elite section of society, known as the Chosen, have special gifts and powers from the gods. My hero, Kael, has two gifts, and so is quite exalted. He’s also the leader of a small country in alliance with the Empire, and has a reputation as a fearsome warlord. Whilst abroad on Empire business, he finds a half-dead slave who has the marks of the Chosen on her body—and he can’t work out how she got them, or what to do with her, or even if he should.
Impossible Things appears to be a change in direction from your other 2 Choc Lit books, was this deliberate and the style of book you plan to write in the future?
It‘s a little different, yes, but I reckon it’s still recogniseable as a Kate Johnson book. It’s still got adventure and snarky humour and people getting shot at. It’s the first Choc Lit book I’ve written set in a wholly imagined world—although I had to do quite a lot of imagining for the Untied Kingdom! It also deals with some bigger and darker themes than my previous books. The most marked difference is that it’s probably the first time I’ve set out to deliberately write a heroine who isn’t strong from the start. Ishtaer has been so badly abused and really brainwashed into believing that she’s worthless, so the book is about her becoming a person, whole and complete, who can believe that she is worthy of love and respect. Those were some really big issues to explore, and I wanted to do them justice.
Are you currently working on a new book? If so, are you able to tell us anything about it?
So far, it’s being referred to as the Girl Who Sees Ghosts book, which probably gives you a bit of a clue! I’m still working my way through themes and plots, but it features a hot Irish detective, a sarcastic nine-year-old ghost, and a girl who’s never quite sure what’s real and what’s not. I’m trying to persuade myself not to call it All My Friends Are Dead.
Do you have a set daily writing routine?
Not really. I tend to write in the afternoons and evenings, because that’s when my brain works better. I’m basically comatose until lunchtime.
Have you ever had writer’s block?
The thing about writer’s block is that once you’ve given it a name and said you’ve got it, it becomes this huge obstacle that you have to get over. Whereas just saying, “The book isn’t going too well at the moment,” sort of implies that once you’ve worked out what the problem is, you’ll be fine. I prefer thinking of it that way. It tricks the little writer demon in my head better. But yes, there have been times when I’ve felt utterly worthless as a writer and been unable to write anything that didn’t stink like a sewer. Best in those circumstances to just take a little break!
If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I’m sorry, I don’t really understand the question ;)
Where do you get the inspiration from for your stories?
Anywhere and everywhere. A song, a dream, an idle moment of speculation. Sometimes I’m convinced there’s a BFG pouring ideas into my head at night.
Would you say that any of your characters are like you? If so, which one(s)?
They probably all are in different ways. I do tend to write a lot of characters who are shouty and impulsive and a bit weird, so yeah, that’s what they get from me!
If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
I like to read lots of different kinds of books, but whatever I write always ends up coming round to romance, so the closest I’d get to another genre would probably be a hybrid romance-mystery, or romance-adventure story. Come to think of, it, romance-adventure stories is about what I write already.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Remember you’re playing the long game. Take your time, don’t rush, and give yourself permission to really suck for a few years before you get into your stride.
Being a writer appears to be such a solitary lifestyle, especially when you’re in the midst of writing, so do you consider the influence of social Media, Facebook and Twitter, a blessing or a hinderance?
I love social media! Without it, I’d be a cave-dwelling troglodyte and never communicate with real people. I’ve made friends through Twitter, but it’s so nice to chatter with people I actually know, too. I’ve heard it called a water cooler for the self employed, and that’s pretty spot on as far as I’m concerned.
If you could invite any three authors, alive or dead, to a dinner party who would you choose and why?
Terry Pratchett, because he’s a god. Jim Butcher, who not only writes brilliant gritty fantasy but also loves geek culture. And Jane Lovering, because every time I see her she has me laughing like a loon within seconds.
Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books?
Both, but increasingly ebooks these days. My house is so full of books there’s no room for new ones, so I just buy the ones I really want in hardback and download most other things to my Kindle.
Are there any books you’ve read that you wish you’d written?
Yes, the ones by those three authors above!
What’s the last book you’ve read that has made you cry?
Probably Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. It was just an extraordinary book, the kind you can’t put down even though you’re reading half of it through your fingers.
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
Yes, some time off writing! More immediately, it usually comes in the form of a big glass of wine.
Where would be your idyllic location for a writing retreat?
Somewhere no one disturbed me. But also somewhere with wifi. And a bar. Can I just go to Center Parcs?
If you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with you, which ones would you choose?
Damn, is there an option like the ‘wishing for more wishes’ clause in genie stories? No? Dammit. Thud, by Terry Pratchett, which is hilarious and wise and compelling and even has a brilliant cover to boot. Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie, which is just a piece of romance novel perfection. And A Knight in Shining Armour by Jude Deveraux, which is the book that made me fall in love with romance novels and also show me that they could set anywhere or any time you wanted and include whatever you wished.