Liz Johnson’s interview

» Posted on Jul 8, 2009 in Blog | Comments Off on Liz Johnson’s interview

This week I’m hosting Camy Tang with Deadly Intent, Liz Johnson with The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn, and Cynthia Hickey with Candy-Coated Secrets. If you want to enter the drawing for the book, please leave a comment on one of the post during the week with your email address. I will not enter you without an email address (my way to contact you if you win). If you don’t want to leave an email address, another way you can enter is to email me at The drawings end Sunday (July 12th) evening.

Liz Johnson’s interview:

1. What made you start writing?
It all boils down to a love of books, passion for the written word. After college, I discovered it was harder to find a job than I thought it would be, so I signed up for the Christian Writers Guild apprentice course. I learned a lot about writing, and I continued playing around with stories (terribly written stories) until I was hired into the Christian publishing industry in 2006. And then it was a my good friend and fellow publicist Kelly Blewett who told me she couldn’t wait to read the book I had told her I wanted to write. Her accountability got me from the dreaming stage to the sitting down and really working out The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
I’ve been writing for years. I remember writing my first story when I was 7, and I signed my first book contract last August at 27. I still have hand-written books from my junior high years about my friends and me. I’ve just always had stories to tell. But they weren’t always worthy of being published. That’s for sure.

3. How do you handle rejections?
I’m very thankful that I haven’t had to deal with lots and lots of rejections. However, when I submitted The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn to Steeple Hill the first time, their first response was a rejection. I let myself wallow in sadness for about a second. And then I took the rejection as an opportunity to improve my story. I took the feedback I received and used it to form my book into something that met the publisher’s need. I received several letters with suggestions and no promise of a contract over the next 9 months. And with each one, I earnestly looked for ways to improve my book, taking the feedback to heart. I think that’s the best thing I can do with a rejection—look at it as an opportunity to improve my writing and meet a publisher’s need.

4. Why do you write?
Like most writers, I have stories that just won’t go away, characters and situations that just keep growing. My imagination is completely overactive, usually to distraction. But I think one of the things that drives me to write is a desire to use the talents that God has given me. I don’t want to be like the man in the Bible in the parable of the talents that buries his talent and has nothing to show for it. I want to have something to show for the love of writing that God has given me.

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?
Probably a whole lot of nothing. I’m really a world-class bum. I’d probably be reading or watching tv or shopping. Pretty much nothing productive, not that reading isn’t productive. I’d just spend my free time on books that might not be worth my time, instead of being more selective, like I have to be now.

6. What are you working on right now?
I’ve just completed another romantic suspense novel that isn’t under contract yet, and I’m really excited about it. It’s set in a fictional town in Colorado that I really love. While I’m waiting to hear back about that book, I’ve started working on a contemporary romance set in my home state of Arizona. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens with these stories.

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
Sure. I mean, my characters wouldn’t be mine if they didn’t have reflections of me tucked in there. My relationship with Jesus Christ is really important to me, so it’s essential that my faith is reflected in their lives. A lot of times the spiritual lessons that I’m learning end up being core themes in my work in progress. On a more individual basis, I’ve noticed that certain characters have picked up some of my bad habits—Kenzie Thorn has a terrible habit of putting her foot in her mouth, which I’m completely guilty of. Sometimes I give my characters traits that may be similar to my own struggles but aren’t exact. While writing my second manuscript, I realized that I have a terrible habit of shopping any time I’m feeling stressed and worried, and I saw that my hero had his own comfort activity in drinking coffee, even though I really don’t like coffee.

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.
The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn is my first book, and it releases from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense in July. It’s the story of Kenzie, the governor of Oregon’s granddaughter, who teaches a GED prep course at one of the state prison complexes. Myles Parsons is just another student in her class until he kidnaps her and reveals that he’s actually FBI Special Agent Myles Borden. Reeling from his claim that her life is in danger, Kenzie refuses to go to a safe house and insists that they go together to discover who’s behind the plot to kidnap and kill her.

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?
One of my favorite nonfiction authors is Mark Batterson, the pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. In his book Wild Goose Chase, Mark says that it’s really easy to pray and just keep praying, waiting for God to answer. But at some point we need to recognize when He’s given us the means to accomplish what we’re asking for and act on it. That’s really applicable to me and probably many other writers. We sit and pray for God to give us the words, but we end up waiting, failing to act on the talents He’s given us. So pray for the words, but know when to stop praying and start typing.

10. How important is faith in your books?
Faith is really important in my books. Through my books, I always want to communicate the hope that comes from faith in God alone.

11. What themes do you like to write about?
I like to write about whatever God is working on in my life. When I wrote The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn I had just made two major moves and left my family back in Arizona. I lost my job and had to move to Colorado to take another job with the company I work for. All of a sudden I was on my own with no one to rely on but God, so that became one of the core themes of the book. A couple years ago, I felt like I was passed over for a promotion that I thought I had earned. But because of that, I had the time to write The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn. God really taught me a lot about humility and his perfect timing through that, and I started a YA novel with those themes.

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?
Well, since I only have one published, I suppose it has to be The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn. But as I move forward, I usually love the one that I’ve just finished, probably because nothing else in writing for me compares to the feeling of accomplishment.

13. What is your writing schedule like?
Inconsistent and undisciplined. Seriously, I have a hard time keeping to a really regular schedule until I’m nearly done with a book. I do write every Monday night with my writing buddy, a friend from work. Sometimes we write during our lunch breaks too. I try to write 3 nights a week and get in about 1000 words each night. When I get toward the end, I can’t wait to see how it’s all going to turn out, so I write every chance I get.