Ever read a really great book and wondered what the person behind those words was really like? Are they laid back and easy-going? Or would they make you pee your pants from laughing hysterically at their antics? Would they be the type of person you could run into at a piano bar or are they more likely to be found lurking in malls to people watch for their next character?
I don’t know about you, but I wanted to find out. So I took it upon myself to create Behind the Quill, a series of posts where I will interview authors in hopes of finding a little more out about the person behind the pages.
victim – ahem – guest, is the wonderful Alica McKenna Johnson, author of Phoenix Child. I was lucky enough to snag a few minutes with her this week and this is what she had to say:
Me: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
AMJ: I started very late. I would day-dream all the time as a child – I still do. It was never enough that it interfered with school and such, so I don’t know if my parents even knew what I was doing. It wasn’t until I was thirty that it even occurred to me that I was creating stories – I assumed everyone walked around fighting with imaginary people in their heads.
Me: Can you tell us about the first time you let someone else read your writing?
AMJ: I started writing in the crazy world of fan fiction. It was very scary, but as I wasn’t charging anyone I posted my story. I got lovely comments and an offer for a beta (editor). My first story wound up at 83 chapters and over two thousand reviews.
Me: Does your husband read your books? What about your parents? Your kids? And how do they feel about it?
AMJ: My hubby hasn’t read my book, but he has gone through hours and hours of plotting, venting, and working things out, so he basically knows what my books is about. At this time neither of my kids have read it – they say they’re waiting for it to be a paper book. My sister and mom posted that they were going to read it, but neither of them have commented on it and I’m afraid to ask. LOL!
Me: If you could be any character from your book for one day, which one would you be and why?
AMJ: I think I’d like to be Anali, she is the calmest of my characters and I don’t torture her in this book
Me: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
AMJ: The toughest criticism so far has been from two critique parents that wanted me to make my book into two stories. They want to see the relationship with Sara finding her uncle and the turmoil she goes through as a foster kid adjusting to family removed and given it’s own book, and the paranormal stuff written without the emotional family/ foster care side. I can see where they are coming from, but to me it’s all one story and I just couldn’t do it. They are both dear friends and it was difficult to not follow their suggestion, but they understand.
The best compliment was when my editor complained that she was enjoying my book so much she kept having to go back and edit because she was too caught up in the story! So far I’ve gotten lovely reviews and just thinking about them makes me glow.
Me: So tell me, what would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
AMJ: I hate plotting and in fact when forced to even do a low-level plot I have trouble delving back into the story. I lose the flow and energy of the story when I plot. Also I have to have music playing. Other than that I can write just about anywhere.
Me: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
AMJ: Too many to count! I loved to read as a child and that never went away. I think the variety of books I have read has led to my desire to have characters of so many different ethnic and religious backgrounds.
Me: So, when you aren’t writing, what do you like to do?
AMJ: I love watching movies, especially foreign films. I go to the gym with a friend. Hanging out with my family. Ummm, I actually spend a lot of time working so I don’t have time for much else right now.
ME: What are your three favorite forms of procrastination?
AMJ: Reading, napping, and the internet.
Me: I can totally relate to those!
What is your favorite food? If you cook, what type of food is your favorite and would you mind sharing a recipe?
AMJ: I use to love to cook, but with my current job I’m working when I would normally make dinner. I don’t usually use a recipe – unless I’m making something specific. I love all types of food, however being vegetarian and allergic to gluten limits some of my options.
I do have a fun story. I had a group of teen girls I was caring for who all wanted to make tamales for Christmas (it’s a Mexican tradition). So I go to the Mexican market, much to the amusement of the staff, and fumble through finding the right ingredients. The girls assured me they knew what they were doing- they did not. We manage to muddle through and while my tamales weren’t as light and fluffy as I would have liked they tasted pretty good.
Me: What do you want readers to see in your books?
AMJ: I would like them to see themselves in my books. I want readers to connect to my characters and feel inspired and know they are not alone in what they are going through in life.
Me: Tell us about your current or upcoming release. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
AMJ: Here is the blurb for my current book – Phoenix Child:
“Sara’s dream is to find her family but she doesn’t count on discovering magical creatures or catching on fire. On her fourteenth birthday a surprise inheritance changes her appearance, abilities, and identity. Welcomed into the family of the Phoenix she is taught to use her new powers. Will Sara embrace being a Child of Fire or will the evil that killed her parents destroy her as well?”
I am hoping to have book 2 in the series out in early autumn, I’ve written it and it’s going through critique group, then edits and revisions, and then professional editing. Book 2 takes place in Argentina and Peru, so it’s been a lot of fun to research.
Me: Okay, one last question. What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring authors?
AMJ: Learn as much as you can, but only take to heart what works for you. Find a critique group that believes in you enough to tell you when you need to fix something. Don’t be afraid to try something new or expand past where you feel comfortable. And write, write, write every day, even if it sucks. That is the only way you will get better and finish your story.
Me: Great advice, Alica! And thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today!
Here’s a little more about this wonderful, new author:
AUTHOR BIO: Alica McKenna Johnson writes about snarky girls, kind boys, and the adults trying to keep them alive. After day dreaming for the first thirty years of life, Alica finally began writing her stories down, much to the delight of her readers. As Alica sits in her armchair at home dreaming of traveling the world, her diverse characters explore for her listening to music, seeing the sights, and eating exotic foods.
If you’re interested in knowing more about Alica McKenna Johnson, make sure to check out her blog, Arm Chair Adventures, or like her author page on Facebook here, and you can even follow her on Pinterest. Don’t forget to check out Phoenix Child, too! Available at Amazon and Smashwords.
So, what did you think? Do you have other questions for Alica? If so, post them in the comments and I’ll see if I can get her answer a few of them for us.