Interview with Myra Johnson
About the Author
Myra Johnson’s roots go deep into Texas soil, but she now enjoys living amidst the scenic beauty of North Carolina. Myra’s debut novel, One Imperfect Christmas, was a September 2009 release from Abingdon Press. She has also written six novels for the Heartsong Presents line. Her 2009 release, Autumn Rains, won the 2005 RWA Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript, and she is a two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist. Most recently she has completed a three-book historical romance series, “Till We Meet Again,” for Abingdon Press. The first book in the series, When the Clouds Roll By, won the historical fiction category of the 2014 Christian Retailing’s Best Award. Book 2, Whisper Goodbye, and book 3, Every Tear a Memory, both received 4½-star reviews from Romantic Times. Myra and her husband, Jack, have two married daughters and seven grandchildren.
1. How did you get started as an author? What or who inspired you?
I’ve been writing stories for almost as long as I can remember! In high school I kept a notebook of stories that I’d add to when I finished class assignments. These were long, rambling, never-ending “epics” written mostly for my own entertainment and the very few trusted friends I shared them with. I credit a couple of favorite high school English teachers for their encouragement and for instilling a love of good stories.
It wasn’t until 1983, after I was married and had two daughters in elementary school, that I got serious about learning to write for publication. That’s when I enrolled in the Writing for Children and Teenagers course with the Institute of Children’s Literature. Before completing the course I had already sold two short stories, which got my hopes up for ongoing success. However, even with regular magazine sales, it took 25 years of persistence and lots of prayer before I signed my first book contract. In August of 2008, Barbara Scott, who had recently come onboard to edit the new fiction line at Abingdon Press, called to offer a contract for One Imperfect Christmas, which became my debut novel.
2. How many books have you written and in what genres?
Well, first we need to differentiate between “written” and “published”! Tucked away in a file drawer are maybe a dozen completed manuscripts that will never, ever see the light of day. Those I consider my “practice” books, not wasted effort but valuable training ground. Beginning with One Imperfect Christmas, which came out in the fall of 2009, to my latest release, The Sweetest Rain, I now have twelve published novels and three novellas. My thirteenth novel, Rancher for the Holidays, will release in November from Love Inspired. I write both historical and contemporary romantic fiction with a Christian/inspirational worldview.
3. What writing projects are you currently working on? What can you tell us about these projects?
I’m continuing to develop my historical romance series, Flowers of Eden, for Franciscan Media. Book 1, The Sweetest Rain, has just released. Two more books are planned for the series, which tells the stories of three sisters who grew up on their grandfather’s tenant farm in Depression-era Arkansas. I also contribute to novella collections by The Seekers as time permits, and I hope to write more for Love Inspired.
4. What does your writing process look like?
My work week is pretty much Monday through Friday, with weekends reserved for household chores and family time. Mornings are set aside for the “busy work” of writing—email, blogging, keeping up with social media, and anything marketing-related. After lunch with my husband, now retired, I spend 4-5 hours most weekday afternoons working on the current writing project.
I’m an incurable pantser, meaning I cannot for the life of me plot out a book before I write it! Even if I am able to develop some semblance of a plot outline, the characters usually sabotage me and insist on doing things their way. However, I always begin with a very general concept for who the central characters are, where they live, and what they want most in life. From there, they “tell” me how the story is going to unfold, and I’ve learned to shut up and type!
5. Where is your favorite place to write?
My office is a converted spare bedroom overlooking a wooded backyard. I have a “real” desk and rolling ergonomic office chair, but I’m much more comfortable in my IKEA high-back armchair with footstool. I write in Scrivener on a MacBook Pro on a wonderful tilting laptop desk with cooling fan. Usually our two dogs are sleeping somewhere nearby, the smaller one most likely curled up on the footstool between my ankles.
6. How important are the names in your novels? How do you choose names for your characters? Do you have any name resources you would suggest?
I really need to know my characters’ names before they start to become real for me. A favorite resource is The Writer’s Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook, which groups names by nationality and provides the name meanings. I’ll read through the lists until I find one that rings true, not only the sound of the name but with a meaning that is somehow significant to the character or story. In my novel A Horseman’s Heart, for example, the hero is Kip Lorimer, a horseman and saddle maker. “Lorimer” is an occupational name for a maker and seller of horse tack. I also use websites like Behind the Name for both given names and surnames.
7. What authors/novels that you enjoy would you recommend?
There are so many I admire that I’m afraid of leaving someone out! I would highly recommend books by any of my Seekerville friends, so I hope your visitors will look up a few of them. Another personal favorite is Lisa Wingate. I also enjoy the Christian legal novels by Robert Whitlow. And my absolute all-time favorite books are Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
8. Where is your favorite place to read and why?
Most of my pleasure reading takes place during the hour or so before lights out each night. If the weather’s nice and I have some time to read on weekends, I may take a book out to the screen porch and enjoy the sounds and scents of nature.
9. What period of history interests you the most?
The research for my Till We Meet Again series (Abingdon Press) fostered an interest in the World War I era. I can’t say I recall much of the dry facts from high school history classes, but getting into the personal stories of soldiers and their families made that time in history come alive for me. The same is true of my research for this current series, Flowers of Eden, as I’ve delved into the effects of the Great Depression on those who lived through it.
10. If you could choose someone famous to star in one of your books made to a movie, who would you choose and for which character?
I’ve always harbored secret hopes of seeing One Imperfect Christmas made into a Hallmark movie, and I can picture Reese Witherspoon in the role of Natalie. Well, I can dream, can’t I?
11. What inspired the idea for the Till We Meet Again trilogy? What inspired your idea for The Sweetest Rain?
Till We Meet Again was inspired by a song by the same name that my mother used to sing in the car on long trips. The titles of each of the three novels in the series, When the Clouds Roll By, Whisper Goodbye, and Every Tear a Memory, are variations on the song lyrics. Each phrase in its own way provided inspiration for what happened in the story.
The inspiration for the Flowers of Eden stories is harder to pin down. A former editor asked if I would submit a proposal set in the 1930s, so I began reading about the era and brainstorming some ideas. Though editorial changes prevented that publishing house from taking on the project, by then I was invested in the characters and fully immersed in the story possibilities. I’m so grateful to my agent, Natasha Kern, for finding a new home for these books with Franciscan Media, and I have to say the folks at Franciscan have been pure delight to work with!
12. What other hobbies do you enjoy when you are not writing?
With writing as a full-time career, I don’t have a lot of time left over for hobbies. However, I do love pampering our two rescue dogs, very special members of our family. My husband and I also sing in our church choir, and we spend what time we can with our grandchildren (at least the four who live closest). I love books, certain favorite TV shows, and movies. If there’s a compelling story with intriguing character development, I’m in!
Check out my reviews for:
WHEN THE CLOUDS ROLL BY (coming soon)
WHISPER GOODBYE (coming soon)
EVERY TEAR A MEMORY (coming soon)
THE SWEETEST RAIN
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