Not until he entered his 60’s did David Johnson decide to try his hand at writing novels, yet almost overnight he became successful by writing the Amazon best-selling Tucker series. In this inspiring interview, Johnson shares how his varied life experiences prepared him for a writing career and gives suggestions to aspiring writers on how they too can achieve their dreams.
About the Author David Johnson
David Johnson is the self-published author of the highly-acclaimed “Tucker” series, one of the best-selling series on Amazon. The series has collected over 5,000 reviews, averaging 4.7 stars, and sales of the books will soon approach 500,000 copies.
Specializing in women’s fiction and historical romance, he has developed a reputation as a writer of “books with heart.”
David maintains a very busy life outside of writing. He’s a full-time Marriage and Family Therapist, and the Director of a community chorus (soon to celebrate its 20th year!) that perform 15 shows a year, all across the Southeast of America.
Author Interview with David Johnson
Tell us about yourself…
I grew up surrounded by storytellers. My dad, his brother, and my great uncle were always telling stories, some of which were no doubt true and others that had started out as the truth but went through various modifications and amplifications. However, I didn’t care because I was mesmerized by the tales.
My first career was as a high school teacher, for nine years (Music and English). Second career was as a Youth and Family Minister for fifteen years. And for the last twenty-five years I’ve been a Marriage and Family Therapist. All of those careers furnished me with an unending fountain of characters and stories.
Writing is something I’ve always enjoyed doing ever since I was in high school. As an adult, I’d written an untold number of essays and articles but never thought seriously about writing a fiction book. A few years ago I created a blog (after I researched what the heck a blog was) and began posting articles on a variety of topics. Also during that time I took a writing course from Long Ridge Writers. One of my assignments was to create a character whose physical appearance would be intriguing. That was the birth of Tucker, a woman who lived on welfare while raising her grandchildren, who dressed like a man, was gruff and cared little for people.
After creating her I couldn’t get Tucker out of my mind. I asked myself what kinds of life experiences would cause someone to be like her. I decided to write a little novella about her titled “Tucker’s Way”. Once a week I published a chapter on my blog. To my shock and surprise it attracted a growing audience, and once I finished Tucker’s Way people demanded to know what happened next in Tucker’s life. In answer to those demands I wrote another small book.
The interest in the books became so great that I figured might find a major publisher who would like to publish them. Through research I discovered that writers no longer send manuscripts to publishers, rather they hire an agent to represent their work to publishers. For a year I sent query letters to scores of agents, none of whom expressed interest in representing me, a.k.a. rejection letters. Ouch!
Never one to let obstacles stand in my way I set out to do self-publishing. After a couple of years and a couple of hundred thousand downloads of my books I attracted the attention of the acquisition editor at Lake Union, a division of Amazon Publishing. They wanted to take over publishing and promotion of my books. Contracts were signed, and now I have seven novels, the latest of which is The Woodcutter’s Wife, a historical romance set in the Civil War.
I like to write books with heart, stories that reflect a fundamental change in the main character.
Q: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A choral director.
Q: What was your first book writing experience like?
Tucker’s Way was my first fiction story. I loved the process and the character.
Q: How many books have you written so far?
I have written seven that have been published. I’m currently working on two other books and have two others sketched out.
Q: What are the titles of the books you’re working on?
Ransom’s Law and The Gravediggers.
Q: Are you a full-time or part-time writer?
Q: What inspires you to write?
I think my ideas come from God.
Q: What makes your writing special?
People tell me that my books are very believable and that they feel like they are in the story when they read them.
Q: What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
That I have written stories that have touched people’s hearts and given them hope to keep on trying.
Q: How has your environment, family & upbringing influenced your writing?
My dad was a great story teller. In addition, my wife has supported me completely in pursuing a writing career.
Q: Do you ever suffer a writers-block?
Q: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Haphazard. I can write for ten minutes and come back to it hours later and pick up the thread as if I’d never stopped.
Q: What’s your favorite environment for creativity and productivity?
I can write in any environment as long as I can turn on my Pandora channel and block out noise.
Q: What’s your process of writing a book?
I sketch my characters first, and then I decide what the ending of the story will be. What follows next are bullet points of what kinds of story items I want to include.
Q: What is the strangest thing you have had to research for one of your books?
I did research on the Aryan Nation and the KKK for a book I’m writing now. I wondered if government surveillance was picking up on what I was doing and if I would receive a knock on my door.
What is your latest book The Woodcutter’s Wife about?
Set against the backdrop of the Civil War comes a tale of love lost and found…
Mary Thomson is no ordinary woman. She works alongside her husband William cutting firewood to sell in the city, earning herself the nickname “The Woodcutter’s Wife.” She kills a bear with her bare hands, and she prefers plowing a field to cooking a meal. The one thing she cannot seem to handle is the melancholy that has enveloped her.
Mary lost four children before they were a year old, and the doctor says she will no longer be able to conceive. Mary’s world flies apart when William disappears, leaving her with the arduous task of tending their farm by herself.
Using her fiercely independent spirit to cope as the war rages around her, she finds help in the form of a freed slave. But after fate throws her another dramatic curve, Mary is forced to make the most difficult choice of her life.
Q: How did you become involved with the theme of The Woodcutter’s Wife?
I wondered how a woman during the Civil War could carry on the family farm if suddenly her husband was taken from her. And I didn’t want it to be a woman of means who could rely upon hired or slave help. I wanted to see if she could do it on her own.
Q: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
One goal was to show a woman who had every reason in the world to give up on life yet persevered and triumphed against great odds. I’m pleased with the results of my writing and the positive reaction of readers to Mary’s story.
Q: What was the hardest part of writing The Woodcutter’s Wife?
Deleting almost 1/3 of my original manuscript! I’d done extensive research on that period and wanted to include everything I learned. However, my keen-eyed editor told me it was TOO MUCH. So, I left out big chunks of interesting, but non-critical, material.
Q: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The same thing that I enjoy about all my books – the surprises I find. In The Woodcutter’s Wife, characters appeared that I had never thought about and they created story threads that greatly enhanced the story. This happens every time I write a book.
Q: Give us an interesting fun fact about a character in this story.
John is a runaway slave from Ghana West Africa. My mother spent the last years of her life in that country. I was able to weave stories she had told me about the history of Ghana into the book.
Let’s hear more about your career!
Q: What kept you going despite all those rejections you received from agents?
I’m a very driven and self-motivated person. I always put my trust in God.
Q: How did you launch your career?
I learned what “platform” meant and the importance of building a platform.
I don’t think luck has anything to do with a book becoming popular.
When I self-published the Tucker series I offered the first book free, the second book was 0.99, the third was 1.99, the fourth 2.99 and the fifth was 3.99. The first book was just the hook.
Q: What was the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Trying to continue working full time while still trying to find time to write.
Q: Where do you sell your books?
Online and major retail markets.
Q: Do You Have and Agent/Publisher or Do You Self-Publish?
I do both!
Q: Have you been published in any magazines?
Q: How do you promote and market your books?
Through social media.
Q: What are you really good at and love doing asides from writing?
I’m a really good choral conductor and singer.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Work in the yard and sit on my front porch with my wife and watch humming birds.
Q: If you were deserted on an island, who would you want to have with you and why?
My wife of 44 years. She knows and understands me. We are comfortable with each other.
Q: What is your advice to aspiring writers?
My advice to people who want to write is to WRITE. Quit talking about it and start doing it. Join an online critique group. Grow thick skin and consider all suggested changes to your manuscript. Develop perseverance. Take the highs and lows in stride. It’s part of the process.
Thank you, David Johnson, for taking part in our interview!
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