Eleven Questions with Darrell Johnson
1). How did your writing journey begin?
My writing journey began with film and video. From an early age, I weaved stories and created worlds with continuing characters in my mind. However, when I first began telling my stories to others, it was often conveyed in video format. After leaving college, I began work as a videographer and scriptwriter. After graduate film school I started writing spec screenplays and pilots for original tv series. Occasionally, I would also enter competitions and participate in writing workshops to continue building upon my craft.
At some point, I stepped back from screenwriting to focus on world-building. That lead to me into novel writing. I completed my first novel for National Novel Writing Month, using the outline for an original movie I developed. With that came the freedom of building my own worlds, I was instantly drawn in. Shortly after that, I published my first short novel and soon followed it with the first Jonah Blackstone novel in 2014.
2). Who are your writing inspirations?
Among the numerous authors within the Sci-Fi & Fantasy genre, I draw much of my inspiration from Octavia Butler, J.K. Rowling, Jim Butcher, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson.
Amongst the television medium, I feel J. Michael Straczynski and Eric Kripke are some of the best writers for science fiction and supernatural genre shows. Especially when it comes to multi-year character arcs.
3). Are you an outliner or a panster?
I outline. All of my stories, whether screenplays, short stories or novels, always began with an idea that is then planned out. I like to know where I’m going from the start. My outlines aren’t super-detailed. I write a two-three sentence description of what should happen in each chapter. They're not super-detailed, typically composed of two to three sentences describing what should happen in each chapter. This leaves me with some breathing room to insert changes as I go, and the characters can surprise me. That leaves me space to change things as I go and for characters to surprise me.
4). What are your favorite books?
As an eclectic reader, I tend to have a lot of books I love. When I focus on the genre in which I write, I would have to say my favorites are the Foundation novels, Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden files, the original seven DUNE novels, and Kevin J. Andersen’s Saga of the Seven Suns. Epic fantasy and science fiction stories have always appealed to me.
5). Describe your writing process?
First, I write consistently (everyday) when working on a project. I may take a short break when I finish one project but I’m always on to the next. Of course, as mentioned, I plan out my narratives before I start writing. Once I finish a draft, I'll set aside for about four weeks, step back from it and come back with fresh eyes. During that time, I'll work on something else. When I come back, I’ll start the rounds of edits and revisions until I’m ready to send it to the editor. Wash, rinse, repeat.
6). What inspired you to write the Protector’s Ring?
As an introvert, it’s the quiet appeals to action that inspire me. In this case, it was two sources of inspiration. The first was Steven King’s book On Writing wherein he offers a simple challenge to the readers. Try to write 1000 words each time you sit down to write.
The second point of inspiration was a comment from a fellow panel attendee at the Dragon-Con in Atlanta. I had attended the Diversity in YA Literature panel for a few years and this time, a person in the back stood up and asked about the lack of characters like him.
Well, I had a story-world and narrative about a YA character that could fill that void. Those two instances happened within weeks of each other. I sat down, faced the blank page, and began the Jonah Blackstone series.
7). Tell us a bit about your book.
The Protector’s Ring follows the story of Jonah Blackstone, half-mortal, half Reaper. I describe him as an uncommon hero on an epic quest. After losing his parents on his 13th birthday, Jonah’s sent to live with his aunt, uncle and twin cousins, Robert and Lynn in a quiet town in Georgia. Having learned his true nature, Jonah and his cousins set out to discover why his parents were killed. This novel, and the two follow books, shows us Jonah’s struggle to find his place among the supernatural world while trying to be as normal as possible. It’s a tall order that rarely works out.
8). What do you hope to accomplish with your books?
To tell a good story and take my readers on a journey. That’s the number one goal with writing these novels. Keep them coming back for more adventures that are a vehicle for a deeper goal. Most of my novels have a strong theme of self-empowerment. I believe that all of us have more power than we believe and if we tap into it, we can change our world. If a reader feels inspired to do something in their life, to overcome the fear and take chance and grow, I’ve accomplished my goals.
9). Will there be more stories of Jonah’s world?
Definitely. I’m hard at work on a two-part Jonah Blackstone adventure and I have plans for a least two more novels beyond that to complete the series.
10). How do we keep up with all things Johnson?
You can keep up the Jonah Blackstone series on my website www.jonahblackstone.com which contains information on the novels, my blog, and other media related to the series. For my information on my other work, Forest Heights and the upcoming Omega Quest series, please visit www.johndarrbooks.com. I’m on Twitter and Facebook @johndarrbooks.
11). What advice would you give to new writers?
There are three things I tell my writing students, things I do myself and feel are essential to writing. 1) Read, and in the case of screenwriters, watch. Read anything and everything, but particularly, read the latest works in your genre. Writing conventions change over time and it’s advisable to know what the currently published writers are doing in your genre. 2) Find a writing time that works for you and your schedule and 3) be relentlessly consistent with using that time for your writing.