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Beneath the Covers
A Romance Column
Carol Ann Culbert Johnson  Follow Us on FaceBook

2014 Past Columns
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Introducing Liz Johnson

 

Introducing Liz Johnson

Carol: Give us a short bio about yourself.

Liz: By day I’m a marketing manager for a Christian publisher, and by night I write stories of suspense and romance. I make my home in Nashville, TN, where I enjoy theater, exploring local music, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on my nieces and nephews. I love to read stories of true love with happily ever afters.

 

Carol: Explain your writing journey.

Liz: I wrote my first short story when I was seven and signed my first book contract when I was 27. In those twenty years I just kept writing and writing. I wrote my first novel when I was twelve, and it was a terrible western romance. I wrote stories throughout high school and tried my hand at another novel in college. It was really, really terrible. But I kept taking classes and learning and growing as a writer. And then when I was twenty-five I told a friend of mine about a book idea I had. She told me to set up a writing calendar, and then she checked with me every day to make sure I’d written the night before. That book—after many rounds of revisions—became my first published novel, The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn.

 

Carol: What is the name of your current book and give a synopsis of it?

Liz: In my newest release, Navy SEAL Noel, scientist Jessalynn McCoy is abducted by a drug cartel, and her orders are simple—release a deadly toxin, or be killed. Trapped with no options, she's desperate for help…she just never expected it from Will Gumble. The boy who let her down years ago is now a navy SEAL. She trusts his skills, his experience. Yet trusting him is a struggle. Will's Christmas wish is to heal their damaged relationship and get them to safety. But time is running out and someone is on to their escape plans. Any mistake could mean the difference between facing the holidays together or apart. Forever.

 

Carol: Who is your publisher?

Liz: Navy SEAL Noel is published by Love Inspired Suspense, the inspirational division of Harlequin. I also have a couple short stories included in the Guideposts Books A Cup of Christmas Cheer Collection this year, and I have a contract with Revell for a three-book contemporary romance series coming out in 2016. I love working with and learning from various publishers and editors.

 

Carol: Do you have an agent? If so, why and why not?

Liz: I do have an agent. I signed with Rachel Kent of Books & Such about five years ago. I’d already sold my first two books to Love Inspired Suspense when I signed with her, but I knew that I wanted a partner on this publishing journey. Rachel is full of wisdom and encouragement. She knows the industry and gives great business advice while helping me keep my writing career moving forward. I wouldn’t want to be on this journey alone, and she’s the perfect partner for me—calm when I’m anxious, steady when I’m uncertain, and encouraging when my writing isn’t coming together like I’d like it to. I’m so grateful for her.

 

Carol: Did you self-publish or go the traditional route?

Liz: I’ve yet to try self-publishing. I have several friends who have done remarkably well with it, but in self-publishing all of the work rests on the author’s shoulders. I really like working with a team to put out the best possible product, and my publishers have been amazing to work with. I love working with other book lovers and having a team to brainstorm with.

 

Carol: What are your views on the writers of today?

Liz: I think writers today are living in a time of immense opportunity. More books are being published now than ever before, and it takes a brave spirit to enter the marketplace. We also live in a busy, busy world, and finding time to write a book isn’t easy. There are so many distractions (can you say Facebook?) and so many demands of our time. Family, community activities, volunteer work. All of these are good things, but writing a book means prioritizing and setting aside time to get the writing done. I applaud writers who overcome all the excuses and find the courage to get their work into the marketplace.

 

Carol: How do you feel about writing?

Liz: Writing is a necessity for me. If I go too long without writing, the voices in my head start getting rowdy.

 

Carol: Is writing a hobby or a full-time job?

Liz: Well, it’s definitely more than a hobby, but it’s not quite a full-time job. I have a regular 8 to 5 job that keeps a roof over my head, and I love my day job where I work with nonfiction books. But I look at my writing as a second career. I set aside specific times to write and work hard to always meet my deadlines. It’s business but not my only one.

 

Carol: What is your genre of writing? Explain.

Liz: I write mostly romantic suspense—seven books for Love Inspired Suspense. But I’ve also written an historical romance Christmas novella, and my upcoming series with Revell is a contemporary romance. Mostly, I just like writing about love. I think God’s great love for His children is reflected in stories of true love, so I always include a romance in my stories.

 

Carol: What are your other published books?

Liz: My other published books with Love Inspired Suspense are The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn, Vanishing Act, Code of Justice, A Promise to Protect, SEAL Under Siege, and Stolen Memories. My novella, A Star in the Night, was part of the New York Times Bestselling A Log Cabin Christmas Collection. I’ve also been able to write three short Christmas stories for A Cup of Christmas Cheer volumes 2, 3, and 4 from Guideposts Books.

 

Carol: What is the message in your books?

Liz: The running message through all of my books is: Take heart. God is with you.

 

Carol: What are your views on a traditional publisher?

Liz: Well, I work for a traditional publisher by day and publish with them in my off time, so I’m a fan. Honestly, the people that I work with by day and publish my books with love the written word as much as I do and genuinely care about the authors they get to work with. Businesses are made up of people, and the ones I know have challenged me to grow as a writer and as a person. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with them.

 

Carol: Are you a reader? If so, what are your favorite authors?

Liz: I love to read! Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Regency era romances by authors like Julie Klassen. I also love westerns by Karen Witemeyer and Regina Jennings. Sandra Orchard is a favorite in the romantic suspense genre. I also love general market favorites like The Princess Bride, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I wish I had more time to read, as there are so many good books releasing every month!

 

Carol: Do you write short stories or poems, or both?

Liz: I’m the worst poet on earth. But I do love writing short stories! Especially around the holidays.

 

Carol: What success has publication of your books/novels done for you?

Liz: My life isn’t drastically different because of publication. I still have doubts about my writing—most authors do. I still work a regular job—a lot of authors do. My family is still my priority. But it has allowed me to travel a little more than before, which seems to always launch new book ideas. In fact a trip to Prince Edward Island led to a story idea, which became a three-book series. And a trip to a carnival in San Diego with my family ended up in one of my Navy SEAL books. I’m grateful for the memories we’ve made.

 

Liz: I’ve done several book signings, and I’ve found that they’re most successful in places where the people know me. For example, I’ve done several signings at the church I attended when I lived in Arizona. The couple who ran the bookstore there hosted a book signing for me every time I had a new book release for several years. I think the people there loved seeing a hometown girl make good on her dreams, and they were super-supportive. I’m so grateful to the church for encouraging me all these years.

 

Carol: What voice do you write in and why?

Liz: Most romances are written in third person with alternating points of view between the hero and heroine, so I generally follow that rule of thumb.

 

Carol: What are your tools for marketing your books? Explain.

Liz: At a writers’ conference a few years ago, one of the instructors said, “Publicity is connection.” No one can give readers the author but the author, so I’ve focused on making connections with my readers and genuinely sharing of myself. I use social media and my website to connect with readers, to discover what they need in their days. I take a real interest my readers and respond to everyone who reaches out me. I love connecting with readers!

 

Carol: Do you belong to a book club?

Liz: I don’t belong to a book club. I wish I did, but as I mentioned, I my reading time is limited, and I travel a good bit. Keeping up with a book club is difficult for me. I always seem to be gone when the club meets.

 

Carol: Do you read on an electrical device, or do you prefer the feel of books?

Liz: I prefer the feel of paper books, but I prefer toting around my eReader when I travel.

 

Read Carol's Review of
Navy SEAL Noel
By Liz Johnson

Carol: What is your favorite electrical device, if #23 applies to you?

Liz: I have a Kindle Paperwhite. Amazon sent me a $75 off coupon, and I couldn’t resist a good deal. Now I don’t mind reading on it at all.

 

Carol: What is your opinion on the e-book craze?

Liz: I love that readers have access to eBooks, especially some books that have been out of print and are now easily available.

 

Carol: Do you use your computer to write, or longhand?

Liz: I definitely use my computer, but I do keep a notebook on hand to jot down any ideas when my computer isn’t handy.

 

Carol: Who is your support system for your writing?

Liz: My family is amazing! My mom and sister have both listened to me ramble on and on about story ideas, helping me brainstorm new ones when I need. And my dad is my biggest fan. I think he’s only read one or two of my books, but he hand sells them every time he’s in a bookstore. I also have a couple writing friends who I meet to write with once a week. Author Kaye Dacus and I have been meeting once a week for almost four years now. We grab dinner, chat for a while, and then write for an hour together. It just helps keep us accountable to get the word count in. Writing can feel like a very solitary endeavor, but through American Christian Fiction Writers and other groups, I’ve connected with other writers, and we encourage each other to keep on going. I have the greatest friends, and they continue to challenge me to keep growing as a writer.

 

Carol: Do you have an editor?

Liz: I have a couple editors. I work with a different one at each of my publishers—sometimes more than one. I’ve been with my Love Inspired Suspense editor for more than five years, and she’s incredible. I can’t believe how much I love getting her edits back after I turn in a manuscript. And how much I look forward to the smiley faces and hearts she puts at her favorite spots. We also work with copyeditors and proofreaders, combing through every book many times before it goes to print.

 

Carol: Have you attended any writing classes, conferences, etc.?

Liz: Probably the best writing course I took was the Christian Writers Guild What’s Your Story correspondence course. It was a two-year program, and I was paired with a professional in the industry. I worked on not just my writing craft, but I also learned about the business of writing, including books, magazine articles, and more. When I moved to Nashville, I got connected with a writers group, which offered monthly classes. The group has since disbanded, but I still meet up with many of the authors every few months to talk about writing. I regularly attend the annual ACFW conference, which is a great opportunity to recharge my writing batteries and be reminded why I love doing what I do.

 

Carol: What motivates you to write?

Liz: I feel strongly that God has given each of us gifts, and we’re to use those gifts to point to Him. I think storytelling is one of my gifts, and I never want to waste it, so I keep writing.

 

Carol: Do you use social media such as face-book and twitter to promote your books?

Liz: I do. I love social media and can be found at www.Facebook.com/LizJohnsonBooks and www.Twitter.com/LizJohnsonBooks.

 

Carol: If you could meet your favorite author/writer in the world, who would she/he be and why?

Liz: Well, I’ve had the privilege of meeting a few of my favorites. Last September at the ACFW conference, I met Julie Klassen, and I had a minor fangirl moment, where I gushed about how much I love her novels. The writer I haven’t met that I’d most like to is Laura Hillenbrand. I’m fascinated by her intense research, and I’d love to hear the stories she’s heard first-hand.

 

Carol: Where do you wish to take your writing in the next three to five years?

Liz: I’m excited to be writing new things in the next couple years, including a three-book contemporary romance series. And I want to keep writing things that challenge me and push me beyond my comfort zone.

 

Carol: Finish this sentence, “God is my motivation………”

Liz: God is my motivation and my strength. Writing can be physically and emotionally draining, and God is my Sustainer. He lifts me up and carries me when I don’t have anything left. I’m so grateful for his faithfulness.

 

Carol: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Liz: Finish your manuscript. It’s hard work. It takes a long time, but there’s nothing like writing your first manuscript to practice writing. I heard Diana Gabaldon say in an interview recently that her bestseller Outlander was written as practice to learn how to write a novel. One of the best ways to get better at writing is by writing. So get your seat in a chair and your fingers on a keyboard (or pencil to paper) and get writing.

 

Carol: Do you have a website/email address where your fans can reach you?

Liz: I love connecting with readers! They can reach me on my website at www.LizJohnsonBooks.com or via email at liz@lizjohnsonbooks.com.

 

Carol: What do you want to accomplish with your writing in 2015?

Liz: I have two manuscripts due in 2015, so my goals in the coming year are to meet deadlines. Hopefully with time to spare. I’m also planning a research trip for the summer, so I hope to brainstorm lots of new ideas and uncover some great new details while I’m on the road.

 

Carol: If you had three wishes, what would they be and why?

Liz: Beyond world peace and the normal ones, I wish I could live in Nashville but still get to see my nieces and nephews (and their parents) whenever I wanted. I wish I always knew the right words to say to encourage my friends when they’re hurting. And I wish Krispy Kreme donuts had negative calories.

www.lizjohnsonbooks.com/

    
   




  Carol Ann Culbert Johnson 

I am the proud author of nineteen (19) short stories for Black Romance, Bronze Thrills, Jive Magazine, True Black Experience, Black Confessions and True Black Experience Magazines. My debut novel, I Confess was published/released on December 18, 2004 and my second novel, Everything and More will be published/released on January 16, 2006. I have about six more novels in progress. I am 43 years old, and I live in Oak Lawn, Illinois. My passion is writing and reading. My Website and my Blog. Carol Ann Publishing

1998 - 2015  MyShelf.com. All rights reserved.

Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Beneath the Covers,Past
A Romance Column
By Carol Ann Culbert Johnson



Introducing Rhonda McKnight

Carol: Give us a short bio about yourself.

Rhonda: I’m a romance and woman's fiction novelist, free-lance fiction editor and the founder of the Write it Right workshop. I live in Suburban Atlanta, Georgia with my two sons and a frisky dog named Tails.

Carol: Explain your writing journey.

Rhonda: I’ve been writing since I was six, but became serious about publication in 2003. I’m a completely self-taught writer. I own about 40 craft books and have probably checked out another 20 from the library. I joined a local critique group with serious writers, attended some writer’s conferences and wrote until I finished a manuscript in 2007. I sold it the same year to Kensington Publishers and it was released in 2009.

 

Carol: What is the name of your current book and give a synopsis of it.

Rhonda: Breaking All The Rules. From the back cover: Deniece Malcolm is shocked and heartbroken when she finds out her baby sister, Janette, is marrying Terrance Wright, because she was the one who was supposed to marry him! Everybody knows there’s a rule about dating exes. Janette is pregnant and not only is this wedding happening, but Deniece has to arrange the festivities.

Deniece’s feelings and pride are hurt, but surprisingly, Terrance’s younger, sexier, cousin, Ethan Wright, is there to provide a listening ear and a strong bicep to cry on. Ethan’s interested in Deniece, but she has a rule about dating younger men. Despite her resistance, things heat up between them and Deniece begins to wonder if it’s time to break a few rules of her own.

 

Carol: Who is your publisher?

Rhonda: Urban Books/Kensington Publishing but I’m also doing independent (indie) projects, Breaking All the Rules is one of them.

 

Carol: Do you have an agent? If so, why and why not?

Rhonda: I do have an agent and she’s an attorney. I needed someone to explain the legalese and negotiate my interests. She also talks me off the ledge when I want to jump off of a tall bookstore. ?

 

Carol: Did you self-publish or go the traditional route?

Rhonda: Breaking All the Rules is my second indie project. All of my novels (there are 3) were with traditionally published with Kensington and my first indie project was only indie for a short time. I sold it to my publisher for re-release in March 2013. I published Breaking in October 2013 and then released Give A Little Love (a holiday novella) in December 2013. I’m loving being self-published, but I am still contracted to deliver a novel to my publisher and plan to continue that relationship as well. In my opinion, being a hybrid author is the best of both worlds.

 

Carol: How do you feel about writing?

Rhonda: I love it most days. I really love it when I type The End.

 

Carol: Is writing a hobby or a full-time job?

Rhonda: Writing is a full-time job, but I still have a full-time day job, so I guess I’m working two full-time jobs for now. I’m always writing, even if it’s just in my head. I’m always marketing, promoting and networking. I work all the time.

 

Carol: What is your genre of writing? Explain.

Rhonda: I write women’s fiction and romance. If I had to classify my work I would say my novels are Christian Fiction and my novellas (romances) are inspirational.

 

Carol: What are your other published books?

Rhonda: My novels are Secrets and Lies (2009), An Inconvenient Friend (2010), What Kind of Fool (2012), A Woman’s Revenge (2013) and then my novellas – Breaking All the Rules and Give A Little Love (both 2013).

 

Carol: What is the message in your books?

 

Rhonda: My stories have themes of faith, forgiveness and hope. It’s relationship fiction – couples working through complex issues or new lovers finding their way to each other.

 

Carol: What are your views on a traditional publisher?

Rhonda: I love having one. Beginning my career with a publisher who was able to place me in every major bookstore, supermarket and Walmart was amazing. I appreciate every aspect of my relationship with my publisher from editorial feedback to my royalty statements.

 

Carol: Are you a reader? If so, what are your favorite authors?

Rhonda: Reading is one of my favorite pastimes. I have lots of favorites, but if I had to narrow it down, I love Sherri Lewis, Victoria Christopher Murray, Tia McCollors, Tiffany L. Warren, Vanessa Miller, Michelle Stimpson and newbie, Michelle Lindo-Rice. I also enjoy a good mystery so Pamela Samuels Young, Walter Mosley, James Patterson and Sandra Brown are my favorites for that genre. The late BeBe Moore Campbell will forever be my favorite author of all time. I can’t imagine anyone taking her place.

 

Carol: Do you write short stories or poems, or both?

Rhonda: Neither. Never have. My dad wrote poetry and my brother, Kenneth McKnight, is a wonderful poet.

 

Carol: What success has publication of your books/novels done for you?

Rhonda: Largely, I think it has inspired my children to believe they can achieve their dreams. It’s also given me an opportunity to share the messages of faith and forgiveness with thousands of readers. I love that.

 

Carol: Have you done a books signing? If so, was it a success or failure?

Rhonda: I do very few book signings. The few I’ve done have been heavily marketed and strategically planned. They’ve done extremely well.

 

Carol: What are your tools for marketing your books? Explain.

Rhonda: These days I rely heavily on social media (i.e. GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter), interviews with bloggers and online magazine publishers. I also mail postcards to readers and handout marketing material wherever I go.

 

Carol: Do you belong to a book club?

Rhonda: I recently started an online book club on Facebook. I’m excited about it. Prior to this, I’ve never belonged to a book club.

 

Carol: Do you read on an electrical device, or do you prefer the feel of books?

Rhonda: I never thought I’d ever say this, but I love e-books. I love reading on my Kindle and the Kindle app on my phone.

 

Carol: What is your opinion on the e-book craze?

Rhonda: It’s fantastic. The lower price point makes books more affordable, so it’s great for newbie authors like me. I’m gaining new readers every day through my indie projects.

 

Carol: Do you use your computer to write, or longhand?

Rhonda: Computer. I don’t write anything longhand except a check.

 

Carol: Who is your support system for your writing?

Rhonda: Other writers. I have a network of writers I connected with more than ten years ago in a critique group. They are the same people I email and text good news and “grumble, moan and whine to” today. They’re also the people who help me promote my work and I help them.

 

Carol: Do you have an editor?

Rhonda: I have a team of writers who give me developmental feedback, so they are my editors. I work with a copyeditor for my indie projects. Felicia Murrell of the Bee Company. She’s excellent.

 

Carol: Have you attended any writing classes, conferences, etc.?

Rhonda: Several and I highly recommend them to aspiring writers and new authors.

 

Carol: What motivates you to write?

Rhonda: I’m motivated by many things, but I think mostly it’s the fact that I know God gifted me to write. Writing is a part of my purpose and my books are my legacy.

 

Carol: If you could meet your favorite author/writer in the world, who would she/he be and why?

Rhonda: My favorite writer is deceased. The late BeBe Moore Campbell. I will say I’d love a lunch with Walter Mosley or James Patterson.

 

Carol: Where do you wish to take your writing in the next three to five years?

Rhonda: I’d like to be at least a 1/2 of the way through my goal of publishing 50 projects. I should be able to get that done in the next five years. I’m 6 in. 19 to go. ?

 

Carol: Complete this sentence, “God is my motivation………

Rhonda:” I’m a deeply spiritual person, so God is my motivation for pretty much everything I do in life, raising my kids, making a home for my family, my writing… I trust HIM completely.

 

Carol: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Rhonda: Attend writer’s conferences. American Christian Fiction Writers is pricey, but very good. Black Writers Reunion Conference has a great reputation as well. Build a network of other writers. You’ll learn a great deal at a conference and your network will encourage you to stay the course. I know mine did. Pick a project and make yourself finish it. Get to “The End”. The End feels so good. Lastly, believe in yourself. Everyone won’t support your writing. Most people won’t, so be okay with ‘you’ being the only person who does.

 

Carol: Do you have a website/email address where your fans can reach you?

Rhonda: My website is www.rhondamcknight.net I maybe be reached email there at Rhonda@rhondamcknight.net and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/booksbyrhonda and www.twitter.com/rhondamcknight I love chatting with readers.

 

Carol: What do you want to accomplish with your writing in 2014?

Rhonda: 2014 is the year to write, write, and write. I actually plan to write 2 novels and 3 novellas. Ambitious, but I believe I can do it.

 

Carol: If you had three wishes, what would they be and why?

Rhonda: Three wishes. I’d wish for fortune because I’d love to own my own publishing house and put more great books into reader’s hands. I’d wish for our culture to have more of a sense of community; that people would simply love more and want less. My third wish is intensely personal. I wish my sons would accomplish all that God created them to do. Can I have a fourth wish? I want to be a size 12. Thank you for having me!


2014 Past Columns

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