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
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
Carol: Do you have an agent? If so, why and why
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
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
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
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
Carol: Are you a reader? If so, what are your
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
Liz: I’m the worst poet on earth. But
I do love writing short stories! Especially around the
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
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
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.
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
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
Carol: Have you attended any writing classes,
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
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
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
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 email@example.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.
Ann Culbert Johnson
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.