J Philip Horne

Six Question Saturday with C.S. Johnson

Here’s our author for today’s Six Question Saturday!

S. Johnson is the author of several young adult novels, including sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as The Starlight Chronicles series, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Follow her on Twitter at @C_S_Johnson13.

You can find her here.

Now… on to the six questions! If you have any questions of your own, please leave them in the comments, and hopefully C.S. will drop by and answer them.

Question 1: Is there another life experience you’ve had that you believe compares well to writing your first novel in terms of both the difficulty and sense of accomplishment? If not, what do you think might compare well?

I submitted the first novel of my Starlight Chronicles series to the 2012 Munce Magazine novel writing competition. Out of over 200 entries, I won second place, and my book was published as a result. At the time I submitted it, I was terribly depressed and stuck in a terrible teaching job, where my administrator really did not like me. When I think of the level of difficulty and sense of accomplishment, I think of that terrible job. It was much easier for me to invent an imaginary universe where monsters were wondering around a city stealing souls than it was to deal with the people there, but I don’t think I would have been as up for the challenge of writing a book and submitting it if I hadn’t been in that place.


Question 2: Tell us about that moment you decided to actually complete a novel. Had writing been on your mind for years, or was it a sudden impulse? What did you do next?

I’ve always been a good writer. I started writing longer stories in high school, and wanted to write a book for a long time. I frequently wrote stories for class assignments and daydreamed during class. I started writing when I realized I hated a lot of the storylines in some television shows I liked at the time. I felt there was too much desperation, even back then, and I wanted a story that made sense and didn’t need the shock factor or hot actors to sell.

Question 3: What’s your writing setup? How do you take notes? What’s your process to develop a first draft? Are any tools critical to your success?

Over the years, I’ve realized some tricks to get me started in writing a story and keeping it going. I start by daydreaming, and end up with a general outline. I pants through some, and I check it against the outline. I call myself a “jazzer” because of this. It’s structured writing, but it contains free style to keep it authentic. I generally know where my story is going, but I find it’s often like solving a mystery I already knew the answer to but I forgot it along the way.

If there is any tool I like to use, It’s generally a plot outline. Sometimes I use “Le Menu” and a beat sheet, which are more tools for screenwriting than novel writing, but I’ve found stories are evolving more along the visual format recently, so it still works.

Question 4: What book or series would you most love to see made into a movie or Netflix series? What would you fear the director or screenwriter would get wrong?

Of my own work, I’d love to see any of them be made into a Netflix series. The Starlight Chronicles series is a perfect high school comedy. The Divine Space Pirates trilogy is a science fiction romance where I get to make fun of political stuff I hate, so I think it would be awesome to have all the critics get mad over that. The current series I am finishing up is a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, where the princess knows about her curse and she wants to find a way to break it herself.

If any of my work did get made into a movie or a series, probably the thing I would worry about most is the rating. I like to write clean fiction because, while violence is justified from time to time, the excessive use of it in today’s society often detracts from the story. I would also worry about the use of sex, because the nice thing about my novels is that when that does come up, I write in such a way that the reader can read into it as much as they want. It’s harder to do that with film.

Question 5: Can you write some verse (any form) that describes your hopes as an author? Or the theme of one of your books?

There once was a book with things
Like Soulfire and monsters and wings
With heroic fallen Stars
And demonic Sinisters—
Such wonderful adventure it brings!

Question 6: You step onto an elevator with three other people, all representatives of your core audience. The doors close. You have their attention until they get off 18 floors later. Buddy the elf is not on the elevator with you, so it’s going to be a quick trip. What do you say to convince them to read your novels?

I have the appropriate blackmail and/or hostages … No, just kidding!

I’d start off by asking them what they like to read. I write young adult novels, but the genres vary according to which series. I think it’s good to have people who want adventure and fantasy more than anything else, so if I had any fantasy fans, I’d give the elevator pitch for my Starlight Chronicles: Interested in reading about a self-obsessed reluctant superhero who thinks he is going crazy when evil monsters begin attacking his city?

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