Thursday, April 19, 2018

C.S. Johnson Author Interview and a Linky

C.S. Johnson has an awesome new series coming out soon. I've already read an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of the first book, Kingdom of Ash and Soot, and was hooked! First I will introduce the book, since she mentions it in her interview. By the way, don't you agree that it's a beautiful cover?

Kingdom of Ash and Soot

Book Description:

“I want to be free.” The words came rushing out of me before I could think through their implications and consequences.

“There are two things you need to know about yourself if you want to be free—what you stand for, and what you stand against.” Lady Penelope held up her hands, brandishing a pair of daggers that had been hidden in her skirts. “This world lives enslaved to its destruction, and so long as you are living, as long as you are fighting, you will be free.”

I gazed at the daggers, transfixed. Each blade was clothed in a leather scabbard, but the silver and obsidian of the daggers’ hilts winked at me, as though it was calling for me.

PRAGUE, 1870.

For the last ten years, nineteen-year-old Eleanora Svobodová has worked as a servant in her stepmother's household. Along with her older brother, she dreams of the day they will be free to live life on their own terms.

But everything changes when their estranged grandmother comes to Prague on behalf of Queen Victoria. Throughout Bohemia, a string of murders and secret whispers hint at a larger coup. As the leader of the Order of the Crystal Daggers, an ancient order of spies and soldiers that protect kingdoms and their rulers, Lady Penelope is determined to mete out the perpetrators. Now, Eleanora must make the choice between a life of intrigue and saving the lives of others.

Can Eleanora find a way do the right thing and still find freedom?

With a fun blend of historical fiction, true love, castle intrigue, and family dysfunction, The Order of the Crystal Daggers is the latest adventure series from C. S. Johnson.

This book is not yet available
for purchase. Here's a link
to the book on GoodReads.


Author Interview:
C.S. Johnson

1. What does a typical day in your home look like?
“Messy” is the first word that comes to mind. I joke that I am the Stay at Home Sex Goddess rather than the Stay at Home Mom. I don’t cook or clean very often or very well (my mother is cringing as I write this) but I definitely have kids. They are still very young yet, so they get into everything and every day I lament the growing pile of laundry, even if it will be a week before I force myself to take care of it. I have what I call “The Bear Family,” because I have a son and daughter. Together with my husband, we will one day cosplay as the Bearenstain Bears. We have a dog right now, too, who counts double as a furry vacuum cleaner. My husband goes to work, and I take care of the house, and periodically I collapse in my shower wondering if I’m a good enough mom and worrying about how I will fail them in life. But there are bad days, too. Just kidding! There are good days and better days, but I am definitely grateful for all I have and I am so glad I do have what I have, even if it gets hectic once in a while.

2. Do you use your own name or a pseudonym?
I use “C. S. Johnson,” and it is so funny how it worked out, because C. S. Lewis and Samuel Johnson are among my favorite authors. I enjoy both of them and since Johnson is my married name, I could not have planned it out without being a stalker at some point. I attribute that to God’s sense of humor.

3. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I like to think I can write a book a month, but I am basically useless while I wait for it to be edited. It depends on the book, too. Some stories just come, and others come enough to entice me, and others I have to beg and plead and kick and scream before they come out to play. Slumbering was the first book that took me a long time to write, and the two books after that in the series, Calling and Submerging were both entirely rewritten as well.

4. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I started writing just as the ebook revolution came to be. My first Kindle was $200, and it was the original. I was actually sad when it died. But I would tell myself that it was just possible to write, first, and to edit like crazy. I’m still learning how to write books in the sense that I can play with different things, and see how they go. One of the best things that I learned while writing my novella series was I don’t do short books well. Most of my books are 60K or more. I tried to keep it around 50K for those, and it was just hard. I also don’t like to do longer books. Kingdom of Ash and Soot is close to 100K, and I can tell it’s a good book because I can read it and I don’t even realize how much I’ve read until it’s over and I am wanting more.

So I would tell myself to DO IT and EDIT IT, and just keep going.

5. Where do you usually find inspiration for your books?
I like big-concept ideas mixed in with stuff that amuses and intrigues me. I love finding things that make me feel clever and I cheer when I’ve made someone laugh. The Starlight Chronicles was my homage to my teenage angst, but also a love letter to an atheist friend of mine on the nature of believe and specifically the believer’s journey; the Divine Space Pirates was a romantic treatise on politics, religion, family, and truth; and The Order of the Crystal Daggers is my homage to my heritage as well as my journey through understanding freedom and the nature of it as I see it in different parts of my life.

Most of my work revolves around seeing things we know in a different way. Faith and fantasy, politics and leadership, myths and true myths; all of these things matter to me, and I want people to see them not just for what they are, or what they were, but for what they could be.

6. How many books to you plan to write for this series?
I like to play with different things. I consider myself a young writer, and I probably will be for a long time. But I’ve tried different things, such as using different POVs, lengths, series lengths, pantsing and planning, changing it up with male and female MCs and different genres. So it’s not always clear how many books will be in a series, and I’m okay with that. I do like to keep it to trilogies if I can, but my Starlight series is still something I enjoy to reread immensely. I know I want to try to write different lengths for most of the series I have planned. The Divine Space Pirates and The Order of the Crystal Daggers were both good ideas for trilogies because of the elements of three that were both presented in the stories themselves (Heaven, Earth, and Hell; grandmother, mother, daughter; specific, theme-driven conflicts on social, personal, and inner-personal levels). But I know I have a 5-part fantasy adventure planned, and another sci-fi that will be at least a trilogy, and I have another fun dystopia planned that’s a duology. Most of the time, it’s the stories that plan themselves.

7. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
For me, most of it becomes more difficult when I write about relationships. I know there are some well-worn generalities about men and women and what they find attractive and how they act on it, but I believe there are exceptions, and lots of them. So it is hard to hear someone say “I don’t think this how a guy/girl like this would approach this,” and not think “but there are SOME who would!”

8. How do you select the names of your characters?
There are a number of ways I do, but each character name is important to me. I enjoy naming characters. For me, that is their “conception” moment. They are truly alive when I call them by their names. I enjoy having stories behind the name, too, and sometimes their name helps define their characters better. For example, “Theo” in Beauty’s Curse was inspired by Theophilus from the book of Acts. His name means “Lover of God,” and Theo plays a large role throughout the plot of the series that matches his name ironically and accurately. In the Starlight Chronicles, “Hamilton” came from a number of things, but I enjoy seeing a name that means “beautiful mountain,” as it is moved toward a life completely different from the one he planned. “Aerie” from The Heights of Perdition was a name that solidified her character and her role—she is always causing trouble, both good and bad, for the people in her life who love her.

For Kingdom of Ash and Soot, Eleanora came from a desire to retell Cinderella, but later on, I forgot about that part, and I enjoyed her name because her two main identities throughout the book—“Nora,” from her brother, and “Ella,” from her love interest—show the dynamics her choices place on her. I know from having my own various nicknames that there is something to owning who you are and still being unique to different people. It is exciting to see which name or identity she will choose for herself.

9. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
YES, definitely! It’s too fun not to hide some hints and clues along the way. I do it for many reasons, but most of the things I hide or include are things that mean something to me. Several characters are inspired by real people and I enjoy getting to tell stories where they interact with characters from my mind.

10. What does literary success look like to you?
I write to give, and I live to be able to give back. I want to be able to make a living, even a modest one, and still be able to give back. I have a few ideas for non-profits and just general ways to give back. I am very aware that I have a great life, and even though I still have my share of problems, I can do something to make someone else’s life better, and I want to be able to do that.



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