Please welcome my fellow North Dakotan and Romance Writer, Marie Johnston, to The Clog Blog! Marie, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I started out as a science geek, and I guess I’m still one. I left full-time lab work ten years ago when we had our third kid (we now have four), worked for almost five years part-time, and then wrote full-time in the last few years. But COVID has drawn me back to the lab and I’m really enjoying it. Now that my kids are older, I’m determined to juggle both my writing gig and my med tech career. It won’t be easy, but I’m too social to work at home during another North Dakota winter.
What are your current projects?
I’m usually working on more than one book at a time. I have a paranormal romance that releases in July that I’m finishing edits on. It’s the last one planned in that series, which spawned from my first series ever. I’m in the middle of writing a contemporary romance that will be published by K. Bromberg in her Everyday Heroes World in December. It’s been a bit harder (a whole lot harder) to find the time to write while I’m working. I miss those long stretches where I can really sink into the story.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I’m fortunate to be a versatile writer. If needed, I’ll write on anything, anywhere. I prefer to sit for long, uninterrupted stretches, usually before noon. Some of my best writing has been done while waiting in the car with my computer propped on the steering wheel outside of one of my kids’ practices. No one’s called the cops on me yet for sitting in a dark, almost empty, parking lot of a school for over an hour.
When I don’t have my computer or space is limited, I’ll type out an email to myself on the phone. If I’m really time-crunched, I’ll dictate, but I don’t prefer it. I like physically typing. If I only have a pen and paper, then I’ll plot even though I’m typically a linear pantser. I like to write from beginning to end and let the story unfold, which works better for me since I don’t care for the editing stages, which I have a lot of if I jump around to write different scenes and then seam them all together.
You’ve written over forty books, where do your ideas come from?
Anywhere and everywhere. I’ll hear a song, a phrase, anything that evokes emotion and puts a scene in my head. From there, I’ll ask questions and more of the story will be revealed. Sometimes, all I have is that scene or idea and I’ve incorporated those in my stories. One of them was the idea of the heroine sitting in a coffee shop, eavesdropping from a booth on a lovey-dovey couple who are ordering. When they leave, the barista makes a comment to her about how she loves seeing a guy dote on his girlfriend like that. The heroine thinks to herself She isn’t his girlfriend. I am. I used that as an opening scene. I even paired it with a what-if idea I had. What if the scorned heroine had to move out of her place and one of the guys helping her move is the new love interest? That became the second scene and I felt like I got two hooks for one.
Thankfully, I don’t lack in ideas. Just the time to write them all.
How are you publishing your most recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)
I’ve always been indie. I started that way because I needed a shot at an income now and not maybe years from now. Little did I know how fickle both routes can be. Shortly after I started, I wrote a couple of manuscripts and pitched agents and nothing came of it. I self-published those books and I love the flexibility of that route. I can change prices and covers and blurbs within minutes, or days depending on the retailer. I’m changing a three-book series I have—new covers, new blurbs, new titles, and I’m even switching a series from 3rd person POV to 1st person POV.
This year, I’ll be writing two books in other authors’ worlds. I have one releasing in September in the Cocky Heroes World and one in December in K. Bromberg’s Everyday Heroes World. It’s not quite like traditional publishing. I used my own editors and my own cover artist, but they publish it under their brand. Their audiences are huge so I’m hopeful I’ll find new readers. It’s been a good experience, but I don’t think I’ll do it again. I’d rather put that effort into the worlds I built. (Unless they sell like kettle corn and make a lot of money. Then I’ll totally do more!)
I wouldn’t mind being hybrid but I think I’d try that again with a non-romance book. I have too many romance books I want to get out in the next year and a half, so I’ve tabled those plans for a while.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
I mentioned the flexibility with pricing and advertising, but I think the speed is a huge benefit. I’m a fast writer and I’ve built up a sizeable backlist. While I’m working heavier hours at the lab, I can ease off the keyboard a little and play with what I have. I can repackage different boxsets, run them for a limited time, and take them down. I can change covers and do special edition sales. For me, the biggest benefit is that if I’m not earning royalties, I can do something about it.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
I love any review I can get. Somehow, my book resonated enough with someone for them to go through the time and effort of a review. As long as the book’s average stays above 4.0, I don’t worry about it. But I never read them. They are by the readers, for the readers, and even the good reviews stifle my muse. The bad ones echo in my head for months. Some authors read reviews and gather information about how to improve their writing, but it’s not good for me and I leave it at that.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
There’s so much, but the best advice I got was Just Write. Even after 45 books, it still comes down to that. It’s what I have the most control over. It’s what drives my business. Just write.
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
This is from my upcoming release A Shifter’s Salvation. It (was released)… on July 20th. Enjoy!
A lumpy bundle in the ditch captured her attention. Patience was past it before she braked. Frowning, she peered in the rearview mirror and waited for the dust cloud to settle.
What was it? Too large to be a dog. Maybe a bear? A garbage bag? It wouldn’t be the first time some idiot tried getting rid of their trash on the side of a rural road.
Squinting, she couldn’t make out what it was, but she swore part of the blue appeared to be denim material.
No. It couldn’t be a person.
Looking around, she couldn’t see a motorcycle or anything that suggested an automobile wreckage of any sort.
She ran her tongue along her teeth. Good thing she fueled up. Someone had to check this lump out.
She stepped out of her car and blinked in the sunlight. It was a cool day, typical for late spring. Dirty snow was still piled in the ditches, but it’d been a mild winter, and whatever the bundle was hadn’t landed in more than dried grasses.
“Hello?” She inched closer to the edge of the road. If it was garbage, please be old rags. Something that didn’t ooze. Picking up other people’s trash was full of icky surprises.
The lump didn’t move.
“Garbage dumpers,” she muttered and crept closer. A mop of rich brown hair caught her gaze.
The pile wasn’t small. And it had hair.
Her heart rate kicked up. A person. But there was no vehicle around. Was he dumped?
She knew it was a he because of the size. Not that women couldn’t be that big. But this was definitely a guy. Because the more she studied him, the better able she could make out that he was on his side and had incredibly broad shoulders.
“Excuse me?” she said, sounding more timid than she cared to.
“Sir?” She took a step closer.
She closed the distance between them and stood over him. His shoulders moved in time with his steady breathing. Good, he was alive at least. Before she could wonder about her personal safety, she crouched as far away as possible but close enough to reach out and nudge one heavily muscled arm. “Hey?”
Circling him, she had a dying need to know what he looked like. If she was getting taken down by a stranger, she wanted to see his face.
Admittedly, this stranger didn’t seem like he’d attack anyone any time soon.
A leather coat flap obscured his face. Since he was breathing, she pushed him to his back. A normal person would call an ambulance, but there was no way she’d risk that. With her luck, Damian would be on duty, and she couldn’t risk running across him. The restraining order had expired and he hadn’t bothered her—yet.
The man groaned as he settled on his back.
Her lips parted. He was a mess. But he was a hot mess. Bits of grass mixed with rich brown strands. A neatly trimmed beard framed his chiseled face. Everything about him screamed strength and power. Quite a feat for an unconscious man. She didn’t have to move his jacket and shirt around to know that he had a great body.
But she had no wish to touch his shirt. Blood was spattered across it. She couldn’t see any open wounds. Not his blood? Her gaze swept his long body. No major injuries other than bloody knuckles.
Her jaw tightened. He was in a fight before he ended up here. Self-defense? Or was he a mean bastard?
“What’s your story?”