Today we speak to C.S. Johnson.
Q) Tell us something about yourself.
I am surprised you can’t tell how charming and witty I am through the Internet, but I suppose that is the flaw of the whole thing.
There are many roles I play and things I say, but I am nearly willing on most of those, and even most of the time! I am a wife, mother, writer, teacher, and student, and of course I like to throw in the world traveler when I can.
I was born to be eccentric and I am working my way up to be able to afford goofing off on a more regular basis. I have the first novel, “Slumbering,” in my epic YA series, “The Starlight Chronicles,” published and ready to buy, and I am currently working my way through the next several books in the complete story while pursuing my master’s degree, teaching at a private school, and being a good wife to my husband Ryan, and a loving mother to my new son, Leo. Needless to say I do not get a lot of sleep and I don’t work well with deadlines. When they talk about the American dream, they don’t say anything about sleep!
Q) Tell us about your latest book. Why do you think the readers will like it?
This is a tricky question. I think people will like “Slumbering” because it’s supposed to be a fun/making-fun-of book. It has great characters, good humor, and fun and exciting adventures, both supernatural and life-events based. It’s got a bit of everything for everyone in it, for the most part.
Q) How did you come up with the title of the book?
For “Slumbering,” the title came up from a variety of ideas and inspirations, but I really wanted started out trying to explain to others the idea of belief. I am very interested in the idea of belief, and what people truly believe. It really comes out in their actions. In this story, my main character, Hamilton, has what I call a ‘sleeping soul’ where he really only cares about himself and his desires. I think this is the type of belief that characterizes most people – Hamilton is just more upfront about it. It is one of the reasons I like him and people like him.
For the series title, it became more of a hint in the direction of Hamilton’s power. He is a fallen star, with great power, and a duty to the Prince of Stars, even if he is reluctant to remember it or choose it for himself. The original title can be more explained in my blog on the inside look of “The Starlight Chronicles” where I explain the transformation over the years I was writing it.
Besides being a total astronomy geek, I thought it was great to connect the ideas of falling stars, and wishing on stars, to the beginnings of faith and belief. Belief, to me, is a lot like starlight: a light in the darkness, beaming out until the end of time, a constant guide for those who are lost or looking.
Q) What kind of research did you do for your book?
I didn’t have to do a lot of unwilling research for the book, but I did have to pull up information on astrophysics! As an avid anti-math learner, this was very difficult to understand and work with. Fortunately I had some really easy to read resources I could use as a supplement to understanding.
One of my ideas about the world – which is probably unique to me – is the idea of reality and unreality. I see the universe almost like a giant egg, where the physical universe is the yolk, and outside the universe is the egg white, and it keeps getting bigger, infinitely bigger. I see the yolk and the egg white almost like earth and heaven, respectably; they can be blended and similar but still distinct. Astrophysics, surprisingly, actually supports my claims a bit – the universe is getting bigger, and has its own radioactive signature. For my novel, there is an interfering radioactive signature which suggests and predicts the presence of the supernatural interference (this is not explained for a few books, so aren’t you lucky you got me started on explaining it!) which my protagonist must fight against.
Q) Which of the Characters in your book are your favourites and why?
Hamilton is my favourite character, no doubt about it. He is narcissistic, uncompassionate to a large degree, hypocritical, intelligent, somewhat apathetic, very charismatic, and cynical. Why would I like him? Partially because he is a lot like myself some days (minus the charisma). But more because I see the potential for him. I see him as I intend to write him, and I love him dearly because he is a young character yet, and he is not finished. That’s a principle I apply to people myself: I love people for who they could be more than who they are at the moment. And I allow myself to be that way, too; I love myself for who I can be, not necessarily who I am or what I do at any given moment.
Q) How did you formulate this character? Is it based on someone you know?
Yes and no. Like I mentioned, Hamilton is a lot like me, but it is surprising how much difference there is between us, particularly with the idea of belief. Having grown up in the Christian faith, I have very little trouble reconciling my faith with intellectual discourse; in fact, several truths found in Christianity make me automatically smarter. I know it is a big thing for intellectuals to see Christianity as a crutch, but it is a matter of pride when they do; Christianity was not made for the elite, but for all people, and there are those who choose to focus on different areas while others settle for some. Hamilton is very much unable to believe in the supernatural, or miracles, and while I see the world very differently, I do understand his reasons for this. I wanted to demonstrate my reasons for belief through his experiences; I firmly believe in the idea that people do not change for people (or they should not) but they change because of people.
Q) Every Author has a distinct writing style. How would you describe your style and how do you think you came to form it?
I would describe mine as witty whimsical (that sounds a lot like a sadistic Willy Wonka description, now that I think about it).
The world offers up experiences all the time – both in pain and pleasure, providing a resounding melody/harmony mix I in which am constantly plunging and perusing. To write for me is to engage in a wicked dance over the heart of the sea, with both salt and water for the world’s wounds. Thankfully in my mind’s picture I am able to fly.
Q) How long have you been working on this book and what inspired you to write it?
I began thinking of the original idea for it in 9th grade, so about ten years now (Wow!) Life has gotten the better of me at times – college, work, family, grad school, more work, more family, vacations – but writing is a calling on my heart I do not want to forget or ignore.
This story in particular started with “Wingdinger” the superhero name of Hamilton’s transformed, supernatural self, which is given to him by the local city press in his world. It was a nickname of a friend of mine’s, and I always thought it deserved a story to go alongside of it.
Q) When did you start writing and when did you realize you want to become an Author?
I had started writing a lot – I mean like a lot a lot, too – in grade school. In 2nd grade I wrote 11 pages about my trip to the circus, while others struggled to get 1 page in. My scholastic rival at the time (because I am very competitive as well, and have always pretty much been such) wrote around 5 or something like that.
Q) Who are some of the Authors you like and how do you think their work inspired you?
I have always loved C. S. Lewis’ work, and part of the reason (beside the fact they are my initials) I chose “C. S. Johnson” as my pen name was due to his influence. Lewis’ mother’s maiden name was Hamilton as well, so it was a sparkle of a miracle to find that out after I had decided on Hamilton’s name. There are other reasons for Hamilton, too – the name means “beautiful mountain” according to Babycenter.com, and I thought it would be great fun (my version of fun) to see faith move a mountain.
Q) What do you think is the most difficult part about writing and publishing a novel?
Getting people to care, frankly (i. e., marketing). There are a lot of people who have surprised me both ways with marketing – both people who have expressed interest in it, and others who have slightly-less-than-surprised me by their apathy. Talking to people who haven’t read it is very difficult for me, too, because it is hard for me to encompass my story into a concise overview. There are a lot of important things in it.
Q) What is some advice you will like to give to people trying to write and get their stories published?
Find a good fit for yourself, whatever the genre, type, or length. And don’t be afraid to get help – both in therapy sense and an editing or reviewing sense.
Q) Tell us something about what you are working on or about some of your future projects.
I’ve just finished up writing what I call the ‘Christmas episode’ of “The Starlight Chronicles” entitled “Awakening.” It is a short story, and it will be available through an anthology some of my friends at Southern New Hampshire University have put together about supernatural heroes. All of the proceeds are going to be donated to Sandy Hook. In the story, Hamilton is faced with the challenges of being a superhero, and must really decide to fight despite the downsides it brings, or to let it go. There are some good talking points about it, and I highly recommend people paying attention to the cookies and the Star of Hope’s ‘gifts’ to Wingdinger and Starry Knight.
I have another series started, too – more sci-fi this time than fantasy, but definitely still fantasy – and I am hunting around for a publisher for that one. This particular project is more about trust (I like big themes with small details and huge implications, have you noticed?)
Q) From amongst all the novels ever published if you had to write any one, which one would it be and why?
I have no idea. I like to read books, but I don’t want to write any others than my own. There is something about a story that marks an author. One of the reasons I did become an author is because I got tired of stories which had such promise in their premise and then flopped (cough *”Twilight”* cough) in execution. I decided to write my own. I’m sure plenty of others will find stuff wrong with mine, too, but that’s okay. As long as they read it, frankly, I’ll be happy!
Q) If you had to convince someone to read your book in 5 lines what would they be?
I don’t imagine ‘I’ve got your best friend and/or family member in my car trunk, and if you don’t read this…’ counts as a line here. But here is my pitch:
If you like action, adventure, and meaningful battles, with funny, relatable characters and mythological creatures, then this book is for you! An epic young adult novel, this book focuses on Hamilton, an egotistical, popular, and talented high schooler who is reluctant to set up and save his city after discovering his supernatural abilities. With football, tests, the school play, and the girl of his choice crowding up his schedule, and his irritating family, parties, and natural disasters, Hamilton’s story will leave you laughing and nostalgic for your own high school years or at least more interesting ones than you currently have or will have in the near future.
Thanks so much for your time!
C. S. Johnson
Goodreads Author Profile: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6889892.C_S_Johnson