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Interview with Kimberly Johnson

Kimberly Rose Johnson’s book, Designing Love, which was released in March, is the third in her Sunriver Dreams series. Before I recently talked with her about the book, I looked up Sunriver, Oregon to see if it is a real place. I was delighted with the answer.

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So, Sunriver Oregon is a real place. How did you choose that setting?
It’s one of the places I love. When my kids were little, that's where my family went. It's my home away from home, somewhere I love to go. The Sunriver Dreams series, all based there, started with A Love to Treasure. A Christmas Homecoming followed.

Your new book is dedicated to your dad. Is he a fan of your stories?
My dad is really into Bible prophecy, and I included that in Designing Love, so I dedicated the book to him.

Did you do any special research? How did you come up with the idea of making your main character, Sierra, an interior designer?

In the first book, I made the main character, Bailey, an interior decorator. I ended up writing the rest of the series about the designers who worked with her. In the process of doing that I took an interior design course so that I would feel a little more educated. Also, I've hired an interior designer before, so I've experienced that side of it.

How are the three books connected?
Sunriver is the main connection. Some of the characters know each other through Bailey. Sierra is introduced in book two, and becomes the main character in the third book.

I suspected a love triangle would develop with Sierra and the two men in her life. How do you go about plotting? Do you outline?
For Mountain Brook Ink publishing, I start with a general idea and create a proposal that includes a summary of the story. I have worked with Miralee Ferrell, the owner of the company, for a really long time, so she trusts my judgment. Since we work closely together, I don’t create an outline anymore.
I asked Miralee what she thought about a love triangle, and she was okay with the idea. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to with John and Spenser and their relationships with Sierra. Since this was the last book in the series I wanted to have a good ending.

You created a good villain in Mrs. Drake. What was the inspiration for her?
She was just a part of my imagination. I needed a villain so I came up with one.

Sierra drinks Chai tea instead of coffee. Is that your favorite?
It depends on where I am. I get Chai tea at Starbucks, and if I’m somewhere else I might drink mocha.

And the M&Ms in the story—another favorite of yours?
Ha! When I was writing that story I was addicted to M&Ms. I discovered two years ago I can't have gluten and M&Ms don’t have gluten. I ate them by the bowlfuls.

What message do you hope readers take away from Designing Love?
That's always hard for me because when I write I don't really think about a message. I just write from the heart. I let the readers figure that out whatever the book speaks to them. I read reviews to see what people have said. It not an intentional thing on my part. It just happens organically.

You have written more than a dozen books. How did you begin?
My first book was published through a vanity publisher before self-publishing was a thing. Through that process, I learned there are writers’ conferences and books on writing. I didn't have a clue what I was doing, I just had a story to tell. That's how I found ACFW and Oregon Christian Writers. Tamela Hancock Murray was my agent for a while and I published with Heartsong Presents until they closed.

What was a significant point in your publication journey?
I suppose finding and achieving that goal of getting a traditional publishing contract. I was ready to give up. It took about six years. I started writing and learning the craft in 2006 and was offered my first contract in 2012. I had come to the point that if The Christmas Promise wasn't purchased, I was done. I was very dedicated and I just couldn't keep spending hours and hours writing every day.

Do you still put in a lot of hours?
I have a part time job now, so it changes. I work through the school year and write in the summer. If I have a job, I write after work. When I don’t have a job, my day starts early in the morning. I will write until 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon and hit social media in the evening. Even though I am a workaholic, I know how to set my priorities. I try not to over commit. Family always comes first.

What's your favorite and least favorite parts of writing?
I like the creative process of writing. I enjoy seeing the story unfold. My least favorite is the editing part. I don't like to edit. But I do it obviously, especially now that I'm self-publishing.

On the book that I just finished, I cut 3,000 words because the story wasn't going in the right direction. I knew it and I got stuck. The best thing to do was cut it rather than spending time trying to make it work. Once I did that, it just flowed.

I'm not a wordy writer. I used to tell Miralee, who was my friend and critique partner before she became my publisher, that her use of description slowed down her story. She would tell me I needed more description. I would have probably been a good journalist because I write really short.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?
I love to read. I love to walk. I like going out for coffee with friends, but people are always so busy.

Do you have any advice for those just starting out in their writing journeys?
Study the craft. Persevere. Don't listen to the negativity. A writer needs to be able to take constructive criticism—learn and grow from it. That's my best advice.


Teresa Haugh, a graduate of the University of Montevallo, is a recently retired public affairs specialist with the U.S. Forest Service. She and her husband enjoy life in Alaska, the Last Frontier. She enjoys talking with other authors about their writing journeys, and is completing her first full-length novel.

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