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Interview with Myra Johnson

Myra Johnson has always dreamed of becoming a writer. She says, "Making up stories has been second nature to me for as long as I can remember." Her stories are filled with hope, love, and encouragement through characters living out their faith and finding love in the midst of everyday, and sometimes not so everyday, situations.

Myra, your latest release, Whisper Goodbye, an historical romance with Abingdon Press, is a different genre than some of the books you've written in the past. What led you to choose the genre you're currently writing in? And tell us about the other genres in which you've written.
It’s true, my first seven published novels were contemporary romances, and honestly, the idea of historical research intimidated me. How would I ever learn all I needed to know about a bygone era? What if I got the details wrong and true historians called me to task? But even with contemporary settings, a certain amount of research is required, so I couldn’t really use that excuse.

More than anything, what finally led me to attempt this historical series was my fascination with the rich history of Hot Springs, Arkansas, a resort city my husband and I have visited almost every year since the mid-1980s. Every time we vacationed there, I learned something new, and finally the story idea for When the Clouds Roll By (book 1 in the series) started percolating. The series blossomed from there.

Can you give writers who write historical romance a tidbit of advice on doing proper research?
If possible, visit historical societies and museums located where your story is set. I received immeasurable assistance from the Garland County Historical Society—books, pamphlets, newspaper articles, photographs, maps, etc. The staff and volunteers were also very kind to reply to my frequent emails whenever questions arose.

A second bit of advice would be to read true accounts written by people who lived through the period of history you’re writing about. Nothing proved more valuable in researching World War I than reading soldiers’ personal stories and getting a glimpse of what they went through, both during the war and after they came home.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
I have to laugh every time this question comes up because it is never easy pinpointing exactly where the ideas come from. Sometimes a family member relates an experience that starts my imagination churning. Other times an idea forms after an especially vivid dream. A lot of times, it’s just sitting and thinking—daydreaming, if you will—until a set of characters begin to come alive in my mind and an interesting scenario presents itself.

As for what spurs me to write, it’s the sense that this is what God created me for and called me to do. I love story, and I love putting words together on the page. I can get really grumpy when life intervenes and my writing time is eaten up by too many other commitments.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
The Internet—no doubt about it! It’s far too easy to get sidetracked checking email, reading industry blogs, and keeping up with social media. I think back to my earliest days of writing, and even with family and other obligations, it seemed I had so much more time. The pressure on authors for marketing, networking, and self-promotion can be very draining. I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook and Twitter!

You've said that writing is about the journey, not the destination. How do your faith and spiritual life play into the journey of telling your stories?
Many of my stories reflect life lessons I’m still trying to learn—trusting God more deeply, forgiveness, seeking God’s purpose and plan for my life. Working out these truths through stories helps me see things more clearly, which is what I also hope for my readers. I write about flawed characters finding their way through difficult circumstances, and in the process, finding their way back to God.

What one bit of advice can you give to writers who are having difficulty finishing a novel?
If you want to write badly enough, you have to find or make the time to do it. Set a specific time for writing every day or every week, and treat it as you would any other appointment. Let your friends and family know this is your time, and don’t give it up for anything except an emergency.

If you’ve started a novel but can’t seem to work your way to the end, maybe you need to rethink the characters’ goals. Why do they want what they want? What’s the worst that could happen if they don’t achieve it? Is it enough to make readers care? If not, heighten the stakes.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
Family time is important to me, so I try to reserve evenings and weekends for my husband, and also our kids and grandkids when they’re around. I also love dogs and can’t imagine ever being without at least one or two. A favorite break in my workday is lunch with my husband on the porch while we watch birds at the backyard feeders. If winter ever loosens its grip, that’s where you’ll find us over the noon hour!

If you could spend the day with a famous author, whom would you choose?
It would have to be C.S. Lewis. His deep spiritual insights never fail to inspire me, and he knew how to weave God’s truths into stories that enthralled and entertained.

Finish this statement: If I wasn't a writer, my dream job would be...
...a graphic designer because I enjoy digital photography and playing with images on my computer and can waste inordinate amounts of time doing so!

Any parting words?
Wherever you are on the writing journey, enjoy it and learn all you can. Master the basics, but don’t let yourself be locked into one method or plotting system. Experiment until you find what works best for you.

Above all, remember that even though writing is a “lonely” profession, even confirmed introverts like me can’t survive long without the support and encouragement of other writers. Join a writers group, either online or locally, and help each other along the way.

And anytime you need a morale boost, you can always find a bunch of supportive writers and readers in Seekerville.

Thanks for sharing with us, Myra!

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