Thursday, 15 October 2015

My Writing Life... Margaret K Johnson

This week I am delighted to welcome fellow RNA Norfolk Chapter member Margaret K Johnson to the blog to tell us all about her writing life.

My Writing Life...

I write women’s fiction, mainly about women who are overcoming challenges in their lives – women who emerge triumphant by the end of the book. There’s always a romance in my novels, but my female characters are also on a journey of self-development and self-awareness, and I draw heavily on my own life experience or create life-experiences in order to write about them! My novels are usually about 90,000 words long, although I’ve also published a novella – Calling All Goddesses, which is a prequel to The Goddess Workshop. My very first books were published by Woman’s Weekly, Robert Hale and Ulverscroft, but I’ve also self-published two women’s fiction novels – The Goddess Workshop and The Dare Club. Recently I’ve been published by Omnific Publishing –  A Nightingale in Winter, a historical romance, came out on 24th August, and – Taming Tom Jones – published by Crooked Cat Publishing on 2nd October.

In January of this year, I started teaching WriteUP creative writing courses as part of my business. These are fiction writing courses aimed at beginners, and they include a confidence-building element, because I think all writers have fears and doubts when they first start out. And maybe as they get more experienced too… I did some research with published authors, and the fears they admitted to sounded extremely familiar! My courses are delivered face-to-face at the moment, and I get so much out of inspiring people to express themselves on paper. I’m enjoying the entrepreneurial aspect of developing my courses too, much to my surprise! It has taught me so much, not least that it’s OK to invest financially in my business. Before this, I wouldn’t have dreamt of paying for advertising or anything like that. Now I’ve got over this block, I feel I can really move forward with both my writing and my teaching, and I’m working towards launching an e-course aimed at beginning writers called Feel the Fear and Write Anyway in the New Year.

As well as being a writer and a teacher, I’m a mum to a ten-year-old, and like most working mums, I have to juggle things in order to find time to write. My absolute favourite time to get words down on paper is first thing in the morning – around five-thirty am – while my partner is out with the dog and my son is still asleep. I like to sit up in bed with a giant cup of coffee and write in my notebook, occasionally glancing out of the window to see the sky getting lighter behind the trees. It’s bliss, despite the early hour, and the time I do my best work. After the school run, I make another coffee and a slice of toast, and then I read through the previous day’s work, making a few changes and refamiliarising myself with it. Then I type up what I wrote that morning in my notebook and then carry on writing on the computer until lunchtime, after which I take the dog out. A quick cat nap, a cuppa and some cake, and I’m off for another hour until the school run beckons again. I have to say though, that this is my ideal writing day. Often writing has to fit in around teaching preparation, activities to publicise my novels and family stuff.

When I start a novel, I know my characters, the beginning, the end and a few touchstones along the way. After I’ve written around 30,000 words, I have a brainstorming session, writing scenes onto post it notes and then arranging them in what seems like a good order. In this way I usually overcome that ‘middle slump’ feeling, and I can draw all the different strands of the story together. At this stage I’m also able to write a sentence that describes the theme of the book – I find this helps me enormously, as I can pin everything to that. For example, the theme sentence of both The Goddess Workshop and A Nightingale in Winter is: “You can’t move on your life and truly fulfil your potential until you have dealt with issues of the past,” while for Taming Tom Jones, it is: “The truth isn’t always what you think it is.”

After I’ve finished a first draft, I leave it to brew for a few weeks before reading through it again and making some changes. Then I send it off to my trusty beta readers, whose opinions I trust absolutely, since we’re on the same wavelength. A further draft follows, and then the manuscript is usually good to go.

My aspirations...

In the next six months, I want to finish writing a – as yet untitled – sequel to The Goddess Workshop. Well, I say a sequel, but it’s a different story which follows the fates of two of the four main characters as they deal with themes of forgiveness and motherhood. I’m really excited about it, but then I’m probably always excited about my current work in progress! I’m also going to be launching Feel The Fear and Write Anyway, and I’m really looking forward to working with more new writers, developing their confidence and skills. So, busy, happy days ahead!
I’m quite an ambitious person, and I’d love to win an award for my writing at some point. I know it shouldn’t matter, and yet… Somehow it does, at least to me! Better get writing then!

My Author Bio...

Margaret K Johnson began writing after finishing at Art College to support her career as an artist. Writing quickly replaced painting as her major passion, and these days her canvasses lay neglected in her studio. She is the author of women’s fiction, stage plays and many original fiction readers in various genres for people learning to speak English. Margaret also teaches fiction writing and has an MA in Creative Writing (Scriptwriting) from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Norwich, UK with her partner and their
bouncy son and dog.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for letting me make an appearance, Heidi! :)