If you haven’t heard of our new project, the On Fire anthology, this interview series will showcase our authors and their writing lives beyond their ignited tales. In K.N. Johnson’s “The Clearing,” Elka tries to sway the gods and gets more than she expected.
How do you research your stories?
I read a lot and in a wide range – everything from Smithsonian magazine to weird news can trigger a story. For me, it’s often research that creates the initial story idea. Visiting new places always piques my curiosity, and I fill my head with all sorts of information. I also enjoy legend tripping and ghost investigations, so all of these things string together in my head into stories.
How long have you been writing?
As a child, I’d create family newspapers, children’s books in scribble pads. My sisters still remember me forcing them to act in my plays. In middle school, my best friend and I wrote a paranormal YA book for fun. I was the high school newspaper editor, but also churned out handwritten pages of a soap opera for a few close friends. When my twins were toddlers, I wrote a screenplay with my husband. Miramax passed on it, and I haven’t tried romantic comedy again. I worked as a reporter and email marketer for years before finally giving time to my pile of short story ideas.
Do you use beta readers, and if so, roughly how many?
I have one beta reader, who prefers films to books. This works well because it’s a challenge to keep his attention. He prefers my stories to paint pictures in his head, so he can envision the actions and characters. If anything’s too weak, he points it out.
If he really disagrees with a plot point, a second beta reader, again not an avid reader, will give me a second opinion. This way, I get two opinions from two very different demographics.
One time, a story idea came to me while I was walking with my youngest daughter, so I prattled on as we walked. When I finished, she said, “Oh my gawd,” so I knew I had a good one!
What are you doing to market yourself?
I have a Facebook author page under my pen name K.N. Johnson with a shop and email sign up. I sell my books at paranormal themed events with free vendor space. My story “Frigid” is being developed into a short film, so I’m hoping to get some local press as the project progresses.
How do reviews of your stories influence you?
Most of my stories are in anthologies, so it’s difficult to get a reader to make a shout-out for my specific stories. I’ve enjoyed attending author events, though, and hearing that readers are genuinely interested in a book filled with my stories. Readers at paranormal events I attend enjoy hearing about my experiences at haunted locations, so they’ve influenced my first full-length project.
What advice do you have for beginning authors?
Read writers you love and try to figure out why you love their stories. Then, make time to write. Write absolute rubbish just to get your story down. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write, write, write.
What did you edit out of this story?
Interesting question! I changed the ending of this story a few times. Originally, there was a death, but I didn’t feel like that was the right tone. Then there were long scenes of the townspeople using Elka’s fits as words from the gods. They returned, one by one, angry they’d made decisions based on her words and things had gone wrong. One of my beta readers begged me to send other characters into the woods after Elka – even to have one save her. But I wanted to emphasize that Elka had to think for herself, her decision was her own, and she’d make it even if it meant leaving behind everything she knew and loved.
K.N. Johnson’s short story “Frigid” won Mythraeum’s Pygmalion contest and is being developed into a short film by L.Merrick, LLC and Parthian Enterprises. Filming begins January 2018. Her work has appeared in Proximity Magazine and Incandescent Mind literary journal. Her short stories are included in the anthologies A Journey of Words, A Haunting of Words, and Polterguests and the upcoming anthology Terra Nullius published by Kristell Ink.
She serves as an Acquisitions Editor for Mighty Quill Books, an Advanced Reader for Tin House Books, and an Associate Member of the Horror Writers Association. While she hunts ghosts for fun, she’s not sure if she’s ever seen one… but she’s definitely been terrified, her skin chilled by strange sounds and shadows. She enjoys responsible legend trips and takes way too many photos during her adventures.
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