Q&A

This is an extract from a Q&A interview I’ve just published on smashwords. I’ve discovered I’m more comfortable asking questions than answering them! Can you think of any other questions that would be useful here?

Interview with Katharine Johnson

What is your writing process?
Like many busy parents juggling writing with family life can sometimes be a challenge. I’ve got used to making the most of small pockets of time – thinking through ideas while walking the dog and hoping I can remember them for later. I wrote much of my last novel in a cafe during my children’s after-school dance lessons. In the past I’ve been very disciplined and not allowed myself to write fiction during working hours but now the lines are blurring a little.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes – I wrote my first book when I was nine. It was a collection of stories about a naughty chimp, complete with illustrations in Bic biro.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first book I read on my own was The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe when I was about six – and yes it had a very powerful effect. I was always an impressionable child and had to keep checking the back of my wardrobe just in case it really did lead to another world!
How do you approach cover design?
It’s a new experience for me – a joy but also daunting. My publisher gave me a selection of styles to choose from. If I’d been given a totally free choice I probably still wouldn’t have made up my mind. I always thought I would go for a photographic cover but after taking advice from people with more commercial experience I went for an abstract design as pictures of people are so subjective.
What are your five favorite books, and why?

Very hard to narrow it down, partly because I’m usually in love with the book I’ve just read. But consistently in my top five would be

The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald – beautiful language
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier – brilliantly plotted
Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh – I love the conflict
The End of the Affair, Graham Greene – I love the narrative voice
So Many Ways to Begin, Jon Mcgregor – I love the way this man writes

What is your e-reading device of choice?
ipad
Describe your desk
Oh dear, must I? It’s usually a mess which makes me best suited to working at home. I have no idea how things end up here. Right now, apart from my overflowing in-tray, coffee cup, notebook, two novels and two how-to books on writing, I see my husband’s childhood teddy bear, half a model plane belonging to my son, two pairs of glasses (mine), and a lion cub key ring I don’t even recognise.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Bristol and went to school in the city centre. We spent lunch times hanging around the docks, looking round exhibitions in the Arnolfini and the Watershed or browsing the stalls at St Nicholas’ market. Our school was in the middle of a housing estate and I spent a lot of lesson time looking out of the window, observing life in the surrounding flats. I suppose that curiosity about other people’s lives has influenced my writing so it wasn’t all time wasted.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a novel about a villa in Italy and the secrets it holds. But I flit between that one and another about a group of housemates in their first job who make a grisly discovery in the basement.
Who are your favorite authors?
I never say no to a book by Barbara Vine or Patricia Highsmith. I also really like most books by Ian McEwan and anything by Roald Dahl.
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2 thoughts on “Q&A

  1. It would be wonderful! I envy Roald Dahl his little writing shed where he could work undisturbed while someone else take care of everything else – although I realise it would take a lot more than a shed to make me write as well as he did! Also, I wouldn’t want to be shut away for too long or I think I would feel i was missing things!

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