Wednesday, January 12, 2011

J - Interview with Author and Query Expert Elana Johnson

Deirdra: What made you decide to become an author?

Elana: Writing brought me out of a dark place in my life. It started with a personal history the year I turned 30. I realized how therapeutic it was, and ended up pouring my emotions into the computer. 3 years later, it’s still my emotional outlet.

Deirdra: When did you start writing?

Elana: December, 2007.

Deirdra: What genre(s) do you write?

Elana: Young adult, because who experiences emotion more intensely than teenagers? Seriously. I like dystopian/science fiction and fantasy, but have been known to pen contemporary novels as well.

Deirdra: Is there anyone who has inspired or influenced you in your career?

Elana: I adore everything Scott Westerfeld writes.

Deirdra: What is the most exciting thing that has happened in your career?

Elana: Selling my book to one of the “big 5” publishers. That pretty much blew my mind. It still does, actually.

Deirdra: For you, is writing a full time job, part time job, or a hobby?

Elana: I have to think of it as a hobby. If I don’t, I’ll start to hate it. I work as an elementary school teacher, and that’s my “job.” I make money from writing too, but it’s something I do for fun.

Deirdra: Writing a novel is time consuming. What is the most effect method you have found for managing your time?

Elana: I wear a lot of hats at the same time. I write near my family so I can still be part of their lives. I work in snippets of time, and mostly after they’ve gone to bed to minimize the time spent away from them.

Deirdra: What is the most difficult thing about being an author?

Elana: The sacrifices you make. Sometimes it’s sleep. Sometimes dinner. Sometimes social events. Sometimes the family. That’s the hardest.

Deirdra: What is the best thing about being an author?

Elana: The emotional release. And the fabulous online community.

Deirdra: What are your goals as an author for the next three years?

Elana: Write more books, sell more books, publish more books.

Deirdra: Is there anything that gives your writer’s block? How do you solve that problem?

Elana: Outlining. I hate it. I can’t think of my whole book before I write it! I mean, come on. I solve the problem by doing mindless activities. Cleaning, showering, playing video games. Once I’m in a relaxed, calm state, my mind can work on things.

Deirdra: Do you have a favorite writing snack food?

Elana: Chocolate chips or sour patch kids.

Deirdra: Where is your favorite place to write?

Elana: I have a little card table set up in my kitchen, which is near the living room. So I can work or be on the computer while my family is in the same room.

Deirdra: How do you come up with your character’s names?

Elana: Pretty much my character’s names just have to have a cool nickname. That’s the name I really want to use, and I work to a longer name from there.

Deirdra: What is the best complement you could receive from a reader?
“I couldn’t stop reading your book.”

Deirdra: If you have any books published what are they and where can readers find them?

Elana: POSSESSION is my debut, and it’s coming out on June 7, 2011.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your job with Query Tracker.

Elana: QueryTracker is an amazing site, and I used to blog for them. Basically, we wanted to be the go-to place for information on agents/publishing on the Internet. Many other blogs have sprung up and give a lot of the same info QT does. But it’s still the best. *wink*

Deirdra: How can Query Tracker help authors who are looking for agents or publishers?

Elana: QueryTracker has a database of both literary agents and publishers. It is the central location you need to find mailing information, email addresses, websites, blogs, twitter accounts, and sales of an agent. The user comments are also fabulous. As is the data that comes with a premium membership. You can find out if someone who queried at the same time as you has received a response.

Deirdra: What is the worst mistake authors make on a query letter?

Elana: Oh, there are many. I think the worst is to be so vague that no one can pinpoint what the main conflict of your story is.

Deirdra: What is the best time of year to query an agent?

Elana: My personal opinion is that any time of year is a good time to query an agent. I haven’t seen a particular time emerge as better than another.

Deirdra: What is a realistic time frame to sell a manuscript?

Elana: I don’t really know. Some sell in 2 days. Some in 2 years. It’s all about getting the MS in front of the right person at the right time.

Deirdra: What is a realistic price range a new author’s manuscript will sell for?

Elana: Again, this varies like the weather. Some debuts sell for over 500,000. Some at 25,000. It’s all about what the publisher is excited about.

Deirdra: How do you think the growing popularity of e-books will affect the literary market?

Elana: I think e-books will continue to perform well. People like them, they’re convenient, and most of the major publishers are offering their print books in digital form.

Deirdra: If authors want to know more about query do you have any workshops or online articles about this?

Elana: I have an entire page dedicated to writing a killer query letter on my blog. (

I’m also presenting at ANWA on February 25, and at LDStorymakers on May 6, both classes are on writing a killer query letter. You can see all my appearances on my blog.

And my e-book, FROM THE QUERY TO THE CALL, is now available for free on my website. (


  1. Fantastic interview!!! I loved hearing more about Elana and her journey. She's been such an inspiration to me and is so encouraging online. Thanks for the great questions and great answers! I needed those today.

  2. Great interview! I love Elana. She's such a great person and an even better writer. I can't wait to get my hands on her new book.

  3. Great interview, D. You ask great questions. Elana, I love ya. Can't wait to take your query class in June. And, I'm so looking forward to your book. =D

  4. Another great interview. So fun to learn about artistic people in our community.
    I noticed Elana didn't mention bacon once! :)


Share |