Saturday, May 21, 2011

Interview with Author Elana Johnson

Bio: Elana Johnson’s debut novel, Possession, will be published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster) on June 7, 2011. Her popular ebook, From the Query to the Call, is also available for free download. School teacher by day, Query Ninja by night, you can find her online at her personal blog or Twitter. She also co-founded the Query Tracker blog and WriteOnCon, and contributes to the League of Extraordinary Writers. Elana is represented by Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary.

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Elana: Dude, never. I’ve never thought to myself, “I want to be an author.” Ever. My writing came from somewhere else. I started writing with genealogy in mind. I was turning 30, and wanted my kids to know stuff (technical term, yo) about me. I found writing to be therapeutic, and fiction evolved from there.

And since I’m sort of an OCD pitbull, the next logical (to me) step was to figure out how to take this all the way. So that’s what I did.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

Very long and winding. Much like a lot of people’s, I think. I queried another book before POSSESSION. No one wanted it. It sits on my hard drive now, and will never be opened or fixed.

Then I cleaned up POSSESSION and started querying it. Several phone calls and revisions later, I finally got an offer. The deal came shortly after that, and it’s been pretty smooth sailing from there. But I’ve endured many a tidal wave, make no mistake about that.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

All the time, every day, every second? Yeah, pretty much. But I’m emotionally intense, so this can’t be helped. What helped? Chatting with friends. Watching movies. Grounding myself to what really matters.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Schedule?? Surely you jest. I don’t really write to a schedule. My life is pretty hectic, so I plan to write around the other stuff I have going on each day. Sometimes it’s in the morning, sometimes the afternoon, sometimes at night. My “standard” writing time is from 9 – 11 PM each night. If I’m caught up with my TV shows… but who’s ever caught up with their TV shows??

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book Possession?

POSSESSION is an angry girl YA novel set in a futuristic society where there is no free will. Angry girl + broken rules + cute boys + hover technology + ensuing chaos = POSSESSION.

Deirdra: Where can readers get Possession?

Elana: POSSESSION is out everywhere in North America! Hopefully it’s in your local bookstore, but if not, it’s online at B& and Amazon, and a whole bunch of other places. Here’s a link.

Deirdra: How many beta readers do you have review your manuscript before you send it to your editor?

Elana: Six. I work in two waves of three readers each. The first wave is people who won’t judge my huge plot holes and poorly constructed sentences. The second wave is people who are better at fine tuning (thus, making my MS more polished). The third wave is my agent, who is so brilliant editorially that it makes my head hurt.

So I guess seven. Then we ship it off to my editor. Who then pokes more holes in my “brilliance.” Ha!

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Elana: Honestly, I hope they get what they need at that time in their life. I know what I get from the book, and it’s actually different each time I read it. I have no set agenda, but I hope POSSESSION will find a connection with those who read it.

Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the characters in your books come to life?

Elana: I think characterization is what sells a story. For me, I just try to make my characters as true to life as possible. And I try to give them one interesting thing. Just one. That’s all it takes to distinguish your character from the hundreds of thousands of other characters out there. Ask yourself: How is my character different? If they’re not… Houston, you have a problem.

Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

Elana: While writing, I don’t really need a snack. It’s during the revising/editing that I need something. Sour patch kids are my favorite, but I’ll take chocolate chips or whatever is in the pantry. I just need something. Revising/editing is HARD! (Don’t judge.)

Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Elana: I can make a mean chocolate chip cookie. And in a previous life, I used to do a lot of paper crafting. I still do some sometimes… Okay, not really. There’s no time!

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Elana: Work, learn, practice, perfect. Then submit. And submit. And submit.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Elana: Uh, nothing? Seriously, it’s way too hard to write and market at the same time. It’s two different halves of the same circle. But if I were writing, I would be working on a time travel novel that’s been bouncing around in my brain.


  1. Elana Johnson is awesome! I can't wait to get my copy of Possession.

    Great interview, Deirdra!

  2. Not a massive YA fan - being 39 ;( - But loving Vampire Diaries and Twilight has made me question that belief and this author sounds my kind of fun. Possession here I come! Great post lady!

    Shah from XX

  3. Beautiful interview, Deirdra! I'm a big fan of Elana, and have followed her blog for a long time. She's legit.

    Can't wait to give Possession a read!

    @ Shah: There's no age limit on reading YA, so you're in luck! :-)

  4. Nice interview, the book sounds interesting.

  5. Thanks for the interview--the book sounds fascinating. I love the cover art.

  6. What a great interview!! Elana is everywhere, of course. So exciting with her tour!! But, I think I learned some things I didn't know before here. I make a mean choc-chip cookie, too. Recipe swap? :)

  7. Alana is an inspiration to me. Thanks for posting this interview.


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