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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Author Interview - Myra Johnson

Please welcome Myra Johnson to my blog! She's a fellow Abingdon Author of One Imperfect Christmas as well as a Heartsong Presents Author of Autumn Rains. Myra has offered to give away one free autographed book to one blessed person from our pool of comments. So don't forget to leave a comment if you'd like to be included in the drawing. Please include your email for notification purposes and private exchange of your mailing address should you win.

Myra, thank you for joining us.

Where do you get ideas for stories?

Ideas come to me in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s just a random image that takes root in my imagination. It might be an interesting character, or an intriguing situation, or a setting that attracts my attention. Personal-interest newspaper articles may spark ideas, and I’m often fascinated by the issues people present to advice columnists. Not all ideas turn out to be viable, but I know I’m onto something when the image just won’t let go.

What kind of planning do you do before writing a novel?

One technique I’ve tried with recent books is to free-write my characters’ autobiographies in their own voice. I also like to find pictures that most resemble my characters, using sites like iStock and Getty Images.

Also in the planning stages, I try to determine each main character’s personal goal, motivation, and inner and outer conflict. These aren’t always crystal clear until I’ve written a few thousand words to see where the characters take me, but I need at least a general feel for my characters’ driving passions in order to get the story moving.

Since I’m primarily a “pantser,” I don’t do a lot of scene-by-scene preplanning. I much prefer to let the characters show me where they want to go with the story. I do, however, usually have some idea of what the main turning points could be and how the story will resolve. Then, as I write, I keep detailed spreadsheets to track the timeline, scenes, character names and descriptions, etc. My full set of Excel spreadsheets is available for download at my website.,_Writer/Writing_Helps.html

Do you edit as you go or wait until completing the first draft? How many drafts?

It’s very hard for me to turn off my internal editor. During any given writing session, I keep trying to push forward, but I still find myself pausing to search for just the right word, or reworking a sentence or paragraph until I get it just the way I want it. At the start of the next session, I usually back up several pages, read over what I’ve written, and make a few (or several!) edits. If it’s been several days, I’ll backtrack even farther, as much to get myself back into the story as to revise. Once the full story is drafted, I’ll let it rest for several days before beginning revisions. I don’t have a set number of times I’ll go through the manuscript. It all depends on how comfortable I am with it as I complete each phase. Also, at some point I will bring in my critique partner for her feedback.

Where do you like to do most of your writing? Describe the setting.

A spare bedroom upstairs has been converted to serve as my office, and even though I use a laptop computer, I rarely unplug. Being at my desk surrounded by my writing reference books, dictionaries, word finders, manuscript notes, etc., helps keep me in a working frame of mind. I usually have a bottle of water or cup of tea and a jar of peanuts close at hand for quick sustenance when I need it. My two dogs stay pretty close, too, making it hard to roll my chair back without smashing a tail or a couple of toes!

In your opinion, what is a writer’s greatest struggle?

Speaking from my own experience, I would have to say self-doubt. We can get caught up comparing ourselves to other, seemingly more successful writers and believe we’ll never measure up. We can obsess so much over making a manuscript “perfect” that we never find the courage to actually send it out. Or if we do submit something to an editor or agent, getting rejected could set us back days, weeks, or months. The struggle—and the victory—comes in letting go and taking a chance, because the manuscript that will absolutely never sell is the one you never send out.

Tell us about your latest book.

I have two books out right now: my debut novel from Abingdon Press, One Imperfect Christmas, and my Heartsong Presents contemporary romance, Autumn Rains.

One Imperfect Christmas is about a woman drowning in self-blame after her mother suffers a devastating stroke. She allows the guilt to isolate her from the people she loves most, including her husband and daughter, and only her family’s love, persistence, and faith can help her heal.

Autumn Rains tells the story of a redeemed ex-con and a woman recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Their unexpected romance proves to be the key that unlocks the prison doors for each of them.

Readers can learn more about these and my upcoming books at my website, You can also find me at and

Thanks, Myra. Both your novels sound very interesting. To our readers, be sure to leave Myra a comment to be entered in the drawing.


I just finished writing my Christmas message, called "Picture Perfect" when I saw this post. As far as I know I have had only one "Picture Perfect" Christmas, leaving me sad in the following years when all my children were not together. "One Imperfect Christmas" would be a welcome addition to my home this year, and I would love to be entered in the contest.
Donna Collins Tinsley

I can't wait to read your book.

I think they both sound like great books. I can't wait to read them!! I would love to be entered in the contest!
Amy Hatfield

I would love to read "One Imperfect Christmas"!
Thank you,
Milinda Shay

Thanks for visiting, ladies! Donna, one of my most depressing Christmases ever was the first year neither of our daughters could make it for the holidays. Christmas just isn't the same without family around.

The comment on a writer's biggest hang-up, or barrier, is "self-doubt" describes me perfectly. Thanks for your inspiration.

It seems to be an ongoing battle, Mary. We just have to hang in there, keep the faith, and keep writing!

Great interview, Jennifer! I'm one of Myra's biggest fans and have already read her books, but wanted your readers to know that she's awesome.

This book sounds like it is going to be very interesting and would love to read it. Please enter me in drawing.


Enjoyed the informative interview. Would love to be entered in the drawing. Thank you!


Aw, thanks, Carla! Carla is my great friend from our local ACFW chapter. We trade critiques now and then, and I can promise you, her debut novel, CHASING LILACS, which comes out in a few months, is going to be FABULOUS!!!

I'm cutting and pasting a comment from Linda. She accidentally posted it on the wrong blog post and I didn't want her to be left out of the drawing or for Myra to miss her comment!

I still am amazed at the time and creativity you put into your books. And we reap all the benefits of your hard work! Your two books sound great.
Please enter me for the drawing. Thank you.
desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

I have not read a book by Myra as yet, and would love to do so!

Blessings & Merry Christmas - Andrea


Carla, It's great to hear from you! I haven't seen you since the ACFW Conference in Minneapolis. Will you be in Indianpolis this year? If so, hopefully we'll get a chance to see each other.

My daughter to drew a name this morning!

Missy Shay, is the winner! Congratulations!

I'm SO EXCITED that you have TWO books out now, Myra! When I met you, you had just been signed for your first one. But then, a lot of days and words on paper have gone by since. Congratulations. I'm looking forward to reading what you have written and am SURE I will look forward to many, many more.
Pam Williams
cepjwms at wb4me dot com

God bless you