7 Things You Might Not Know About Me

castle ruins
At some ruins my friends and I stumbled upon just outside Pisa.

I’m doing an unofficial blog hop with my friend, Jennifer Loizeaux, based on a Facebook meme. So without further ado, here are seven random facts about me that you’ve always wanted to know. Or something.

  1. All through high school and college, I hosted Harry Potter birthday parties. Not Harry Potter themed parties for my birthday. Actual birthday parties for our favorite Boy Who Lived, every July 31. We’d make butterbeer and cockroach clusters, have scavenger hunts and triwizard tournaments, and play all sorts of games. I made a version of Clue, complete with moving staircases; my brother invented two pretty awesome card games.
  2. By age 5, I was reading the American Girl chapter books. By age 9, I was reading James Michener’s Chesapeake. Now, at age 27, I’m basically camped out at the young adult bookshelves.
  3. In ninth grade, I won first place at the science fair for the biology division. My project was trying to figure out if you could determine a horse’s genetics for coat color by looking at their offspring. Turns out you can, sometimes, but usually not.
  4. I have five copies of Hamlet. The original, a modern adaptation novel, a manga, a graphic novel, and the David Tennant/Patrick Stewart film adaptation. What can I say? I love him. (Oh, and I wrote a monologue for Ophelia in my college Shakespeare class. Maybe I can dig up a copy…) Edit: I stand corrected, I also have a choose your own adventure Hamlet. So six copies, then.
  5. For the past few years I’ve been slightly obsessed with the Titanic. I’ve been reading books, watching documentaries, listening to music that the infamous band would have played. National Geographic in DC had an exhibit when I worked just down the street, but it couldn’t compare with the Franklin Institute’s exhibit in Philadelphia. I even have a book planned that will take place on the Titanic. Get excited.
  6. I’ve loved archery since my first lesson in Girl Scouts. I joined the archery club at UVA (which sort of exploded in membership with the Hunger Games). I have a traditional longbow — and I mean traditional. There’s no shelf to rest the arrow, no bead on the string to consistently nock the arrow. It’s basically the best.
  7. I have a dream series, since I don’t know what else to call it, where I’m back in high school trying to find my classes and remember my homework and all that nonsense. It doesn’t repeat, I just dip back in a few days or weeks later. I haven’t been to my French class since the beginning of the school year, and I’m failing, so I’ve just been avoiding it every day by going to the library. I’m pretty sure I have a major calculus project due soon, so I’ll probably start avoiding that class as well.

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

How I Broke My Novel (and then fixed it)

Broken Book

When I tell people I broke my novel, the most common reaction I get is: Huh? How do you break a novel?

Easily, it turns out. One of my characters was kind of cool. She was from Eustace’s past, and she had the power to see a person’s destiny. But when she looked at Calder, his destiny was muddled because of the fight between the narrator and the author. And I thought that was just awesome.

But then I started following her down paths I hadn’t anticipated. Saydie was (understandably) jealous of her — which set up a character arc I didn’t find interesting in the slightest. Eustace had trouble dealing with her because of that past issue I mentioned — I didn’t want to give that secret away yet, but Eustace was too angry and frightened to make holding his tongue believable.

Calder was the worst of the three. He started acting like Jack from Lost — and every single fan of Lost I know hates Jack with a fiery passion. You think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. When he started yelling for the cool character to tell him his destiny (just like Jack did in one terrible episode), I realized something was very very wrong.

But this was the story, darn it! I pushed forward. I made it as far as the next scene, when the minstrels showed up. (Yup, I saw a chance to throw them in for a short cameo. I really should stop doing that.)

I decided this cool character had to go. She was dragging down my characters and my plot. She could keep her interaction with Eustace in the past, but she wouldn’t be allowed anywhere in the current story. Then I spent an unexpected snow day rewinding the story until right before that character showed up, and figuring out where to take the plot instead.

(If you’re curious, that involved writing down where my characters were emotionally/mentally and then brainstorming how to get them from Point A to Point B. Literally, I mean, since I needed to get them from an inn to a castle.)

Anyway, I’d lost almost a full weekend of writing, unfortunately, but I managed to make up most of that in a day because the words practically flew off the page. Er, screen. I think I came up with a decent replacement for the cool character’s arc, but only time will tell.

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

The Writing Process

The most common questions writers get: Where do you get your ideas? Do you write on a computer, or do you still use pen and paper? Where do you write best? Do you write chronologically, or do you jump around in the story? Are you a planner or a pantser?

This week, I bombard you with answers to all of these questions!

IMG_0476Idea Generation
I get my ideas from all over the place. Helpful, I know. But it’s true. I could get inspired by something I read or watch, or what someone says. The last interesting story idea I got was on a ghost tour in New Orleans (see left), about ghosts from different time periods living in the same building. Probably won’t write it, but I think it’d be fun to read.
unnamedTools of the Trade
I go through phases on this one. Right now I’m on a computer phase. A few weeks ago I was on a handwriting phase. Sometimes I actually prefer pen and paper, because typing it up is like a free pass at editing. Software-wise, I use Scrivener. It’s a program specifically designed for writers and it’s pretty much the greatest thing since sliced bread. (People say that about a lot of things, but they haven’t tried Scrivener so they’re wrong.) I’ve had Scrivener for several years and I’ve never looked back.
IMG_0553Location, Location, Location
I generally write on the couch. Heck, I’m writing this blog post on the couch! My desk is always a complete mess, and even if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to write there. Too formal, I suppose. Or maybe I just need a comfier chair. More important than location is sound: I need music playing in the background, or people talking, or something. Otherwise it’s too quiet and I can’t think.
scrivenerTelling the Story
I have to write chronologically. I’ll get ideas for scenes from all over the story timeline, but I can’t write them out of order. My characters tend to surprise me and take me in new and better directions — which tends to disrupt my plans further down the line. And I don’t want to waste time and energy writing scenes I might never use!
unnamed-1The Age Old Question
If you’re familiar with writers, you’ve probably heard about the life-long debate between planners (who plan the crap out of their stories) and pantsers (who write by the seat of their pants). Like most people, I fall somewhere in between on the spectrum. I plan the structure of the story, using the three act structure and scene outlines on index cards. But when actually writing a scene, I like to let my right brain call the shots.

So, did I answer your questions? Feel free to ask more in the comments!

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

From The Narrator, Chapter 6


The guards marched them down tapestried halls and stone passageways. Nobles and servants alike calmly stepped aside as the column passed. None of them looked twice at the prisoners.

The passage’s right-hand wall opened up into intricate archways. The elegant walkway looked out on a wide, lazulite river that rushed past two hundred feet below them. A few more sights like this, and Saydie might appreciate why Endar chose to live in an otherwise dreary castle.

A small fleet of ships flickered on the water. They hadn’t been there before, had they?

Then she heard a faint pop.

“Get down!” she bellowed. She rammed the soldiers in front of her. They stumbled into Calder. He hit the stone with a slap as a boulder smashed through the archway. Stone rained down on them. A sharp pain cut through her arm, but at least she had her head.

She scrambled to her feet and danced through the spattering of debris and groaning guards. One had taken a stone wedge to the thigh.

And another boulder was coming.

Based on the siege she’d worked for Pennington two novels ago, they only had thirty seconds until the reload. Less if other ships were aimed at them, too.

She found Calder, pulled him to his feet, and dragged him along. They had to get out of the open air. Fast.

“Let’s go!” she cried, hauling on his arm.

“Those were Delmaran flags,” he said, as if that mattered.

“That’s nice. We’re still going.”

A second boulder plowed into the cliffside. They staggered as the ground jumped beneath their feet.

Okay. Other ships were aiming at them.

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

Book Magic Series: Enchanted

enchanted_bookOkay, so it’s not really book magic, unless you count that first shot of the fairy tale book. But on my 97th viewing (or something) I made a connection to Narrator that I’d like to explore.

For those of you who haven’t seen Enchanted, the premise is that a stereotypical Disney girl gets dropped into the reality of New York City. And I mean stereotypical. Giselle sings, she’s friends to woodland creatures who help her clean, she falls in love with a prince at first sight.

But as Giselle spends more time in the real world, she starts to take on some of its qualities and values. The shift is most obvious when she sees her prince again. He sings — and she doesn’t join in. He wants to return home and get married — and she wants to go on a date.

Most of these values she gets from Robert, a cynical divorce(d) lawyer. He doesn’t sing or dance, he doesn’t believe in true love. He’s basically the complete opposite of Giselle.

enchanted_ball_sceneTake a look at Giselle and Robert from the end of the movie. Robert’s dancing. He even sings. But their outfits say it all: they’ve switched places. Giselle’s embraced the real world, Robert’s embraced the world where true love exists.

That’s pretty cool.

And what, I’m sure you’re asking, does any of this have to do with Narrator?

The premise of Narrator, if you remember, is that the Narrator hijacks a cliché fantasy story — with a world pretty similar to Giselle’s. Calder is a stereotypical fantasy prince, complete with dragon-fighting and damsel rescuing.

When the Narrator takes over, he creates a more realistic fantasy world (you know, closer to Game of Thrones than Snow White). And Calder has to adjust. It’s not as dramatic as Giselle’s transformation, granted, but I like the conflict.

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.