I was recently interviewed online by nfreads.com A requested interview and well worth doing if you are asked. I believe you have to be invited. It’s free of charge and a great way of promoting yourself and your writing. Although there is a link to this interview on my ‘about me’ page, I was so pleased with the outcome that I thought I would also share it on my blog for this month.
Please introduce yourself and your book(s)
Hello, my name is Sheila Johnson. Brought up on a farm in the south east of England, I wanted to write from an early age. Apart from creating a couple of issues of a newspaper while still at school, my first main foray into writing was as a poet. I still write poetry and enter competitions from time to time.
I have a diploma in journalism, deciding to study journalism as a second career after finding and writing a front page article for my local newspaper along with an in-house journalist. On qualifying, I freelanced for Gloucestershire Media for a couple of years. Since then, I have written travel, history and charity articles for both national and international newspapers and magazines and interviewed some well-known personalities, including Cricketer, Jonty Rhodes, and Rugby player, Lesley Vanikolo.
What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
I published my first book in 2016 under my maiden name of Sheila Donald. It is a novella, called Alpha Male, a romance based around an Alpha Course. Quiet, shy church going beauty meets sexy, good looking newspaper journalist. This book was self-published. I am happy with the cover of this book, which I chose myself. Alpha Male can be found in book or kindle form on Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alpha-Male-Sheila-Donald-ebook/dp/B01FVBEZIU/ or https://www.amazon.com/Alpha-Male-Sheila-Donald-ebook/dp/B01FVBEZIU/ in the US.
I published my second book, historical romance, Waireka (sweet waters) with Ambassador International in 2018, again under my maiden name. This was a full-length novel based upon my family history. Being part Kiwi, when visiting New Zealand for the third time a few years earlier, I was given a family history book written by a distant relative, also a Donald. The book contained the story of my great uncle’s trip from Scotland in 1850 as one of the first early pioneers. He became a farmer and an important member of the local community in the Wairarapa area of the north island of New Zealand. The story was so fascinating that I knew at once it was one I had to tell in fictional form. My story is told from the viewpoint of a young nursemaid, Eliza. I have changed many of the names and circumstances, but I loved writing it and learning all about the early New Zealand pioneers, their bravery and resilience. Waireka can be found on Amazon in book or kindle form at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07DP8KBD9/ in the UK or https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DP8KBD9/ in the US.
In addition I have contributed to three anthologies – Stones Before the Ocean, Edited by Daniel Paul Gilbert, in which I have two poems included; Merry Christmas Everyone, Edited by Wendy H Jones, Amy Robinson and Jane Clamp, in which I have a piece of prose and a poem included; and recently, When this is all over, Edited by Jan Moran Neil and Adrian Spalding, a charity anthology about the pandemic, in which I have a poem included. Please visit my website at www.journojohnson.com for more details.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
It’s a difficult decision for an author to choose between self-publishing and being published, they both demand a great deal of self-promotion. However, if I had my time again, I would not have chosen an American publisher for Waireka, either self-publishing or finding a British or New Zealand publisher would have been preferable.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
I think one of the most important things in launching a book is the cover and the blurb on the back. I know that it is these two factors that influence my decision in buying a book and therefore will influence others too. It is important to make the cover attractive, appropriate and stand out from the crowd, and it is a crowded market. Titles too are important. I now wish that I had been advised to use a subtitle in my book, Waireka. I do give the meaning of the Maori word in the book, but that’s too late. I will have already lost the casual browser well before they open the book.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
I think I found it harder having had a contract to take 250 copies of my book, Waireka on publication, especially as the publisher did very little to promote the book except to give away a few review copies. I objected to that more than the bad reviews I received from some of these reviewers.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I guess, like most writers, I write what I personally enjoy to read, which in my case, is a mix of biographies/life stories, romance and historical romances. Crime for me would have to be the cosy type, more Agatha Christie or M.C. Beaton than Ian Rankin or Lee Child.
How has your creation process improved over time?
I have just completed a postgraduate certificate at my local university of Gloucestershire in Creative and Critical Writing and graduate in the autumn of 2021. Not only has this course given me a focus during lockdown, but it has also improved my writing with regular workshop input from lecturers and other MA students. Grammar and punctuation have been meticulously studied and rectified.
What are your plans for future books?
Now my university course has finished, I would like to continue to write my memoirs which I began as part of my assignment submission. I am also interested in writing another historical romance. I have Irish relations too and have considered telling their story next. Alternatively, I love interviewing people and telling their stories, particularly if they are unusual, so that would also be something I would consider in the future.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.
Our family is very international and I love studying genealogy. We are even adding to that genealogy in this generation, with one son being married to an American and the other son has a Portuguese partner, a language I’m currently trying to get to grips with.