Danny Johnson, Vietnam Veteran and North Carolinian, recently sat down to discuss writing, publishing, and his upcoming novel The Last Road Home.
When and why did you begin writing?
I have always been a writer, however, it was only in my thoughts while I worked away at jobs to support my family. At the age of 62, I decided it was now or never, and became a full-time writer, letting all those cooped up stories flood.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
Very good question; fiction was always my genre, but as I progressed, workshopped with successful writers, etc. I discovered what I really liked was Southern Literary Fiction, and at that point, characters began to come to me as if they wanted me to tell their story.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer and how does that affect your writing?
I am full-time, and with all the things associated with being a traditionally published author, I don’t know how anyone could do it part-time due to the sometimes overwhelming requirements in addition to writing. However, let me say I love every minute of it.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I have evolved by first reading the absolute best writers in my genre, seeing how they handle situations, how they do place, etc., and I have work-shopped with every successful writer possible, all because I wanted to study and learn my craft. I have moved my work to a place where I have had some success because I learned to accept criticism, and be absolutely determined to get better, unwilling to accept anything less.
What have you written so far?
I have written numerous short stories, some really bad, some not so bad, my debut novel The Last Road Home is due out in August of this year, and I am working on a second novel called Cotton.
What are some ways in which you promote your work?
A job I really dislike because like most writer, I don’t like to expose myself very much, but I use all the social media, am a member of North Carolina Writers Network, a member of SIBA, show up anywhere I’m invited, and have a personal website as well as an author website.
Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?
Since The Last Road Home is my debut novel, my marketing plan is to stick my face in front of as many booksellers and their customers as possible, newspaper reviews, magazine reviews. I wish I could give some magic pill or get one to fully answer this question, but I really think the answer is a tremendous amount of luck, if your book touches a common thread in a lot of folks, if it reads fairly fast because it’s the world we live in, and did I mention luck…
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I want to emphasize this one thing: STUDY YOUR CRAFT. Read the very best writers in your genre whether it be fantasy, sci-fi, fiction, literary fiction, show up at every writer’s conference you can get into, embarrass yourself at open mics, and find yourself a serious writers’ group; if they break out the wine and cheese run. You may have stories to tell, but first, you must learn to write. You are never too old to follow your dreams.
Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?
My novel explores race relations via two characters, a white orphaned farm boy and a sharecropper’s daughter in the 60s. It’s a story about love, the willingness to fight together against all odds to simply be able to simply love each other, the viciousness of a racially charged south, the fury of the war, and freedom.
Tell us more about your main character. What makes him or her unique?
He loses his parents at eight and grandparents with whom he has gone to live at fifteen, so must learn to be a man early, a determination that forces him into a number of decisions he will regret, is willing to die to protect the love of his life, and is willing to sacrifice himself for her freedom.
Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
Fancy is a spunky, loving, determined girl who will risk it all to find a life that doesn’t include saying yes ‘um the rest of her life. The reader will come to love her.
Who is your least favorite character and why?
A neighbor, Mr. Wilson, an evil person who sits in the church pew every Sunday and wears a white sheet on Monday.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I came to love the two main characters and couldn’t wait from one day to the next to see what they would do.
If there was one thing you could do to change the world, what would it be?
Bring back Independent Book Stores.