Interview with K.F. Johnson, author of “What I’d Do For Love”

A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?

Speaking for myself, I think I’m pretty socially adept. I’m still friends with classmates as far back as elementary school through to graduate school and I am a bit of a social butterfly although I actually prefer to spend time with my intimate friends and family more.

Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?

I don’t think so. I’m a selective grammar Nazis. It’s not misspelled words that annoy me as much as it is inappropriate use of them. I give leeway to typos in this world of texting and short hand but to constantly say “Sorry for your lost” and not “Loss” for example, just gets under my skin.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

The Coldest Winter Ever by Sista Souljah because it’s one of my favorite books and I think it really opened my eyes to the possibilities of being self-published and being able to write about other life situations than what was traditionally being published and promoted at the time.

What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

I’m still trying to get a feel for my genre. My work is published under Urban Life and African American Women’s Lit or Romance Suspense, but because my books cross over various genre’s I’m still in limbo at times and because I don’t write about Street Lit per se, I think some may be confused where it’s categorized.

How important is research to you when writing a book?

It’s very important when speaking on something that you don’t innately have knowledge of or haven’t actually experienced. I research medications, police behaviors, crime scene procedures, etc. to make some of the things I utilize more realistic. It irks me when I read things in a book, like hospital etiquette for example and I’m like, “There’s no way they could do that. That’s a HIPPA violation!”

What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

Computers. My handwriting has gotten terrible over the years because I type so much so if I handwrote everything, I probably wouldn’t even know what I wrote later on. In addition, that’s too much paperwork to carry around that could get lost or damaged.

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been writing since childhood as a hobby. I didn’t actually think I could be a bona fide author until I published my first book with the hopes of just my friends getting to read it and got a huge positive response from strangers as well.

What inspires you to write?

Thinking up interesting, dysfunctional and dangerous characters. I’ve always had an active imagination and those kinds of characters intrigue me and I find them fun to write.

How often do you write?

Whenever I get the chance to and am also in a good headspace.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

I don’t have a schedule but I try to push myself to write at every open moment so that I can make as much progress with my works as possible within a reasonable time. Since there are some readers waiting on sequels to other books, I’m looking to satisfy them.

How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?

When I’m writing a sequel, it’s much easier because the history and direction is already there for me. When it’s a new book, it’s a little harder. I change up storyline’s, characters and everything multiple times sometimes.

Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

I don’t.

Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?

Not for me. I’m not a loner, but I’m okay only being around a small group. My husband preferably.

Do you think writers have a normal life like others?

If they are a fulltime author, maybe not. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to that level yet since I still also have a fulltime job so, I think my life is pretty typical. Maybe just a little busier.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I set a plot but that sometimes changes as I write and come up with other ideas or learn that something doesn’t work after I research it.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

Trying to write something that is believable, intriguing and that will appeal to the majority of your target audience in a way that they can’t help but love it. Everybody will never like everything. But it would be nice if most people liked most of my work.

What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

I don’t know if I think there’s anything easy about writing to me. Although it comes naturally, I think it takes a lot of thought and revisions sometimes for me to be satisfied and then once I’m done, I’m still insecure about the finished product.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?

I have. My first book took me 10 years to put out because I experienced months, even years of writer’s block. Since then though, it’s lasted maybe a week, a month at most.

Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

I read a lot of other books and watch movies. Good ones motivate me to write work that is equally as good. Bad ones make me think I should be writing because if this got 5 stars from somebody, I should be able to do better.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I have my kindle read books to me often because I’m too busy to eyeball read anymore these days. I listen to books on my drives to and fro work as well as while I work. My favorite authors are Carl Weber, B.M. Hardin, Omar Tyree, Shan, Eric Jerome Dickey to name a few.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Yes. I was totally green when I published my first book “Behind Closed Doors” and I wasn’t actually writing with an audience in mind. Now that I know my work is being critiqued and coveted by some, I strive to write better and I think my craft improves with everything I’ve written and am writing now.

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

I have done both. My finances and the need are what dictates what will happen in the future.

Have you ever left any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?

Yes. I was getting married and moving into a new home during the writing of “Liar’s Ball” the sequel to my first book “Behind Closed Doors” so there was a lot of down time that I couldn’t dedicate to writing or that I just wasn’t in the head space to do it.

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?

That it is interesting.

If you had the choice to rewrite any of your books, which one would it be and why?

“Behind Closed Doors” because I didn’t write it with an audience in mind and I think had I done that, I might have eliminated or reworded some things in it. I definitely would’ve edited it better!

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

I think both are important. When I released “Behind Closed Doors” it never dawned on me that there are a gazillion other books with the same name. Something I took heed to not repeat with current and future works. I’ve also changed one of my books covers previously. Cover selections are still something I’m trying to get proficient in.

Have you ever designed your own book cover?

Yes 3 of my book covers. I created the original “Behind Closed Doors” cover in Power Point with pictures of myself and my ketchup handprint on my garage door, but I later changed it to the one it has now. My 2nd book “Liar’s Ball” had a cover I also created myself initially, but I later changed it to a purchased cover. Then made a new one myself, which is the current one. I purchased a book cover for “When I’m Bad I’m Better,” but I later created my own cover and replaced it. So… 2 out of the 4 book covers I now have were created by me.

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

Yes. I think people look at the cover and determine if it’s something they want to read or if it goes along with the story they think they are going to read.

Do you attend literary lunches or events?

Yes, I attend as many as I can afford to attend that work in my schedule.

How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?

I would definitely be disappointed, but I would make the best of the situation.

Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?

I definitely read them all but I don’t reply. At least not on the review. If I have contact with the reader I may send them a message or a sneak peek of my “coming soon” book if I liked their review. Bad ones upset me, but I’ve heard replying to them isn’t a good idea and plus I don’t want to give them too much of my energy although I do take creative criticism into account.

Does a bad review affect your writing?

Some do. If I think there may be some merit to what they’re saying, I might take steps to change something I’m doing in the future or think harder on a plot. Especially if it’s an editing issue. Truth is truth. Now if it’s from a reader that when I click on their name I see my genre is not one they typically read, I usually give those less weight and wonder why they took the time to bash something they clearly know nothing about? I find those types of reviews annoying.

Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?

Be more confident in your abilities and be as diligent as you can be in pursuing your dreams.

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

Don’t put out anything you’re not proud of. Always read your books yourself to see it from the perspective of your audience and do everything you can to be the brand you aspire to be.

What did you want to become when you were a kid?

I wanted to become an artist (I got into college on an art scholarship), an actress and a rapper. I pursued all of those at one point in my younger years and found minor success. Funny enough, writer was never on my radar and look what happened!

Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?

I don’t. But the first one that made an impact on me was Judy Blume’s “Are you there God it’s me Margaret” when I was 13. I loved reading ever since then.

Which book inspired you to begin writing?

I was writing before any books inspired me to do it, but Blossom by Queen Pen made me think I could self publish.

Did you ever think you would be unable to finish your first novel?

Yes and I let it sit around for years. 10 to be exact. Funny enough, he reason there’s a cliffhanger to “Behind Closed Doors” is because I didn’t know how to finish it at the time.

Do you read any of your own work?

I read my books over and over again sometimes to see if there’s any editing issues or when it’s time to make a sequel. My memory is not always that good and reading them again can bring me back to the place and style I was in when I wrote the original book and job my memory about characters and situations.

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?

I try to include some wit and sarcasm in my writing because it’s not only part of my personality, but because I also believe it makes reading more personable. If I can evoke a laugh or some reaction from a reader, I feel good about it.

Do your novels carry a message?

I would like to think they all inspire people to be authentic. When people in my books are manipulative and deceptive, things usually go left.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

Depending on the book, I’d say maybe 10% of myself. I usually have multiple characters as the focal points so I make some think totally opposite of myself, while the others mirror my train of thought.

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

Yes. My flip flopping back and forth with a particular guy was loosely inserted into my first book but reality was nothing like the fictional character’s issues.

How realistic are your books?

I’d like to think they’re very realistic. Dysfunctional relationships, cheating, stalking and murder are a type of some people’s everyday lives. Just watch the ID Network sometimes.

Are there any books that you are currently reading and why?

I’m always reading. I listen to a lot of audio books and they span genres from true crime, to urban fiction, to thrillers to romance.

Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?

Yes. My next book will be the sequel to “When I’m Bad I’m Better”, which will continue to follow the 4 cousins as they battle the demons of their past and try to pull themselves out of the tumultuous circumstances they’ve gotten themselves into.

Who are your books mostly dedicated to?

Friend’s, Family and readers who take the time to leave reviews. Reviews are important and I really appreciate the time people take to support my works. Hopefully they’ve enjoyed what they read.

It is often believed that almost all writers have had their hearts broken at some point in time, does that remain true for you as well?

Of course. I’ve definitely had my heart broken like any other human, and I certainly channel it in my writing.

Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

My husband. He wants to read what I write as I write it and if not for his encouragement, I wouldn’t have ever released my first book.

How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write?

I’m very active on Facebook but less so on Twitter, Instagram and other forms. I do try though! I think it interferes with the time I should be writing actually but it also gets me new readers and helps me network. It’s a necessary evil.

Do you enjoy theatre? Would you ever like one of your stories to be turned into a play?

Yes, I do and I would love it! Some readers have suggested that my books would be perfect for it. *Crossing Fingers* One day!