Sunday, September 25, 2011

On Writing Author Interview: Author J. Johnson Higgins

To avoid pre-conceived notions which can sometimes be connected with certain genres, the number of books published and/or an author's appearance, none of that information will be revealed until the bottom of the interview. So pour a cup of coffee, have a seat, and check out this interview - see how much, or how little, you have in common with this published author.

What is your favorite part of being a writer? Writing gives me a jolt in the same way that caffeine does for most people. Just coming up with something for my story, no matter how small or big, is enough to get me through a day. It’s like a treat.

What is your least favorite part? I’m not a fan of the part where I have to sell my story. I’ve always written for fun and it always feels like a distraction from my writing and a lot of extra stress to try and stand out so someone will read my work. My confession: I wish it was completely someone else’s job so I can go back to writing.

Name one obstacle you’ve had to overcome.   I’ve had to overcome the pressure to write someone else’s book. I think we as writers get a lot of pressure to throw out our original ideas in order to write what experts or the markets say we should write. It was tempting but it was also at the root of most of my writing dilemmas. It can be paralyzing.

Is there a specific part of your writing you’re working on to improve?  I’m working on transitions and “scene changes.” Many times I’ll write whole blocks of my story and find myself rearranging things because they make better sense told in a different order or from a different point-of-view. Though it usually works out, I’m working on planning that sort of stuff out in advance instead of after the fact.

What part of your writing makes you particularly proud?   People say they can “see” my stories in their minds very easily. It’s the one consistent complement I get. That makes me proud of my work. I’m doing something right!

What does your favorite main character have in common with you?   My main character tends to get mixed up in things that are overwhelming and well outside of her comfort zone but she typically finds ways to keep her head on straight. She’s not perfect but she gets through it. We have that in common.

Do you do a lot of research for your projects or do you only write about what you already know?   I do a little of both. What I know seems to show up in my stories without even trying but every now and then I’m fascinated by something I really don’t understand and I want it in my story. Interestingly, after doing a ton of research, most of it does not make it into the final version because it’s not relevant and would distract the reader from the point I’m making. In sum, it helps to know how the world works for the sake of the reader that happens to be an expert but I refuse to bore the rest of my readers with esoteric fun facts.

How do you use the internet for your writing?   I use it to examine mannerisms and tones of voice. Unless I’m in a cafĂ© or somewhere where I can watch people, I like to look at people’s reactions to questions and situations online and do my best to reproduce those in my story when I’m describing a character doing the same thing. My imagination is good but it’s unbelievable all the little things that a person does that imply their state of mind. Online dictionaries are great too for checking confusing words.

If you’ve won any awards for your writing, what impact do you think that has had?   No awards. I’d like to say that this has protected me from developing an inflated ego.

What one marketing tool have you had good success with?  Business cards. They’re like bookmarks but I actually carry them everywhere I go and they seem to end up in people’s hands even if I’m not trying to give them out! People seem to want them.

What good writing habits have you developed that you think would be helpful to someone starting out?   I’ve gotten pretty good at setting aside time most days to write, even if it’s not for very long. Planning and pre-writing is a must for me too.

Do you have any bad writing habits that you’d advise writers to avoid?  It’s not a good idea to make writing the very last thing on your agenda on any given day. Trust me, it won’t happen. Every now and then I convince myself that it’s no big deal and every time I’m wrong.

Do you have any strange writing habits?   I write rather short chapters usually but I guess it’s not that strange once you see how short James Patterson’s chapters are.

When you’re not writing, do you read, and if so, what?   I usually choose 19th century novels or modern thrillers. In all honesty, I read more non-fiction like newspapers and journal articles than anything else.  I don’t read my own genre. I’m actually disenchanted with the direction the genre has been going and the lack of innovation. I don’t want it rubbing off on me too much.

What are you trying to accomplish with/through your writing?   I hope that my writing is fun and interesting to read more than anything else.

What words of wisdom do you have for young writers?  Just write what you want to write and believe in that story. Only change your creative work if you believe it helps make it clearer but don’t change it for other reasons inconsistent with your core principals as an artist. It is important that the writing means something to you. After all, you’ll be the one with your name associated with it.

What advice do you have for someone looking to get published?   There is no one right way to publish your work. For some, this means to publish through a traditional and mainstream publisher; for others it means to publish it yourself or give it out for free. I say do what suits you and your story. The worse outcome is not publishing your work at all, if publishing is a major goal of yours.

Any thoughts on what this author writes? How many books published? Here's a little more information about the author...

How many published books are to your credit?   1

Do you have an agent?   No

Are you self-published?  Yes

How many different companies have you published with?   1

How long have you been writing?   17 years (but more seriously in recent years)

Do you write full-time? If not, what is your other job? And how do you balance work/writing?   I don’t write fiction full-time but I do write other things for a living. I’m a policy analyst so I write research papers and ghostwrite statements for people regularly. They are two very different styles of writing but with the same goal making sure the message is communicated to an audience effectively. I usually, write fiction in my free time (or I sneak it between other things when I’m not free).

So, any thoughts? Here's the full scoop:

     J. Johnson Higgins began his writing from a young age. In elementary school he was once asked to write a short myth as an assignment. From that point forward he continued writing short stories about magic and alternate worlds for fun. He continued this process on into his college years.
    His first novel, Legend of the Dark Messiah: The Mask and the Sword, was published in 2007. The novel was largely recognized as a refreshing new take on the Fantasy genre that combines an original modern-feeling world with a page-turning political conspiracy nicely woven into the plot.
    He currently lives in Maryland.
    His book, Legend of the Dark Messiah: The Mask and the Sword, can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, and iUniverse (eBook and hardcover versions also available here).

What are you working on now?  I’m currently preparing the second book in the Legend of the Dark Messiah series for publication. I’m also writing the third installment.

More information on Author J. John Higgins is available on his website at

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