In the second of this month's Q&As with our February authors, we have Michael R. Johnston. He talks about why he writes science fiction, the books that got him into writing and shares details about his writing methods!
What is the book about?
In the first book, The Widening Gyre, Tajen and his crew found Earth and discovered that the Zhen had killed the human race a millennium before. Humans retook the Earth from the Zhen and settled it, but they knew the Zhen would return.
In The Blood-Dimmed Tide, the Zhen occupy Earth, and Tajen and his team must fight off the Occupation. But the Zhen aren’t alone, and the humans on their side are hard to spot. The story is somewhat inspired by the Irish War of Independence and the Troubles.
What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?
The best thing about Science Fiction is that it’s not a predictor of the future, but a signal of what’s going on now. That is, you can write about all the problems of today, but remove them from today, which makes them easier to think about for many folks. Reading about a world where humanity is oppressed by a more powerful, more advanced species, for example, might make it easier for some people to see how systems of oppression work in the real world.
What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
I do my actual composing on a computer, using Scrivener for Mac. Most of my early noodling over ideas and plotting, however, is done with pen & paper. For that, I tend to use a fountain pen, just because I love them. My favorite pen is a Platinum 3776 in Chartres Blue with silver accents, which I bought when I got the advance from my first book--I call it my 'official writer pen.'
Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
My goal is to get at least 500 words a day on the weekdays, and 2000 on days off from the day job. I’d like to say the 500 words is an easy target, but in practice some days I don’t make it, and others I get far more words on the page. It all depends on the demands of my life as a teacher and a father.
Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?
Yes. I’m a high school English teacher. Mostly, I like it. Students do tend to vex me at times, but in the end they’re a lot of fun, and guiding them to greater understanding of literature and life is the best part of it.
Do you think writers have a normal life like others?
Well, most writers I know have day jobs to pay the bills, so yes, I’d say we live pretty normal lives. Like everyone else, I get up and go to work, feed my daughter, come home, and try not to let the pressures of the day get to me. The only real difference is that sometimes I get to go to Cons and talk to people about writing.
Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?
On Facebook and Twitter, I respond to people all the time. If I get emails, I respond to those, but there may come a day when I can’t do that anymore. But I don’t respond to reviews, ever. That way lies madness and also showing up on Social Media as a bad example.
Which book inspired you to begin writing?
I’ve been a reader my whole life, and I’ve always loved books. But the book that really got me to start writing my own stuff was C.S. Friedman’s In Conquest Born. It’s the second book of hers I read, but the introduction in my copy really got me thinking about the fact that I, too, had stories to tell. It took me a long time to get there, but I worked at it for years, put it aside, then finally picked it back up and took it seriously.
How realistic are your books?
In terms of technology, not at all—I mean, I’ve got FTL, nanite computer implants, and the like. But in terms of how people act, and how they deal with the emotional fallout of their actions, I definitely try to be realistic.
They say books die every time they are turned into a movie; what do you think?
I’m not sure who “they” are, but they’re wrong. Once it’s published, the book is what it is. No matter what’s done with a movie adaptation, the book is still there, just as it was on the day it was published. It cannot be changed by the movie, for good or ill.
Also, there are honestly some movies that are better than the book they’re based on. No, I won’t tell you which ones!
Thank you to Michael for taking the time to talk today about The Blood-Dimmed Tide, the second book in The Remembrance War series. You can pick up this book, along with the other February releases now. It will be available in paperback, hardback and ebook. Check out our website for details.
Born in the San Francisco Bay Area and raised in Napa, California, Michael R. Johnston grew up steeped in everything Science Fiction and Fantasy.
In the early 90s, he took a “break” from college that went from being one semester to ten years. In that time, he had several jobs, from serving subpoenas to making sandwiches, before he became the Data Processing Manager of a small research company.
Eventually he decided he’d had enough of the corporate world and returned to college, graduating with honors from California State University, Sacramento. In fall 2006, he became a high school English teacher, a job he likens to herding a swarm of angry bees. It’s the best job he’s ever had.
Michael currently lives in Sacramento, California, with his wife and daughter. When he’s not writing or teaching, he spends time with his family, plays video games and tabletop RPGs, and reads. He blogs at MJohnstonBooks.com, and can be found on Twitter as @MREJohnston.
Make sure you check back in with the blog for more Q&As with the authors of our February releases!