Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
I’m B.C. Johnson, author and geek ordinaire, and I can’t seem to stop writing about smart, sarcastic, and funny characters getting into supernatural trouble.
I’ve written the DEADGIRL series – 3 books published so far, with the 4th and final book DAYBREAK coming out by the end of 2019. The books follow Lucy Day, a teenage girl who dies on her first date and ends up coming back to life a little stranger than she left it. Add in some Buffy-esque supernatural action, monsters, and drama, and you get the gist pretty well.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
I’ve probably made every mistake in the book, literally in my books, at one point or another.
Not trusting the audience is a big one.
Feeling the need to show something, and then explain it in the actual narrative, and then have a character to go on to explain what just happened. That kind of repetition is either a sign that the author doesn’t trust their own abilities, or doesn’t trust that the audience is smart enough to decipher an event, a meaning, or a character’s action. Which is always a mistake. Audiences like A) having room to interpret a story beat and B) figuring things out for themselves.
As long as you’re not being deliberately obtuse, don’t feel like you have to outline every little plot event or bit of worldbuilding with an immediate explanation.
Another mistake is to censor yourself. Being sensitive about sensitive topics is fine, of course, but don’t pull a punch when the punch is important. Character death, controversial topics, unfair situations, unusual storytelling methods, anticlimaxes — none of these should be off the table in your novel.
BUT, you have to know what you’re doing with any of those techniques, you have to have something important/interesting to say, and you better have backed up those topics, issues, and tools with real research and education.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Only that I have no idea what works and what doesn’t. With Deadgirl I stuck to a naming convention: two words made into a single compound word. Deadgirl, Ghostlight, Goneward, and finally Daybreak. I think maintaining that branding cohesion is pretty important.
If you want a little inside-baseball, writers should always do a few Google searches on their title before they commit to it. It’s okay if something else exists that has that title, but make sure it’s not similar to your book or so insanely popular that you’ll never have a chance to rank for it in Google search.
Lastly, if you’re going to use a cliche, at least but a spin on it. “Happily Ever After,” yuck, no. “Happily Ever Rafter” for a romance about two people who enjoy white-water rafting? Eh, not great and pretty corny, but at least it’s cute.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Bad reviews hurt, there’s no denying it. And because cultivating reviews is so important (especially for small authors/publishers), we have to constantly check our reviews and thus be exposed to the worst of it.
Of course, the reviewers usually are just trying to inform others about their experience and help other readers find what they’re looking for — or avoid what they aren’t. So I don’t blame reviewers. If you didn’t enjoy a book, well, that’s life. We can’t like everything all of the time.
The only reviews that tend to stick in my craw are those that are actively hostile, or the reviewer seems to not know the difference between “this book isn’t my style” and “this book is dumb and the author is a jerk.”
But, either way, as I’ve grown older and more seasoned they don’t bother me as much. Besides, a few bad reviews make the good reviews seem more legitimate to readers (and the great algorithm in the sky), so it’s ultimately a win-win situation.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
Personal satisfaction rates highly, I’m not going to deny it. Writing a book is an excruciatingly long process, and if you can’t entertain yourself than you’re never gonna make it.
However, I do try to keep the audience in mind, their expectations and hopes and predictions. My primary audience member for the Deadgirl books has always been my wife — I imagine her reacting to whatever I’m writing, especially in the editing phase.
I still have a page from a beta draft of GONEWARD that I gave her, at the end of a chapter containing a major character death. She wrote “WTF” in huge red letters at the end of the chapter and then added progressively angrier notes to the following few pages. I’m not gonna say I didn’t laugh a little, but it did ultimately help me know that I’d struck a nerve. Which was the point.
What are your plans for future books?
After DAYBREAK, I honestly don’t know. I have about five different ideas that I’ve been actively noodling (and worldbuilding), everything from a YA “Female Indiana Jones in Space” to a Fantasy Western take on the Crusades to a “Lovecraft meets Star Trek” story to a book about modern-day paladins.
All I know is I’m going to write something, and it will probably involve supernatural/sci-fi shenanigans and a snarky badass somewhere in the cast.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I’m weirdly great at spear-throwing. I’ve never seen Titanic. I dressed up as Geordi LaForge for Halloween in 2nd grade. I once had lunch a table away from Bob Saget and yes, he is really super tall. I’ve been to San Diego Comic-Con multiple times but have never cosplayed (though, I would). I used to play drums in a ska band called “Caffeinated Superheroes” in high school and college, and yes, you can probably turn up our songs with a quick Google search. The best ones are “Beach Party ” and “Lifetime Guarantee,” if that helps.