Interview With Author Bettina M. Johnson

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)

I am Bettina M. Johnson, author of The Lily Sweet Mysteries Series set in the fictitious town of Sweet Briar, Georgia, that is centered on a family of witches, specifically Lily Sweet and her friends and family, and author of The Fortune-Telling Twins Mysteries which are tied to my Lily Sweet world and focuses on a team of secret monster-hunting operatives who hide behind a legitimate business as antique appraisers. Lily Sweet’s cousins, Maggie and Ellie Fortune are the main characters in this paranormal setting which deals with their lives and those of the vampires, werewolves, witches, elementals, shifters, psychics and more that make up their Antiques and Mystic Uniques Caravan.

# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

My books are mined from the life experiences I’ve had, people I’ve met and relatives who left an impression on me, giving me fodder for my creative muse. Certain moments in time from my childhood always seem to make it in my stories even though they deal with the paranormal world. I love good dialogue and funny repartee between people. My greatest joy would be to write something intriguing and moving that gives good mystery, tugs at the heartstrings, but at the same time catches the reader in moments of abject hilarity so they snort, or chuckle or downright belly laugh as they go through the tale.

# What inspires/inspired your creativity?

The paranormal. The outré. Misfits. The mind of a murderer. The strong women who might not have begun these tales as a competent heroine able to tackle every evil that comes there way but grows and evolves to be someone you want to cheer on. I like flawed heroines – from goofy mistakes to slapstick moments or being naïve or insecure only to get through challenge after challenge and have a metamorphosis—my heroines grow into who they were born to be.

My biggest inspiration and the driving force behind my ability to write a full length novel and one novella a month is my mother, Angela. She gave me my love of the written word. Mom read to me and my sister all the time, always leaving off at “the good part” so we children would be so impatient to learn what would happen next we became proficient readers. By four years of age, I could get through Little Women on my own!

We shared a love of mystery novels and I remember telling mom that I wish I had the discipline to write my own…and the talent. Mom insisted I did and encouraged me to write, but I kept putting it off. One day she told me, “If no one else reads them, I will!” Mom passed away in 2019 and I still hadn’t tried my hand as a writer. But that was my “aha” moment. I lost the opportunity to see my mom enjoying my books, but now she IS my Muse. My cheerleader. I know she is out there somewhere pushing me and celebrating every time I complete another story.

# How do you deal with creative block?

I’ve yet to experience it. I get what I like to call creative anxiety…or author anxiety. Every single time I begin to write a new story, I have this moment where I’m staring at a blank Word document and go what is I can’t come up with anything? What if they don’t speak to me? But my characters have not let me down yet…they always begin to reveal their tale. Sometimes at the most inopportune times!

# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

Plot holes. Don’t do it. Just don’t. Never underestimate the intelligence of your readers. Readers are voracious fans of the minutiae. They will remember if you said your Main Character hates dim sum then will call you out if you make her eat it—and love it—five books down the road. They also catch every single plot hole or that drops a character or story line into the black abyss of nonsense!

# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

I like covers to look unique to each author. Too many out there are copy and paste and all look the same. Genre specific, of course…but be daring a little. My Lily Sweet covers are witchy—you can tell this by a glance, but they are unique to me, and I am grateful for my cover artist, Daniela, who puts up with my nitpicking each one. My Fortune-Telling Twins are mysterious and have the image of both of the Fortune twins somewhere on the cover or have something to do with the plot if the twins aren’t the focus. For titles? I try to be clever…sometimes it works. One of my favorites is Djinn and Tonic…an obvious play on the cocktail, gin and tonic…but spelled for another way to say genie – djinn!

# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

My very first one star left me ravaged for exactly five seconds until I read it the second time and realized f I tried to please every reader I’d lose my creative spark. Work of fiction is supposed to shock, awe, humor, intrigue, move a reader in some way—sometimes not in the way they’d like and/or expect. I’m not a fan of trigger warnings or being careful of what I write so as not to offend although I certainly hope I would never do something to make a reader that upset. One of my characters in an ancient Italian witch. They last thing she is going to worry about is censoring herself. I have to write how my characters “speak,” and if I stopped every time and went, “hm… that might not be a nice thing to say,” I’d lose their unique voice—and probably make them angry. So now, I glance at the broad reviews, make note that I have them coming in, appreciate every single one—but don’t get involved too deeply. Reviews are for other readers…not the author.

# How has your creation process improved over time?

I’m more willing to lose myself in some internal dialogue or descriptive passages that flow in an almost lyrical sense. I used to fear the times my characters had to interact, thinking I couldn’t pull off a disagreement, or fight, or love talk. Now? I look forward to every aspect of writing. I’m just as surprised as my readers with what they come up with.

Seriously. There are two kinds of writers; plotters and pantsers (actually three if someone falls somewhere in between the two). A plotter outlines their entire book, the world, every detail – they can spend weeks and even months doing this before they write one line of the story. Pantsers open Word and GO! No idea of where the road will take them. I’m a pantser (seat of my pants kind of author). I know my back story…I have an idea of where the tale will wind up but have no idea what is about to come out of my fingertips via my mind. It’s not up to me, you see—it’s up to THEM. My characters are in full control.

# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

The Best? That I’ve written nine books from May 2020 until May of this year. That I am now writing one full-length novel and one novella practically every month. That the floodgates and creativity have opened to such an extent I now have three other series in the works, and they all tie into the Lily Sweet world…although one is definitely more in the Romantic Fantasy genre and the other two remain in the Paranormal Mystery realm.

The worst is waiting for the big hit. The moment I transition from a small following where I am right now, with a nice solid fan base and decent sales, to a best-selling author with fan expectations. I want that so badly yet fear it as well. The responsibility of keeping my readers happy is tantamount to me. I want them to love my characters and fall in love with the world they live in. I desire a time in the near future when my readers want to meet me at an author book signing. I want that…yet at the same time the realization that I am an introvert who loves nothing better than to stay at home typing away, never seeing the outside world, makes me realize when I do reach that level, I will have to come out of my Hobbit hole! Talk about major freak out!

# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

Readers. Hands down. I want to be a fly on the wall watching them experience my tales, hoping they laugh when they reach a place I’ve written humorous dialogue or a slapstick moment. I want to be there to see them get through a nerve-wracking event or a poignant moment for the main character. I want to see them cry when their heartstrings get pulled by a bittersweet part of the story. I can’t believe I will never get to share that moment with them unless they tell me by emails or social media—or in person. I keep writing because this very idea of someone desperately waiting on my next in the series is like a drug. I don’t think I can ever quit. I’ve already received fan mail and have people who tell me they can’t wait another day before getting their hands on my next book. THAT is incredible. Mind-blowing stuff. It’s symbiotic…I give them what they need and in return they feed my soul…and I keep writing!

# What role do emotions play in creativity?

I’m a Pisces. We feel so many emotions in any given moment it is ridiculous. If I run to the store and someone honks their horn at me or I feel them cussing me out behind me, I become subdued and surly. Or if someone hurts my feelings and thinks I need to “get over it” or I’m “too sensitive,” they very well may wind up in my book as a nasty character…and could find themselves offed as the baddie—or roughed up by one of the witches and other paranormal beings! It’s cathartic to take out my hurts on someone I’ve created based on someone in real life who hurt me—or hurt someone I love. Especially if they are just a mean person. I don’t understand someone who goes out of their way to put someone else down, make themselves feel better by teasing another or flat out be rude. I find a certain weakness of character in someone like that who deserves their boorish behavior to be immortalized in one of my books. When I turn that moment from my past into part of my story, it takes that pain, whether miniscule and truly a non-issue other than it was irritating, all the way to soul destroying painful moments, and gives me a sense of closure and release that is incredibly satisfying. In other words…don’t tick off a Pisces—we never forget.

# Do you have any creativity tricks?

I go for a ride in my Jeep, top off—sometimes doors off—and just get up into the mountains in North Georgia and breathe. Or sleep. I usually wake up with the chatter of my characters and a solid idea of where they want me to start that day…so sleep is big!

# What are your plans for future books?

I am currently writing book 8 in the Lily Sweet Mystery Series which will have a new backstory since the first seven books in the series dealt with one issue that was resolved in book 7. I write one novella a month on average, so that will be an ongoing thing for my Fortune-Telling Twins series. Then I need start on my trilogy series, Secret Sirens about a woman who lost a love a long time ago because she refused to stand with tradition and broke away from her restrictive siren world and mad a name for herself in the human world—with tragic results. Very much a romance novel set in a paranormal world. I’m also developing the Samantha Geist series…she will be a witch who is also a revenant that collects lost souls. And finally, I have a series in the works revolving around a current side character in my Lily Sweet World. Her name is Pandora and she is a crossroads demon with snark and humor—coming soon to Amazon’s new KindleVella platform this July. Keep checking back!

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

I love black Jelly Belly jellybeans just like my MC, Lily Sweet. I drink way too much coffee, am obsessed with the perfect brew, and spend way too much money on ethically sourced beans from the rainforest. I can touch something and pick up a “hit” off it like my MC, Maggie Fortune although I am no way as strong with this psychic phenomena as she is—mine is more of an educated guess as to what I felt. SHE can go back in time and see things! I prefer rainy days to sunny ones. I’m getting ridiculously obsessed with TikTok…I mean, come on—funny CAT videos!

Links: https://linktr.ee/BettinaMJohnson