Interview With Author Liz Johnson

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I wrote my first short story at seven and signed my first book contract at 27. And I haven’t stopped writing since. I’ve been a fan of sweet romance since I was 13, so that’s what I write—stories filled with hope and happily ever afters. I’ve written more than a dozen novels, a few novellas, and a handful for short stories. I live in the desert Southwest and by day, I work in marketing. I find time to write late at night and on the weekends between exploring local music, theater, and ice rinks. I’m the aunt to five amazing kids, who are growing up way too fast.

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

The story is pretty simple. I grew up with Anne of Green Gables, and I fell in love with Prince Edward Island when I first visited in 2010. I couldn’t wait to go back. I never planned to write a book set there. Then I experienced the peace and serenity of the Gentle Island. I was absolutely smitten and fell in love with the idea of writing about broken hearts that find healing there. I’ve been back three more times, and every trip, I’m inspired by new stories, new people, new discoveries.

# What inspires/inspired your creativity?

I’m always inspired by travels I take and by stories I hear. My characters aren’t based on anyone I know personally, but I am inspired by them.

# How do you deal with creative block?

I don’t believe in writers block, but I do believe in writers fear. Fear keeps me from putting fingers to keyboard, from moving forward with new projects. As a writer, I fear failure, and I fear success. And fear is powerful. But it can also be overcome. I’ve discovered that no fear is final, and no success defines me. No number of accolades will change the way my family loves me or change my value. So when fear tries to block my creativity, I remind myself of those truths.

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

Oh, I’m not sure there is one. Perhaps the biggest mistake is to stop writing. I tell myself that whatever I write—no matter how bad—can be fixed. And I’m grateful for amazing editors, who help me find those fixes.

# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

I’m the worst at suggesting titles, which is one of the reasons I love working with my fabulous publishing team. When my publisher recently asked for title suggestions for my 2022 release, I said: Book 2 in the series. That’s how I’ve thought of the book. Thank goodness for amazing publishing teams, who have great ideas! For covers, I always suggest finding covers you like and learning from them. Is it the colors, title treatment, or image that draws you? A combination of all of them? Then work to get a cover that evokes the same response.

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

My skin has definitely gotten thicker over the years. Harsh reviews of my first few books were hard to take, but I’ve discovered a couple truths along the way. First, not every book is for every reader. It’s okay if a reader doesn’t enjoy my book. It doesn’t make my book bad or mean that I’m a bad writer. It just means that this particular book wasn’t a fit for that reader. Second, negative reviews might have something to teach me. I pay attention to negative reviews and look for recurring comments. Is there something that readers aren’t connecting with or confused about? I learn what I can from reviews and apply that where it makes sense in my next book. Then I move on.

# How has your creative process improved over time?

I’m not sure if it’s improved so much as evolved. I find that it’s a little different with each book—depending on deadlines and how much time I have to sit with my characters and get to know their stories. I like to spend a couple months with them before really diving into the writing. It helps to know where my story is going from the start. I used to do a lot more plotting, but now I enjoy the process of discovering the story right along with my characters.

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

The process of writing Beyond the Tides wasn’t nearly as smooth as previous books. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, my dad had a heart attack, and I moved in with my parents to help him recover. I was distracted and unable to focus as I usually do. But I was also able to really focus on my relationship with my parents. And that became a key theme of the book.

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

Generally I write what I’d like to read, and I think that in doing so, I serve my readers. If I write things that make me laugh and smile and even cry, then readers probably will experience those emotions too. So in writing what makes me feel deeply and have hope for the future, I hope I’m sharing that with readers as well.

# What role do emotions play in creativity?

If I can’t feel what I’m writing, then neither will be readers. I have to take those emotions and infuse them into my stories, make my characters feel the same things I do.

# Do you have any creativity tricks?

I don’t think they’re tricks exactly, but I when I find my creative well starting to dry up, I have a few habits to refill it. I generally go for a walk or try to change my environment. Sometimes I’ll find a peaceful place and just be still for a little while. Other times, I’ll borrow from others’ creativity. I’m a big fan of Aaron Sorkin’s writing, so I’ll watch a TV show he’s written, and just let the dialogue sink into me.

# What are your plans for future books?

I’m currently working on the sequel to Beyond the Tides, which will release in 2022. It’s a book about a disgraced NHL player, who comes back to Prince Edward Island only to discover that his problems have followed him, and he’ll do anything to keep them from affecting the family he’s getting to know all over again.

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.

Most people find it unusual that I like to ice skate in the desert. But when you live in Phoenix, the only place to find cooler temperatures is on the ice. So you can find me there almost every Saturday.