Hi Liz! Thanks for stopping by my blog today. Fill us in on your life away from the computer.
I just moved to Tucson, Arizona, from Nashville. It’s been ten years since I lived in Arizona, but I find the desert pleasantly familiar. Even the lizards and cacti are kind of refreshing. The crickets and heat, not so much. My desert home is a household of one. Just me—plus my nieces and nephews and siblings and parents, who come for a visit every now and then since I live a short drive away for the first time in a long time. But living alone gives me lots of time to write and create and explore my new world.
Tell us about your new release: What inspired this particular story?
Where Two Hearts Meet is the sequel to The Red Door Inn, which released earlier this year and both are inspired by my trips to Prince Edward Island. In the first book we discover how the inn came to be and all the characters it took to open its doors. In the sequel we follow Caden, the inn’s chef as she ventures beyond the confines of her kitchen and leaves her comfort zone in order to show a travel writer around the island. But Adam Jacobs isn’t the type of journalist Caden thinks he is. He’s on a forced sabbatical but is still looking for a story and maybe some healing from his own regrets. When Caden discovers Adam isn’t who she thought he was, she realizes that the article he’s writing could do more than ruin the inn’s chances for survival—it might also break her heart.
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well?
I’ll substitute a cup of coffee here for a very large Diet Dr. Pepper. I can’t beat that for getting my brain going. If I’ve hit a wall and can’t come up with anything else, I find that taking a walk or getting out of my house usually helps. I heard recently that blue and green are colors that stimulate creativity, so walking outdoors for 30 minutes (with green grass and a blue sky) can really help a writer get through a block. (Of course, the green grass can be difficult to come by in the desert.)
What book is on the top of your TBR pile?
I have several at the top of my TBR pile right now. Cathy West’s The Things We Knew has been on my counter for weeks, and I can’t wait to dive into it. Also, Karen Witemeyer’s latest, No Other Will Do, just arrived, and I’ll be reading that shortly. I’m also in the middle of Stay the Course, a nonfiction by a Pastor Choco de Jesus. I really appreciate his encouragement to use the Word of God as our North Star in the midst of a drifting culture.
How do you solve a grammar dilemma?
Usually I google it. I generally check the Chicago Manual of Style. If I can’t find a clear reference there, then I ask an editor friend of mine. If we can’t figure it out, I take a Facebook poll. And if that still doesn’t produce a definitive answer, I close my eyes, point to an option and roll with it. Being consistent is 95% of the battle most of the time.
What are your biggest distractions?
Social media and the internet in general. I can tell myself that I’m going to google one particular piece of necessary research. Four hours later I’m watching Youtube videos of my favorite Broadway musical and I’ve written exactly nothing. The internet is a vast trap of mostly useless knowledge, of which I often find myself in dire need. So to battle this, I have to let the research tidbit pass, flag the section, and come back to it later. Writing with a buddy also helps. I’ve had several writing friends throughout my career, and just having someone sitting across the table from me keeps me accountable not to fall into the black hole of the internet.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Put in the work. Don’t be discouraged when what you write isn’t quite what you want it to be. I love this quote by Ira Glass where he talks about the gap between what we want to create and what we actually create. “All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.” Don’t quit. Keep writing. Because the only way to close that gap is by doing a lot of work, filling a lot of blank pages, writing a lot of stories. When people tell new writers to get their seats in a chair and finish their stories, it’s not just because agents and editors want to see completed manuscripts (although they do). It’s because there’s actual value in practicing writing. Like a muscle that can be developed, writing is a skill that can be improved. Ira Glass goes on to say, “It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.” I think that’s fantastic motivation to keep writing.
Who’s your favorite character you’ve written so far? Explain:
I think I have too many characters to have an absolute favorite, but I will say that Adam Jacobs has been my most surprising in a delightful way. When I sat down to write Where Two Hearts Meet, it was always going to be Caden’s story. And it is. But somehow Adam bulldozed his way into the forefront too, battling for equal attention. And when he first stirred from a deep sleep and his arm swung out over the empty nightstand in search of a bottle, I nearly fell out of my chair. Up until that moment I’d had no idea he was an alcoholic. I love him for the wounds he carries and the way he tries so valiantly to do it on his own. I see that mirrored in myself. And I love even more that he realizes he can’t possibly tote them around by himself. I love the way he befriends a retired couple vacationing on the island and how he pesters Caden into letting him into her domain. And I love how he loves her insecurities. Yep. He’s one of my favorites.
If your house were on fire, what one thing would you save?
My laptop. Perhaps it’s a writer’s cliché, but it’s filled with pictures and memories and more story ideas than I can count. I don’t know what I’d do without it.
Anything new for you on the book horizon?
I’m busy working on the third book in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series. On Love’s Gentle Shore releases next summer and wraps up my time at the Red Door Inn, which has been an enormous part of the last four years of my life. For now I’m wondering where to go next and what adventures I can find in new locations with new characters.
How can readers connect with you?
I love to connect with readers on my Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/LizJohnsonBooks or on Twitter @LizJohnsonBooks or at my website, www.LizJohnsonBooks.com, which I keep up to date with bookish news.
Thanks again, Liz, for taking time to drop by! Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of “Where Two Hearts Meet.” And stop by next week to see if you won!