Congratulations to the winner of the Author Spotlight giveaway of The Prophetess, SHAUN PAULSEN. Please email info {at} suzannewoodsfisher {dot} com to claim your prize.

Welcome Liz Johnson, author of The Red Door Inn, to Author Spotlight! Keep reading to find out how you can enter to win a copy of her latest release.

Johnson_LizIntroduce us to you as an author: When did you get bit with the writing bug? How would you describe your writing style?

I wrote my first story when I was seven and signed my first book contract at 27. During those 20 years I wrote dozens of stories and so many really terrible books. But I had the bug, and I couldn’t stop. And with each book, my writing was getting a little better. Since my first published book, a romantic suspense novel, I’ve written all sorts of things—contemporary romances, more suspense, an historical novella, and even a handful of Christmas short stories. In all of these, my style is fairly relaxed. I like to add bits of humor, even in tense and scary scenes, and I always look for the hope in every story.

Tell us about your new release:

The Red Door Inn is the story of three people and the house that brings them together. Marie Carrington is running from a host of bad memories. Broke and desperate, she’s hoping to find safety and sanctuary on Prince Edward Island, where she reluctantly agrees to help decorate a renovated bed-and-breakfast before it opens for prime tourist season.

Seth Sloane didn’t move three thousand miles to work on his uncle Jacks’s B&B so he could babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her. He came to help Jack restore the old Victorian—and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart.

The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just two months will take everything they’ve got. Can these wounded souls find hope, healing, and perhaps a bit of romance on this beautiful island?

How can readers connect with you online?

The easiest way to keep up with me is on my website at lizjohnsonbooks.com. You can sign up for my author newsletter there too. And I’m also at Facebook.com/lizjohnsonbooks, twitter.com/lizjohnsonbooks, and pinterest.com/lizjohnsonbooks.

Anything new for you on the book horizon?

What I’m working on now is also what’s coming next for me. Where Two Hearts Meet is the second book in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series, and it releases in October. When a bed-and-breakfast chef mistakes a guest for a visiting travel writer, the future of the inn she loves is on the line—and so is her heart.

Do you prefer reading physical books or e-readers?

I’ll always love physical books, but I surprised myself when I picked up an e-reader a couple years ago and really enjoyed it too. I like that I can carry a whole library with me on vacation in my e-reader. But nothing beats the smell of ink and paper in my hands.

Why do you write?

God gives us each talents, and I believe that we’re called to use those for His glory. Like the parable in the New Testament says, we’re not to hide our gifts in the ground. We’re to cultivate and grow them. So I continue to try to improve my writing and use it to point readers to God’s amazing love.

What are you best known for … writing or otherwise?

I think it depends who you ask! If you ask my family, I’m known as a pretty good gift giver and the one who brings everyone together. (It’s a perk of being the only one who moved away. When I’m home everyone wants to get together so we can spend as much time together as possible.) If you ask my friends, I’m the girl who tells a whole lot of funny stories and knows way too much useless trivia. If you ask my boss, I’m the one who handles all the details and manages to keep everything on schedule. If you ask my readers, I’m the author who loves to weave humor into stories of true love, reminding them that God is always with them.

What book have you reread the most?

Great question! It’s a toss-up between The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. The Witch of Blackbird Pond, the Newberry Medal winner from 1959, is a gorgeous story of an outsider who comes to a Puritan settlement in the late 1600s and befriends a Quaker woman. The Potato Peel Pie Society is told through letters as a writer searches for a topic for her next book and befriends the people of Guernsey. These are my two very favorite books, and I have several copies of each—one of which has lost its spine due to too many readings. At first glance they don’t seem to have much in common, but at their hearts they’re about how close-knit communities welcome outsiders—or don’t—and the families we choose.

If you weren’t able to write, what would you do?

If I weren’t able to write, I’d still have to get the stories out of my head, so I’d probably never stop talking. That would definitely get in the way of my day job as a marketing and editorial manager for a nonfiction team at a Christian publisher in Nashville. It’s a good thing I can juggle both.

What book is on the top of your TBR pile?

After a crazy year of writing deadlines, my TBR pile is out. Of. Control. But at the top of my list are Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen, a regency romance, and First & Then by Emma Mills, a YA mashup of Pride and Prejudice and football—two of my favorites.

Ever had a bad review? How did you handle it?

Ever? I’ve had my fair share. And they sting. They just do. It’s so hard not to take them personally or become discouraged by them, but I’ve learned a couple things over the years. First, a review often says more about the reviewer than it does the book. Someone very wise once said that when an author publishes a book, it ceases to belong to the author and now belongs to the reader. And each reader brings her own experiences and preferences to a book. So I remind myself that I can’t write a book for everyone. I have to write the story in my heart and trust that God will take care of the rest. Second, I have to remain open to the idea that there may be something for me to learn from the review. Some bad reviews are zingers, but others are thoughtful commentaries. So if there’s a comment that can help me improve my writing or make my next book better, I try to pay attention.

[Tweet “Write the story of your heart & trust God will take care of the rest! @lizjohnsonbooks”]

Can a person make a living as a writer?

I think that depends entirely on the person. I know a handful of writers who support their whole families on their writing income. And I know many whose writing income is a second for the household. And then there are a number of writers (single and married), who work a full-time job and write on the side. I definitely fall into that last category, although my brother has been asking me when I’m going to begin writing full time since my first book contract. But whether a writer is making her living entirely by her pen or not isn’t really a concern for me. Great writers are great writers, and they pour hours of love, sweat, and tears into their books. I appreciate their efforts and want to support favorite and new-to-me authors every chance I get by buying books, telling friends about them, and making sure my local library is carrying them.

What was your biggest break?

The Red Door Inn-Book CoverMy big break was being pulled me out of the slush pile. (If you’re not familiar with the phrase, the slush pile is a stack of unsolicited manuscripts sent by authors to a publisher for consideration.) Sometimes I forget just how incredible it is to be pulled out of what can be a bit of a black hole, but I’m so thankful. I wrote a novel in 2007 and sent my proposal to Love Inspired Suspense. I had no contacts there, no agent, and no idea what my odds were. Several months later, I received a very nice rejection letter from an editor there. She liked my story and my writing, but the book didn’t meet the guidelines for the series. So I asked if I could make changes and resubmit. She sent me a list of edits, and I got to work. We went back and forth four times before I finally got “the call” that she wanted to buy my first book, The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn. Years later I asked how she ever picked my book, and she said that they had hired a reader to skim the slush pile and mark any with potential. Mine landed on the top of the list. That editor and I have worked on six more books together, and I’m still grateful that she saw something worthy in that first manuscript.

Are you an introvert? Extrovert? In-between?

I am definitely an introvert. I like being around other people and will gladly start up a conversation with a stranger. But I crave alone time to recharge my batteries. I don’t usually get to travel to Arizona to be with my family for Thanksgiving (since I always fly back for a week at Christmas), so I generally spend the long weekend in a cabin by myself. My friends usually invite me to their homes and look so sad at the prospect of me spending the weekend alone. But it’s one of my favorite times of the year. I get to catch up on books, go for peaceful walks, and watch all the terrible Christmas movies I can find. And when it’s time to go back to work, I feel refreshed and ready to go.

My great adventure has been…

Moving wherever God leads. I grew up and went to college in Arizona, but I always wanted to work in Christian publishing. When God opened that door with a job in Oregon, I moved 1100 miles to a town I’d never even heard of until then. Two months later, my company was sold, and my job was moved to Colorado Springs. Another 1100-mile move. Another new start. Three and half wonderful years later God opened the door for me to work with one of my very favorite authors, but it meant a move to Nashville, another fresh start. I moved here the week before the flood of 2010. As I watched the waters rise in my backyard, creeping ever-closer to my patio, I called my mom and told her I’d made the worst mistake of my life. Still, God was faithful, and the last six years have been an incredible time of personal growth and sweet friendships. I’ll go wherever He leads. It’s always an adventure.

Best indulgence:

Peanut butter M&Ms and a facial. But not at the same time.

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