Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Interview with author, Kristin Johnson

Today, my guest is children’s author/story editor, Kristin Johnson. Kristin has agreed to talk about her writing process.

1. Kristin how long have you been writing, and when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I have been writing since I graduated grammar school last week. I think I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was in the womb. All joking aside, I’ve been writing for a long time.

2. Are you a full-time or part-time writer, and how do you organize your writing time?

I am a full-time writer, writing consultant and ghostwriter. Wearing so many hats and juggling several balls, I have an interesting schedule. I never know what the next day or even the next hour is going to bring. I live in Hawaii, so scheduling and taking client calls is definitely a feat given the time differences.

In terms of organization, I pretty much control my own time but I generally try to write for six to eight hours a day, or until I’ve hit my client and personal writing goals I’ve listed for that day. Projects with definitive client deadlines take priority, of course, and I have been known to work all night even while on vacation, then sleep through a car trip.

3. I understand this is your first children’s book. What other type of writing do you do, and why did you decide to branch out into children’s literature?

I do every kind of writing. I am a profession ghostwriter/writing consultant (Ordinary Miracles: My Incredible Spiritual, Artistic and Scientific Journey, written for/with the late Sir Rupert A.L. Perrin, M.D.), a poet, a screenwriter, a novelist (Butterfly Wings: A Love Story), a cookbook writer (Christmas Cookies Are For Giving), blogger, Web writer, playwright, short story writer, I have done it all.

4. Which type of writing do you prefer and why?

I am most drawn to fiction and screenplays, although I find satisfaction in creative nonfiction as well. I have a marvelous idea for a couple of anti-bullying books for children that I’m planning. One reason I love screenplays is that I love movies and can get easily wrapped up in the story and characters, imagining what else might have happened to them. I like writing visually, although getting the dramatic tension right in a screenplay is always a challenge, I also enjoy fiction because you can get inside a character’s head and invent impossible yet believable stories and scenarios, and I love language and metaphors. Writing dialogue is challenging, but I enjoy that too, and dialogue is more important than people might think in creative nonfiction.

5. How did you first come into contact with Cartoongems?

A mutual friend introduced me to James Rumpf II, who inherited the classic Cartoongems characters created by Joseph Oriolo Sr. The characters of Tad and Professor BEEtoven as well as other Cartoongems stars had previously appeared in a 1983 cartoon, “Friends Make the World Go Round”. THE PACIFIC OCEAN is the latest incarnation of these characters. We plan a 12-book series. I am thrilled to work with James, Rich Crankshaw and Kevin O’Flaherty as well as the other wonderful people I have met thanks to Cartoongems.

We had created several different cartoon trailers trying to breathe new life into the existing characters, and we planned to create a new hip cartoon series. However, after much perspiration, we got our inspiration, and it brought me back to my literary roots. A book is easier to produce than trying to get a series launched.

6. Did Cartoongems approach you to write the story, or did you have the story already written? Which came first, story or pictures?

James owns the rights to several scripts that Oriolo Educational Publications had created, but which need adapting to book form. That was our task with THE PACIFIC OCEAN. James found Kevin O’Flaherty through a local art college in Dallas, and Kevin created the cute illustrations of Barnacle Bill, Professor BEEtoven and Tad the Frog. I think the illustrations are the star.

Oriolo’s other scripts need a contemporary update and adaptation to book form. Our second book will be DUBIOS’S CHOCOLATE FACTORY, a light-hearted look into the history of chocolate. A third book will talk about Wall Street and finance, an important topic for children right now.

7. What is your marketing plan for The Pacific Ocean?

We are definitely targeting the children’s and children’s educational niche. We’ll be advertising/promoting/cross-promoting on those types of Web sites. We’ll be doing a blog tour and you are the first stop on our tour. Other aspects of our plan:

--getting the print version from CreateSpace into libraries
--offering “teasers” of the book on the Web site
--promoting the audio version
--doing the podcast circuit (I am available for interviews!)

8. Tell me a little about the plan to offer this as a “talking ebook.”

Voice actor/podcaster Rich Crankshaw owns Floatenzboat Studios, www.floatenzboatstudios.com, and he produced the talking ebook, which people can preview on the Web site as a sound file and video file. Rich did a magnificent job of voicing all the characters, Barnacle Bill, Tad the Frog and Professor BEEtoven, as well as adding the music and sound effects. Rich’s expertise in creating believable characters and in professional audio production make the ebook a high quality product. We expect to launch it by midsummer.

9. Where can people learn more about you and your work?

Visit me on http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1ZCYC0RHTRMZF?ie=UTF8&ref_=sv_ys_4
I also blog at http://www.seo-writer.com/writers/

10. Do you have any tips for writers wanting to break into children’s literature?

Find characters that you love. Characters are wonderful for educational books because they make learning interesting and fun. Make the characters unusual—kids are open to animal characters beyond cute and cuddly (my favorite example of this is Charlotte’s Web). In our next book, we feature a koala brother and sister who are cute but have their own personality quirks. Professor BEEtoven is certainly not like any other bee you’ve read about, and Tad the Frog represents the kids in our audience!

When I think about children’s books, I’m reminded of the classic “Schoolhouse Rock” and the talking Bill of “I’m Just a Bill”. Look it up on YouTube!

Another idea is, if you want to be topical, say writing about bullying—which I would like to tackle in our books—make it powerful rather than preachy. I say bullying because it’s rampant in the news.

We’re writing about money, greed, saving, spending and stocks as well. Traditionally people think that’s not a subject kids are interested in, but I disagree—I think considering the economy, this is the perfect time to teach kids about money, in an engaging way.

Kristin, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with me today.


  1. Great interview! The characters sound fun to work with in writing the book and the upcoming book ideas are things that kids are interested in.

  2. Susanne, Thanks for checking in and following these author interviews.

  3. Thank you so much for the wonderful review and interview, Penny!