AUTHOR: Anne E. Johnson
BOOK TITLE: Green Light Delivery
PUBLISHER: Candlemark & Gleam
Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?
Science fiction is one of my two favorite genres to write. I’ve published over thirty short stories, both for adults and kids. My educational background is in classical languages and medieval musicology, so, not surprisingly, I started my writing career in a more academic, non-fiction setting.
When I began writing fiction a few years ago, I turned to science fiction because I’d loved reading that genre since I was in high school. For me, writing that particular genre allows for the greatest freedom of imagination. I find it also mixes well with humor. And (major bonus), it’s as far from academic writing as I can get.
I love writing historical fiction, too, but sometimes I need a break from the research library to make up weird creatures and worlds.
Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.
Green Light Delivery is the story of an Everyman alien named Webrid. Webrid is a carter, like his mother and grandfather before him. It's not glamorous work, but it mostly pays the bills, and it gives him time to ogle the sexy women on the streets of Bexilla's capital. Mostly, he buys and sells small goods and does the occasional transport run for a client. Then he gets mugged by a robot. Now, with a strange green laser implanted in his skull and a small fortune deposited in his bank account, Webrid has to make the most difficult delivery of his life. He doesn't know who his client is, or what he's carrying, but he knows that a whole lot of very dangerous people are extremely interested in what's in his head. Literally. And they'll do whatever it takes to get it. With the help of some truly alien friends, a simple carter will journey across worlds to deliver his cargo. And hopefully keep his head in the process.
What got you interested in writing, and what inspired you to write your first book?
The first novel I completed (and the most recent to be published, as it turns out) was my historical novel for tweens, called Trouble at the Scriptorium. I was taking a course on children’s writing, and the final assignment was to plan and begin writing a novel. At the time, I was still in graduate school studying medieval musicology, so it made a lot of sense to apply that knowledge to my newfound interest in fiction-writing.
Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?
I normally do a bare-bones outline before I start writing. After I’ve drafted a few chapters, I increase the detail in the outline, which shows me in what direction to take the following few chapters. By about halfway through the book, I normally have a very detailed, chapter-by-chapter outline.
What comes first: the plot or the characters?
Basic plot concept and one or two main characters usually come to me simultaneously. I invent new characters as the plot begins to solidify, and I find out who my main character needs to meet, either to help or hinder him/her.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
In general, the hardest part of writing a novel is that point when I’ve got half of it drafted, and a nice, thorough outline, and I just wish the rest of it would write itself. It always feels like a great mountain lies before me, despite how far I’ve already come. Once I get to the 3/4 mark, I sail forward at nearly a chapter per day.
The biggest challenge specific to Green Light Delivery, because it was my first science fiction novel, came in keeping my invented world consistent. Of course, the answer to that problem is to compile a log or style sheet, which you add to every time you invent a place, name, species, brand, foodstuff, technology, etc. It becomes an invaluable reference guide you can refer to hundreds of times as you read through and edit your first draft.
Describe your writing space.
Well, in a way, my writing space is anywhere I go. I often write by scribbling in small notebooks on the NYC subway or in coffee shops. At home though, I write on a laptop in a thoroughly non-glamorous workspace.
I sit at a beat-up old fold-out sewing machine table that once belonged to my great grandmother. To my left is a window overlooking my Brooklyn neighborhood. To my right is a cheap TV table that I use to collect my clutter. It’s a joyous mess. It’s always piled around with drafts, bibliographies, little scraps of paper with marketing-related notes on them, packs of sugar-free fruit-flavored gum, pads of sticky notes, my writing calendar, my headphones, my submissions log book (with a furry Ugly Doll bat smiling at me from the cover), and various colors of pen.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to cook and bake. I’m an avid walker. I play and listen to many kinds of music. I love going to the movies. When people talk about movie theaters becoming obsolete, it truly upsets me. Then again, my husband and I also frequently attend live theater. It’s one of the greatest perks of living in New York City. And, of course, I read fiction every day.
What books or authors have influenced your writing?
Anthony Burgess is my favorite novelist. My taste is eclectic: I love Ursula K. LeGuin, Adam Rex, Philip K. Dick, Jeanette Winterson, and Douglas Adams, to name a few. I also love Raymond Chandler, whose style influence the noir feel of Green Light Delivery.
What are your current books out right now and what are the books coming up for
Currently, besides Green Light Delivery (which is for adults), my available novels are for kids. Ebenezer’s Locker is a tween paranormal mystery published by MuseItUp, and Trouble at the Scriptorium is a tween medieval mystery published by Royal Fireworks Press.
The sequel to Green Light Delivery is under construction!
What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
Keep writing. Try scary things. Be very critical of yourself, but also very forgiving. Think of writing as a job, which sometimes you must do even when you don’t feel like it.
Where can people learn more about you and your work?
You can learn more about me at my website. http://anneejohnson.com/
For updates on my upcoming publications and appearances, “like” my Facebook author page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Anne-E-Johnson-Author/249053641780972
Green Light Delivery Excerpt
Ganpril Webrid, carter for the Bargival district, handed a clod of jamboro cake to the blue-skinned businessman. He took a dendiac note in payment. “You stayin’ here?” Webrid asked, “or can I bring my cart into your space?”
Obviously pretending that he hadn’t heard, the fellow closed his window and sucked the cake down whole through a slimy blue mouth.
Webrid hated these commuter types. Somehow, they never learned the basic courtesies of urban interaction. And they were always in Webrid’s way. So he tried again, louder this time. “Can I use your space, mate?” He enunciated clearly. “How long you stayin’?”
“Bivisher! Braaap!” came the reply, the first word being an expletive, the second a burp.
“Fine. I’ll go somewhere else.” Webrid knew when he’d been licked. But he couldn’t just keep rolling along. He needed to get off the street for a while, after several hours of selling cakes to commuters, pushing his cart through the hot afternoon smog.
As he thought about how tired he was, Webrid realized that someone was standing next to him.
“Yeah? I got cakes today, friend,” was his automatic response. Then he turned his head and focused his eyes. This guy did not want a jamboro cake; he could tell that much for sure.
For one thing, this “guy” didn’t appear to be biologically-based. Webrid could see the wires at its joints. A great metal head lowered itself on a slender tube of a neck. A brace of digital cameras absorbed the features of Webrid’s face, which made him squirm.
“Like what you see, sailor?” he joked, but only to hide his fear. This wasn’t a Vox police robot. Not one like he’d ever seen, and he’d seen them all, what with parking tickets and contraband searches every few days. The Vox, always watching and listening, seemed to be after him constantly for one thing or another.
The robot’s head came closer to his face. Webrid pulled back. Maybe it was a cop bot after all. “I ain’t parked wrong. I’m on the move, in search of a legal space, officer.”
The robot responded with a mechanical buzz and a series of clicks. A door retracted into its central chamber, revealing a speaker. Somebody—somebody biological—spoke. “Ganpril Webrid, Second-State Licensed Carter,” it announced.
That voice! Icy snakes of déjà vu scuttled up Webrid’s spine. Clear as the bot hovering before him, he pictured the squalid back alley where he used to play with his cousins when he was a kid. Webrid huffed and shook his head, chasing away the random vision.
“Ganpril Webrid,” the voice repeated. “You have been called.”
“Eh?” Webrid had just spoken this syllable when a delicate feeler came flying out of the robot’s head and wiped across his forehead. It stung. “Hey, now, what’s the idea?”
But the thing was gone. Upward. Out of sight.
Webrid felt a headache coming on, and a strange green light pattern was starting to flicker in one eye. The light coalesced into a shape. It was not a very familiar shape, but after a moment of painful concentration, Webrid thought he recognized it. A tree? There weren’t any trees in Bargival, or on the entire planet of Bexilla. Webrid had only seen trees in pictures at school years ago. But now there was one floating in front of him, made of a green cloud. Then its particles dispersed, and there was nothing to see but the comforting grunge of the Bargival streets.
Webrid decided he needed a drink.