After reading the wonderful book The dark province I got the chance to interview the author William Johnson.
So give a warm welcome to: William Johnson!
1) Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Besides being an author, I am a happily married husband of ten years and father of two awesome children. I was born and raised in the state of Virginia not far from Washington D.C. Growing up, my father was a school principal and his father was a preacher. The influence of education and religion was strong in my home growing up. Today, I teach, direct, and perform improvisational comedy theatre and have a background in the theatre arts. I’m particularly passionate about education and certain social issues, such as the eradication of prejudice.
2) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I began writing for my sanity when I was in the 11th grade. I enjoyed it, and continued to do it in many forms into my first years in college. It was during the summer of 1995 when I was working a job as a sales manager that I had the epiphany and realized “all I want to do is write.”
3) What comes first? The story, the characters or the idea for the novel?
For me it differs piece to piece. The idea for THE DARK PROVINCE began with the main female characters from the forbidden land. I began writing the names of these characters on post-it notes, each name fit a female character with a specific look and relationship with another character. When I was finished I had about eighteen or so characters that were grouped together. I set them in a small secluded town ruled by a reclusive king. As the idea developed I expanded the world and the land of Tiyll was formed. More characters were created to inhabit the new land. Toward the end of the process I realized the story I wanted to tell was of a desperate man who abhorred that land but needed to come as it was it last hope. It was then that Calvin and his sister Mari were created and the story was born.
4) What would be your favorite past time activity when you are not writing?
I love sports. I volunteer as an assistant coach for my son’s soccer team. I also like playing video games. Right now my son is very big into Lego Star Wars and playing it with him has given me a chance to share the Star Wars stories in a way that he can get excited about.
5) Are there any writers out there that have inspired you?
Absolutely. Some novelists, some songwriters. I enjoyed Danzy Senna’s take on prejudice and racial identity in Caucasia. As a child I loved the imaginative world created by Madeleine L’Engle in A Wrinkle in Time. I think that Tori Amos is a extremely courageous and poetic songwriter and hip hop artists Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, and Pras Michel did some provocative, thoughtful work on their album The Score.
6) Can you tell a little more about your book: The Dark Province: Son of Duprin?
Sure. It’s an epic fantasy adventure novel about a man who has to defy his religion to travel to a forbidden place in search of a cure for his sister’s terminal illness. The book deals with prejudice, it deals with fundamentalist religious thought, it deals with sex and how its viewed in the eyes of strict moralists. I think while at the same time as it has something for every reader: action, romance, adventure, supernatural and fantasy elements—I think it also challenges a reader’s sensibility. There is a noteworthy amount of sensual content. The main character is a very conservative man and the reader can’t hide from his flaws. He’s a hero and a monster. Whether he’s a hero trapped inside a monster or a monster trapped inside a hero is up to the reader. Perhaps he’s just human.
7) What inspired you to write this story?
It began with musings about the duplicitous approach that Americans have toward sex. While it makes so many of us so uncomfortable to talk about even when it is in the interest of our own vital health, we still use it overwhelmingly to sell everything from a cell phone to a bowl of cereal. After giving a lot a thought to where this duplicity came from, I looked inward and reflected on my own religious upbringing and how it affected my own views and conflicts. Combining sex and religion in a thematic discussion of love and faith felt like a potent mix. I was quite inspired to pursue the story once these elements were in place.
I enjoyed writing about Tessie. What a sweetie! She embodied innocence in the midst of a culture so many would consider the furthest thing from innocent.
9) If you could have dinner with one of your characters who would you choose and why?
I’d have to say if I had a chance I wouldn’t pass up a dinner with the governess, Tjetta D’jiaree. Graceful, wise, patient. I’d want to hear her share more about her passion for her city and how she manages to stand so tall in the face of horrors and the unknown.
10) Do you get a lot of responses from your readers?
I have. It has been the biggest pleasure of the experience. To share with them something that previously only existed in my own mind has been an absolute thrill.
11) What are you currently working on?
I’m working on two projects right now. I am working on a sequel to THE DARK PROVINCE. I’m about half way though the manuscript. I took a break from that in March to start working on an old love story between young people set in the Southeast California desert. It’s an old story that I have been developing for some time and now I feel the time is right to write it. I’m about a third of the way through that manuscript right now.
12) Is there anything you would like to say to your readers?
Thank you!!! I love my readers. They have made this journey a dream come true. I look forward to repaying their love, support, and enthusiasm with great new works. They are with me with every stroke of the pencil. I’m very grateful.
Thank you William for taking the time to answer my questions!