“Meet Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Author/Editor, Marketing Guru” by Joan Y. Edwards
Carolyn, it is good to see you here today. Thank you for being a guest on my blog. I appreciate you coming to share your great ideas for writing and giving us a glimpse into your life as a writer. Thank you for inviting me. I love to talk about writing. I’m anxious to get started. 3-2-1 Let’s go.
1. How did you do in English as a kid? Loved English. Hated math. Part of that was the times. Gender bigotry was rampant and this was part of it.
2. When did you decide to become an author? I decided I wanted to write very early on. I got active as a journalist on my high school newspaper and even got a vague idea for a novel. But that’s different from “becoming an author.” That happened very late-when most people are considering retirement.
3. What’s your favorite book? Why? Anna Karenina. It first helped me see what cultural repression does to people.
4. Are your characters based on real people? Most of them are. But not on a single person. I believe that there is no such thing as making a character up from scratch. We all operate on what we know through our senses.
5. Did you outline and plan your books before you wrote them? I haven’t done that yet. But I plan to. I think it will save me several drafts.
6. How much research did you have to do for writing and/or publishing your books or manuscript in progress? Very little because most of my writing is based on true stories. Though fact checking is still essential even in a case like this. I do get surprised occasionally about how memory doesn’t serve.
7. Did you cry while writing one of your books? Yes, and I’ve been told that my readers do, too. But the endings tend to be happy—just in a different way.
8. Do you have trouble saying goodbye to your characters when you finish the book? I don’t think I ever do.
9. What’s your favorite book you’ve written? The one I just finished and is the hands of my agent—This Land Divided.
10. What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you related to your writing or book tours? A man wanted to know if I had a Ph.D. to write novels. He said he had been to many signings and most authors had them. I discovered the problem was he had been to signings of authors who write nonfiction and I’m not sure he saw the difference.
11. What is your favorite genre? Poetry. I love symbol, theme, metaphor.
12. What’s the best way for a writer to improve their writing skills? The number one thing to improve your writing skills is to READ IN THE GENRE YOU WRITE IN and READ THE BEST WRITERS IN THAT GENRE. The second thing is to read books about writing in general. I suggest at least one book a month, even if you think you don’t have enough time for writing.
Read about specific areas of writing.
Read about writing dialogue.
Read about structure.
Read Joseph Campbell.
Read about grammar and editing.
13. How can a writer find their distinctive voice for their writing? All of us have a distinctive voice. It’s a matter of finding it. We do that by knowing what we are passionate about and saying it from the heart.
14. What’s the best way to choose the right narrator for your book – 1st, 2nd, or 3rd? Oh, I could write a book on this. It’s one reason a synopsis or outline is a good idea. It helps us see what will be required. Example. I love first person because it brings our characters close to the reader. But a character can only be in one place at any given time so the author must carefully contrive (without looking contrived) who he or she can tell the whole story without its being obvious—the contrivance that is. An outline will help us see if we can do that. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to write in one voice and switch to another to see how it feels.
15. How can writers improve their revision process? I just released the 2nd edition of my book, The Frugal Editor. It is available as a Kindle edition and in paperback. It takes a whole book to answer that question. Yes, it includes: proper formatting, pet words, correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation, varied sentence structure.
16. What does it take to be a great writer? To be great writers, we must know tons about our entire industry. It makes us better writers but it also prepares us to partner with other experts. No writer is an island, but no writer should put himself or herself at the mercy of another because they don’t understand something about publishing like formatting, marketing –even indexing! I agree with Joan’s mantra: Never give up. Persistence is the key.
A short bio Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the multi award-winning series of How To Do It Frugally books for writers including USA Book News winner The Frugal Book Promoter. She has been an instructor for UCLA Extension’s renowned Writers Program for nearly a decade believes in entering (and winning!) contests and anthologies as an excellent way to separate our writing from the hundreds of thousands of books that get published each year. She is a poet and novelist. She loves passing along the tricks of the trade she learned from marketing hard-to-promote genres. Two of the favorite awards bestowed upon her:
“Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment” given by members of the California Legislature
“Women Who Make Life Happen” given by the Pasadena Weekly newspaper.
Thank you, Carolyn, for being a guest on my blog. I admire you and appreciate you sharing your expertise with us. Here are two of Carolyn’s books: