My guest today is David Johnson who has developed a reputation as a writer of “books with heart.” His novels feature strong, unforgettable characters from humble backgrounds who have to grapple with the unexpected turns of everyday life. He is the author of the riveting “Tucker” series, one of the best-selling series on Amazon. The series has collected over 5,000 reviews, averaging 4.7 stars, and sales of the books will soon approach 500,000 copies. He has now ventured into historical fiction with The Woodcutters’ Wife.
David maintains a very busy life outside of writing. He’s a full-time Marriage and Family Therapist, is Director of a community chorus (soon to celebrate its 20th year!) that performs all across the Southeast, performing 15 shows a year. He maintains The Front Window blog . He’s been married for 45 years, has two daughters and six grandchildren.
David would love to hear from you. Send him a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and join him on Facebook – David Johnson, Author.
You can purchase all of David’s books via his Amazon author page.
What or who inspired you to first write? Which authors have influenced you?
I learned much about writing from a college professor, Porter King. He made writing fun and helped me learn how to write.
Authors that have influenced me? It’s an eclectic group: Charles Dickens, James Fennimore Cooper, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Dean Koontz, Patricia Cornwell, Janet Evanovich.
What is the inspiration for your current book? Is there a particular theme you wished to explore?
I had never written a historical fiction book until the idea for The Woodcutter’s Wife, which is set in the Civil War, came to me. It wasn’t the battles in the war that interested me; it was the war’s effect on the people who stayed home. I began wondering, what did the women do when their husband, who did not own a plantation nor slaves, do when he left to fight in the war? How did they survive? Of course, that led to other questions, like, how did they deal with loss and subsequent depression? How did they resolve their resentment and bitterness?
All of my books center around ordinary but flawed people facing obstacles and challenges and how they overcome them. Mary, the main character in The Woodcutter’s Wife, has to carve a path through these kinds of situations, plus she has to decide if it is possible for a woman to love two men at the same time.
What period of history particularly inspires or interests you? Why?
I’m particularly interested in the American Civil War. Less than one hundred years after it was established, the United States of America nearly came crashing down in a heap. Brother was pitted against brother, and many had no idea what the war was really about.
We in the U.S. are aghast today when we see countries engaged in civil war and wonder how that is possible, but we forget our own brief history.
What resources do you use to research your book? How long did it take to finish the novel?
From the time I started writing The Woodcutters’ Wife until publication was ten months. My resources:
- The interpreters at the 1850s Homeplace in Land Between the Lakes (located in northwest Tennessee and western Kentucky and maintained by the US Department of Agriculture Forest Services), especially Cindy Earls.
- Suzette Raney at the Chattanooga Public Library
- The rangers and staff of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, especially historian Jim Ogden
- The civilwar.org websites, which give a wealth of information on all the major battles of that conflict
- Mark McCutcheon’s book Everyday Life in the 1800s
- Donald L. Winter’s book Tennessee Farming, Tennessee Farmers
What do you do if stuck for a word or a phrase?
I believe writers get “stuck” because they are searching for the “perfect” word or phrase or the setting up of a scene. It’s not that they can’t think of a word (because there are scores of words dancing in their head), it’s that they want it to be perfect. My practice is to pause for only a bit, then throw a word on the page and keep writing because I have found that when I go back through the manuscript editing it that that “perfect” word will magically appear.
Is there anything unusual or even quirky that you would like to share about your writing?
Before I start writing a book I nearly always have in my mind the opening scene and the closing scene. The challenge then becomes taking the reader on a journey to the end in a manner that is clear and concise.
Something that is probably a bit weird is that I can write for fifteen minutes, get interrupted (even in the middle of a sentence), and can come back to where I stopped an hour or even a day or two later and am able to pick up the thread and go with it like I never stopped.
Another thing is that although I had written scores of essays and articles in the past, I didn’t start writing books of fiction until six years ago when I was just shy of sixty years old.
Do you use a program like Scrivener to create your novel? Do you ever write in long hand?
I’ve always used Microsoft Word.
Is there a particular photo or piece of art that strikes a chord with you? Why?
I have a print of “The Story Teller” by Stephen Scott Young that I just love. I can almost hear the voice of the old man as he spins a yarn or tells a tale of when he was growing up, and the small child is completely absorbed in the telling. It is a perfect picture of what an author tries to achieve.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
You are not an aspiring author unless you are writing. Quit thinking about writing and start writing. Write every day, even if it’s only two hundred words. Good singers sing, and good writers write.
Tell us about your next book.
My current work in progress is Living in Quicksand and is inspired by many of the news headlines today. It explores the themes of teen suicide, bullying, clinical depression, infidelity and sex addiction. I’m hoping it will be published in September or October of this year.
Set against the backdrop of the Civil War comes a tale of love lost and found.
Mary Thomson is no ordinary woman. She works alongside her husband William cutting firewood to sell in the city, earning the nickname “The Woodcutter’s Wife.” She kills a bear with her bare hands. And she prefers plowing a field to cooking a meal. The one thing she cannot seem to handle is the melancholy that has enveloped her. Mary lost four children before they were a year old, and the doctor says she will never be able to conceive again.
Mary’s world flies apart when William disappears, leaving her with the arduous task of tending their farm by herself. Using her fierce independent spirit to cope as the war rages around her, she finds help in the form of a freed slave who offers his help. But fate throws her another dramatic curve, forcing her to make the most difficult choice of her life.
David Johnson, author of the bestselling Tucker Series, has written another of his signature “Books with Heart.”
You can purchase The Woodcutter’s Wife here.
Many thanks David – wonderful advice and a great list of resources!
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