Name: Helen C. Johannes
Authors Website, Blog, Goodreads, Amazon Author Page
Hometown: I grew up an Army brat, but the closest thing I have to a hometown is Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
Based In: Central Wisconsin
Education: MST in the Teaching of English.
Briefly: Author of The Prince of Val-Feyridge and Bloodstone. Awards: 2011 EPIC Award for Fantasy Romance, 2011 Launching a Star Award for Fantasy Romance, 14th Annual PRISM Finalist in Fantasy Romance, Wisconsin Writers’ Association Jade Ring winner in Short Fiction.
Favorite Read: Anything by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Rick Riordan, Jennifer Crusie among a long list of others. I read romance, fantasy, young adult, mystery, and historical genres.
Pet Peeves: Cliffhanger books from newbie authors and blatant author intrusion (Hector didn’t know it yet, but he was about to…)
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…An English teacher—my day job.
Author Crush: I’d love to pick Rick Riordan’s brain.
Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book You’d Recommend: Michael Hague and Chris Vogler’s joint workshop on story structure and the hero’s journey on DVD
Up Next: A sequel to The Prince of Val Feyridge, a novella, a children’s fantasy, and perhaps a sequel to Bloodstone.
Can you think back to the first book-related memory that you have?
My earliest favorite book was a collection of fairy tales for young readers. Besides the well-known tales of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, this one had stories like The Donkey Prince, Snow White and Rose Red, The Tin Soldier, and The Dancing Princesses, to name a few. I’ve always been drawn to the stories about heroes in disguise, about people who are misjudged or discounted by others because of appearances. The Donkey Prince, for instance, is about a prince born with a donkey’s body due to a curse on his parents. They give him the best of everything, and he becomes a skilled lute player, but he’s still a donkey. Tired of being looked upon as a freak in his home town, he decides to take to the road, playing his lute, until one young woman falls in love with the sensitive man inside the ugly skin. That transformation from beast to beloved is a theme that I’ve always enjoyed reading, and it’s probably what drew me to the romance genre in the most elemental sense.
What initially drew you to the fantasy genre?
I love fairy tales and Arthurian legend. There’s something fascinating about a hero with a sword on horseback. Plus, as I said above, I’ve always been drawn to the beauty-and-the-beast story.
Are you planning on writing your next book in this same genre?
Yes, I love creating my own worlds and playing in them.
Tell us about how the idea came about for The Prince of Val-Feyridge.
I was a teenager reading Tolkien and Ayn Rand when the story came to me. I was inspired by the ethnic tensions in the Mideast to create a world in which three lands had once been unified until a dispute over the crown caused treachery and bloodshed. I wanted to write a story where people who had genuine, long-standing reasons to be suspicious of each other could find a way to work together.
You wrote the book in order, or as different parts came to you?
I wrote it in order—until I stopped midway. Years later I picked up the draft, saw value in it, and finished it. Then I revised it multiple times.
Was writer’s block a minor problem for you as you wrote the book?
Not so much writer’s block, but life events getting in the way of writing time.
Tell us about how the idea came about for Bloodstone.
This story grew out of the Cupid and Psyche myth. In the myth, Psyche is forced to wed what she thinks is a monster so horrible he refuses to let her see him. They can meet only in the dark. It’s a story about trust, and I wanted to build on that concept with a cursed hero who’s taken on a heavy load of guilt. He needs to be redeemed by a woman courageous enough to do ‘anything’ to save him.
Where did you do most of your writing?
On a laptop at the kitchen table.
What have you learned about book marketing so far?
It takes a lot of time, but I enjoy connecting with people who value writing and enjoy reading.
Tell us about your writing process.
My process involves mulling an idea for a character/story until I think I have enough to sustain a plot. This might take years for any one idea to come to the top of the ‘mulling’ pile. Plus, even though I’m a ‘pantser,’ I don’t like writing more than one story at a time. That means the new idea has to percolate while I finish the one I’m writing. Once I get started, I ‘discover’ more about my characters and their story in the act of writing it. Sometimes they provide me with serendipitous surprises. Of course, then I have to go back to earlier chapters and add in something or another, but those ‘Wow!’ moments are part of the reward for me as story-teller. And they usually make a pretty cool ‘reveal’ in the story too.
What are some of the things you hope to accomplish over the course of your writing career?
I’d like to establish a reputation for writing well-crafted books that have something to say about the power of love to heal and inspire. And I’d like to have fun doing it.
How can aspiring authors get better at writing?
Read. Write. Finish something. Join a writers’ group. Share your work and get feedback. Enter contests. Learn from your mistakes. Cycle through all steps repeatedly.
How can writers beat procrastination?
Get critique partners or writing buddies you can compete with to produce x-number of words per week/day.