1. What inspired you to write This Girl is Different?
Well, I started writing This Girl is Different during Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. I was interested in his upbringing; thinking about growing up within a system versus being an outsider coming into a system. How do things look to someone with a different perspective? Lately, people seem to think it’s a *bad* thing to have lived in another country and to have a different point of view, but to me it’s fascinating. It’s an amazing personal and intellectual asset. I mean, come on! It’s a big world out there! There soo different ways of doing things—valid, effectual, creative ways you might never have thought of. Evie introduces us to that perspective.
2. Evie and Martha both are such interesting characters, are they based on anyone in real life?
Thanks! Evie and I have a lot in common, but Evie’s not me. I wasn’t homeschooled. Also, as a teenager, I wasn’t as comfortable in my own body as Evie is. Plus, I have a pretty sarcastic sense of humor, while Evie doesn’t have a cynical bone in her body. But we do share an interest in sustainable design, we both value kindness, we both stand up for justice. We both have the ability to listen to divergent points of view: Evie has strong opinions, but she’s open to other people’s thoughts, and she’ll admit when she’s wrong. I respect that about her.
In the same way, Martha is her own woman—she’s a fictional character. But I’ve known a lot of wonderful, hilarious, aging hippies. It’s been said that a writer doesn’t write what she knows about humans; she writes what she knows about human nature. That sums it up well. My characters are based on everyone I’ve ever met.
3. When did you first start writing?
I’ve wanted to become an author since the day Eric Carle visited my kindergarten and showed us how he wrote and illustrated The Very Hungry Caterpillar. But it hasn’t been a straight line from A to B; I wasn’t super driven and at times I’ve done other things. But in elementary and high school I was into poetry and short stories, and I’ve always kept personal journals. In my twenties I wrote essays, articles, and creative non-fiction. I didn’t delve into writing novels until I was in my thirties.
4. As an aspiring author, I'm always looking for advice. What is your number piece of advice for an aspiring author?
Read, read, read. That’s the most important thing. Read anything and everything, and keep reading all the time. When you do put pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—remember that writing is a team sport: you need readers, you need a critique group, you need friends to keep you going through the difficult rejection times.
5. Is there a new project that you are working on?
I wrote Random first, but it’s coming out after This Girl is Different. Random will hit the shelves in spring 2012 (also from Peachtree Publishers). Random takes place in the same high school as This Girl is Different, a year or two later. It’s not a sequel—Evie will be off to college at that point—but if you read carefully, you’ll notice that some of the secondary characters overlap. I am well into my third novel, but as my friends will tell you—with much frustration in their voices—I never talk about what I’m writing until I’ve written the last sentence of the last chapter. I’m quirky that way.
If anyone wants more information about my upcoming novels, or more behind-the-scenes information, I hope they’ll visit my website: http://www.jjjohnsonauthor.com/ Contact changes daily, so visit early and often!
Thanks so much to J.J. Johnson for answering my questions. Please be sure to visit her website and read This Girl is Different. It's a great book! Check out my review here.