Saturday, 16 January 2021

I Interviews

Interview: Liz Johnson

Author of The Red Door Inn

You began writing at a very young age, although not professionally. What is your advice to young writers or their parents?

I wrote my first short story when I was seven, and I signed my first book contract at twenty-seven. In those twenty years I wrote countless stories, including my first novel when I was twelve. It was really terrible. The one I wrote in college wasn’t much better. But with each book and each writing course I took, I got better. I tell younger writers not to be afraid to write badly. Like getting better at anything else, writing takes practice. And parents play a big role in encouraging their kids to keep practicing.

You write books about love, humor, and happily ever afters. Which is your favorite to put on the page?

My very favorite thing to write is the happily ever afters. Maybe it’s because I’m a hopeless romantic and love when love prevails. Or maybe it’s because writing them means I’ve finished another book. Either way, there’s something amazing about seeing two characters you love choosing hope for the future.

You have written quite a few romantic suspense novels. How was it different to write without the suspense?

A romantic suspense novel certainly has a few more edge-of-your-seat moments than a contemporary romance. While I was writing The Red Door Inn, it was strange not to have a chase scene or a shoot-out. There were no physical altercations, and no one’s life was on the line. At least not literally. But the emotional strain the characters are under in a contemporary romance isn’t an easy burden to carry, and it can be a hard thing to write. For both genres I pull from my own experiences, my own pain, to give my characters depth, even if my life isn’t exactly like theirs. I’ve never been chased by a gun-toting terrorist or felt the sting of a father’s betrayal, but I know what it means to be scared and to have a loved one turn away. I know the ache of lost dreams and also the joy of dreams fulfilled. So in the end, writing romantic suspense and contemporary romance isn’t so very different. It’s all about tapping into human emotions and getting them on the page.

In your opinion, is a happy ending essential for a good plotline?

I suppose that depends on what you mean by a happy ending. I think a romance absolutely needs to end with the hero and heroine in love and about to start their happily ever after. But sometimes the happy ending for a character is realizing that she can save her store or care for her mother or arrest the bad guy. It’s not always the romantic definition, but that doesn’t make it any less happy. I’d say that a satisfying conclusion is essential for a good plot, and that conclusion will look very different depending on the story’s genre and its characters. But personally, I love a book that ends with a cheesy line and a big kiss.

Are there any other genres you have thought to venture into?

I love writing romance in all its iterations—contemporary, historical, suspense. And I can’t imagine writing anything that doesn’t have a romantic thread to it. Every now and then I think about writing a YA novel. I even have a dystopian YA idea tumbling around in my mind. Maybe someday I’ll sit down and write that novel. But for now, I have more than enough writing to do to keep me busy and very grateful.

What can we expect from the next book of the Prince Edward Island Dreams series?

Book two in the series, Where Two Hearts Meet, takes us back to the Red Door Inn, home to some familiar faces—and a few new ones. The inn’s executive chef, Caden Holt, is calm, competent, and collected in her kitchen. But when her boss begs her to help save the struggling inn, it’ll mean stepping out from behind her famous French toast and into a world much bigger than she’s known. But the man she thinks is an undercover travel writer didn’t come to the island to write a feature about the Red Door Inn. Adam Jacobs just wants to get past his writer’s block and forget the haunting dreams that remind him of his worst mistake. When these two hearts meet, they just might find courage and healing—and maybe even love.

Are your books written for pure enjoyment? Or is there something you hope the reader will take away?

I certainly hope my readers are entertained by my books and enjoy reading them. I also hope that they’re reminded of God’s love for them and his constant presence in their lives. The idea that God is with us isn’t just for the Christmas season. Every day, every hour, he is near. He hears every prayer and draws near to every broken heart. What promise could be better than Emmanuel, God with us? All of my books contain a reminder of that.

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