I am very pleased to have Bettina M. Johnson here on The Book’s the Thing today. She’s going to tell us a bit about herself and her writing process, so please join me in giving her a warm welcome!
TBTT: Do the ideas for your books ever come from real-life occurrences, or are they strictly pulled from your imagination?
BMJ: Real life tends to blend with my imagination. Some of the characters in my books remind me of people I know or have met. Some remind me of old movie characters that I’ve tapped to make similar. I have had situations occur in the present or from my past which I incorporate in my stories, and some of my childhood memories wound up in a chapter or two. In my Lily Sweet Mysteries, there is a scene where the great-grandparents are dancing a polka around the living room and family members are laughing and clapping along in encouragement. This is a cherished memory of my own grandparents during one holiday. We moved the coffee table and a few chairs and my grandma and grandpa were laughing and dancing around the room….I’d never witnessed them being so happy with each other and it was a tender loving moment that remained with me. Now that moment in time is forever recorded on the pages of that book! As for my Fortune-Telling Twins Mysteries, I tend to have a bit of the psychic woo woo Maggie Fortune is revered for. There have been certain times in my life where I held something and got a flash of the past. Even touching someone’s hand…I can’t explain it, but I see or know things and they usually come true or already occurred. Kind of freaky cool…and I knew I had to have a character that was adept in this phenomena, and delve deeper into a subject that whigs me out a bit!
TBTT: Do you have any particular writing rituals that you adhere to or unique methods of overcoming writers’ block?
BMJ: I’m one of the lucky few, I guess. I have yet to experience any sort of writer’s block. Now writers anxiety? That’s a different story. Every single time I begin a new book, I open Word, stare at the page and have this niggling thought run through my mind that perhaps I won’t be able to write the next in the series. But I take a deep breathe, relax my hands on the keys and whisper to my characters that I’m ready for their words. They’ve never failed to begin talking.
TBTT: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
BMJ: Would it be cliche of me to say I read? A lot? I do, however. I also love my Jeep and adore going junkin’ (hitting yard sales or outdoor flea markets and antique venues) in her. She’s a mojito green Jeep Wrangler Sahara, and I love nothing better than to drive up to the mountains and explore. I’d constantly be on the road driving all over the USA if I could…I’m in love with the idea of seeing every square inch of the nation and doing the grand experience all the way down to the outré roadside attractions. I wanted to be an archeologist when I was little, and a famous singer, but that’s another story! So my love of old things has me excited in museums and historical societies, looking at old documents or hunting for treasure in other people attics! I also like to sing (back to that dream of mine) and used to do so in nightclubs back in my twenties. And to unwind, I like to sculpt with polymer clay. My entire family is artistic. My dad sings like an opera star and my sister is a fine arts artist. We are a creative bunch!
TBTT: Which genres or authors do you like to read? Are there any books or authors in particular that you’d say have influenced your desire to write?
BMJ: I love cozy mysteries (of course) or any good mystery book. Mystery romance. Fantasy genre. History and biographies. I’m a history major and where some people would have a difficult time getting through a text book on the past, I can lose myself for days on a subject. Some of the authors who influenced me did so by tickling my funny bone. The late, great Joan Hess and her Maggody series made me yearn to try my hand at humor. Whatever method I’m borrowing from her can be found in my books. My greatest joy would be to have my readers spit out their favorite beverage at the antics and hijinks my characters get in to…or at one of the many one liners my MC cracks from time to time. I also am a fan of authors Paige Shelton, Elizabeth Hayden, Dannika Dark, Ann Purser, Nancy Atherton, to name a few…as well as the greats; Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Hans Christian Andersen. There are too many to mention and all have shaped me in some way!
TBTT: What types of stories can we expect to see from you in the future?
BMJ: I am going to expand my Lily Sweet world and give one of the supporting characters their own tales. I’ve already done this with Lily’s cousins, Maggie and Ellie Fortune. They were introduced in book 3 of the Lily Sweet Mysteries and now have their own series. I just introduced a crossroads demon named Pandora who deserves her own series…she’s a hoot! There is a recurring character names Tarni Vanderzee, a siren, who has her own series slated for later this year; The Secret Sirens Mysteries. Tarni will be telling her tale that will go back and forth from the present time to the 1980’s. I’m looking forward to starting those. I also have a character I am developing named Samantha Geist, who will be a ghost hunter whose job is to move those souls along that are trapped here for one reason or the other and if she fails, a demon swoops in to claim the lost soul in victory – and Samantha just happens to fall for one of the demons even though they are enemies…a paranormal romance in the making!
TBTT: And just for fun – Coffee or Tea?
BMJ: I have a burr grinder. Only buy ethically sourced whole beans, and my dream is to someday have the ability to roast and grind them myself for optimum freshness and taste. Does that give you an idea of what my preference is?
Bio: I always knew I wanted to write. As a kid, way before the technology age had hit, I’d be stuck in the car with the folks as we drove from our home on Staten Island, NY, where I was born and raised, to our family property in the Catskill Mountains. To drive away boredom, I would sit, staring out the window, and create adventures in my mind.
As the years passed, I’d start writing a book, then stop, then start again only to let life get in the way, until one day I had an epiphany—if I waited any longer, all those wonderful characters in my head would never have their stories told, and that made me sad. So, I began to write. Once I started, it became apparent nothing would ever stop me again.
I write paranormal mysteries, romance and suspense that fall somewhere in between a cozy mystery and urban fantasy. I always write with humor and hope to keep my readers guessing to the very end—and I always add a dash of romance to keep things interesting.
I live near the North Georgia mountains on what I like to call a farm, with my husband and almost adult kids, a Cairn Terrier, two black cats, a tuxedo cat and fish. Occasionally other critters show up to keep things exciting.
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