Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Insight From Author/Editor, Eric R. Johnston, And A Peek At His Latest Novel, Children of Time


Today, I'm excited to have author/Editor, Eric R. Johnston, hanging out on my blog. Eric's latest novel, Children of Time can be found at Amazon by clicking on the link. (those of you looking for a digital copy, his official release date is May 15th) While you're there, check out his other great books too!

Eric has agreed to do a Q&A with me, but first, I want you to check out his blurb for Children of Time.
Shawna McCullough is enjoying a quiet evening with a book when her six-year-old daughter, Alexis, awakens and talks of dreaming about her own death, describing it in vivid detail. They fall asleep next to each other, but when Shawna wakes up just after midnight, instead of her daughter, she discovers a strange man in her bed. She also now has two daughters, neither of them Alexis, and she’s nine months pregnant. This is only the beginning of the strangeness as she discovers the man is just as confused as she is. He is Mark LaValley, a police officer who claims to have been killed in this same house years earlier while answering a domestic dispute between her and her husband, a dispute that led to his death. Except in this reality, he is no longer a police officer but a substitute teacher. It isn’t long before Shawna and Mark realize they have been entrusted with guarding “the children of time,” as a demon known as Zuriz Falcon, who has been exiled to another realm, sends his henchman to kidnap the girls, including the one she’s pregnant with. Only with the powers of these three “children” and that of a collection of unique books can Falcon be released from the dark realm to unleash his evil upon the world.

Hello, Eric! Thanks for stopping by! I bet you’re super pumped to have another novel out in the world.

Thank you for having me, Celeste.

Could you tell us a little bit about your new novel, Children of Time?

Children of Time is about a demon trying to escape a hellish exile and will stop at nothing to do so… or is that really his motivation? This demon is quite tricky, and nothing he says or does can be trusted.

Can you speak to the writing process?

After completing A Light in the Dark, I began a novel I called Temporal Winter. The title came from a play on the phrase “nuclear winter,” which describes a particularly bad outcome of a nuclear war. This story was about a war between time periods instead of nations. In the distant future, humans develop “temporal weapons” that have the ability to erase people or events from history. The novel opened up with a temporal attack on the present.
The novel just was not working. Maybe it was too difficult, or maybe I couldn’t stop thinking about the how the fate of the villain of A Light in the Dark was left pretty ambiguous. I kept thinking about the dark world he’d been exiled to…thinking about what he was doing there. So I decided to write another novel that I called City of Evil.

When I finished City of Evil, I realized I didn’t have enough story for a full-length novel, and what I had served better a back story to something better anyway. So I put it that aside and began working on Temporal Winter again. Then it dawned on me that these were actually two parts of the same story, that it was really the demon in the dark world affecting time, not humans from the future.
Children of Time ties into An Inner Darkness and A Light in the Dark, but is intended to be read as a stand-alone novel.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing my whole life, but first decided to tackle a novel-length work in 2009 when my friend, Andrew Utley, and I outline what would eventually become Harvester: Ascension.
After completing Harvester: Ascension, I immediately began work on a novel I called The Twins of Noremway Parish, which eventual became two books titled An Inner Darkness and A Light in the Dark.
I began my new novel, Children of Time, shortly after completing A Light in the Dark.

What advice do you have for writers who are trying to make their way into print? Is there anything they can do to catch the attention of potential agents/publishers?

First, you have to have a good novel to sell. So write, write, write, write. You will get better with every word. Next, before you send it anywhere, EDIT! EDIT! EDIT! Take the editing process seriously. Whether it’s your own read-throughs or a beta-reader. Take it seriously, take the critiques seriously, and don’t be afraid to cut crap. Don’t worry about word count or page count. If it’s crap, cut it. If it needlessly slows the narrative, cut it. If it’s self-indulgent, cut it. Don’t tell yourself you need to write everything you know about the story. No, if it isn’t 100% required, cut it!
Don’t tell yourself that you will fix whatever is wrong with the book when you have the help of a professional editor at Harper Collins or Random House…no, your editor is not your mother and will not tolerate your laziness. Suck it up and do the work to polish the book, or your novel will be thrown out like a piece of trash.
Also, I can tell you from my own experience reading through submissions that a writer wanting to be published needs to represent themselves and their writing well in their query and synopsis. If your query is poorly written, full of mistakes, etc. why would I think your novel is any different? Not only am I looking for a good story, one I would buy, one that I believe others would buy, I am also looking for something that wouldn’t make my eyes bleed while reading it. If I’m yelling at the page, complaining about adverb overload and a plethora of misplaced modifiers, I’m far less likely to recommend your novel for acceptance. Publishers have so many submissions to go through, so there is no patience for a lack of care. If you don’t care enough to polish your novel, don’t expect someone else to.

We’ve seen a lot of recent changes to the publishing industry and the avenues available to writers seeking publication. Do you think the changes are good or bad?

I assume you are referring to self-publishing avenues as well of the growth of small press publishers. I think they are very good. I can tell you I actually enjoy the “indie” novels I read far more than those published with a major publisher. That just goes to show that people are writing a lot of good stuff that would otherwise fall through the cracks.

Whenever anyone disses a self-published book, I like to remind them that Thomas Paine (author of “Common Sense” and The Rights of Man) self-published his work and he is one of the greatest and most influential writers who ever lived.

Since you’re also an editor, can you tell us a few things that drive you crazy when you’re going over other writer’s manuscripts?

One thing that really drives me absolutely insane is mistakes that I see many, many, many, many authors making. Mistakes that I have no idea why so many people get wrong. Although this is country-specific because different countries have different rules on this, but it really gets on my nerves when I see a manuscript filled with single quotation marks…you know, ‘these’? I thought this was common knowledge, but apparently it’s not, but in American fiction single quotation marks have ONE purpose, and ONE purpose ONLY—a quote within a quote. It is not to indicate a word used for a special meaning. It is not used for thoughts. It is not used for dialogue not spoken. It is used for a quote within a quote, and that’s it!
Besides other countries having slightly different rules on this (outside of North America quotation marks are used in the opposite way), the only thing I can think of why this is such a common error is the common use of the single quotation mark in news headlines. The AP uses its own set of rules to save space. You will find single quotation marks in the headlines and you will find the “s” dropped off a possessive name that ends in “s” (e.g. John Roberts’), things that would be considered incorrect in an American novel.

I know you’re also an avid reader. What does it take for a story to take your mind hostage?

I used to teach a reading class. One the things I told my students was that reading is a conversation between the reader and the text. The text has the words, the story, the characters, but the reader brings with them the experiences, interests, and knowledge to interpret them. In this context I would say a story needs to be relevant to me, important to me. It needs to change my life in some way. A life-changing story for me may not be the same as for someone else (which is why the idea of an absolute literary canon is total bunk).  It doesn’t have to be the greatest story, but what the story has to say has to be something that makes me a different person—makes me see the world differently—than before I read it.

Wow, those were great answers! I hope you guys took notes because that guy knows what he's talking about. When you leave here, be sure to pop over to Amazon to read an excerpt of Children of Time

Until next time, happy writing or whatever makes you smile. :)



  1. Sounds like a pretty interesting book and I really dig that cover. :)

    1. I'm half way through it, Mark, and loving it! I agree, the cover is awesome! :)

  2. The cover is a winner. It's eye-catching.

  3. Totally agree with finding lots of Indie books to love. I think what draws me to Indie is there is no real "template" being followed, whereas I was seeing a bit of commonness in the mainstream.

  4. Great interview, Eric. We think a lot alike. Keep up the good work.

  5. Thanks, Jeff. It means a lot to hear you say that. And Elizabeth, I think the same thing. It seems like the major books are all about the same things--Harry Potter and Twilight knock-offs. Even in non-fiction, you find this type of thing going on. You have all the new, popular books about familiar topics, but nothing new. In addition to American Literature, I am also a student of American History, and I can say it is frustrating that the only new books are ones with no new information about anything. That is really the cause of the downfall of the "traditional" (I put that in quotes because if you want to get technical about it, self-publishing is the tradional way to publish) publishers is they are more concerned about money and what will sell to the lowest common denomenator rather than putting out something that will make the world a better place.

  6. Also, if any readers of this blog want to be part of a blog tour to help promote Children of Time, you can click on the link below and fill out the information: https://docs.google.com/a/worldcastlepublishing.com/forms/d/1ZahW6_qt-Y1Ss13BvZxzarUiLZRJhkVB2iB3q0Aihpc/viewform

    Also, if you want to be one of the first reviewers, click on the following link and fill out the information to get a review copy:https://docs.google.com/a/worldcastlepublishing.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dEcyWjNJUm5QamZsS2tUeXdxek1ickE6MQ#gid=0

  7. Oh, I've been meaning to read this one! Guess I better get to it.

    BTW - I nominated you for the Liebster Award!

    1. Hey, T.!
      Yes, you should rad it. It's awesome! Thanks for the award! :)

  8. Great interview with a ton of advice! The premise is really interesting and I love that cover :)

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