Thursday, October 20, 2011

Author Interview: Phyllis Johnson!

Author Interview: Phyllis Johnson!

Hey everyone! Today I am happy to have Phyllis Johnson of the writing duo, Johnson Naigle, on the blog today! Phyllis is the co-author of the YA suspense novel inkBLOT, written by her and Nancy Naigle under the pen name Johnson Naigle. Nancy will be joining us on the blog on Saturday for an interview as well! You can check out my review of inkBLOT by clicking here! And my review of Being Frank with Anne by clicking here!

Phyllis Johnson was born and raised in Tidewater, VA. She's a self- proclaimed renaissance woman with an artist's soul. She's been in several modeling and acting roles, but her passion lies in the written word. Her books and poetry have brought a smile and inspiration to many.

First of all, thank you for coming on the blog today! I really appreciate it, and I’m so happy to have you featured today!

For the readers who have yet heard of you—can you tell us a little about yourself? Your likes, dislikes, when you first started writing, where do you write, etc…

I found out I liked to write at an early age. My parents had given me a toy typewriter and I started typing neighborhood newsletters with a cousin. My crazy sense of humor showed up even then. My cousin sent me a copy of one of those newsletters a few years ago. We really got a kick out of looking at it years later. Growing up, my love for writing was reconfirmed when I had to create a poetry book in tenth grade. The teacher fell in love with my poetry and it really gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. I also remember in the seventh grade when I wrote a paper about Thomas Jefferson and stated that he had taken a bite out of the pie of politics. The teacher pulled me aside and raved over that sentence. This was another thing that made me realize that writing was a love of mine. My first real publication was a poem in a book of poets nationally. Once I saw my byline, I was hooked forever. The writing grew from poetry to articles for a variety of newspapers and magazines. I once wrote a weekly humor column for five years. The best part of that was that it made me look for the funny angle in life, something that helps brighten a day. One of the biggest thrills in magazine publication was having some sales to Woman's World magazine. This was the first of a number of national magazines in which I was able to publish.

As for my likes and dislikes, I've liked belonging to a number of writing groups. This has been a great support to me and I've learned a lot from them. My dislikes would have to include getting rejections in the mail but over time, they weren't the form letter type but some came in handwritten notes, a sign that you're really progressing. After a while, the sting would last just a few steps from the mailbox and then it would be gone. Now, that type of note comes from an email, if you're lucky. It's all a learning process and we never stop learning in this field.  

One thing I'm learning is that writing can take place anywhere really. Inspiration can strike at the oddest places. Take a notebook with you everywhere in case inspiration hits. But most often, I write in my office at home, either on the PC, my laptop or on a notebook, swinging in the hammock out back by the river. That's one of my favorite places to be.  

Which character(s) in inkBLOT do you feel you relate to best, and why?

I relate to Chelsea the most. Being a newspaper reporter, I can identify with her tendencies to want attention for my articles. It's only natural to want readers to really like your work. Her constant craving to be appreciated as a writer is something that dwells inside of me too. I admit it. Maybe it's a Muse needing to be fed, I don't know. To quell it somewhat, I grab a piece of chocolate. :.)

What made you want to write a novel for young adults?
I work in a high school library so I'm around young adults all the time. I really enjoy their energy and enthusiasm. The story lent itself well to younger characters and it just seemed to fit. The whole techno thing coupled with tattoos, etc. seemed like something that would appeal to YA readers too. Now I'm realizing it's really for those older than YA too.

How was writing inkBLOT different from your other books?

I've written a lot of poetry and short stories, as well as some novellas. Making something that was longer was different.
Did you ever miss being able to go deeper in thought and meaning, like you would be able to with your poetry?
I was able to use some of that deep thought in Chelsea's poetry. You can't have characters going around with too much internal thought in the text so having them either journal or write poetry is one way to show more emotion.

inkBLOT is the first time collaboration between you and Nancy Naigle. What ideas did you both bring to the table? 
Nancy is in banking so her knowledge of techno stuff and spread sheets came into play while writing about Ronnie. My experience with newspaper writing and poetry helped define Chelsea. I'm fond of dreaming up plot ideas and concepts and Nancy's a great detail person and she's awesome with dialogue. I'm an editor and zone in on sentences, cutting out what's unnecessary and noticing punctuation. We both brought different strengths to the table.  

In your own words, what makes inkBLOT different from other books of its kind? Why should people read your book?

 inkBLOT is different because the idea of computer programs being able to detect criminals through a computer program test is something new. I think the timing is right for this book because anything done online now, such as social media, gaming or the like is really where everyone's attention is focused.

I just want to wrap up this interview with something I like to call Five Question Dash. The idea is to learn more about you in five quick questions and answers. Let’s go!

When is your birthday?
September 7

What is your favorite book?  

It's nonfiction. It's called "Write it Down, Make it Happen."  
It's like writing goals and wishes down is like sending a prayer up. It's holding yourself accountable and making your desires known. 

Do you have any secret talents?
I enjoy painting and am currently taking a painting class. I have acted for the Discovery Channel in FBI Files, New Detectives, Diagnosis Unknown and Psychic Investigator. My weirdest acting gig was on 6/06/06. (666) It was the Psychic Investigator/Possessed Investigator episode. The lead actress had to play a demon possessed woman. It was lightning and thundering around the small chapel set and was the most surreal acting experience I ever had.

Once I saw myself on the big screen at the NARO {in Norfolk, Virginia} in the independent film, Sweet Good Fortune. That was fun to act in as well. I don't have much time to act and have turned down auditions and parts this year. Maybe one day I'll get to act some more. I like to think those roles have helped me in my writing somehow.  

How would you describe yourself as a writer?
I'm a multi-genre writer. Considering that I write nonfiction, poetry, humor, spiritual, juvenile, romance and just plain sassy- perhaps I'm suffering from a split personality, who knows.

Do you have any ongoing projects? Anything you would like to share?
I'm writing a collection of funny high school stories titled Hall Pass and a book of monologues for high school students titled, Just Me. I'm working on repackaging two of my titles, Being Frank with Anne (poetry about Anne Frank) ( and a midlife humor for women poetry book, Hot and Bothered by It for re-releasing. Because of my day job at a high school library and my writing for several magazines and newspapers, I stay very busy, but that's the way I like it.
My final word to anyone who wants to write, never give up your dreams. Work hard. You'll get there. I'd love to hear from you. My email is
Thank you so much to Phyllis once again! Don't forget to check out all of her books, and inkBLOT!
Nancy Naigle will be stopping by on Saturday!
Until next time!

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