C. S. Johnson, author of KINGDOM OF ASH AND SOOT, will be releasing the sequel to The Order of the Crystal Daggers soon! PRINCE OF SECRETS AND SHADOWS will be out this December! I am currently reading Kingdom of Ash and Soot, and so far, I am hooked!
Today, Johnson joins us for an interview in honor of her new release!
1) Tell us about the beginning of your writing journey. How did it all begin?
I’ve always loved words and language, and putting them together to see what I could make. I started my more “official” writing career as a poet, but I moved onto stories as I began to wrestle more with social anxiety. I was a quiet, shy kid, and I had a lot to say. Once I entered 12th grade, and already knowing I would move away for college, I didn’t care as much about what people thought of me, and I managed to surprise quite a few people with not only what I had to say, but what I remembered them saying from years before. One of the best things about getting to write Prince of Secrets and Shadows was getting to imagine what it would be like to be so different. The title character (hint: it’s not who you think it is!) is definitely very different from me.
2) What genre do you write? And for what age group(s)?
I write in a variety of genres. I’ve been saying I’m a one-woman Netflix, with fantasy, science-fiction, historical fiction, and historical fantasy. I’m branching out into steampunk with my upcoming release, One Flew Through the Dragon Heart, and I’m always eager and anxious and anxiously excited to see how people will like it.
In terms of age, I generally write for young adults, from the middle grade range to the new adult age. I try to make sure I am writing books that my kids will be able to read one day without looking at me too funnily.
3) What is your biggest dream for your writing?
Somedays, it is enough to just be a writer and getting to live the life I have. Many people dream of being famous, but I don’t honestly know how well I function if I were somehow “famous.” I can easily see the haters coming out, and even if I didn’t see them, I know I would likely get a lot of backlash quickly enough. I’m highly opinionated, and I like to make fun of everything. In today’s world on social media, that would get me banned.
4) Where do you get the inspiration for your stories? Anything and/or anyone in particular?
I used to teach English, and I am always looking for a good theme. Most of my work is thematic in that I’ve been struggling with something, and I want to put it into a story to figure it out better. For One Flew Through the Dragon Heart, I was struggling this past year with another bout of depression and anxiety, and I really struggled with this idea that I am unlovable, and, even if someone should happen to love me, they would only suffer for it. In the novel, my female main character, Adelaide, has been cursed with black magic, and she can’t touch anyone without draining them of their magic and energy. And it’s up to Brixton, my protagonist, to find a way to prove to her not only that he loves her, but he will never give up on her. My husband clearly fills in that role, but it’s also a twisted story in itself. My one friend and fellow author, Catherine Hinkle, talks about the lie that the characters believe a lot. My big lie centers on this idea, and so it’s a bit of a misdirection, but it’s one that still has a lot of meaning attached to it.
5) What do you like most about writing? And what is the most difficult bit?
That’s easy. I like finishing the story. To see it in its final form, to read through it and smile, knowing it could have been different—that’s a form of motherly bonding I’ve only known with my children. My books are like my literary children in this aspect.
6) What do you believe makes a great story?
Character is the cornerstone of a good story. It doesn’t have to be a good character, or a sympathetic character, to be good. Mindy Kaling said in one of her interviews before that a good character is relatable more than sympathetic. One of the best things about Prince of Secrets and Shadows is that my main character, Eleanora, often struggles with learning new things and often fails at them. We’ve been taught on some level that we can expect to be the exception, and that can be dangerous, especially with the postmodern morals we’ve been taught.
7) Do you write full-time? If not, what else do you do? Would you like to write full-time?
I am a full-time writer, but I don’t keep full-time hours. I’m also a mom and wife. I would like to write full-time, but I think at this point I would need to be on a ship in the middle of the ocean, only connected to the internet when my work is finished.
8) How many novels have you published?
I think Prince of Secrets and Shadows is book 22? Goodness, I’m not good at math!
9a) Prince of Secrets and Shadows comes out in December. This is Book Two in The Order of the Crystal Daggers series. Can you tell us a bit about this series? What can readers expect in Book Two?
The Order of the Crystal Daggers series is a spy adventure series set in Prague, in the 1870s. Some of my father’s family history comes from this area, and given how the kingdom of Bohemia was swallowed by the Austria-Hungarian Empire without much of a protest, I wanted to see what it would be like to imagine a secret heir to the throne trying to take back the kingdom and start a revolution. With some inspiration from Cinderella, and my own struggles to understand freedom, both its characteristics and limitations, I thought it was a great topic to cover. So much of understanding freedom today is sectionalized into politics and class, but I wanted to see how it played out on a larger (kingdom) level, a relationship level (prince), and an individual level (book 3.)
9b) What can people expect?
First of all, no cliffhanger ending. My mother was getting upset with me for that, so I promised I would stop for a while! In this book, Eleanora is faced with her failures from Book 1—and Ferdy’s deception. When her duty clashes with true love, she risks further failure, and it’s only the truth that can save others in the end.
10) What’s next for you? Are you working on any other projects?
I’m going to be working on trying to get one more book written by the end of this year. I’ve been promising my other author friend Bethany Jennings I’d work on the companion novel to my novella, Across the Floors of Silent Seas. The book is a science fantasy adventure, where my main character, Milo Bishop, is floundering through a quarter-life crisis when he, his supposedly-crazy uncle, and his best friend discover Rasulka, an underwater terrarium where a scientific mermaid community lives. The trick? The mermaids don’t believe in humans, and when they arrive, Milo quickly discovers why.
- Summer or winter? WINTER
- Facebook or Twitter? FACEBOOK FOR FRIENDS, TWITTER TO TROLL
- Candies or chocolate? CHOCOLATE!
- High heels or flats? FLATS
- Desktop/typewriter or laptop? LAPTOP
- Windows or Mac? Either or. I’ve used both and appreciate both for their quirks.
About the Author
C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles series, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family.
Thank you so much for stopping by! I can’t wait until Prince of Secrets and Shadows is out! EEP!