Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi Fiona, my name is Tom Johnson, and I will be 78 in July.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Seymour, Texas, a farm and ranch community, but spent my formative years in Wichita Falls, Texas. We lived there until I turned 16, then my father went back to ranching.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I obtained a high school education, then joined the U.S. Army and spent 20 years in the military. While in the service I took college courses and job related educational studies. After retiring from the military my wife and I went into small press publishing for the next 22 years. We published a hobby magazine and numerous fiction titles. Our authors and artists were from all over the world. We loved reading and editing the magazines, and had a wonderful relationship with all of our contributors. In March of 2002 I had a stroke and it forced me to slow down. We decided to close up shop, and in December 2004 we printed our last titles. It was a long run, and we enjoyed it as long as it lasted.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Currently, I am writing children stories only, though in the past I’ve written most genres: SF, Mystery, Western, Swashbuckling, Action and Adventure. I’ve always wanted to write children stories since listening to my mother read them to me as a child.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
While stationed in France from 1963 to 1966, I was a military police supervisor, which means that I sat at the desk while my patrolmen kept the installation safe communism – this was during the Cold War, you know. On slow, lonely nights I would create characters and plots and write little scenes of action. I was trying to learn to write. However, my writing didn’t go anywhere. After a tour in Vietnam in 1970, I returned to a base in California where I again worked in a supervisory position. This time I was more dedicated to my writing and wrote two SF novels, then had a professional typist prepare them in manuscript format, and sent the first one off to SF publishers. Well, to be honest, my writing was rough and not polished. I still had a lot to learn. My manuscript was returned with rejection slips and I put both novels in a drawer where they stayed for a long time.
During the 1970s I wrote magazine and newspaper articles, and finally, in 1980 had my first book, a non-fiction, published. When we started our genre magazines I contributed short stories to some titles to keep my writing in front of readers. In 2002 one of our writers had become a head editor for a new publishing house, and she asked if I had any novels available. I dug out that first manuscript, which I had done some rewriting to, and mailed it to her. It was finally accepted, and the publisher wanted more, so I dug out the second manuscript, which was in pencil, and typed it myself. It to was accepted, and they published a third novel in the series. By then I was writing other genres for other publishers, and I haven’t stopped.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s hard to say. When I was putting those characters and plots together back in the 1960s I considered myself a writer, though I wasn’t published. But it was in my blood, and I knew I wanted to write. I just wasn’t a published author until that first novel was a reality. Again, I was writing newspaper and magazine articles throughout the 1970s.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I think my love for Edgar Rice Burroughs and his jungle stories. I loved those wild, romantic tales of action and danger, and wanted to emulate Burroughs. My Jur novels have been favourably compared to Burroughs.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Titles are sometimes difficult to come up with. They have to be simple, yet attract a reader, and tell them what the book is about. So I look for something about the story to express in the title while keeping it short. My novel, The Man In The Black Fedora features a mysterious man wearing a black fedora who saves a young girl from mobsters at the beginning of the story. He remains a mystery to her until the end, and she’s constantly trying to figure out who her mysterious rescuer is in the black fedora.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I try to write fast action so the pace never drags. For adventure stories this is fine, but when writing mysteries – well, you need a mystery, and there’s my challenge. I’m not my best at creating a good mystery, so again I rely on good action to keep the reader satisfied, hoping they don’t find fault with the mystery itself (LOL).
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Well, I’ve only written two books that do have some bases of truth: Cold War Heroes, set in Cold War France where I was stationed, and Bad Moon Rising, based on my time in Vietnam, but fictionalized. Growing up I was interested in palaeontology, and actually wanted to be an entomologist. I studied the subjects, but never pursued my goal. However, in many of my books you will find these subjects usually have something to do with the plot.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I’ve actually travelled the world, from Europe to the Middle and Far East, and most of America, so I know many cultures and people, as well as places, and this is a big help in my writing. Yes many of my stories are set in New York, and I have been to New York. Of course, it takes more than a short visit to know New York, but I can usually cover it fairly well.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
With over 80 books, and many publishers, that’s hard to answer. Publishers use in-house artists and designers. Some provide their own covers through computer graphics of one sort or another, and some reuse covers from older books. I have used one lady as a personal cover artist and designer. She is Teresa Tunaley, and lives on the Canary Islands, so we only correspond through email. One of our magazine artists we’re still in contact with, Kevin Duncan has contributed a cover for one of my books. Other artist, like Tom Floyd has also provided a cover for one of my books; a particularly good jungle book cover.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Hmm. Good always conquers evil. I never let evil win. If you’re a bad guy in one of my books, you can’t expect a good outcome. The hero is going to win. In my children stories, there is usually a moral for the children to learn. But basically I just want the reader to have a fun read.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Oh, yeah, at least a dozen or more. John P. Cater, Debra Bailey, and Will Murray are consistent. K. G. (Gail) McAbee can write anything and you’ll love it. Gosh, I could go on. There are some dang good writers coming along, and we need them. We really do.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
That editor I told you about, the one that asks me for my first fiction novel. She saw something in my writing that she liked, and encouraged me to continue.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Well, I’ve been there already, and I am now approaching the end of my writing career, I imagine. It has been a fun time, and I’m thankful that I achieved what I have. I never wrote the Great American Novel, but I didn’t set out to. I just wanted to entertain, and I think I have to some small degree. If one person finds something they like about one of my books, then I’ve achieved what I set out to do.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I think most of us would like to rewrite our novels. We can read them again and find areas we could change, but it would be a waste of time, I think. Just go on to your next novel.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Well, one thing I learned with a recent book is don’t be sloppy. Always go over your manuscript even after the editor has done her/his job. And if self publishing make sure you upload the correct File. I uploaded a first draft once, so I know this can happen, and it is embarrassing.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Again, it would depend on which novel. Let’s use Pangaea: Eden’s Planet. For the two main characters I think SanaaLathan and Chris Hemsworth would work fine.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Never give up. I wrote my first two fiction novels in 1970, but they weren’t published until 2002.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Write what you want. Unless your are writer-for-hire, you should be your own boss, so don’t let others tell you what to write.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I just finished an adult western Death’s Angel by W. D. Longley (Robert J. Randisi writing under a pseudonym). I’ll probably read a science fiction next.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes. When I was eleven or twelve the teacher caught me reading a comic book and took it away from me. She handed me a hardback novel from the school library, Doctor Hudson’s Secret Journal by Lloyd C. Douglas; a sequel to his Magnificent Obsession. I was fascinated by the story of this local doctor telling about episodic stories of the neighbourhood families. It was like our own little neighbourhood. I was so enthused with reading the novel that a friend of the family saw me with the book, and the next day brought me a box classic literature: Tom Sawyer, Heidi, White Fang, Call of The Wild, and many others. I devoured them all and was fascinated with reading stories. It began a lifetime of reading.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Funny movies, sad movies, probably dog stories.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I wish I could have followed Jesus.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I’m a book collector, and have many thousands of books in my personal library.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
We turned off our TV almost eleven years ago, and just read now. Well, I do have a large collection of black & white movies and Saturday Matinee serials, which I never tire of watching. I have 100 old serials, some of the best.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
This is an easy one. Favorite food: potato salad; Favoritecolor: red; Favorite music 1950s Rock ‘N’ Roll – or Rockabilly.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Read. I will have a book in my hand when I die (LOL).
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Talking with the Lord.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Review Blog: http://pulplair.blogspot.com