Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Interview with Jennifer-Crystal Johnson, FIBERS


First, I’d like to say thank you to Two Ends of the Pen for taking the time to interview me and allowing me to share some of my thoughts with you and your readers today. I know there’s a lot of work that goes into some of these posts, so I just want to let you know that I appreciate your time and effort as well as the excellent questions you’ve asked!


Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
Yes, Fibers is part of a series called The Infiltration Trilogy. This series is about a woman named Anna Reynolds who develops a disease commonly known as Morgellons disease. This is a real illness without a cure, which was what fascinated me and got my mind going with ideas. I thought that maybe, even if I used it in a fictitious setting, my books could potentially help raise awareness about the condition.

As Anna’s disease progresses, other strange things begin happening to her as well. She has dreams and waking hallucinations of shadow people, one of whom has glowing red eyes. This makes her a bit paranoid, especially as she learns more about some strange things going on with her doctor. She feels like she’s being watched and this further feeds her fear and paranoia about her condition.

Eventually she learns about a secret organization that works with the government called the BQS (Bureau of Quantum Sciences), and things get stranger from there =).

Fibers introduces the concepts and ideas behind the series, and the second book, Numbers, will delve deeper into what’s happening between our dimension and a parallel dimension as well as more about how the technology used actually works. I won’t lie – I’m excited to get to work on this second book in-depth!

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish your book(s)?
I’ve been self-publishing since 2010, but in 2005 I had my first book published, a novella called The Outside Girl: Perception is Reality. Unfortunately, in my search for an agent and publisher back then, the only organizations I found who actually got back to me ended up being on the Writer Beware list... I didn’t know about that list at the time, though.

Once I learned that and after realizing I was only getting $0.95 a copy on a short book they priced at $16.95, I figured I could learn how to publish myself and make the whole thing more profitable in the long run as well as not having to be under contract and dependent on someone else.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t be open to working with a traditional publisher eventually; however, if I’m going to have to do all the marketing work myself anyway, then why bother? I like to be able to observe how book sales are doing and what marketing tactics work when, and you usually can’t keep such a close eye on sales when you’re with a traditional publisher. Maybe I’m just a control freak about it, lol.

If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
I actually did the cover myself, and it was an awesome process! I do have some design training from college as well as knowing how to work with Photoshop, so I do book cover designs for clients, too.

The cool thing about this book cover is that I was telling a couple of my friends about the idea for the book and one scene in particular, which everyone got all excited about. I’ve known Dan since we worked together as pizza delivery drivers when I was 19, and I’ve known Malinda for just about as long because we used to hang out at Denny’s at night and go driving around randomly because it was fun. Nothing like a drive to nowhere at 3:00 AM, right? I used to get very restless; still do sometimes =). But I think that’s from being an Army brat, lol.

So Dan, Malinda, and I all brainstormed about how we could get this cover art done and make it seem real. Malinda is a very talented artist, and she has training in doing special effects makeup. Dan is a photographer, so he brought his equipment and lights to my house and set up a backdrop right in my living room =).

And who was the model for the cover? My oldest daughter, Guenevere, who has the most beautiful, big eyes. She’s always looked older, and believe it or not, she’s only about 11 in the picture on the cover, but it totally works and I love it.

I also ended up putting a great deal of thought into the font, which I found on dafont.com. It’s unique and sci-fi-looking enough without being illegible, so it was perfect.

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
It’s not a critique group, per se, but I do have two friends whom I talk to when I need to brainstorm or get the creative juices flowing. These same friends usually volunteer to be my beta readers, too, and go through the book thoroughly while leaving comments with their thoughts in the margins. This generally happens after I’ve revised a number of times already, but before I do my final 2-3 revisions and then my final edit.

I think that they have definitely helped me improve my writing. In fact, without one specific person, I may never have even finished the book. Writing is a lonely profession, and sometimes we forget that we need encouragement and critiques that are actually constructive to be at our absolute best.

What is your writing process? Do you listen to music or do you like silence?
My writing process is still in development, lol. I will say that I learned that I need to create at least a basic outline to know where the story is going so that I can make sure everything makes sense and streamline the process. Though writing with the idea just in my head turned out okay by the end of Fibers, it would have been much faster if I’d created an outline, so I plan to do that for this next book, which is why I’ve only jotted down a few notes and one short scene. I’d like to continue focusing on marketing for now and I’ll probably get back to writing this summer.

Music is a must! Not only does it help me focus, but it also keeps me in a happy mood, so I listen to music all the time no matter what I’m working on. Without music – like if I forget for a few days or something – my mood tends to crash and I lose motivation. Music is ear food... I absolutely need it =).

What have you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey?
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been self-publishing since 2010. Because I had a knack for it and love learning new things, I began helping other people publish within a very short amount of time. Although I can go back now and see flaws and errors in my first few books, I feel like I’ve streamlined the process and can now effectively show other people how to self-publish. Or, if learning isn’t a desired option, people can hire me for services =).

I have some publishing packages as well as a portfolio on my author site, but I’m working on transitioning that information to www.NoBullSelfPublishing.com, where you can already find free video tutorials for some of the basic tasks involved in self-publishing. This project is also a work in progress, but I’m hoping to be able to help self-publishing authors bring quality work into the world.

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
Fibers is the first book that I’ve actually created a marketing plan for, and I’m in the middle of it right now. In fact, your blog is a part of it =). My blog tours are the cornerstone of my marketing plan, so I scheduled three: a one-day book blast, a two-week standard tour with posts every weekday, and a 16-week extended tour with posts once a week. During the second week of the standard tour, I scheduled two Twitter promotions, a Countdown Deal for the Kindle edition, a Facebook boosted post, a Facebook marketer, and a Twitter ad for the second half of the week.

There are also Facebook events for multiple authors that I like to participate in, and I plan to do that once a month until August when the extended tour ends. I also want to supplement that with monthly Twitter and Facebook sponsored posts so that my novel gets as much exposure as possible. I also submitted my novel to the ReadingDeals book reviewer tool, which guarantees 10-15 unbiased reviews.

It’s stressful and kind of chaotic and not guaranteed to work, but at least I’ll be able to say I did everything I could to promote my novel. I’m also planning to pitch the trilogy to movie and TV producers sometime this summer so that I can hopefully get movie rights optioned.

I’m gathering all of this information and my resources together into a short eBook that I’m working on and hope to publish later this year. It’s called The No Bull Guide to Self-Promotion for Independent Authors and will be available on the Kindle and through the No Bull Self-Publishing website.

Oh! And as an aside, I entered the book into a contest. At this point I couldn’t afford to invest a whole lot more money, but I figured it would be important to try because even if I’m only a finalist, it will boost my credibility as an author.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
For self-publishing, it’s important to make sure your book is edited and formatted well. They always say that authors shouldn’t edit themselves, which is a rule I broke, but I make a living editing other people’s work, so I made the decision to just go with feedback from beta readers and trust my spelling and grammar skills. My major concern wasn’t about spelling and grammar, but rather about plot holes and character development, which is why I asked people for feedback to make sure.

If you can edit yourself, then I definitely recommend handing the manuscript to at least 2-5 people for critique... and don’t expect everyone to give you feedback. Sometimes people agree to something like that but then they don’t get around to it, so you have to be prepared for that. These people should also be highly creative and involved in the literary world somehow, that way they know at least the basics of writing a good story.

The presentation of the book is extremely important, though. Little to no spelling and grammar mistakes, pretty formatting for print and eBook, a cover that looks high quality and stands out, and if it’s a series, all of the covers should have a similar style and the same font for brand recognition. It also helps in a series to have titles that sound similar (think Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant), which is why the titles of my books in this series are Fibers, Numbers, and Embers. I also have an idea for a prequel, which will be called Ashes but will come out after the trilogy is finished.

Last but not least, don’t expect your book to sell itself. That doesn’t happen anymore unless you’re already famous, so be prepared to do a lot of marketing and advertising long-term. The more people see your book, the more people are likely to buy it... people generally have to see something 7-10 times before they buy, and even then only about 10% of people will buy. I know, those numbers don’t sound too great, but that’s just the way it is when everyone is bombarded with ads and promotions and products on a constant basis.

Those are some of the basics... hopefully this info helps someone =).

Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
Music =). I learned to play the keyboard/piano when I was eight years old and spent a number of years composing music and thinking I would be a rock star, lol. I do plan to get back into music more regularly, but for now I’m focusing on my writing career and various other projects. Recording equipment tends to be pricey, so I need to make good money with something before I can comfortably set up a home studio and learn how to produce, mix, and master the music. In the meantime, I do karaoke and play the piano sporadically, but something I spent that much time doing as a child and teen is not easily forgotten. Who knows, maybe I’ll release a CD in the next few years ;).

What’s next for you?
Well, obviously finishing the trilogy is a top priority. However, there’s another series I have an idea for that will be geared more toward a YA audience. Still sci-fi, but the characters will be in their mid to late teens. I’m not going to go into it too much because it’s not even close to being worked on, but I’m super excited about bringing this idea to life because it’s a very interesting concept and the idea came to me in a dream, which is where I get a number of my ideas. Aside from that, I’m also going to continue to make tutorials and help other authors self-publish, work with certain clients on their books, and continue with my other projects such as the Soul Vomit anthology (www.SoulVomit.com) to help raise awareness about domestic violence (and, shameless plug... submissions are open if you have a DV story to share!).

Thank you so much for having me! I hope that you go and grab a copy of Fibers, but if you’re not sure and would like to read some excerpts first, please head over to www.JenniferCrystalJohnson.com and sign up for my author newsletter. You’ll receive 12 excerpts from my book to either read or watch me read to you, depending on what you prefer =).

I hope you have a wonderful week!


 BLURB:

Anna Reynolds is caught up in the middle of a secret interdimensional government agreement... and she doesn't even know it.

There's a medical anomaly loosely dubbed Morgellons disease afflicting a number of people. Symptoms include open sores that produce colorful string-like fibers, fatigue, and nightmarish visions of shadowy figures. No one knows where it came from. No one knows what causes it. There is no cure.

When Anna begins having nightmares and waking hallucinations of the shadow people, her uneasiness about her condition grows. Enlisting the help of her doctor and some friends, Anna is determined to find out what's really going on and why Morgellons is such a mystery.

With her health declining and doubts about whom she can trust, is Anna doomed to become a slave to her condition? Or will she and her unlikely group of would-be heroes come through, saving her... and, ultimately, the world?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jennifer-Crystal Johnson is originally from Germany, but was raised an Army brat. She has published one novella under her former last name, The Outside Girl: Perception is Reality (Publish America, 2005 - out of print as of 2013), a poetry book, Napkin Poetry (Broken Publications, 2010), and a collection of poetry, art, and prose called Strangers with Familiar Faces (Broken Publications, 2011). She's also published a collection of short creature horror stories called If You're Human Don't Open the Door (Broken Publications, 2012), a personal development book called The Ten Pillars of a Happy Relationship (Broken Publications, 2014), and a collection of more horror stories (no creatures this time, just people) called Our Capacity for Evil (Broken Publications, 2015).

She has several poems and short stories published on Every Writer's Resource and has recently published a science fiction novel called Fibers, the first book in the Infiltration Trilogy. Jen owns and operates Broken Publications (www.BrokenPublications.com) and publishes an annual anthology to raise awareness about domestic violence called Soul Vomit (www.SoulVomit.com).

When she isn't writing or editing, she enjoys playing games with her three kids, watching crime shows on Netflix, or reading. She lives in WA State with her three children, three cats, and a crazy puppy named Thor. You can connect with her at:

Video excerpts – watch the author read!
https://youtu.be/mddV9eGtdIU

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