Monday, 26 June 2017

Blog Tour: The A to Z of Everything | Debbie Johnson

Hey folks, today I am super excited to be part of the blog tour for the wonderful new book by the super lovely Debbie Johnson. I am so lucky to have a very entertaining interview here with the ady herself. Make yourself a brew, get comfy and enjoy. 
Hello Debbie, thank you so much for agreeing to an interview, I am pleased to welcome you to my website. How are you?

Thanks for having me Daniel. Feeling slightly scared right now – there’s a huge water balloon fight gearing up in my garden!

So tell me a little bit about yourself, where are you from and what do you write?

I’m originally from the Midlands, but have lived in Liverpool for over 25 years – which is scary, as I don’t ever think I’m older than 19...mainly I write women’s fiction, but have also dabbled with fantasy and crime as well. I really enjoy reading all different kinds of books, which spilled over into my career as a writer. Ideally I’d probably have lived in a different era, where writers had 17 different pen-names and wrote everything from Westerns to romances! No matter what genre though, for me all books are about characters – no matter how good the plot is, if you don’t care about the characters, there’s no point.

What can you tell me about your typical writing day and what your process is?

I’m not very good at doing typical. I can get very easily distracted, to the point where I have started to see Netflix as a manifestation of pure evil. But what I try to do is work solidly between school runs. I have three kids; one is technically a grown-up, one is in high school, and one is in primary school, so it’s all pretty busy. I attempt to buckle down and write between about 9.30 and 2.30, when there is nobody around asking me where the remote controls are or asking me for money or fighting with each other. Sometimes that works, sometimes I just watch a lot of Grey’s Anatomy and then panic-write until 2am...

Do you have a special writing space/room?

Ha ha ha ha ha! You can take that as a no. The whole house is full of people and dogs. I’m lucky if I get a spot on the sofa.

Any necessary supplies / coping strategies when you’re writing? Wine? Cake? Music?

I will occasionally do a playlist that fits the book, but not always. In my fantasy novel, Dark Vision, the lead character was a pop writer and music was very relevant, mentioned a lot in the book, so I did it for that. But mainly I just need to stay focused, or before you know it, the whole day has got away from you. I always try and have a 20 minute break for lunch, where I watch some mindless TV and switch my brain off for a little rest. When you’re ‘in the zone’, it’s easy for your entire thought processes to be dominated by your characters and story, so you need to hit pause on the crazy every now and then!

Can you tell me about your journey to publication? How did that all happen?

Uggh...this is always a swine of a question to answer, as my ‘journey’ was as complicated as getting from Liverpool to Katmandu on public transport. I’ll try and make it shorter: when I was 40 I entered a writing contest and won it. I got an agent. I finished the book (Fear No Evil), and then had about six million rejections. Then I wrote a women’s fiction book (this would eventually become The Birthday That Changed Everything) and had even more rejections. I wrote a fantasy novel (Dark Vision), which actually got published. Hurrah. In the meantime I’d written some romantic comedies, which were then published by HarperImpulse at HarperCollins. A different imprint also published Fear No Evil. Harper Fiction then bought Birthday. So I went from being the Rejection Queen to having what felt like dozens of books out within a short space of since I started, I’ve now had 10 books published, as well as two ghost-written books for Abbey Clancy. Phew. I deserve a lie down!

What is it like to work with the folks over at Harper / Harper Collins?

Really great. My editor Charlotte is brilliant – a lovely person, fab to work with, wonderful to go the pub with! There’s a really nice community of authors there, and obviously it’s a huge company, which presents all kinds of opportunities. I also really value their flexible approach to me doing more books than a usual person does, and allowing me to focus on both paperback and e-book.

What do your family and loved ones think of your success?

Well, my kids are quite blasé about it now. It’s just what mum does. We were in the British Library in London recently and I was having kittens of joy because I saw The A-Z of Everything in the book shop, and they were, like ‘yeah, there a café? Can I get an ice cream?’ As a family, we’re very down to earth and sarcastic. Actually, anyone listening to us would think we hate each other – the banter levels are extreme. So I’d actually be shocked if any one of them ever seriously said they were proud of me etc – I’d probably call an ambulance in fact. But I know they are, and that’s what matters! They also know that when they’re especially amusing, they might get into my Magic Notebook – a little pad I use to record the acidic gems of abuse that get cast around in our house, that often end up in one of my books...that’s why I like writing teenaged characters so much. My whole life is an inspiration!

So what do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’m so boring – I like reading! Or watching TV. Walking my dogs. Spending time with the kids. Going to quiz nights with my pals. I also spend a lot of time doing Fantasy Holiday Planning – this is where I go into great detail about some luxury holiday that I’ll never be able to afford, and almost feel like I’ve been there by the time I’m current favourites are Canada and the Galapagos Islands. In reality we’re more likely to be staying in the UK, as we live in a permanent state of I’m Skint.

So what’s next for Debbie Johnson, what are you working on right now?

Well, as you can tell, I’ve had a weirdly shaped career so far. I’ve done women’s fiction/romance types of books for a while, and then The A-Z of Everything, which isn’t a romance but is about deeply held forms of love and family life. Currently I’m working on the next installment of the Comfort Food Cafe series, which is about the way that our friends can become our family, along with some romance, some funnies, and some lovely cake. After that I have a new idea for a big, sweeping, full-on romance that will probably make people cry buckets...and there’s a new crime idea bubbling away in there as well. My brain is a busy place.

What other writers do you love or have influenced you in some way?

Loads! My all-time writing idol – in terms of who I wouldn’t mind following in the footsteps of – is probably Nora Roberts. I love her suspense books, her romance, her Eve Dallas mysteries as JD Robb. She makes writing seem effortless, and has also never been boxed into one genre – I love that about her. I read a lot of crime fiction, love a good dystopian young adult book, and devour fantasy and good-quality paranormal romance as well. So, I love John Connolly, James Lee Burke, Robert Crais, Mick Herron, David Eddings, Charlaine Harris, Darynda Jones, and so many more. I especially like certain ‘lady sleuth’ stories, from writers like Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton.

Any particular highlights in your writing career so far?

In all honesty it’s all a bit of a rollercoaster. You have so many dreams and hopes for each book – sometimes they fall flat, sometimes they exceed your expectations. I’ve never had what you’d call a ‘typical’ career. Getting emails from readers or reading reviews where I’ve obviously touched their lives (this has happened a lot with The A-Z of Everything and also the Comfort Food Café books) is a huge, huge privilege. And of course winning awards is never shoddy!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Debbie, as always you are a star.

Thanks for having me sweetie! See you soon.

Buy the book here:

About Debbie:

I was born and raised in a small city in the Midlands, where they produced excellent pies, pottery, and people with a perverse sense of humour.

After studying Modern History and Lager at Oxford, I moved to Liverpool, where I've  lived for most of my adult life. I worked for the local newspaper, the Liverpool Echo, for 13 years as a reporter, feature writer and columnist. 
I left the paper in 2005 to go freelance, and since then I've contributed to many newspapers, magazines and websites. I also produces hopefully interesting copy for a range of hopefully interesting clients. 
In 2010, I entered the Harry Bowling Prize for new writing, for the first chapter of a great idea I had for a book. Journalists are like that: we always have 'a great idea for a book', but get too easily distracted by bright shiny objects, trips to the pub, and repeats of Black Books on the telly to do anything about it.
Amazingly, I won the contest. I genuinely didn't expect to, and had practiced my 'gracious loser' face in advance. Slightly tiddly on pink champagne, in front of a room full of authors, agents and publishers, I stood on the stage and thanked Daniel Craig for just existing. I stand by that comment.
To cut a long story very short, I am now the published author of eight books - including the award-winning Pippa's Cornish Dream, romantic comedy best-sellers The Birthday That Changed Everything, Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe, Cold Feet at Christmas and Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper. You can find them all on Amazon/other online retailers/book stores should you feel so inclined!
In between writing, thinking about writing, and coming up with creative ways to avoid writing, I also enjoy spending time with my human and canine family. We're currently at three kids and two dogs, and hoping to stop there.