Interview with Terry Lynn Johnson

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk. SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!

Today's guest is Terry Lynn Johnson, published author of DOGSLED DREAMS (2011). In her newest title, ICE DOGS, a 15-year old dogsled racer loses her way on a routine daytime outing with her dogs; with food gone and temperatures dropping, her survival and that of her dogs and the mysterious boy she meets in the woods, is up to her. ICE DOGS will be available Winter 2013 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.


Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I'm somewhere in between. I plan, then everything goes for a crap when I start to write.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

My first draft is normally complete after a hectic four or five weeks. Not sure if that's called a novel though, more like a big pile of goob.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

One is enough!

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

I have one half finished that I may get back to. I've discovered that if I don't stay on the writing wave the first draft, if I take a break, I have a hard time getting back to it. Could be because I have the attention span of a pea.

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?

The most awesome Caryn Wiseman of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency picked my query for ICE DOGS out of the slush pile. I was signed with her within three weeks of sending my query. We've never even met. That means if I can do it, anyone can.

How long did you query before landing your agent?

I queried a few agents with an early draft of my manuscript, and received some great advice on how to revise. I'm so glad that happened, because then I sent the newly revised manuscript to Caryn!

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

I'm not convinced you need to stress over the query. It's the first pages that the agent reads, if they like it, they'll go back to the query. You have to catch their interest in the first pages!

How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?

My book was face out in my local Chapters bookstore and I almost had a meltdown right there. I was pointing it out to complete strangers and taking pictures with my cell phone. So embarrassing!

How much input do you have on cover art?

I did have some on a technical error with regards to the sled. But other than that, not much.

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

That the writer is usually the last to know what is going on. I still don't know what is going on. What is going on???

How much of your own marketing do you?

I have a blog, am on Twitter, and have my own website.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

If you're a writer, I think you should have some kind of presence out there. A website is free. It's easy to join Twitter, and fun. And you can learn so much from other writers.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

I don't think it hurts, unless you're a complete dork