Author Interview {Elana Johnson}

I just finished Elana Johnson’s latest release ELEVATED after an obsessive reading session yesterday. Beginning to end, I was surprised and delighted by how much I enjoyed this book entirely in prose. To be honest, when the format was first announced, I didn’t quite know how to wrap my head around it. A book written in poetry? Like Roses are Red, all rhyming and Dr. Seuss-y? Don’t get me wrong, I love the Seuss, but this was a YA novel with tension and … Horton doesn’t bring it!

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Nevertheless, when I started reading, I was instantly hooked. The poetry of the words – not rhyming, but lyrical, rolling out wave after wave of this story that you just have to know more about. I adored the way the words were placed, the visual poetry of it. I loved Elly’s quirks, her unique personality that is unveiled throughout the story and her triumph in the end. I just enjoyed it so much!

And after starting and stopping several books of late that just…didn’t get me…do you know the feeling? That feeling like you’re only reading to be nice, to not hurt the book’s feelings (don’t laugh), hoping that it will get better, that it will grab you by the neck and yank you in…eventually? Well, this one did and I was so thrilled to be taken for the ride. Elana did a terrific job!

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In light of her fabulousness, I had to see if we could learn just a little bit more, and Elana was more than happy to answer a few questions for ADDICTED:

CH: Your current cover for ELEVATED is gorgeous. Tell us how you brought it together, from an idea, to finding the perfect models, to the picture and then a cover that jumps out at you. 

EJ: Well, when you’re in charge of your own cover, and you’re so close to the book you’ve written, getting a cover you like can be hard! For me, I decided that the cover didn’t need to portray the words inside the book. I have learned something from my covers in the Possession series!

The only thing I needed my cover to say was “YA contemporary.” So that was my focus. I researched other YA contemporary novels. My photographer and cover designer, Erin Summerill, and I sat together, looking at soon-to-be-released YA contemporary novels to get a feel for what they were doing.

Then we tried to do that!

Our models kept bailing on us, so we finally just grabbed a couple of kids from our neighborhood. They did such a fantastic job – because they’re a little awkward, and it’s perfect for ELEVATED.

CH: You have Indie and conventionally published books. How did you get your current agent and will you continue to use the hybrid method of publishing?

EJ: I am embracing the hybrid model, and thankfully, my new agent is on-board with such an idea. I parted ways with my first agent in September, and immediately began submitting two of my finished novels to other agents. At the same time, I started planning the publication and release of ELEVATED, and submitted a fourth novel to small presses.

It took about 6 weeks of hard querying before I got another offer of representation from my current agent. By then, ELEVATED was well into production, and we talked about me doing the self-publishing thing while she submits my other, well-suited-for-traditional-publishing novels to traditional publishers.

This year, I will be published two YA contemporary novels in verse. ELEVATED is the first of those, and I’m aiming to follow it with another title in September. I also hope to have a traditional book deal by then!

CH: How do you balance your many skills: teaching, marketing, family, writing? How do you make time for writing? Is it an everyday habit? 

EJ: Well, family and work come first. I’m a part-time teacher, so that leaves me a few hours to get some things done before the family descends again.

I write whenever I have a spare minute, usually during my 40-minute lunch at school, or while my kids are anxiously engaged in their activities. And then there’s always those hours when everyone else is asleep…

I don’t worry about writing every day anymore. It’s too stressful if I have to do that. If I have the energy and the inclination, I write. Same goes for marketing and social media. 

CH: You have a brand new book out with ELEVATED. What are you working on now?

EJ: I just finished my second novel-in-verse, and I just hired an editor for a third self-published title I want to put out in February 2015. So I opened a book I’d written last year, and started revising it. I got some good feedback from two editors last year, and I’m looking to make this book into something awesome for my agent (who’s already said she’d like to read it when I get the revisions done)!

CH: What are your favorite places to write? 

I like to write on my couch, or in bed, or at the library, or during write night at a friend’s house. I’ve been known to write in the car, or on my phone, or sitting at the kitchen counter. I don’t have a physical office, so my mantra is “Have laptop, will travel to write.”

CH: What is Wattpad and how can it help an author? Why should they use it?

EJ: Wattpad is a site where readers can discover new authors. Anyone can put their writing up on Wattpad, and I think it helps authors by bringing new readership to their work. I think an author should only use Wattpad if they want to and they see value in it, just like any other marketing or social media tool.

CH: With your experience in marketing for yourself and others, what are the top three methods that are MOST effective?

EJ: This is a hard one! I think the biggest thing that is the most effective is a direct email to someone you’ve gotten to know, or helped in some way, or that you’ve connected with beyond just writing.

I think blog tours can be very effective in reaching beyond the pool mentioned above, to reach potential readers that are already loyal to bloggers or other authors.

And the last one is to keep writing!

CH: You taught an amazing class on queries last year at LDStorymakers that I still refer to. Will you be teaching anything this year?

EJ: Thank you! Yes, I will be teaching at Storymakers this year. I’m doing an outlining class with Ali Cross, and also sitting on a critique group panel. In addition to that, I’m speaking in the Cache School district to 7th-9th graders about art and creativity in March, and I’m speaking at a teen science fiction and fantasy workshop at BYU in April.

CH: Tell us about WriteOnCon. What is it? Who should go? What sets it apart from other conferences?

EJ: WriteOnCon is an online writer’s conference. It’s free – and it’s for everyone! We have authors, agents, and editors who write blog posts, record vlogs, and conduct live events, all in the effort to help aspiring writers make connections with each other and in the industry, improve their craft, and move toward publication.

It’s unique because it’s free, and it’s online so it really is available to EVERYONE, anywhere in the world.

 CH: Here at ADDICTED, we’d love to know what you’re addicted to. Is there anything you can’t live without?

EJ: Chocolate cake, key lime pie, bacon, and reality TV. I take all of those in small doses, except for the TV!

Elana, what a pleasure! Thanks for stopping by to answer our questions. I love all the things I learn from authors a little further down the trail and doing great things!

To learn more about Elana, check out her list of great books and keep up with her new releases, head over to her blog, Goodreads, or Amazon.com.  And as always, if you love what you read here, please share it with a friend!

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