November Author Series

We are very excited to announce our second author interview this month! Again, this is someone erica met through ABNA and has enjoyed ever since (er, their work, that is). We asked the same questions of this brave soul as we asked the last one (click here if you missed it). Our questions are in blue, her answers are in black. This time we're talking to. . .

**cue drumroll** 

Hart Johnson! aka Alyse Carlson! aka The Watery Tart!

1. Tell us about your book/s. I've really been immersed in two of them. One is the Cozy Mystery for my contract with Berkeley Prime Crime (BPC). It is a Garden-themed story with an MC who is the public relations representative for the Roanoke Garden Society in Roanoke, Virginia. I don't actually garden and have only been to Virginia once, but BPC had a theme they wanted and it was that which I auditioned for, so there you have it. The characters really spoke to me though. My first degree was journalism so both the MCs Public Relations, and her boyfriend's newspaper backgrounds are very familiar to me, plus, anyone who has read it recognizes that the MC's best friend Annie channels me directly.

I had a great time writing this—cozy mystery is more playful than the other genres I write, and mystery has more formula to it... a checklist to work from, so it is easier to not veer off course, at least for a digressionist like me.

The other book—LEGACY (cover designed by my friend, Joris Ammerlaan)—I just finished the middle round of edits for—needs a few new sections written and a few strands of plot woven in, but what needs to be done is all on paper now. Once I get those in, I will polish it again. I will run it by my agent for the Cozy (she is a project specific agent right now, but I like her, so I'd love to convince her to take me on more broadly), and if she doesn't think it's her thing, I will give it a go with the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for 2011. It is about a trio of siblings left alone when their mother is abducted and their father is murdered, and a runaway who ends up joining forces with them to find the missing mother. The plot immerses them in a ring of art thieves and espionage, and the children find out their lives were intertwined long before they met... Or that is the scoop until I polish my hook, anyway... (can I tell you how badly I hate writing hooks?) (erica says yes, tell us anything)

2. What's the best thing about writing? I like the puzzle solving... pulling things together that don't GO together into a coherent plot. The writing itself is sort of release, and I'm not sure I think so much of the mechanics of it—it just is something I sort of feel compelled to do, but I adore that puzzle part.

3. What's the worst thing about writing? How do you deal with it and keep writing? Querying would be the REAL worst... but any summarizing... I worked in advertising once upon a time and I HATE HATE HATE the idea of taking my fabulous, complex plot and putting it in a soundbite. I feel like a sellout. Every. Time. (plus, I'm not all that great at it)--but besides that, I prefer READING complicated books that can't go in a soundbite, so I certainly don't want mine to... yet they are supposed to, in this short-attention-span society we live in.

4. What's your favorite food/recipe? Please pair it with a complimentary (or your favorite) wine/beer/beverage. Okay, I'm going backward here... because I can. I love a lot of foods, but if I am pairing, I am going to pick my favorite beverage and then choose a food that really goes with it fantastically. I LOVE a really hoppy beer—an India Pale Ale or a red, medium-bodied bitter (Hammerhead, from McMenamin's in Portland is actually my favorite, somewhat comparable to Arbor Brewing's Red Snapper, where I am... see... a person should ALWAYS drink locally...) WITH THAT, because the hops are strong and bitter, they need a relatively strong taste with them. I would go with a sandwich that had roasted red peppers and goat cheese—the goat cheese is a little salty and sort of sticks on your tongue and the red peppers are a complimentary aromatic—sweet and savory at the same time... Zingermans, locally, has a roasted veggie sandwich that also has roasted asparugus—that seems like a nice third ingredient on that sandwich (nice, toasty sour dough bread).

5. What else do you want our followers to know about you and your journey towards publication? This is hard. I don't keep any secrets, really, so anything anybody wants to know is fairly out there. My greatest strength is persistence, and I think my decision to just be me, in spite of thinking it would pose my biggest obstacle initially (heck, who would take me seriously?) has turned out to be the boon that takes me out of the mass of bloggers a bit. I have no clue whether it will help sell books or not, but being myself and keeping going just seem like a big 'duh' on the 'secrets to my success'--still--who knew it was that simple?

6. What are your future goals as an author? My only SPECIFIC goal is to find a route to supporting myself by writing. The gig like I've got is well and good, and I am THRILLED to have it, but at that rate, I would need to write a book and a half a month to support myself and family (make up for my day job income + insurance and retirement). I need to figure out what works to reach those bigger audiences (hopefully my suspense stuff will get there, or maybe I will master the thriller—though they largely seem to lack character depth, which I love)... I love the writing... I want to write... I would REALLY like to not have to work 12 hour days to GET to write—right now I usually do—9 hours at the day job and 3 between writing and typing (never mind where I fit in the blog stuff).

7. How did you break it to your family/friends/etc. that you wanted to be an author? What did they say? What do they say now?  When they first noticed me writing in the bathtub, I was writing fan fiction, which earned no respect whatsoever (even from my kids). When I started writing my own book, the kids were excited in an 'I don't get it' kind of way, but my husband was sure it was 'the same stuff' –he insisted it STILL had to be 'plagiarism' (never mind that even the fan fiction wasn't plagiarism) and made all sorts of sweeping statements about not liking fantasy (of my seven books, one has a ghost—that is as much fantasy as I EVER have) so... not feeling the support, really... though he was a little better with the chance to audition for the cozy mystery series (not A LOT better, mind you)--he DID buy a bottle of champagne when I GOT it. My mother, I think, doesn't have a lot of hope that there is a living to be made in fiction. (it's possible she's right) She has always encouraged me to write, but would like to see me write magazine articles or something. So yeah... not so much...

8. What is the planning process like for your novels? Do you outline? Do you jot down notes? Do you get naked and do the novel dance beneath a full moon? (note: erica actually got the novel dance idea from reading about Hart's naked writing!!) I think my biggest quirk here, is the idea has to stew a while. I get ideas from dreams, things I see or read, I jot them down... but they have to rattle around in my brain, really for MONTHS for the ingredients that should go together to find each other and the start of a plot begins to solidify. Usually I know the 'set up' and I write a scene or two to get to know the characters, set it aside, then I don't outline so much as TIMELINE. I have the big plot points and put them in order. As I work through a book though, the upcoming details come to me and need to be added, so by the time I reach a given chapter, it is far closer to an outline... I just don't do the whole thing at once.
9. Who is your writing mentor and why? Or, alternatively, who do you emulate?  Mentor, eh? I guess I think of this in a couple ways. I attribute my ability to FINISH a novel to JK Rowling and the Potterverse. Those were the first books I read MULTIPLE times and DISCUSSED with people in such detail that I really got the joy of a PLAN... the foreshadowing and groundlaying for the ending. I had always thought writing should be this organic start... write what comes... thing—and I had always abandoned my stories before the end because I couldn't figure out HOW to end. If you KNOW the end though, writing your way their becomes a completely different kind of task, and one I am up for.

As for real mentors and helpers, I am part of a writer's group, The Burrow, and this group, my favorite people on the planet, has nurtured, supported, beta read, critiqued... they are my core helpers.

10. If you had a pet elephant, what would his/her name be? How do elephants influence your writing style? How does the movie Dumbo make you feel?  *snort * Elephant, eh? I should let you know I live in a shoe box, but if we assume enough space for more than the short-legged dog and the cat we have... I'd call her Olivia. It's among my favorite names anyway, but I also like the juxtaposition of 'olvidar' (Spanish: to forget) and the reputation of an elephant for never forgetting. I'd take her on lots of walks, because it has gotten hard for me to up the ante on just how strange the locals already think I am. (I recently added reading out loud to 'reading+walking+editing+in the dark). An elephant would probably succeed in convincing them I'm not just eccentric, but full-out nuts.

As for the writing, my Thursday Twin has an elephant patronus, so I'm pretty sure elephants were complicit in my invitation to the Burrow, without which, I'd be nowhere.

Dumbo makes me cry... like so bad I can't WATCH to the end. I'm more a llama kind of gal, myself.

Yay! Oops, sorry about the blue, no more questions. But yay for the fun interview. You guys know Hart, right? If not, click here. And don't forget Hart's a NaNo girl, so let's all cheer her on to the finish line!!


  1. I like the plot for the abducted mother and all the kids trying to find her. The story sounds interesting.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  2. ooh nice interview ladies, i love the name olivia too. this writing in the bath thing seems to be gaining some momentum amongst writers, maybe i should try it?

  3. Nancy-I love the story--now to just hammer it into reasonable shape that somebody wants to PUBLISH IT! (it is part of a trilogy, so it would be a dream if it worked--big jump start)

    Joanna-I really advocate anything that allows you to write naked, but yes... the bath is FABULOUS!

  4. Great interview Hart,

    I read your interview with Rach. With her you were more effervescent. Today's interview showed a softer side. I love the premise of your book. I'm sure you'll out it together. You seem to be a lady who gets what she wants. I also love your writing group's name, the "burrow." I also a huge fan of Harry Potter and JK Rowling. She inspired me to write my series. I love her writing for different reasons than most. I love the chemistry between Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I strived for that with my three mc's in my novel.

    I'm going to Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando in a few weeks. I'll give the "gang" your regards. I plan to do many posts on my blog with pics, so please stop by. I'd love to share with you and the other Harry Potter fans out in blogworld.

    erica and christy another great interview. I'm looking forward to the rest this month.


  5. Gideon-Yeah-my writing does change a little with mood and sometimes the nutty thing totally takes over--it did that when I was answering Rachael's questions... not necessarily predictable...

    The Writer's group actually formed from a group of us who met on a Harry Potter fan site, and I love that trio, too, though I think my FAVORITE feature of Rowlings writing is the levels you can read it at. I read them to my kids when they were YOUNG--6 with the older, 5 with the younger--and they got a great STORY (main plot). at tweens we read again and there was the giggle of romantic hints and the empathy for characters... older still are the HINTS at what is to come and the meticulous plotting... but PhDs read these stories and note the mythology (the Veela whose wedding is attacked...) Every time there is something fresh and surprising. I would LOVE to be able to do that.

    And I've been negligent with this:

    Erica and Christy--THANK YOU so much for hosting!

  6. I hesitate to comment here, as I don't want to help you beat my record of 23 responses to MY interview, but it's hard ot resist a woman in a bathtub. Almost as hard as it is for me to resist making bad puns, like "Writing in a tub must be draining!"

  7. An elephant named Olvidar is the best thing ever. And does Wood ever run out of puns?!

    Very cool to read about the cozy process, Hart, not something I could do - follow formulas and rules. I'd be a more saleable writer if I could, so I admire it.

    Thanks E & C for the fun interviews. Am really enjoying. :)

  8. Actually, Mike, the plot is layed bare and the words really flow *shifty*

    Gae--I totally thought I was too much a rebel, but actually it makes the process easier--maybe it is because of my time writing fan fiction where I had all these nice safe parameters. I feel like it's taught me a ton about plotting and pacing. but then, my other stuff is suspense, so it makes sense it could benefit from some mystery structure.

  9. I love the last question about the elephant and taking her for walks. My neighbors also think I'm wacky so this was too funny. I just need to find an elephant now and try to get the kids to clean up after it. I wonder how much of an allowance increase that would have to be. Great interview!!!

  10. Hart, we posted the interview this month so that you could stay off the blogs and work on your NaNo project - guess that didn't work (haha). Thanks for coming back and answering questions - fun!

    Mike, technically, you can't count your own comments, you know. Good work with the puns, both of you!

    Patricia - luckily my ABNA friends are pretty zany, so the elephant question worked for us!

  11. Great interview Erica, Christy and Hart! I love the insightful questions to reveal Hart's favs:
    llamas, bubble baths and good local brew. Love the elephant question~

    Hart, I look forward to your books and seeing your style!

  12. Great interview Hart!

    I was of the same mind about just letting the writing flow and had the same problems of finishing a story. You are right - for me at least - If you have an ending it's much easier to find your way there. That could be why I always start the mazes on the backs of kids menus from the finish side. I always get lost if I start from the beginning.

    I am sending you good vibes for NaNo.

    Erica and Christy - the next fad is to use hyphens instead of (). But that's for TODAY. Maybe tomorrow it'll be... ( - ellipsis... - )

  13. I just read back and realized I totally missed addressing the naked dance! *facepalms* I guess I sort of take the naked part for granted sometimes...

    Patricia-I'm relieved I'm not the only...erm... eccentric around! teehee

    Erica-Oh, I'm at work... I have plenty of time to address blog comments *shifty* Seriously though... it is deep habit... I don't like ignoring commenters.

    Ellie- *hugs* you're so sweet. Thank you!

  14. Hi Erica and Christy and Hart, great interview! I wish you all the best with your writing. Lovely blog you have here. Jen xx

  15. JC-you snuck in there on me while I made those last comments! Thanks for the vibes! I can use them!

    Jen--Thank you so much! back atcha!

  16. JC - you're up on Friday!! And trust me, I love ellipses more than parentheses. Hyphens just confuse me!!!

    Hart - great, great day. thanks so much!!

  17. Nancy, thanks for stopping by today. We're glad you enjoyed Hart's interview!

    Joanna, I've gotten in the tub with every intention to read or write, but sometimes just relaxing is nice, too. (Gosh, it feels weird to blog about being in the tub with strangers. (Well, not actually being IN the tub WITH strangers/people I only know virtually.))

    Michael, Have fun in Orlando!!!!

    Thanks, Gae! We're enjoying them, too. We're lucky to have authors to interview!

    Mike, great puns. And your interview was a huge success. 23 comments is a huge achievement!

    Thanks, Patricia. I stopped by your blog today. You're all set up for your big day tomorrow! Best of luck. I'll be tuning in!

    Nice to meet you Ellen and Jennifer!

    JC, ellipsis used to be my thing. maybe it's all the emails with erica, but now I can't seem to stop parenthesizing every other thing I say!

    THANKS, HART!!!! We had fun having you on our blog! Keep writing!

  18. hehe, how confusing is that, we both commented to our commenters at the same time!!!

  19. *giggles* One of the hazards of dressing the same. If you'd both just get naked we could tell you apart *shifty*

    As for punctuation... my latest favorite is em-dashes...

  20. Somehow, I'm afraid christy would have the advantage there. *sigh*

    And I've given up the em-dashes (mostly). Blame our other ABNA friends, Jeff and Mary (they barely let me use parentheses without a lecture)

  21. ok, Erica and Christy -- this is superb: the pace, the questions, particularly the elephant, and of course Hart's answers. You did her so well!
    Hart, I shall have to take up bathing more often, but then -- as I am a laptop freak -- don't think it would like the water, so I shall continue unbathed. Thanks, too for loads of pointers -- I being the 'organic' wot's-the-ending type -- and are these (--) em-dashes? I learned a lot from you girls~ you see Hart's PERSISTENCE is her virtue. She'll show 'em.

  22. THANKS youngbloodblog! although, the credit all goes to erica. the interview questions were all her! *bows down to erica*

    Hart and erica-um, couldn't even DISCUSS being naked in the tub w/o blushing

    and, the newest fad in puncutation totally seems to be ****** seeing stars over here!

  23. puncutation, punctutation, punctuation...there, i knew if i tried hard enough i could get it right.

  24. Marian-you're fabulous! And I haven't forgotten I owe you a guest blog!

    Christy-release your inner nudist! We were ALL born naked! I figure it's the best state

    *giggles* that's a word that doesn't usually get typed out right for me, either.

  25. Great interview Erica and Christy. Great to see your plans for Naked World Domination are progressing Hart ;)


  26. Thanks, Rach! I missed that you commented here! It was all erica and Hart. :0)


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