I absolutely loved Johnny Worthen’s Eleanor, a fantastic take on shapeshifting (see my review here). So I’m completely thrilled to be part of the Eleanor blog tour!
Below is an interview with Johnny Worthen, plus a giveaway of TWO copes of Eleanor: a signed copy, and a signed ARC!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing? Do you have a day job?
I was born and grew up in Utah. I earned a B.A. in English, minor in Classics and a Master’s in American Studies from the University of Utah. I’ve had many careers, and jobs, owned businesses and traveled extensively. I’ve lived in Europe for a time and about a decade in the Northwest. I’m back in Utah now, back in the dirt I was raised in.
I consider myself a full time author. It takes most my time. I do some things here and there, write for other people, speak and help out, but writing is my job.
In six words, what is ELEANOR about?
Eleanor is not what she appears.
Have you written anything else?
I’m working on my eleventh novel now. Of my previous ten, five have been picked up for publication. My debut is BEATRYSEL is an adult occult thriller and came out last fall. A companion piece, DR. STUART’S HEART came out last month. I have a story called THE POINT appearing in an anthology called in an anthology called LITTLE VISIBLE DELIGHT.
ELEANOR will begin my Unseen Young Adult Series with a different publisher, Jolly Fish Press. ELEANOR is a standalone book but there are two books that follow it that carry on the story: CELESTE and DAVID respectively. My final currently sold book is called THE FINGER TRAP, it a contemporary adult comedy/mystery introducing a slacking sarcastic everyman detective named Tony Flaner.
Where can we buy/see ELEANOR and/or your other works?
Amazon is the easiest place find my stuff.
Where did you get the idea for ELEANOR? How did you come up with the title?
I was thinking about what the ultimate outsider would be like, someone vulnerable and afraid, lonely, and needing to be unnoticed for her own safety. Then I took the idea of hiding in plain sight to a extreme. Years ago, I ran across a Navajo legend in Tony Hillermans’ novel, SKINWALKERS and it stayed with me. I used that a springboard for my imagination of the story and thus ELEANOR was born.
From the beginning, I knew my main character would be a girl, a lost daughter, poor and noble. I love the name Eleanor. It is to me an old name, out of fashion and so suggested age. Also too a name of quiet strength. A name for a shy but extraordinary girl. Usually the working title for my books are the names of the main character and in this case there was no changing it. It is her story. She had to be there. The story is Eleanor. Originally I intended to call the series Eleanor, but as the story evolved and the trilogy took shape, we went with THE UNSEEN for the series name and ELEANOR, the standalone, is the first book.
How long did it take between having the idea and publication?
About two years, give or take a lifetime.
How much of the book is based on people you know and/or things you’ve experienced?
There are people I know throughout the books, places I’ve visited, experiences I’ve had. None are directly from my life but everything is a distilled version of it. Eleanor has become to my mind the daughter I never had. I modeled her much after my niece who was so shy when I first met her.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Keeping Eleanor and David apart. They’re both such strong and loving characters. I felt bad keeping them apart as long as I did, but of course I had to. Eleanor understands.
What part or scene was the most fun to write?
The first kiss between Eleanor and David was such a wonderful moment for me. I was so happy for them both.
If you had to do it over again, what (if anything) would you change about this book?
I might change my paragraph structure a bit. I don’t mind long paragraphs; it’s how I was trained. Today, there’s a push for more white space on the page, more frequent paragraph breaks, even in paragraphs that don’t necessarily need one. This is done to make the page more attractive to modern readers. It’s a different style and some say it can help sales. I’d like people to read my book, love Eleanor as I do, so I might have changed that to help her along.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I’ve always written. As soon as I could write, I loved it. I think best on paper. I decided to make it my entire life only three years ago. Before that it was always a hobby, a love and an obsession. It’s still all that, but now also it’s a job.
What is the hardest thing about writing? What is the easiest?
The hardest part is pretending someone after me will want to read what I write. There’s no guarantee it’ll be read, let alone appreciated or liked.
The easiest part happens sometimes when the story is so alive that I’m not writing but taking dictation. Sometimes when I get stuck where to go next, I put some characters in a room and they talk it out and decide for me. I love that.
How much research do you do?
Depends on the project. Several month is not uncommon. I’m in the third year of research for an Historical novel I’m mulling over. ELEANOR is a character piece so the research wasn’t so bad, a couple of months during the pre-writing phase. I did however take my family on a vacation through Wyoming to see the lonely western towns far from freeways where Eleanor is hiding.
Do you work from an outline or just write and see where the story takes you?
A bit of both. I have to know where I”m going. I always have a few way points – plot points, scenes and such, that I’m working toward. I always know the climax before I write a word. I then move between the points, letting the story unfold and adjusting course if I need to.
Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
There are days I just don’t feel like writing. It’s a discipline thing. When you approach it as a job, you just do it. Sometimes I have to write three thousand words to get five hundred I’ll keep. That’s writer’s block for me, wasted effort.
Who designed your cover, and how was it created?
Jolly Fish Press handled that. I was terrified. I knew from my contract that I had no say in it. Jolly Fish Press has a reputation for awesome titles, so I wasn’t too worried. Not too much, but still some. When I saw it however, I cheered. Wonderful I say. I haven’t met the model, but I want to.
How do you market your books? How much time do you devote to marketing?
Social media and networking is my main marketing tool. I do a lot of conventions and writer’s workshops. I try to give back. I’m no expert, but I’ve been there and can act as a scout for those coming up behind me. The online stuff and such takes a lot of time. A couple of hours each day. Lots.
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
I’m a publicist’s nightmare: I’m a multi-genre author. I wish I could focus on one type of fiction and so develop a reputation and a following for that, but I’m all over the place. I write adult horror and YA coming of age stories. I write comedy, mystery, political thrillers, short stories and shopping lists. “I write what I want to read.” My palate is broad and so is my writing.
What do you think of “trailers” for books? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your book?
I did a long blog project looking into them. If I may, could I direct you there?
That’s part five, but it has all the links for the other parts.
My conclusion is that they’re like a book signing – another form of promotion, probably not cost or time effective but still good to have in the hopes it’ll pay dividends later, provided it’s done well and not too dearly.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
No. People don’t value things that are free. I don’t like giving them away for this reason. I still do it though. However, I try to find people who’re genuinely interested in reading it and draw from them a promise that they will, in fact read it and then review it – Amazon, Goodreeds, Blog etc. You might say it’s not free then, but it’s not like I follow them home and check on them.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Elmore Leonard. I love his style. He’s so cool and clean. Crisp and dialog to die for.
What is your favorite book and why?
THE ROAD, by Cormac McCarthy. The story and the language are so stark. Being a father of sons, the story resonates with me particularly well. It’s powerful. I read it once a year to remind myself of what writing can do.
Is there any particular book or author who made an impact on your life?
They all have, but Jacques Derrida’s work in Deconstruction changed the way I see the world profoundly and permanently. He’s the reason why many of my books are called “upmarket” ie “literary.” I’ve been trained in literary criticism.
Do you prefer ebooks or hard copies?
Hard copies over ebooks. I don’t have a kindle. I read on my phone and my computer if I have them and it’s kind of a pain. I love audiobooks. It makes waiting for the kids time well spent.
What book(s) are you reading right now?
I’m re-reading Elmore Leonard’s CAT CHASER to get in the mood for a project I’m working on.
What are you currently writing?
The working title is HOLLAND, the name of the main character.
Can you tell us about it, and do you know when it will be released?
Elmore Leonard died last year and HOLLAND is my tribute to him. I should have the rough draft done by July. After that, I gotta edit and convince my current publishers to take it, or shop it around. If I’m lucky, I might appear as soon as Fall 2015. If I’m unlucky, it’ll be longer.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Get on with it. Memento mori.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
You DO NOT need an agent to get published. Look to small presses.
Is there anything else you want to say to your readers?
You can find me at the following places on the net. Let’s hook up.
Thanks, Johnny, for being willing to chat about your books and writing!
Seriously, enter this giveaway. Eleanor is worth a read.