Talking Story

coverJohnny Worthen recently released his newest novel, The Brand Demand. An eclectic writer whose work spans many genres and ages,  The Brand Demand is an adult eco-political thriller set in Utah and published by Cherokee McGhee. It’s available as a trade paperback and eBook.

In celebration of his fourth novel, Johnny’s dropping by his old blog tour haunts and sharing his thoughts.

Some authors take the time to plot the entire story and create extensive character backgrounds before they write, others sit down and wing it. What’s your writing process like and how do you balance planning with spur of the moment creativity?

Allow me to ramble: Every book is different, but I’m getting something of a system now that tells me that too much pre-writing will take the energy out of the work, if not the fun. My prewriting process usually consists of pages of notes, character lists with minimum descriptions and waypoints. A waypoint is a place I want to get to. They’re like plot points, but more general. I think of them as scenes I want to have, not just for the plot but for the theme. Theme is huge. It’s the biggest pre-writing concern I have. I need to know what the book is going to be about before I can write a thing. Waypoints are how I’ll to navigate the theme to get to the end that may or may not be plot dependent. “Galen meets with Carson,”  “compare rich and powerful vs. invisible and powerful.” “Galen confesses to Bonnie. “Ideology softens” “Show the city in winter.” This kind of thing.

My original idea for THE BRAND DEMAND came from a vision of the ending. I saw the climactic moment in my mind and felt goosebumps. I then worked backward from that, inventing the characters that would get that ending, developing the theme to justify and explain it. I developed waypoints and outlined – only outlined – the characters. I then let their voices come out and gently guided the action to the end.

Many authors say they write because they cannot not write. If you couldn’t tell stories with words, what artistic medium would you choose?

I’m a modeler. That’s the archaic hobby of glueing plastic together and painting little men and spaceships. It’s a lonely outlet, but an art and I really enjoy it. It is however ridiculously frivolous and the finished models pile up with no place to display them. Sometimes you can build game pieces and theoretically have a use for them, but truth is I’m the only person I know who does this and games are few and far between. One day, maybe, I’ll get back to my collection and lose myself in little men and spaceships again.

Successful authors are more than writers; they are public speakers, educators, marketers, and business owners. As you’ve grown in your career which things have surprised you? Which aspects of being an author delight you and which horrify you?

 I’m not sure what makes a successful author. There are no rules. We all just make it all up as we go along. It’s so much a matter of luck that if one were to think logically before embarking on this career they’d never do it. The odds are frightening, – horrifying, to use your word. Rejection is constant and unrelenting. You never get used to it. I thought I would, but I haven’t. They don’t sting as much as they used to, but they still bite.

The delights are when even against these odds, something gets through. Better still is the wonder that people read your work. And beyond belief is when they get it and appreciate it. It’s a drug I can only liken to the experience of finishing a book in the first place. It’s wonderful.

With such stiff competition and long odds, you’d think that writers would be a mean and bitter bunch, but they’re not. I’ve met so many wonderful people doing this. Helpful, encouraging, nice people who, like me, labor under the idea that the best way – the only way, to achieve one’s dreams is by helping other people achieve theirs. There’s a solidarity and friendship among the authors I’ve come to know. Of course there are few outliers who don’t get it, but I’ve been surprised at how warm the community generally is – so welcoming and supportive. It’s been a wonderful discovery of friends in arms.

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