Interview with Bryan Johnson author of Yield

This week, I am happy to interview Bryan Johnson the author of the new novel, Yield Book 1 in the Armageddia Series.

1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

My journey as a writer started out first as a reader. I loved exploring the science fiction worlds of Tolkien, Brian Jacques, and David Eddings growing up. I was always amazed by the feeling that a good book series could give you. I remember as I finished up one of Eddings’s five-part story lines in high school, having this almost overwhelming feeling of disappointment that it was over. I didn’t want the characters that I had been through so much with to leave my mind. Great writers make us feel like we truly know the characters, and can bring them to life in a way that is so real and personal. We feel their fears. Laugh at their triumphs. Cry at their pain. I started writing in high school at first to continue some of those incredible stories that I just didn’t want to end. I moved on to graphic novels, toying with the idea of being a comic book illustrator, then on to screenplays and finally my debut novel, Yield.

2. Do you have any writing quirks, odd routines or superstitions?

Listening to loud music when I write is probably my oddest work quirk. For some reason, the steady electronic beats of trance music help flip a switch in my brain. No vocals. Just instrumental music of varying paces and tones. There’s just something in electronica music that blocks out the world and allows me to focus. Dark symphonic music and movie themes also help evoke different moods and channel my thoughts in various directions. It’s amazing how music can actually inspire different things.

3. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I lead a very scattered and chaotic life. I’m a moonlight writer with a busy day job, and have regional marketing responsibilities for a statewide television group. I spend a lot of time on the road in addition to working 50+ hours a week. I write when I can, while also balancing time with my wife and kids when I’m at home. I was actually still writing Yield while finishing up a very challenging MBA program, too. I don’t know how I juggled everything, but somehow you just find a way when you’re passionate about it.

4. Where do you get inspiration for your books?

For Yield, it was a singular experience. I was on a plane from San Francisco to Bend, and the fog was so thick over the bay that it blotted out the sky. As we took off above the cloud bank, everything just disappeared beneath me. Mankind and all our worries seemed to fade into the grey. I wondered what would happen if the world changed at that very moment. What if the life I knew didn’t exist when I landed? What if my world died somewhere under those clouds?

That one flight started my entire thought process, and even turned into one of my favorite scenes in Yield. As our main character, disgraced firefighter Devin Bane, takes off on the way to an interview, everything he knows changes while he’s in the air. Devin crashes headfirst into a chaos he doesn’t understand, fighting not only to get back to his wife and kids, but also to protect the other survivors now looking to him for a leadership he wants no part of.

5. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Yield?

I think the biggest surprise for me was the process after all the writing was done. Becoming an author isn’t simply putting together a compelling story with a unique hook, then watching the floodgates of success open wide. Becoming a published author with tangible numbers is far more difficult than writing the story itself. There are a lot of other very talented writers out there, all competing with one another to reach prospective readers. New writers must be well versed in social media, able to network and build connections, be willing to invest their own time and resources, maintain engaging presences on a host of different platforms, and always be looking for ways to market themselves and their brand to new customers. I have an MBA in marketing, so thankfully I have a bit of experience in that arena. But trying to build credibility and a following takes time. New writers start at ground zero, regardless of how great you think your book might be. Don’t get discouraged, but don’t underestimate that either.

6. What is your favorite book?

Picking a single book is really hard. I’m a big fan of multi-book story arcs like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Eddings’s Belgariad. I also just finished reading the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, and was really impressed by the author. She did an amazing job of interweaving her world’s backstory into the broader narrative, and creating an intense pace through the entire three-book series. I think I read each book in about a day. They were just too good to be put down. I love books like that.

7. What do you think makes a good story?

I think people gravitate towards the stories they can relate to on some level. It can still be a fantastical plot, but if the writing paints the world with realism, it becomes a much more engaging adventure for the reader. I also like characters that are flawed, as we all are to varying degrees. They can become much more believable and memorable with each idiosyncrasy.

8. Do you have any advice for new writers?

It sounds obvious, but make sure your writing is polished and professional. Edit it until your fingers bleed and you’re positive that it just couldn’t possibly be improved. Then . . . edit it again. I know it sounds painful, but to be taken seriously and to have a chance inside this competitive industry, the work has to stand its ground against an army of financially-backed juggernauts with legions of professional editors in tow. In order for a publisher or agent to take a chance on you, the material can’t just center around a good idea. It has to be well executed cover to cover. Tighten it up. Make sure it is as perfect and captivating as you can make it. Then read it again.

Thanks Bryan!

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