I would like to introduce Author Nancy Johnson, the winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion
Her Last Letter is my first published novel, though not my first novel. I wrote two novels previous to publishing this one. It is a romantic-suspense mystery, and the setting is Glenwood Springs, Colorado, near Aspen. In the story, Gwyn, an artist and photographer, finds a letter written by her youngest sister Kelly, murdered two years before. Kelly writes that she was having an affair with her sister’s boyfriend, and is scared for her life. Gwyn and her remaining sister Linda have since married their boyfriends. Gwyn hires a private detective to find out the truth, stirring up old secrets and new danger…. After trying for many years to get traditionally published, I decided to form my own publishing company, and published Her Last Letter. I wanted the years I’d spent writing and hoping to come to something, to at last see my words in print, and to hold my book in my hands. My daughter is a graphic designer and my son-in-law works in the printing industry, so I knew together we could make it happen. I was determined to get my book in front of readers. Finally, I did!
Were there any scenes in the book you found more challenging to write than others?
I would say the ending gave me the most problem. The original ending to my novel did not end up in the book. It just didn’t seem exciting enough to me. It wasn’t bad, just not quite good enough. I put the book away for a while, and one day a better idea finally emerged and I rewrote the ending. The love scenes were difficult too, trying to make them romantic without being too graphic. Of course, I knew I couldn’t please everyone, only myself.
What is the most surprising thing you learned in writing your story?
I did a lot of research while writing Her Last Letter. One of the things I learned while researching the location for the book, Glenwood Springs, was the probable origin of the Teddy Bear, named after former president Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt. According to local Glenwood historians, the first Teddy Bear came to be as a result of a hunting expedition in Glenwood Springs that didn’t go well for the president.
Is there a message in your story you want readers to grasp?
I didn’t intend to write a message, just what I hoped would be an entertaining story. Looking back though, I think one message in the book would be that no matter how much you love someone you can’t change them, or save them. They have to do that for themselves. My character Gwyn blamed herself for not seeing her sister Kelly as she truly was, and not being able to do more for her.
How long did it take you to write, Her Last Letter?
The first draft took me about 5-6 months, fast for me. But then I rewrote the novel, changing it from the 3rd person to the 1st person, based on the advice of a professional editor. I also added and deleted sections, including completely reworking the ending. I would say I put at least a year and half into the project.
What is your next book project?
I’ve been writing a sequel to Her Last Letter on the advice of my agent. It is close to completion, though again I am struggling to give it the best ending I can manage. I do have something in mind. I’m just hoping it will work as well as I think it will. I also plan to rewrite my very first novel and get that out in the not-too-distant future. I’ll, of course, revise it as needed. I did rewrite the second of my previously written novels. It is out as an e-book and titled, Twice Cursed. It is more Stephen King-ish. (I was reading a lot of Stephen King and Dean Koontz back then. And of course, I still enjoy their books!) I wrote Twice Cursed for readers who enjoy both romantic suspense and horror.
What books have most influenced your life?
It would be difficult to pinpoint one or two books. One of the first books I remember reading as a child was Charlotte’s Web. I cried reading that one, and viewed spiders differently from that day on. I also enjoyed the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. Jane Eyre was a favorite novel, along with The Haunting of Hill House, and Gone with the Wind. I also read many books by Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and George Orwell. I love Ira Levin too, and especially enjoyed his A Kiss Before Dying, along with Rosemary’s Baby, Stepford Wives, The Boys from Brazil, and his other works. I enjoy reading and rereading Sue Grafton and Mary Higgins Clark. Lately I’ve been reading more self-published novels, and I am more than impressed at the quality and entertainment value of each one. My Kindle is jam-packed! Each and every book I’ve read over my lifetime has taught me something, and influenced how I live my life.
What is your favorite quote?
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
I would say to enjoy the process, and write what you love! Of course, writing is hard work, so you won’t always love it, and some days you really won’t love it! I would get some basic training, take writing classes, read books on the subject, and just read a lot in general. Reading itself teaches you so much! Rejoice that today we have so many options, so many ways to reach readers, and to publish our books. I envy those just starting out. I wasted countless years trying to gain the attention of big publishers. I came closer than most, found a great agent early on, but still didn’t get that elusive first contract. So much of it is luck. Do your best, but whichever way you choose to go, enjoy the journey!
Thank you so much for this blog interview!
Author Bio & Links:
Nancy is a resident of Michigan, and has been writing for many years. She is married and has one daughter, Angie, a graphic designer who helped her to publish her debut novel, Her Last Letter. (Angie also designed the beautiful cover!) The book became a top-hundred bestseller as an e-book on Amazon, and eventually a New York Times and USA Today bestseller.
Link to Nancy’s website
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Nancy Johnson who is the author of Her Last Letter, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Her Last Letter merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.
Thank you Nancy & IndieBRAG for this wonderful interview!