Meet Writer Christine Elizabeth Johnson

Christine Elizabeth Johnson achieved a goal few romance writers have: she double finaled in the Romance Writers of America® 2008 Golden Heart®. Her medieval Secrets of the Blackwood was a finalist in Novel with Strong Romantic Elements; The Lightkeeper’s Wife claimed a finalist spot in Historical.

Books are an integral part of Christine’s life. She began devouring them as a child. After reading everything of interest in the children’s corner of her hometown library, she dared to check out a Mary Stewart novel from the adult section and fell in love with romance.

Literary novels and textbooks took precedence during Christine’s college years when she earned a Bachelor’s in English and a Masters in Library Science. These days she’s surrounded by books at home and in the library. She loves the smell of a new book when it’s first opened and hopes one day to experience that delightful sensation with her own work.

Christine lives in northern Michigan with her husband—a Great Lakes ship pilot—and a very spoiled cat. She loves the area and its rich history and set one of her books there. When she’s not writing, she enjoys quilting, hiking and exploring new sights and places.

Join me as we learn more about Christine and her writing journey.

Christine Elizabeth Johnson

The Journey Begins

•You’ve devoured countless books over the years. When did your love of reading a great story grow into the dream of writing one?

First of all, thank you for inviting me to Romance Writers on the Journey!  I’ve read some fabulous journeys here and am honored to join them with my own humble tale.

I like to tell people my growing-up years were a lot like living in Mayberry from The Andy Griffith Show. My hometown was tiny. Everyone knew each other, and the public library was headed by a wonderful white-haired lady who didn’t mind that I checked books out of the boys’ section (yep, there was gender separation) and adult section as well as the girls’ section.

By the sixth grade, I’d started writing down stories. I’m sure it began earlier, but that year sticks in my mind because that was when I decided to write a novel. I was a “pantser” in those days, writing the story on every scrap of paper I could hide inside a textbook during class. I remember collecting a shoebox full of scraps, but that was it. I never took that story further.

In high school I wrote short stories and continued that on into college. Though the dream of writing a novel still lurked in the background, the task of actually finishing one seemed insurmountable for a great many years.


•What was your first book about? How did you come up with the idea for it? Did you let others read it, or is it hidden in a dark corner never to see the light of day?

I made a number of aborted attempts at “the great American” novel through the years but never finished any of them. One day I decided to write something fun, something I’d like to read, just so I could convince myself I could actually finish a book. Naturally I wrote a historical romance, filled with outrageous adventure in exotic Spain and India. I had tons of fun writing it, and that experience taught me I could actually complete a book.

Since the family and friends who read my story said they loved it (it’s still my husband’s favorite), I sent it out on submission to a few publishers and agents. Of course it came back, and my optimism was crushed. Now I understand why they rejected it and marvel at how kindly those industry professionals worded the rejection letters, but back then, the rejection was hard to take.


Valleys

•Ouch! Rejection hurts. You were brave to send your “firstborn” into the world, Christine. How did you work through the discouragement and doubts? What gave you the courage and determination to return to your writing?

I didn’t cope very well, I’m afraid. I gave up writing fiction for quite a while, about ten years, and was absolutely miserable until I figured out I had to write. It didn’t matter if I ever sold the stories. If one reader loved the story, it was worth writing. I still remind myself of that.

Publication is a business, but storytelling is about touching someone’s life, and that life may be as close as your friend or neighbor. Who knows? Faith has also played a key role. I believe God gave us the talent, and it’s our responsibility to use it.


•Self-doubt plagues most writers at some point. How do you deal with rejection these days? What motivates you when you receive another pass letter?

What happens in the publishing world is beyond my control, though I have developed some coping mechanisms:

•Chocolate. I celebrate each rejection with one square of dark chocolate.  By the time it’s melted, I have to let go of the disappointment and move on. I’m almost ashamed to admit that during lull submission times, I miss those rejection letters.

•I’ve been blessed with wonderfully supportive critique partners and beta readers who’ve pulled me out of quite a few pity parties. Many people can point to a specific turning point in their careers. For me it was the death of a dear friend from ovarian cancer. After her diagnosis, she lived each day to the fullest, learning, doing, and encouraging others. I realized “someday” had to be “today.” Each day is a gift. Use it well.

•List the good stuff. I keep a list of the encouraging comments I’ve received on contest entries and rejection letters and post it above my desk. When the doubts creep in, I read those comments and get an instant boost.


Peaks

•When you began writing again, you’d learned a great deal. Your stories began to final in contests. And they placed. How did you feel when you learned of your first placement? How many awards have you added to your collection since then?

A first contest placement is one of those huge moments in a writer’s life. I literally screamed when I read the email. And then jumped up and down. And then blathered on and on while my bewildered husband attempted to make sense of what had happened. The poor guy probably thought I’d sold a book considering all the fuss I was making.

Contests offer such encouragement and high points in the midst of all the toil and rejection. Celebrate every positive and discard the negatives!


•Congratulations, again, on your double Golden Heart final, Christine. That’s quite a gem in your writer’s tiara. Since you finaled in two separate categories, you received two calls from RWA®. When did the first come, and how did you react? The phone rang a second time. What was your response to that news?

Wow, I wish I had a “call” story, but the truth is, I was in Florida at the time, and the phone calls went to my Michigan phone number. I thought the contest had the Florida number, so I was totally bummed that I didn’t get a call – again – and went to bed pretty depressed.

The next morning I checked my email, and discovered that Secrets of the Blackwood had finaled. I’m so thankful the wonderful lady making the phone calls decided to email me when she couldn’t reach me by phone.

I just about fell off my chair. I’m pretty sure I screamed (again), bringing my husband running. He probably thought I’d had a heart attack. I told him the news, which he only half understood because I was pretty unintelligible, and then I contacted my critique partners.

Before I’d come down from the excitement of finaling, one of my critique partners emailed that I was a double-finalist. Thank heavens she had the wits to check the RWA website. I never thought to check there or my answering machine back home. LOL! I think there’s a lesson in here about patience and thoroughness. In any case, I wouldn’t change a thing, because the drawn-out way it happened extended the magic for hours.


The Journey Continues

•How many manuscripts have you completed? Are any out on submission? What are you working on now? And what are your plans for the near future?

I have completed five manuscripts, and two are out on submission. I’m currently working on two historicals. One is near completion, and the other is in the beginning stages. Believe me, those two books will keep me busy in 2009.


I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Christine. And now I’m turning the tables. What question do you have for your visitors?

In addition to that positive statements list, I like to collect inspirational quotes to help get through the tough times. I love “Never give up. Never surrender” from Galaxy Quest, and I’ve recently added “The brick walls give us a chance to show how badly we want something” (Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture).

I’d love to hear what quote inspires you or what special thing you do to get past the low points. We can never have enough support.

Most of all, thank you for visiting today and keep writing!

Learn More About Christine

Visit her Web site: www.christineelizabethjohnson.com

Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win!

I’ll choose a winner from those who leave a comment for Christine on 3/19 or 20 (and include an email address when prompted, which I don’t share), and will post the winner’s name 3/21.

Anna Kathryn is the winner. She had her choice of one of three metal bookmarks from Hallmark with words of motivation . . .

Imagine . . . dream . .  reach . . . believe . . . achieve

Imagine . . . dream . . reach . . . believe . . . achieve

Miracles begin within.

Miracles begin within.

She believed she could, so she did. - Suzanne Berry

She believed she could, so she did. - Suzanne Berry


You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!

If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and March 31. Make sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.

On April 1, Keli will choose one person who will have her choice of five covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.

(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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36 Responses to Meet Writer Christine Elizabeth Johnson

  1. Kit says:

    Hi Keli! Hi Christine! Great interview…love seeing the GH finalists here.

    Some writer, it might have been Nora, said it’s much easier to revise a written page than to fill up a blank one. It’s not inspirational but it definitely helps me to keep going when I want to get in a certain word count per day.

  2. Christine Johnson says:

    Hi Jenna, you go girl! Thanks for taking time out of your insanely busy schedule to stop by. Jenna’s one of my fabulous critique partners who keeps me on my toes and rarin’ to dive into the next revision. Woohoo! Thanks for sharing the Star Wars quote. I’ll shamelessly admit I’m a Trekkie and Star Wars fan, so I can really appreciate Yoda’s teachings, even if I don’t always follow them. Ahem, procrastination anyone?

  3. Christine Johnson says:

    Hi Kit! I know exactly what that author means (and I think it is Nora Roberts). Plus, it’s soooo much easier to turn off the internal editor if you tell yourself you’re just getting something down and can fix it later. Thanks for reminding me of that kernel of wisdom.

  4. Keli Gwyn says:

    Procrastination? You betcha. I mastered in that in college. I would have joined Procrastinator’s Anonymous, but I never quite got around to it. 🙂

    It’s so fun to read all the great sayings, isn’t it, Christine? I’m glad you asked your visitors to share theirs. I’m going to copy some of them to pull out on those days when the story’s not flowing the way I’d like or I get the inevitable pass notices.

  5. Christine Johnson says:

    I’ve enjoyed all the quotes too. My collection has grown quite a bit today. Thank you everyone, and thank you, Keli, for having me at Romance Writers on the Journey.

    I’m an early bird and on Eastern time, so I’ll be tucking in to bed soon. Those of you who get to stay up later or live farther west – please keep those posts coming. I’ll get back to you in the morning. I’m not procrastinating – really. 🙂

    Many happy, story-filled dreams.

  6. Jessica says:

    What a sweet story. And to double final? That’s AWESOME! Congratulations. 🙂

    Like you, I keep really good comments or score sheets in a special folder. Then, if I’m down I’ll take a peek and feel better. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story. I hope you get The Call, twice. 🙂

  7. Christine Johnson says:

    Hi Jessica! Thanks for stopping by. Kudos to you for keeping a comments folder. It’s so important to our productivity to keep our attitude on track.

  8. Keli Gwyn says:

    Christine, I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest and getting to know more about you and your writing.

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by. It was great to see so many Pixies pals and Golden Network gals.

    I’ve held the drawing, and the winner is Anna Kathryn. Congratulations, Anna! I’ll be in touch.

  9. Theresa says:

    Hi Keli! Hi Christine!

    It seems I’m always late coming here these days! But I always get here eventually! Love reading about all of my pixie friends! Christine, it was especially nice meeting you in San Fran. You looked SO gorgeous on the big night! I, too, love motivational quotes. JUST DO IT! is a simple one to go by! But one of my favorites is part of a quote by Marianne Williamson:

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

    Thanks for sharing your story, Christine! I hope all of your wildest publishing dreams come true!

  10. Christine Johnson says:

    Hi Theresa! It’s great to see a fellow pixie anytime. What fun it was meeting you in SF and sharing the big night. You looked fabulous also! Thanks for sharing your quote. Boy do I know that fear of success feeling. What a great reminder to step into the light.

  11. Christine Johnson says:

    Keli,
    Thank you for having me. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many fellow writers who are walking the journey too. Thank you to everyone who shared a favorite quotation or thought. What great support you’ve offered each other this week just by sharing! I wish you all a wondrous journey filled with glorious peaks and recuperative valleys.
    God bless,
    Christine

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