Today, I have with me the amazing and wonderful Johanna Riley. I am fortunate enough to have Johanna in my critique group, Cactus Rose Critters, when we dissect our writing. It’s a fantastic group of women who have made my writing better.
So help me in welcoming Johanna to XtraOrdinary Romance. Welcome Jo!
At what age did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think I knew at the age of 8 that I wanted to be a writer. In elementary school I created quite a few stories for my teachers, and always got great reviews from them. Of course that fed the ego. Then in junior high I kept a notebook of short stories starring my friends—still have that notebook, but the stories will remain hidden from the public eye.
What has been your biggest influence on becoming a writer?
My father encouraged me to follow my dreams. He always told me that if there was something I wanted to do, something I dream, I should do it. Until the week of his death, he was my biggest cheerleader, asking about my writing, brainstorming with me.
How did you feel when you got your first publishing contract?
When I got the “call”—email really—with my first contract offer I broke into tears. I had only submitted the story because I believed my dad’s spirit was pushing me to do so. He was telling me to get off my butt and put myself out there. So yeah, I cried, then I screamed and jumped around the house like a goober.
How many novellas/novels have you published to date? When did you have your first sale?
To date I have six stories published. The first sale came in early September of 2006.
Tell me about your latest release.
My latest release is Kiss Me By Moonlight. And here is the blurb: Lindsey Carter thought she’d found her Prince Charming in Brandon Thompson. When he pulls a vanishing act after their first date, her prince becomes a frog. However, Fate steps in. At a weekend conference, she gets a second chance to find out if Brandon’s a shining knight or a real croaker. Will playing hard to get earn her a victory in love, or will she be left seeing green?
What was your inspiration for this book?
Kiss Me By Moonlight was inspired by a dream of a man’s eyes and a soda machine. Seriously.
How do you categorize yourself: pantser or plotter?
I’m a definite pantser. Plotting scares me.
How do you handle the editing/revision process?
Tied to a chair, kicking and screaming. No, seriously, I take them one line, one comment at a time. I have yet to have an editor make changes/suggestions that I feel would hurt the story. My editors have been fabulous to work with, and they constantly teach me something.
You’re received some fantastic reviews...how do you feel about them and why?
I am always terrified when I get reviews. I’m not one of those writers who think everything I produce is the best story out there. Even though I do have some that I absolutely love. But when a complete stranger reads my work, no matter how many stories I have published, I am nervous to see how they perceive the story. When the reviews are good, I breathe a sigh of relief, grin like an idiot and get back to writing. In all the reviews I’ve had, there have been maybe two that weren’t stellar, but the most negative thing said was that the story was too short. If that’s the worst I hear about my stories, then I’m a happy camper.
Did anything odd happen while you were researching this story?
Not this particular story. But the story previous to this (Fearless Heart) was written as a result of me falling off a horse and suffering a concussion.
How much of yourself can we find in one of these books? Do you ever make yourself a character?
The more stories I write, the more I find myself putting my weird humor in the story. I can only imagine how interesting that will make my thriller/suspense stories when I start writing them.
If you could take the place with one character in your books, who would it be and why?
Hmm, that’s a great question. You know, I think it would be Kate in Christmas Angel. First, I relate to losing a father you are close to. Second, Zach is sexy and loveable. And, third, hello, you get your own angel!
Now, if you had a choice of taking the place of any character in any book you have ever read, who would it be and why?
That’s a tough question. I used to love the Nancy Drew books growing up. She had the hot boyfriend and got to fight crime. Watch out, Nancy Drew, I’m moving in on Ned.
What has been your all time favorite question from a reader?
My favorite question and the biggest compliment was from someone who read my very first published story, It’s In His Kiss. They asked where they could get their own Tyler because they fell in love with him. Tyler was a great hero to write, and to have a reader like him as much as I do was a thrill.
What is the biggest piece of your advice you can give a beginning writer?
My advice is to write the book first. Worry about the rules once the first draft is done. Too many rules can stunt the creative flow. Commence with the rotten vegetable tossing now.
What writers groups do you belong to? Critique groups?
I belong to the Las Vegas Romance Writers (RWA Chapter), the Cactus Rose Critters critique group, and the Princesses of the Pen critique group.
Do your characters take over the story?
ABSOLUTELY! For example, I am writing a contemporary (what I thought would be category) story about an heiress who only just found out she was an heiress. Well, she was a bit stodgy at first, and she was supposed to have an equally stodgy attorney. Well, the attorney decided he didn’t want to be stodgy, he wanted to be a cross dresser with a larger than life personality. I’ve got to keep a very close eye on Frankie, otherwise he’ll take over not only this story but every other story in the three book series. And Becca’s brother, the prince who was plotted to be serious, a bit controlled, turned out to be a bit of a smartass who’s just as interfering as Frankie. But, without those wonderful characters my writing wouldn’t be half as much fun to write.
Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
http://www.thewildrosepress.com/ (as Johanna Riley and Johanna Melaragno)
Johanna’s Bio: I met my very own romance novel hero at the tender age of sixteen. Joe sat in front of my in Geometry class and it was love at first sight...poor guy. We married in 1998, and have been through our share of trials and celebrations, and I wouldn't have it any other way. My critique partners are greatful for Joe because he hides my chainsaw, and any other sharp objects I might try to play with.
Thanks for taking part in my 2 for Thursday promotion, Johanna. I had a wonderful time learning more about you!