Interview with N.K. Johel

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a small mill town on Vancouver Island, surrounded by majestic mountains and trees. My family lived on a 'hobby farm' and there was always chores to do around the place year round, from gardening, chopping and stacking firewood, milking cows, feeding chickens, etc. But there was always time to hear or tell a story while working.

What I remember most about our school was the visual arts classes, music and writing classes, which were enjoyable. I spent evenings after homework watching early television and Hollywood movies, reading, or listening to our mom tell bedtime stories, which included fables, spiritual and religious stories from India.

On Sundays, my siblings and I often created and performed plays for our parents. There was a lot of time for quiet and solitude, and I spent many hours in my bedroom reading, drawing, writing poetry, even trying my hand at songwriting. It in the sixth grade that I discovered that I was good at, and enjoyed, the fine arts, and wanted to pursue those interests in its many forms.
Who are your favorite authors?
Right off the bat, I love modern literary writers such as Michael Ondaatje, Toni Morrison, Arundhuti Roy, and Kiran Desai.Their approach to writing is organic and rich. I don't know who said it, but I know it's true for me, I could live on one of Morrison's sentences for a week.

Out of the classics I was greatly influenced by Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and his way of weaving many many characters into one book. I began reading literature because my husband studied English Literature. The first book he gave to me to read was "Portrait of a Lady" by Henry James.

From the fantasy and science fiction genre, I list Robert Heinlein, Piers Anthondy (Xanth series), Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, and JK Rowlings Harry Potter series as favorites as well.
What do you read for pleasure?
I enjoy reading a variety of genres from literature, dark comedy, fantasy to spiritual genres. When I am in full reading mode, I have up to five books going simultaneously. In early 2007, I was reading "Women Who Run With Wolves" by Clarissa Pinkola, "The God of Small Things" by Arundhuti Roy, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" by J.K. Rowlings, "Saturday" by Ian Mckeown and "Pray Like Hell - How to talk to God" by Maxine Outlaw.

I used to read on the bus during my commute to work mostly, or on the weekends while I was writing the first draft of Bollywood Storm. However, since I've been editing, I haven't enjoyed reading because my mind is analytical mode. As I am coming to the end of the editing process, I'm finally beginning to read again and am able to enjoy the magic of language and the relaxation reading brings.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story that I ever read that had an impact on me was Black Beauty.

I was captured by the character of Beauty, which of course, as we all know, is a horse, and admired his temperament and noble personality. The story had many elements that appealed to me, but it was also a very difficult book for me because of the abuse of the horses depicted in the era in which the book was written. The story transcended in that we, as humans, can relate to the main characters and experience the horrors Beauty and other horses endured. Even though it was a story that caused me to feel a range of disturbing emotions, I re-read it many times.

I think through Beauty, I learned about enduring, maintaining faith and character through difficult times. However, it was through the compassion and generosity of someone outside of Beauty that saved him, and not through any decision and action of his own. In that way, expecting to be saved by a kind stranger is futile, but being that kind stranger is something to aspire to, when we can.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I remember writing was in the sixth grade. It was about an absent minded professor who'd made a breakthrough discovery that would cure Multiple Sclerosis, (Aids or Cancer had yet to be huge on the public radar), but because he lived in such chaos, he couldn't remember where he put the discovery. His wife, who, in my mind, looked like Mrs. Claus, would patiently help him find everything he lost. Because it was so long ago, I don't remember if they ever found the research papers. Cliff hanger...
What's the story behind your latest book?
Bollywood Storm, an Elanna Forsythe George Mystery was my 2006 NaNoWriMo project. It was a good way to get some distance from the novel I had been writing, called "Ki Meela", which hasn't been published yet. Three weeks prior to November, we went to visit a friend of mine who had become a Bollywood aficionado. On the way home from the visit, my husband and I came up with an idea. By the time we got home, we had a main character, her Indian side kick, and the victim, a licentious Bollywood director.

With three weeks to prepare, I worked to develop these characters, and on November 1st, I sat down with only a germ of an idea of how the plot might go. After I finished the first 500 words, I realized what a daunting task I had ahead of me. I decided I would just have to keep going and see what came up. Thankfully, one by one, the character showed up and told their story, and I interacted with them.
What is your writing process?
What helped me in my writing process during NaNoWriMo, was my training at art school, particularly from my drawing and mark making class. I allow myself to go with the flow and write whatever comes to me. My characters show up and I begin to interact with them, mostly following them around and writing down what they do and say. I finished my quota of 50,000 words, but realized that the story wasn't finished, and after a short break, completed the full final draft the following September.

In the editing process, I took my first draft to a writers group where we examined character development, plot and other elements of each author's books. It was becoming clear that I had two parts to my story and eventually we decided to make it into a two book series. Although the second draft was completed in 2010, because Bollywood Storm has many themes and elements woven throughout the story, it still took another four years before I felt that the book was ready for the final editing and publishing process.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Before I began writing in 2005, I was mainly a visual artist. Every now and again, I like to explore and experiment with whatever tools are at my disposal and what inspires me. I am an abstract artist and, like my writing, like to just start with a line and see where it all goes. When I'm not writing or working, I am cooking, cleaning, taking care of the day to day business of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I like to go out for long walks and sometimes get to the gym for some cardio and strength building. I also enjoy meditation and find the best time to do that, for me, is during my commute on transit to and from work.
What are you working on next?
I'll be working on the manuscript I began before the Bollywood Storm series. "Ki Meela" is focused on the lives of two South Asian women living in a mill town in the Pacific Northwest. The story is told in relation to the present past and future and spans over the 60's, 70's and 80's. It is too early to say how it will all come together, but it will be interesting to go back and immerse myself into the stories. with "Ki Meela" it's also hard to say if it will be just book, or if parts of it will become other books. This is something I have been mulling over. This story, to me, is engaging, dramatic and very close to my heart.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
What motivated me most was the time that it took to try and find an agent or a publisher. Out of the sixty or so query letters and packages I sent out, only one agent responded and told me that they were actively looking at it. Two weeks later, however, she said that it was interesting, but perhaps not suited to their shelf and that her fiction section was full at the time. It was encouraging, but it still left me the daunting task of finding another agent.

In 2009, a member of our writer's group said that she was starting a Indie-publishing company. Indie-publishing was just becoming a publicly accepted and viable way to go. She offered to take on my book and publish it through Smashwords, but in the end, she had other life commitments, and gave up the venture. I decided to try it for myself and uploaded a copy on Smashwords myself, but felt that I needed more time with it.

Along the way, I had offers of help to edit, or publish, but these alliances did not come into fruition, either because of their personal circumstances, or in the initial stages, the ideas of the indie-publisher did not fit the vision of my novel.

Finally, in 2014, my husband and I decided to create EFG Publishing and just go for it. As an independent publisher, we feel it is important to put out good fiction and to support a writer and their vision of their work, if it is, indeed, a work of fiction that shows the kind of integrity and craft and storytelling that is expected from good quality literature.
Published 2015-10-26.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Bollywood Storm Book II: Mumbai
Series: Bollywood Storm. Price: $7.49 USD. Words: 91,030. Language: English. Published: August 4, 2015 by EFG Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Humor & comedy » Satire
Bollywood Storm is a lyrical, mystical murder mystery, set in Bollywood-style. With a dash of Kill Bill thrown in, this novel will not disappoint those readers expecting action; it’s also a meditation on self, identity, ego, intimacy, sensuality, spirituality, privilege and loss; and it’s got five song and dance numbers in it, too. The story unfolds in two Books, spanning two continents
Bollywood Storm Book I: New York
Series: Bollywood Storm. Price: $7.49 USD. Words: 87,380. Language: English. Published: April 27, 2015 by EFG Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Literature » Literary
Bollywood Storm is a lyrical, mystical murder mystery, set in Bollywood-style. With a dash of Kill Bill thrown in, this novel will not disappoint those readers expecting action; it’s also a meditation on self, identity, ego, intimacy, sensuality, spirituality, privilege and loss; and it’s got five song and dance numbers in it, too. The story unfolds in two Books, spanning two continents