Interview with Paula Judith Johnson

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in many cities in California. From Fresno to San Diego, you name it and I probably lived there. One place that remained constant throughout my childhood was a rustic cabin my parents owned in the Bass Lake area. As I recall, that’s about 40 miles from Yosemite. The cabin was rustic as in no electricity, no gas, no plumbing. We dug our own outhouses, jury-rigged running water from 55-gallon barrels we filled from a neighbor’s well (they lived a half miles away), lugged propane tanks for the cook stove and block ice for the refrigerator, when the kerosene ran low we went to bed with the sun and heated the place with the best darned fireplace in the county.

Since we moved around a lot during my childhood, I always considered that little, one room mountain cabin as my “real” home. I believe that helps me to “see” smaller communities in historical setting. When writing contemporary stories, I prefer to situate them in small towns.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
The contrast between big city life and the neighborliness of the small community surrounding that rustic cabin convinced me early on that I wanted to live in a small town.
On Labor Day 1973, I arrived in Clatsop County, Oregon—which boasts a population of about 35,000. Within a short time, I met and married Wayne Brown, my husband of 40+ years. In 1976 we built a starter home in Gearhart—population 397! Gearhart grew. After 29 years, we moved 15 miles north to Hammond, where we’ve lived since 2006. A number of years before relocating, the Powers-That-Be decided autonomy was too difficult, or expensive, or whatever and merged Hammond with the larger city of Warrenton. As of the last census, the two cities have around 5,050 residents. My guess is that Hammond has less than a couple thousand.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
An assignment in 8th grade spawned my interest in writing. Each student had about six weeks to pen a story. I don’t recall how long the story needed to be, but in all our minds it was a BOOK. In long hand, I believe my story filled a spiral binder.
Unconsciously, I followed one rule of good writing—write what you know. The previous summer the rock band formed by my two older brothers had won the “Battle of the Bands” contest at the Orange County, California Strawberry Festival. Their prize was a gig at the statewide Odd Fellows convention. My book entitled The Road to Fame, which sported my drawing of a lonely road through the desert, chronicled their experience. However, the recording contract and platinum album I predicted never came to pass.

After school let out that year, the sister of my heart and I wrote a medieval-type tale pitting the Fab Four against rival band The Dave Clark Five. Both stories have been lost to posterity; however, the memories of them cause me to chuckle.
What motivate you to become a romance writer?
The world in general—and women in particular—needs the soft sweetness of romance and happy endings. Good romance transports us out of the often dull, ho-hum of our everyday lives. It opens our hearts to the “what ifs” on the roads we did not travel. And, with luck, a good romance story revives our spirits with the joy of finding love in our own lives by reminding us of the fine qualities possessed by those we love.
What is your writing process?
By nature, I’m an early riser and find a particular joy in experiencing the dawn of a new day. I usually am out of bed before 5:00 a.m. and devote two hours to the craft before the pressures of the day intrude.

As with all creation, my writing process has evolved over time and continues to develop. It takes a while for an idea to form in my mind and, while that’s happening, I write free form. Often this period is used for character development. I have found deep work in this area, especially on backstory, makes it easier to create a rough outline of the story to be told. However, even with an outline, I still enjoy the occasional surprise of an unplanned plot twist.

Almost without exception, I compose in longhand and then transcribe onto the computer. This slows the mental process which, for me, produces a better flow of words. And yet, I recognize this process is, at time, hindered by my internal editor. So, it’s be if I just put pencil to paper and write without thought to spelling or word refinement and save editing for after transcribing.
What are your favorite books and/or authors?
In the past, my reading was somewhat eclectic and included such greats as Stephen King (I gave him up after Pet Sematary—too creepy!), Tom Clancy (his solo, fiction works only), Deans Koontz (I, also, am a Golden Retriever parent), John Grisham, Lisa Scottoline, and Michael Creighton.

My all-time favorite book is Pride and Prejudice, which is hard to surpass, although, I also like Sense and Sensibility. My love of romance grew through the works of Nora Roberts (and her sidekick, J.D. Robb) and matured with Linda Lael Miller. Other favorites include Susan Wiggs, Linda Howard, and Cecilia Grant, to name a few.
When you are not writing, how do you spend your time?
For the past 20+ years I’ve owned and operated a financial services business. I dedicate at least six hours per day, four days per week to servicing the needs of my clients. Other than that, the usage of time varies with the seasons.
Gardening, both ornamental and edible, occupies a large portion of spring, summer, and early fall. As soon as the garden in put to bed, I shift much of that time to sewing, cooking, and baking. Knitting is reserved for the time spent watching football on TV with my husband.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I’ve just completed SECOND TIME AROUND, the sequel to my first contemporary romance STARTING OVER. I hadn't planned on writing a sequel but numerous requests from my readers convinced me the story needed to continue. Mandy Kearney and Nate Peters were secondary characters in STARTING OVER and SECOND TIME AROUND is their story. Readers will remember from STARTING OVER that Mandy and Nate met under unfavorable conditions. Now they find themselves working closely together on and off the job, much to the aggravation of both. It's a story of two people who know they are so unsuited for each other but who can't resist the other.
Due out February 2015
What are you working on next?
My next novel will be another historical romance. It is situated in Tennessee toward the end of the War of 1812. I anticipate it will be available in late 2016.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The connection I feel with readers who contact me to comment about my books. Stories are the beat of my heart. Readers are my lifeblood. Hearing from them is the breath of life to my writing.
Published 2015-01-11.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Second Time Around
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 98,700. Language: English. Published: February 13, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Contemporary, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
Nathan Peters is enthusiastic about the challenge of his new job—until meeting his attractive counterpart. Mandy Kearney is a firebrand—one he remembers all too well. Mandy Kearney knows Nathan Peters—and wishes she didn’t. Handsomely hot and incredibly insufferable, she overheard him brag that he could seduce her within a week. Just let him try because Mandy’s determined to put him in his place.
Starting Over
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 88,970. Language: English. Published: October 20, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Contemporary, Fiction » Women's fiction » Chick lit
Discarded by her fiancé and fired from her job in fashion design, Britney Thompson feels The Big Apple chewed her up and spit her out. Britney thinks the small tourist town of Seaside, OR is perfect for starting over until she meets Justin Peters, a charismatic attorney like her former fiancé. Women love him and he loves women—lots of women. But can Britney and Justin find a lifetime of love?
Sweetbriar
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 96,550. Language: English. Published: August 4, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Historical, Fiction » Romance » Adult
In the turbulent years before the War of 1812, American Bradley Anderson lusts after beautiful Beth Avery. But Lady Beth, daughter of the 4th Earl of Rockwell, chooses to remain in England and marry a fellow Englishman. While free-spirited Louise Jetter, desires to cast aside the restrictions of her Puritan upbringing, risks all for love as America and England clash in the rising tide of war.