Timothy Johnson is the author of the sci-fi/horror novel CARRIER. Nothing frightens him more than the future, so he writes about it in hopes that he is wrong.
He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife Heather and his dog, a pug named Butter. CARRIER is his first novel.
Because I'm not doing anything else.
Tell us about your current or most recent writing project, and what you wish to accomplish with it.
My first novel, Carrier, is releasing November 4. It's a sci-fi/horror story set aboard a space mining vessel that goes into deep space to retrieve an unidentified material for Earth's unified authoritarian government. I like to tell people it's what might happen if George Romero wrote a novel about the Event Horizon visiting LV426, the planet from Aliens. I don't like to tell people it's zombies in space, but that's what people want to hear.
I'm working on various other projects at a slow pace in hopes that they'll get some eyeballs directed toward them in the near future, but as I've already learned, nothing in publishing happens quickly.
In your mind, what is your greatest accomplishment?
Making it to today.
No, seriously. I've lived 11,505 days without incident. That's a pretty great accomplishment if you ask me.
I'm not superstitious, but I'd appreciate it if you went ahead and knocked on wood anyway.
In your mind, what is your biggest failure?
That C in Intro Sociology still bothers me. It was the only C I ever got.
I don't really believe in failures, though. I believe in C's.
Unless, of course, we're talking about leaping the gap between high-rise buildings.
If you could be one fictional character—it can be anyone, modern or classic, movie, book, TV show, legend, myth, or even comics—who would you be, and why?
Luke Skywalker. I can't think of any character who more accurately adheres to the heroic archetype, and he can force push people and has a laser sword.
And because I can't say "Jesus Christ" because then we'd get into a debate over whether he's fictional or not even though there's more evidence that he existed than Julius Caesar. Regardless of where that discussion goes, Jesus is a modern archetype for a savior in Western fiction, and I think everyone who wants to be heroic wants to be Jesus.
In case you missed it, yes, I just predicted J.J. Abrams is going to kill off Luke in the new Star Wars movies.
What is your ideal writing environment, and can/do you attain it, and if so, how?
I'd like to build a study dedicated to writing with bookshelves surrounding me and a view over a city. But I'm afraid that, if I build that (and it would require a very substantial increase in income as well as a significant residence relocation), I'd find that I'd rather just take my laptop to a coffee shop, which is what I typically do now.
What is your primary writing inspiration? It can be anything: people living or dead no matter their occupation, or places, concepts, groups, inanimate objects, etc.
My dog. He sees the world so simply. Everything is so confused in my head. My goal is to understand the world in the way that he does.
You’re stranded on a deserted tropical island full of life-sustaining fish, game, and flora, and don’t know when or even if you’ll ever be rescued. You get to choose three people to be stranded with you, and it can be anyone, whether you know them or not. Who would those three people be, and why?
My wife, my best friend, and Vladamir Putin. Why? I think once you take the world away from him, he'd be interesting company. We could have political debates that he couldn't turtle from, and nothing would be at stake. I just think such a setting would be ideal for settling differences because, really, what matters at that point? Also, he can wrestle the bears into submission.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? in 10?
Sitting on top of 20 novels and stacks of cash and love letters from fans around the world written in languages I can't even read.
Have I mentioned I'm delusional?
You can speak briefly with any one dead person, and ask them one question. Who would that person be, and what would you ask them?
Hitler and why is an obvious choice, but I feel like he'd either spit out nonsense or shrug and give a disappointingly banal response.
I'm more interested in Kurt Cobain and why.
Share one weird dream you had with us, and what you learned, if anything, from it.
My dreams are nonsense, and they teach me nothing. Although, I did wake to sleep paralysis once. That might seem like an oxymoron, but it's a thing, it's terrifying, and odds are you will experience it once in your lifetime.
Basically, you wake up and are fully alert, but the part of your brain that controls your body (think of it like a light switch) is still off. The reason this part of your brain exists is to keep you stationary while you sleep and dream so that you don't, for example, punch your wife in her face while you dream about going toe to toe with Mike Tyson.
I woke one night to find my body paralyzed and a man standing in my bedroom doorway. I tried to rise and tell him to get out, but he just leered as I convulsed and mumbled nonsense, because that's all I was physically capable of doing. A moment later, he swooped in on me like a Dementor from Harry Potter and then vanished.
What did I learn? A lot about sleep paralysis.
What advice do you have to share with other aspiring writers?
Shut up and do it.
In your mind, what is the most rewarding thing about writing?
It's a form of communication. The most rewarding thing is when someone gets that message or when someone arrives at their own ideas you possibly didn't intend. It's a vital mission, I think, for authors and readers to continue sharing these ideas because, I think, it's a way of understanding the world in a way that academia can never teach. There's no curriculum. Every reader has to go on his or her own journey and teach him or herself.
But, if at the end of the day, all I've provided is some kind of escape, that's okay, too.
In your mind, what is the most frustrating thing about writing?
Writing is kind of like sex. I think humans have a physiological need to creatively express themselves on a regular occasion. So the most frustrating thing about writing is not writing. When you can't write, you get frustrated.
Beyond that, the most frustrating thing about writing is writing. It's hard. At least for me it is.
How do you respond to negative criticism, including bad book reviews?
I don't. If someone reads my work and decides they didn't like it, I'm sorry, but I'm glad they read my work. I think the Internet provides a forum for people to get some kind of satisfaction out of being incredibly nasty, but I also think that's a form of passion. Maybe a person who spits vile language onto a page about my work really wanted to like it, and in some way, I think that's a compliment. Maybe next time, Internet troll.
It isn't right. I urge the cheater to tell the other half of the couple and do my best to help them work it out or split amicably if that is what they want. Gender is so often irrelevant.
Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what are your favorite flavors to listen to?
No, I can't. I have a musical mind and have played guitar since I was a kid. When I listen to music, it helps my body focus on tasks, but my mind is completely taken by thinking about how to play the music.
What is the biggest distraction or impediment to your writing, and to completing your writing projects?
The conflict between capitalism and artistic integrity. The need to earn a living by doing something society deems valuable.
Does time and the world around you ever “disappear” when your muse is upon you and you’re “in the writing zone”? If so, describe the feeling.
Ever see the movie Stargate where Kurt Russell and James Spader are whisked away to another world? Yeah, kind of like that.
How often do you edit, and when, and how many rounds of edits?
All the time, and the rounds are incalculable. As I said, writing fiction is a form of communicating ideas. I can't speak for other writers, but I don't think my message is ever as clear as it could be when it's extracted from my brain through my fingertips. There's a couple metaphors that come to mind. It's like I have to dial in a radio through static to find the right frequency, and that applies to every word. Or, it's like sculpting. I often say that it takes words to make words. And what I mean by that is I often have to write something, delete it, write it again, delete it again, etc. until I'm satisfied. That doesn't mean the words I deleted don't count. It's kind of like having this big block of marble to chip away at. Do the carvings on the ground not matter? Of course they do. If they hadn't been there, Michelangelo's David couldn't exist.
(To be clear, I'm not comparing myself to Michelangelo. He was awesome, and I suck. There.)
(The Reality Bender disagrees entirely about Tim sucking, lol. I met Tim at Permutation 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee in September this year, and he's a great guy.)
How do you research prospective literary agents or publishers for representation and publication of your works—i.e., what tools and resources?
I'm not sure I am in a good position to answer this question. In general, though, I think talking to people goes a long way. Certainly read up. Check out websites. Do your homework. But don't hesitate to reach out, and if you don't hear back, you have your answer.
If you’ve been traditionally published, describe the feeling you had when you received and accepted your first contract/ offer.
It came much quicker than I expected, so I imagine it would be something like sitting down for a beer at a bar and being approached by a reasonably attractive woman (or man, if you prefer). You certainly want what they have to offer, but you're somewhat suspicious and apprehensive (actually stone cold terrified).
But like most things, I think talking goes a long way. And, I think, for any writers looking to do this thing, don't ever be afraid to walk way. It's easy to just sign that contract because you feel like, if you don't, you're losing something. You're not. You only stand to gain with a publishing contract. If you don't get one, you still have your manuscript, and that is fulfillment currency in the bank.
You have one paranormal or psychic superpower. What is it, and what will you do with it?
Telekinesis would be great, but I'd worry that it would make me lazy. Without limitations, though, it could go a long way. Have you seen the movie Chronicle?
(The Reality Bender saw this movie and loved it)
Are you superstitious about your writing habits? If so, what is/are that/those superstition(s)?
Nope. I do have rituals, though, which generally require me to make or purchase a hot beverage and cruise the Internet for a few minutes.
You have to commit a major crime to save the life of someone you love. Will you do it, and if so, how far will you go?
Interesting. Read CARRIER.
In your mind, what is the ultimate sin?
We talking seven deadly sins? I've got to go with greed. Mainly because it's so prevalent.
In your mind, what is the ultimate blessing?
Charity. And it's so rare.
Who is your favorite literary character that you’ve ever written/ created, and why?
Everything for me goes back to a character I wrote about in college. He was a priest who killed people because he thought God was telling him to.
You discover your best friend is lying to you about something important to you, and hurting you, themselves, others, or all of the above with that lie. What do you do about it?
Confront him. If you can't talk about real issues with your friends, who can you talk to about those things, and are they really your friends?
You’re faced with a horde of desperate, hungry, potentially violent people in a world where the trucks and trains no longer deliver the goods. What do you do?
Assuming I have goods, I help who I can, but I can't save everyone. So I do what I can to protect myself.
Why should people read your work?
Why not? If you share the same apprehension about the future that I have and like a bit of fun with your storytelling, you might like my stuff. I like to think it's both intellectually stimulating and enjoyable.
Amazon Book Product Page Link: CARRIER
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