Welcome back, inklings!
I know I always say I’m excited about my guests, but that’s just because I’m always excited about my guests, and today is no different!
Lang Johnson and I have been online buddies for a while now. Ever since we “met” via Instagram, I’ve been so motivated and inspired by her infectious creative vibes, pep and perseverance, and passion for all things fantasy! (seriously, her #currentreads are #readinggoals!)
Lang has completed her first novel and is currently working on her second. I wanted to chat with her because she, like many of you reading this, is at the beginning of her novel-writing career, which is often accompanied by nasty things like self-doubt, fear, impostor syndrome, and editingitis (aka, over-editing).
Lang, like all of us, struggles with these things, but she doesn’t let them defeat her, no siree. In the following interview, you’ll see just how fiercely devoted she is to conquering common writing-related demons and chasing her dream with abandon.
Now grab your beverage of choice, find a comfy spot, and welcome Lang to the blog!
So, Lang… Have you always loved writing?
Yes! I’ve loved writing since childhood. I used to handwrite short stories and poetry when I was growing up and give them to my parents as birthday and Christmas gifts.
When did you start writing professionally and what inspired you to do so?
I worked in the IT industry for ten years, but my true passion has always been writing. I would write short poems or little stories on sticky notes whenever I had a bit of free time at work. I pushed my dreams aside for a long time because my career was the focus (at least that was my excuse).
When my husband and I got married we talked about me quitting my job and writing full time. I was afraid to take the leap, but after many late-night conversations, I decided that I was going to pursue my dreams. In June of 2015, I left my job. I started my own blog and became a contributing writer for Happygirl Yoga.
One day, a close friend of mine, who has lived a very interesting life, asked me to write his autobiography. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to writing a book. I loved blogging, but writing an entire book seemed like such a daunting task. But I decided to give it a go. The story fell through because this “very interesting” friend of mine got into some trouble with the law. So….yeah….
On the bright side, that experiment opened my eyes to the whole novel-writing process, and I realized how much I loved it. That was when I decided to give up blogging and fully focus on writing novels.
What genre are you currently writing in and what appeals to you about it?
I am writing adult fantasy. I am an avid fantasy fan (books, television shows, movies). It’s my favorite genre. I love getting lost in a world filled with magic, mythical creatures, and crazy adventures.
I know this is a tough question, but can you tell us a bit about your first novel and what inspired it?
I am horrible at explaining my novel and tend to ramble, so I’ll share my synopsis instead:
In Mahageen, an island nation ruled by magic-wielding warrior women, a Sari has arrived by the name of Ananda. This God-Queen is prophesied to unite and save her people.
Across the Sapphire Sea, the country of Cambria is besieged by civil war while William, the dashing young King, is preoccupied with womanizing and spending the country’s wealth on lavish parties in his honor.
After returning from yet another defeat on the battlefield, William learns of Ananda and her legions of unstoppable female warriors known for their brutal and merciless fighting. Full of confidence in his charms, William seeks out a new ally.
Ananda rebuffs the handsome king until an unprecedented threat arrives on her shores massacring her people in numbers never seen before. William is her only chance to protect her islands, but it will cost an army of her greatest warriors and marriage to a man she barely knows and trusts even less. Now they must find a way to survive each other and their enemies while caught in a web of lies disguised as their most sacred truths.
My inspiration for my novel:
I was mostly inspired by Game of Thrones, but as I continued writing I found many other sources of inspiration.
For my female lead (Ananda), I based her culture on a brutal female African tribe called the Gbettos. I got the inspiration for her island (Mahageen) from the jungles of the Philippines. And her tribe’s war tactics mimics the Mongols (Genghis Khan era).
For my male lead (William), I based his character around Henry the Eighth with a bit of John Snow and Ramsay Bolton from Game of Thrones. My inspiration for his country (Cambria) was based on England in the late middle ages.
What has the editing process been like for you? Any words of advice or cautionary tales?
The editing process is difficult, but also rewarding. I’ve actually grown to love it.
As far as words of advice: Don’t fall into the over-editing trap. You are always going to find something wrong with your manuscript. I could probably edit my novel twenty times and still not be completely happy with it. Do the best you can, then send your manuscript to editors and/or beta readers. Over-editing will only frustrate you and will delay the entire writing process.
Have you taken any courses or read any books on the craft of writing that you'd like to recommend?
I took one online fantasy writing course through my local community college.
My favorite writing books are: Stephen King’s On Writing, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing.
Are you going to pursue traditional publishing or indie publish?
I am going to pursue traditional publishing. I’m still waiting to receive feedback from my editor as well as some beta readers. Once I’ve finalized my manuscript I will start the query process. I think I might hire a query writer, but I haven’t finalized that decision yet.
What was the hardest part of writing your first novel?
The hardest part was overcoming self-doubt. I would sometimes think I wasn’t qualified to write a novel, or that my writing was horrible, and no one would want to buy my books. I still doubt myself at times, but that’s part of making art.
Art comes from your heart, you’re exposing pieces of yourself to the world that most people keep hidden. It’s scary! But you should never let fear stop you from pursuing your passion.
As strange as this might sound, the easiest part of writing is…writing! Not editing. Actual writing (or what I call free writing). Sitting at your computer and typing away as ideas flow into your mind. You don’t care if there are misspelled words, you don’t care that in one scene the main character had blue eyes, and in the next scene, their eyes were brown. You are just writing, getting your thoughts on paper. I feel so free during those moments.
Would you mind sharing any writing rituals you might have?
I did not get into writing rituals until recently. I used to just sit at my desk with a cup of coffee, tea, and kombucha. But a few weeks ago, I started incorporating crystal energy practices. I have a bunch of crystals on my writing desk, or if I’m writing at a café I carry a few of them with me. I’m not sure if it’s all in my mind, but they really seem to get my creative juices flowing.
Sometimes, I light sage or turn on my essential oil diffuser while I write. It has a very calming effect and helps me focus on my work. I also wear a necklace with a charm of Saint Francis De Sales, who is known to be the patron saint of writers. I have a second charm on my necklace which is a carnelian crystal which is supposed to be good for boosting creative energy and getting rid of creative blocks.
Besides writing, what are your top three favorite pastimes?
Reading of course! I also love working out either in the gym or outdoors (hiking, running, swimming, etc.), and riding my motorcycle.
What's your advice for those writers who are considering turning their idea into a full-blown novel but are afraid of failing or being rejected?
Like Nike’s motto: Just do it.
The fear will always be there, but what’s scarier is not following your dreams.
I honestly believe you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. I know it’s such a cliché statement, but I live by that saying. I have a friend that was rejected by 150 publishers, but he never gave up. He believed in himself so much that he decided to self-publish his children’s book. Now it’s in hundreds of schools, select Barnes & Nobles, small bookstores, and he has a play based on his story. He was even a speaker for TED.
We will be rejected, but we must keep trekking on. If writing really is your passion, then never give up. Dreams are meant to be pursued.
What's the number one thing you struggle with as an aspiring published author and how do you overcome it?
It’s funny how I just gave a mini pep-talk about fear and rejection, and now I’m going to say that my biggest struggle is fear. Go figure!
I am deathly afraid of rejection. I overcome it by positive self-talk, surrounding myself with supportive friends (lots of them I’ve met on Instagram), and family members. When I’m feeling discouraged, I’ll read lots of motivational quotes. I especially love reading about successful people who were rejected numerous times and believed in themselves enough to keep going. Due to their drive, they are now thriving in their industry (i.e. Kevin Hart who went through nineteen years of “no’s” before he finally got a “yes”). These kinds of stories keep me going and give me hope.
What's your current WIP?
My current WIP is another adult fantasy called Dead Thrones. It’s magic mixed with some social justice issues, and a bit of romance.
What's your research process like?
My research process is all over the place. I research as I write. I don’t do outlines. I sometimes bullet-point parts of my story, but overall I’m a “pantster.”
I google search information as I’m writing my scenes. If it’s a war/battle scene then I’ll discuss it with my husband since he’s in the military. I also take notes when I’m reading certain books and apply the knowledge to my story. My research process is not the most efficient method, but it works for me.