Kate Johnson is with us today with her book, Still Waters. You all know you want it, and the rest of the Sophie Green series, so go start with this one and buy it here.
1. How did you get started with your writing?
Misspent youth. I daydream way, way too much. When I’m not daydreaming I’m reading. Or sometimes daydreaming about reading. Either way, I started writing when I was about sixteen, and never actually stopped. It took me seven years and a lot of part time jobs before I finally sold a story, however. I have so many rejections I literally have nowhere to keep them all. But being totally unqualified to do anything else, partly because of the daydreaming, I stuck at it.
2. What/who is your biggest muse?
Joss Whedon. Whenever I watch an episode of Buffy or Firefly or Doctor Horrible, I’m inspired. And commentaries are even better. I’ve really learned a lot about writing from Joss.
Richard Armitage. Whenever I see him on TV I start fantasising…and those fantasies usually make it onto the page somewhere. If not the divine RA, then James Marsters, Hugh Jackman, and David Tennant have also proved exceptional muses.
But what really inspires me to write? Shoes. They whisper that if I write bigger and better, I can finally afford them.
3. Is there a character in one of your books you connect with the most?
Sophie! She’s the heroine of my series at Samhain, and it’s not a stretch to say she’s based on me. Although I never did secret work for the government. Or did I?
4. What do you like to do in your free time other than write?
Read. Gosh, I’m exciting. I go to the pub, I watch films, I talk to myself and I sing. But preferably only when no one else is listening.
5. What are some of your favorite books? Any genre or author.
How long do you have? I like my books like I like my men: smart, funny, and hard to stop looking at. It’s probably quicker to say I adore Terry Pratchett and Jennifer Crusie than list their books; Jude Deveraux’s A Knight In Shining Armour got me started on romance; Bridget Jones’s Diary got me started on chick-lit—and is the first book I can actually remember laughing out loud at; and of course I owe a huge debt to Janet Evanovich and Stephanie Plum for making crime novels both funny and accessible.
6. Where is your writing sanctuary?
I have an office in what was the spare room (hey, there’s a futon in here, it could theoretically still be the spare room). Every wall is covered in either books or Buffy posters. Okay, okay, Spike posters. I keep the door closed, the floor covered with books, and disregard things going bump in the corner: I usually have at least one cat in here. Either that, or my characters really have started to come alive.
7. How did you celebrate “selling” your first book?
I had a bottle of champagne saved from when I turned 21. I opened that when I sold Sophie’s first book to Samhain.
8. What is your favorite thing about Samhain?
That they bought my books, obviously.
9. Is there something you would like to see more of in RomanceLandia?
Superheroes. I wrote about superheroes once: people fell all over themselves not to buy the book. Also I’d like to see humour make a leap from romantic comedies and chick-lit into every other genre. As my writing god Joss Whedon says: Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then for the love of God tell a joke.
10. Tell us about your editor.
Oh, she’s a cow. Wait: she’s not reading this, is she?
Here’s a piece of advice, direct from me to you: it’s never a good idea to go on holiday with your ex. Especially if you’re behind the wheel, or you have a habit of getting lost easily. Or he’s navigating.
Or all of the above.
The roads were hardly wide enough for a bicycle and so steep the accelerator was getting decidedly jealous of all the attention my foot was paying to the brake. The village seemed to be spelled differently on every sign we came across, and we frequently took the wrong turn because “Turn right towards Polzeath” can mean a lot of things when there are a million right turns on the road. All signposted Pol-bloody-zeath.
Eventually I snapped and stopped the car, ramming the handbrake on so my right foot could have a bit of rest.
“That’s it.” I turned to the back of the car. “Maria, will you navigate for me?”
“Maria?” Luke said in tones of disgust. “She’s a girl.”
“I’d quite forgotten.”
Maria was already heading to the back door. “If it’s good enough for the SBS…”
Luke was immovable. “Look, if you’d just do what I tell you—”
“Since when did she ever do that?” asked the fourth occupant of the car, a big black man called Macbeth. He was covered in dog hairs from Norma Jean, the beautiful but incredibly stupid dog I’d been saddled with for the week. Norma’s father had been a retriever and her mother, apparently, a ball of cotton wool. She tended to leave a film of blonde hair over everyone and everything she went near.
Maria was at the passenger door now and she’d opened it. She tapped her foot on the road and arched a perfect eyebrow at Luke. If I didn’t like her so much, I’d really hate her. She’s stunning to look at—all toned curves and glossy dark hair and big brown eyes and perfect clear skin. Cow.
But she is so nice. And she’s a good navigator. And Luke, for want of a better expression, was getting right on my tits.
Not that he’d been near them for months. Maybe that was the problem.
“Look,” Maria said, “either you get in the back or you stand in the road and make your own way there.”
“Or home,” I added helpfully.
“Whose bloody idea was this sodding holiday anyway?” Luke fumed.
“Do you want to be a part of the SO17 team or not?” Maria asked perkily.
“Sometimes I wonder,” Luke replied, his tone dark.
I said nothing.
Luke glared at me and, with a final mutter of “for God’s sake,” he stomped out of the car and round to the back, slamming the door shut behind him.
“Why’d we bring your stupid car anyway?” he asked bad-temperedly, glaring round the interior.
I patted the steering wheel of my Land Rover Defender to comfort him. “It’s okay, Ted. Ignore him.”
In the back, Norma Jean made a muffled noise somewhere between a bark and a howl.
“You tell him, Norma.”
Port Trevan was one of those little Cornish villages that would be impossible to modernise completely. Ted, my lovely, battered old friend, could hardly get down some of the streets, which were narrow and so steep I really thought we’d just plunge straight into the sea if the brakes failed. Which they never would. Ted might look like he’s in bad shape, but that’s just surface scarring. He’s a trooper.
“It’s down here.” Maria pointed, looking almost as excited as Norma Jean, who was jumping around in the back of the car while Luke and Macbeth tried to hold onto her.
“How does she know?” Maria asked, twisting round to look at Norma Jean, all fluffy and blonde and heartbreakingly pretty.
“Instinct. She always knows when we’re getting to the end of a journey.”
“One of those animal things,” Macbeth said, catching Norma’s collar and trying to get her to lie down, or at least sit. “Bitches always know.”
“So how far are we, Sophie?” Luke asked, and if the road hadn’t been so tricky, I’d have reached back and hit him.
Eventually we found the cottage, hiding away on a little alleyway that was, according to the sign, Rose Street.
“That’s a street?” I said in disbelief, staring at the gap between two buildings that were about six feet apart.
“Narrowest in Britain,” Maria said with some pride. “The locals call it Squeeze-ee-belly Alley.”
I parked the car at the entrance to the alley, and we unloaded as quickly as possible so I could remove Ted to the harbour just down the road, where he would be less of an obstruction.
When I came back and walked in through the stable door, I found a little hallway with a bedroom off to one side, and stairs leading straight up. I followed the stairs past a pretty, white bathroom to a large living room with a small, open kitchen. Maria was there, opening cupboards, checking the fridge.
“You’re downstairs,” she said.
“Don’t I get a choice?”
“Well, no.” She stood up and smiled. “Because it’s my aunt’s house I get first choice, right?”
“Right,” I said, “but there are—”
And then I realised, and I smiled too. There were two doubles, one of which Maria had obviously earmarked for her own. The other held twin beds. And since I wasn’t likely to share with either Macbeth or Luke, and they wouldn’t sleep in the double, that meant they got the singles. And I got the double.
“Excellent,” I said.
“I put your case in there. Where should we put the dog basket?”
“Kitchen. She hates being out on her own.”
Norma Jean was scrambling up the steep stairs that led off from the living room, and I followed her. Up here were the other two rooms: Maria’s large, pretty double and the boys’ twin, which already looked crowded and it only held Macbeth.
“Floral duvets, huh?” I said.
“You don’t want to swap?”
I shook my head rapidly. “Can you honestly say you think it’s a good idea for me and Luke to share a room?”
He looked me straight in the eye.
“Yes,” he said, “and you know it.”