Linda Baten Johnson has spent many hours packing and unpacking as she and her husband George have lived in 20 different places in the United States and enjoyed a stint in England. In between moves, Linda earned her Master of Arts degree in English and history, worked as a Realtor, a teacher, and logged many volunteer hours. One of her favorite volunteer assignments was at a lighthouse in a National Park where they were housed in the assistant keeper’s cottage.
Growing up in White Deer, a small town in the panhandle of Texas, Linda won blue ribbons for her storytelling ability. She still loves telling stories, reading stories, and sharing stories. She has written twelve books.
Why did you start writing? How did you start writing?I started writing for my students. I taught in middle school and looked for ways to engage my students in the learning process. I wrote readers theater scripts about the parts of speech, about different types of writing, about research components. I even did a rap to help them remember the names and realms of the Greek gods for mythology.
I started writing for middle school students, because that was the age I taught. My husband and I learned about the Friendship Train while on vacation and I later discovered the man who spearheaded the humanitarian effort, Drew Pearson, had donated all his papers to the LBJ Presidential Library which was close to my home. I was thrilled to be able to use primary source documents for my first book.
To stretch my writing, I entered a contest for a romance novella and it was accepted for publication, so I’ve been writing in that genre for the past few years.
Coffee! I drink coffee and plan my day. I learned long ago that a life must be balanced, so I allocate time for spiritual, physical, personal, social, chores, and work. In the work aspect, a speaker at the last ACFW convention suggested we should be working on four books at all times—writing one, editing one, marketing one, and planning one. I’m trying to incorporate her suggestion.
Oh, I use a timer—I set the kitchen timer so I have to get up and turn off the incessant buzzing. That helps me focus when I’m writing, and keeps me from neglecting the other things on my daily list.
That is great advice, Linda! Thanks for sharing that!
I wish I could be more of a plotter. I start with the “save the cat” outline, and write character sketches, but sometimes my characters change the stories.
“I’m not the person you think I am!” She was so desperate to leave New York City that she would lie, cheat, and steal to accomplish her goals. Since we write Christian fiction, usually our characters have a strong moral and ethical compass, so I was a bit surprised by her actions.
Yes. When I see an interesting looking person in line at the post office or in a restaurant, I’ll jot down some notes. When I overhear conversations, I may write down the dialogue, if it helps define a character. I’ve also created a spreadsheet on characters used in different books. That excel sheet has first and last names, occupation, home, hair color, eye color, quirks, distinguishing marks, and the book. Having a list keeps you from repeating names of minor characters.
I’m lucky to have a converted bedroom I can use as my office. Special things in the office are pictures of my family, including grandchildren, to make me smile, a metal owl to remind me that readers are very wise, and a glass apple my mother-in-law gave me, which reminds me we are always teaching, in everything we do, say, or write.
I don’t really have one. Sometimes I grab a piece of fruit when that kitchen timer goes off!
How can you only choose one? I think it would be To Kill a Mockingbird. The characters are amazing, the plot is compelling from start to finish, and having the story told through the innocent eyes of a child is genius.
I’ve found The Emotion Thesaurus by Ackerman and Puglisi very helpful. They give suggestions of how emotions are shown. I’m always fighting to show, not tell.
One thing that helps me is the adage: write it down, don’t write it right. It is so tempting to stop and edit or reread and change wording rather than move forward.