It is my pleasure to welcome author Johnnie Alexander Donley. Johnnie writes stories of suspense, intrigue, and romance set in World War II. She’s a history enthusiast and has also edited non-fiction manuscripts and textbooks.
A longtime Florida resident, Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, shelves full of books, and her papillon*, Rugby.
Marion: It’s such a pleasure to have you join International Christian Fiction Writers today, Johnnie, and thank you for offering a free copy of Where Treasure Hides on the book review yesterday. One of my regrets in life is not having made it to Florida Christian Writer’s Conference in 2010. I had so looked forward to meeting you there as we had planned. But, I’m grateful for cyber space where we’ve been able to keep in contact.
Johnnie: Marion, I remember that conference, and I was disappointed for you. We’re also NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) buddies.
Marion: That we are, and it’s been good to run some races beside you. Johnnie, the publication date of your debut novel, Where Treasure Hides, was January 1, 2013 … just two weeks ago. How are you feeling? Have you come back down to earth yet?
Johnnie: This is a dream come true, a dream I’ve held in my heart for a very long time. I spent the first couple of days after the release tearing up at odd moments with joy and gratitude for God’s blessing. The response has been so gratifying, and as I read reviews and readers’ comments, I tear up all over again. (You’ve made me do that, too, Marion!)
Marion: Why a digital publication and are there plans for a hard copy in the future?
Johnnie: When Tyndale said they were interested, I was ecstatic. Their digital program allows more opportunities for new authors, and the time it takes from acquiring the manuscript to publication is much shorter than for print publications. Where Treasure Hides was already finished when I received the offer in July. Less than six months later, after receiving the same editorial attention as a print book, it’s available for purchase. Printing of hard copies depends on sales.
Marion: Well, I’m certain those hard copies will be rolling off the press in the not too distant future. What do you hope the reader will take away after reading Where Treasure Hides?
Johnnie: I’ve written in other interviews about Alison’s go-to verse, Proverbs 31:25. So today, I’ll write about the verse that became important to Ian as he planned his escape from the POW camp and made his way through Germany to safety. Psalm 32:7 reads: “Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.”
Our troubles and difficulties are much different that the ones Ian experienced. But we can still hide within the safety of God’s loving embrace. I am grateful for His protection and His deliverance when I’m trying to escape my own prisons. I pray readers will also take this Scripture to heart.
Marion: That ending (and you’ll know what I mean)… Is there a sequel planned for Where Treasure Hides?
Johnnie: That ending . . . I love it! Writing the epilogue was one of those magic moments when the words simply flowed.
Last November I wrote the sequel during NaNoWriMo, and now I’m involved in massive rewriting.
Marion: I can’t wait!
You have won several awards, Johnnie:
- Winner, American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Contest 2011, Historical Fiction category;
- Bronze Medal Finalist in the 2012 My Book Therapy Frasier contest for a contemporary romance;
- Writer of the Year and Best Novel Awards at the Florida Christian Writers Conference.
Johnnie: Only the Genesis was for Where Treasure Hides. The Florida Christian Writers’ awards were for an earlier project – one where Ian plays a major role as a secondary character. The Bronze Medalist award was for a contemporary story that shares similar themes of treasuring family memories and legacies. I hope to complete both these manuscripts within the next couple of years.
Marion: Are there any other possible book contracts on the horizon?
Johnnie: Not yet, but I hope enough readers will be intrigued by the ending of Treasure, and I write such a compelling proposal, that the sequel will be contracted.
Marion: Not only do you love to write, you love reading (but then the two do go hand in hand). Over 100 books read in 2011, and 86 in 2012 … and you still find time, amongst other things, to write! What’s your secret?
Johnnie: Oh, wow! I didn’t know you knew that! If I have a secret, I suppose it’s reading more than one book at a time. Plus I don’t watch much television. Right now, inspired by epic movies, I’m reading both Les Miserables and The Hobbit. Because I’m focusing on reading more classics this year, I don’t expect to read more than fifty or sixty books this year.
Marion: That’s still a whole lot of books, Johnnie!
You’re an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers as well as a founding member of their Central Florida chapter. However, you’re a lot more than that. Tell us a little about your involvement with ACFW.
Johnnie: After winning the Genesis, I was asked to be a judge in 2012. When I was asked to be the historical category coordinator, I immediately said yes. Then I also had the privilege of serving as a first round judge for the First Impressions contest where I read some amazing stories.
As of January 1st, I am now President of the Central Florida Chapter. Our board has worked hard on the programs for this year. We’re going to have some amazing speakers, a synopsis-writing panel, field trips, and a mini-conference on preparing for conferences. We just completed a contest in partnership with the Florida Christian Writers Conference. Later this year, we’ll sponsor a synopsis-writing contest.
Marion: You are a busy lady! Being a part of two talented critique groups, Imagine That! Writers and Kindred Heart Writers, how have these groups helped you on your road to publication?
Johnnie: I would not be where I am on my writing journey if I hadn’t had my critique groups walking beside me. I met the other Kindred Heart members at my first major writers conference. These ladies are now among my closest friends.
Imagine That! Writers began as an ACFW critique group (before Scribes). I thank God that I was placed in what used to be known as the Crit89 group. My critique partners are immensely talented and have helped me grow tremendously as a writer.
They read my chapters and provide helpful feedback on the characters and the storyline. They never let me get away with lazy writing and push me to dig deeper when I’m writing difficult scenes. I owe them all a great deal of thanks and appreciation.
Marion: What advice can you give to unpublished authors seeking publication?
Johnnie: The three Cs: conferences, critique groups, and contests. At conferences, writers learn about the publishing industry and network with both professionals and other writers. Critique groups provide invaluable critiques (of course), accountability, and, when needed, a shoulder to cry on. Contests, the good ones anyway, give important feedback and constructive editorial criticism.
Marion: Johnnie, thank you for your time today. It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know you better and we wish you every success for the future. I, personally, cannot wait to see more of your work available.
Johnnie: Marion, thank you so much for your gracious review of Where Treasure Hides. I’m so glad to be your guest and can’t wait to email my story to one of your readers.
* Before the interview, I had asked Johnnie another question on a personal note, and I’m going to post her answer here for your interest. A wise lady recently told me that a day is not wasted when you have learnt something new (thanks Judith for your pearls of wisdom). This made my day worthwhile ...
Marion: So, I have to ask ... and I quote from your bio: "her papillon, Rugby". Is that a toy spaniel (according to my dictionary) named Rugby? If so, how did you decide on that name? (Have to ask coming from the land of sunshine and Rugby.)
Johnnie: I'm sending you two photos of Rugby, too, because he's just so cute. The American Kennel Club has papillons in the toy group. As you may know, papillon is French for butterfly, and they have butterfly ears. http://www.akc.org/breeds/papillon/index.cfm.
We got him last January and I'm not sure how I came up with the name. I wanted something a little manly and our son loves sports—though he's never played rugby—so just trying out different things, that's what I came up with and everyone liked it so it stuck. His official name is Dazzlin Rugby Dancer.
Marion: Well there you have it! We learn something new every day. Yes Johnnie, Rugby does look like a little butterfly. He’s really cute. And now I also know where your NaNo name comes from.
Remember, if you want to stand a chance to win a free digital copy of Where Treasure Hides, drop a comment with your name and email addy on the Book Review blog of yesterday.
You can follow Johnnie on her Treasured Moments blog/website: http://www.johnniedonley.com
MARION UECKERMANN’s writing passion was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then Marion has has published some devotional articles in Winners (2009) and The One Year Book of Joy and Laughter (published August 2011), as well as inspirational poetry online and in a poetry journal. Marion loves to multitask and you can see her writing projects on her website www.marionueckermann.com. She now lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and a crazy black ‘Scottie’. Marion is a member of the Christian Writers of South Africa and can be contacted via email on marion(dot)ueckermann(at)gmail(dot)com.