Today we’re featuring Grace A. Johnson on the blog. Grace’s faith shone through this entire interview and I know you’ll be encouraged after reading it to pursue the talents God has put on your heart.
Grace A. Johnson’s Book & Writing Process
Table of Contents
Q: What is the title of your book and what is it about?
A: My first book (it’s part of a series) is titled Held Captive, and it follows the journey of a female pirate captain as she finds her family, redemption, and love!
Publication date: March 24, 2019
Q: What genre is Held Captive?
A: Christian historical pirate romance
Q: What inspired you to write your book, and how did you come up with the idea for it?
A: To be honest, God gave me the idea for Held Captive! I’d spent the last couple of years writing medieval and Western stories, and I had just finished a story set at a lighthouse in Michigan during the 1850s.
So shifting from traditional romance novels to a pirate story was far from my mind – but God had other plans! He inspired me to write about a female pirate captain and from there, all the characters, the plot, the twists, and the themes unfolded seamlessly!
Q: What scene was the hardest one to write and why?
A: Hmm…probably some of my “filler” scenes. I have a few scenes in Held Captive that weren’t as exciting as the rest of the story, so I found myself struggling for weeks with those, often writing a few hundred words, then scrapping it all, and starting over with something different!
Q: What are some themes and tropes that are included in your book?
A: Ooh, the themes and tropes in Held Captive are some of my favorite parts! There are themes of redemption and grace, faith and forgiveness, love and family. And the tropes are found family, secret heir, kidnapped, and enemies-to-lovers!
Q: Who is the ideal reader for this book?
A: A female reader age 15+ who loves historical fiction, romance, adventure, and strong Christian themes!
Q: What’s the one thing you want readers to take away from reading your book?
A: God’s love and forgiveness know no bounds. If you believe in Him, confess your sin, and surrender your life to Him, He will redeem you, no matter your past!
Q: Share a favorite quote or two from this book.
A: Here’s one of my favorite passages! It’s a bit too long to be a “quote,” but I couldn’t resist sharing!
“I was beginning—albeit slightly—to wonder if perhaps there was more to land than dryness. There was something about the solidity of land that countered the tossing of the ocean’s waves, that seemed to describe the consistency and reliability of the feel of something hard beneath one’s feet.
One knew that nothing could toss them like a storm or shake their foundation when their feet were planted solely on the earth. And should tempest or quake come, one could always rely on land to remain steadfast, to always support. Perhaps that was what love was like. A solid rock that would not wash away with the next wave nor drown in a storm.
It could not fade over time and leave one stranded. It was not unpredictable, where one was left to wonder where they would be if a wave crashed over them and pulled them into the blue depths of the ocean. It forever remained, through trial and tragedy and storm and danger. And nothing and no one could ever take it away.”Held captive, Grace A. Johnson
Q: Plotter or pantser? Share a bit of your writing process.
A: I’m what you would call a plantser – that is, a mix of a plotter and a pantser! Like a plotter, I’ve gotta have my beginning and ending in mind before I start writing, and I like keeping a list of events/elements I want to include in the story. I also put a lot of time and effort into developing my characters and getting to know them before I focus on the rest of the story.
But, like a pantser, I don’t usually create a strict, detailed outline or know exactly what’s going to happen in each scene before I write it. I love the sense of discovery you get when pantsing, so I just can’t seem to bring myself to follow a specific outline! However, once I get about halfway through the story, I do try to keep track of what may happen next and when just to give myself a guideline to work with!
Q: What does a typical writing session for you look like?
A: Pure chaos! Lately, it seems like I’ve been having to squeeze some writing time into the cracks and crevices of my day, so either early in the morning or late at night, I’ll turn the Wi-Fi off of my laptop (to keep myself from getting distracted by my emails or the internet) and write! I typically write about 500 words in an hour sitting (I’m a slow writer), but I try to write as clean a draft as possible to eliminate the need for more drafts or excessive editing once I finish!
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of writing and publishing? How did you (do you plan to) overcome it?
A: For me, it’s time management and finances. I’m a high school senior (I graduate in May), so between school, family obligations, and other supplemental work I do (like editing and web design), I don’t have a lot of time to write a novel in a month. Nor do I always have the money it takes to self-publish. But God always provides, and everything happens in His time, through His grace!
Q: Why do you write?
A: First and foremost, I write to bring glory and honor to God…to serve Him with the gifts He has given me…and to give life to the stories He’s laid on my heart!
Second, I write to release all the thoughts and emotions, and ideas in my soul, and to explore my passion for writing, even if no one ever reads my stories.
And, third, for those stories that are read, I write so that they may be a blessing to those who read them, that they may be convicted and inspired to draw closer to God and experience Him in their lives!
Writing Advice from Grace A. Johnson
Q: What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out?
A: Learn, practice, and pray. Be studying the art and science of writing, and research and learn all you can! And the best way to learn is to practice what you read and discover. Write and write and write some more to continue growing! Above all else, though, pray. Seek the Lord on what He wants you to write and how He wants you to go about it. He has a plan for you and your stories, so invite Him into the process and watch Him work!
Q: What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received? How has it impacted your life?
A: I’m not sure about a specific piece of writing advice…to be honest, I spent most of my early years teaching myself how to write and learning by doing. I didn’t interact with other writers or read books on writing craft – mostly because my ten-to-twelve-year-old self had no idea there was such a thing! 😂
So something I’ve learned that has really impacted not just my writing but my whole life…is praying. Surrendering my stories to God, asking Him to write in and through me, and just trusting Him throughout the entire process has brought about more miracles than I could imagine. Without Him leading and guiding me through this, I would’ve never started writing, let alone made it to the place I am now!
Q: What’s the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Why do you think this was not good advice?
A: Hmm…most of the bad advice I’ve seen/heard hasn’t been told to me directly but just to writers in general through social media posts and blog articles and whatnot…and the #1 worst piece of writing advice out there is to write what’s relevant, what sells, rather than what honors God.
So many young Christian authors have been told or exposed to the idea of not writing overt Christian fiction or weaving anti-biblical themes into their stories so that their books will appeal to a wider audience. And this is SO damaging, not just to the quality of these writers’ stories but to the quality of their lives.
If we focus on pleasing the world and being well-liked by others, we will miss out on the greatest honor: being called “good and faithful servants” by God Most High. And more than that, by not boldly proclaiming the Gospel, you end up hurting your readers more by not sharing Jesus than by not offending them.
Q: If you could go back and change one thing in your author career, what would it be and why?
A: Honestly, if I changed anything, I’d have no guarantee I’d be where God wants me to be or where He’s put me today…so I can’t necessarily say I want to change anything. BUT if I can keep others from making some of the same mistakes I did, then by all means! 😊 Don’t rush.
I dove headlong into publishing when I was only thirteen and had only three years of minimal writing experience, without ANY idea what I was doing. So unless God is calling you to get your book out there NOW…take your time.
Research and study publishing and writing. Edit and polish your manuscript. Invest in a book cover and marketing. Establish your author platform. Don’t jump into it without any support. If I could do anything over with God’s guidance, I’d take my time publishing and do it right the first time!
Q: What is one writing resource that you couldn’t do without?
A: I could list articles and tools, sure, but the truth is that my #1 resource is simply my readers. I have the most amazing group of beta readers, writer friends, reviewers, and supporters who help me on SO many levels. Every time I start to doubt my abilities and stories, my lovely readers come alongside me and encourage me every step of the way. I truly couldn’t have finished some of my latest projects without them!
Just for Fun
Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Why?
A: I always say telekinesis, because I can just see myself doing so many things with just my mind! It’d make life so much easier. 😂
Q: If you could have dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why?
A: Oh, that’s tough. There are so many! But maybe Mr. Darcy…I’d just love to actually meet him and discover who he truly is!
Q: If you were not a writer, what would you want to be and why?
A: Well, before I became a writer, I wanted to be a ballerina (among other things, but mostly ballerina 😂)…but once I became a writer, so many other ideas and aspirations were opened up to me. So most of the opportunities I’d like to pursue are only options because I AM a writer!
All that aside, I would probably (now that I’m over the ballerina phase) want to be a teacher. Not a schoolteacher, but involved in missions and teaching others the truth of God’s Word! Lord willing, I’ll be able to do something of that sort even as a writer!
Q: If you could switch lives with any person for a day, who would it be and why?
A: Oh. Hmm. I’d say my pirate heroine Rina because I’d love to explore her life on the high seas in the late 1600s…but her life is fraught with so much danger even on a day-to-day basis, I’d be better off staying in the safety of my own home in the country!
Q: What are you reading?
A: I’m currently reading After the Shadows by Amanda Cabot and the Book of Acts for my Bible study on the early church!
Let’s Connect with Grace A. Johnson
Q: What are you working on next?
A: I’m working on so many projects right now, but what y’all will see first is my novella Her Heart’s Home, which is featured in Wild Blue Wonder Press’ Springtime in Surrey anthology, releasing July 2023! I’m about to begin edits on that story, and once that’s complete, I hope to begin writing my next novel, Something Bright & Beautiful, the sequel to my 9/11 short story Daylight!
About Held Captive
Captain Rina Blackstone is the most notorious female pirate to ever plunder the Seven Seas and the fiercest captain to ever sail the Atlantic. But one thing she has never been able to handle well is change.
When one merchant ship raid takes a wrong turn and results in her capture, Rina has to escape before all the control she’s worked so hard to obtain falters. Xavier Bennet was commissioned seven years ago to find the Duke of Rothsford’s long lost daughter. Those seven years have past without a trace of the woman except for the one letter he believes will lead him to her.
When Xavier’s ship, the Jessica, finally crosses paths with the Rina, it’s all he can do to hope that somehow, someway, he’ll be able to find Lady Catherina and return her to her parents.
Except the pirate captain he finds certainly surpasses his expectations and brings the one thing he cannot afford: trouble. Lies. That’s all that spews from Xavier Bennet’s lips. Lies.
And Rina is determined not to listen, not to believe. Only to wiggle her way out of his clutches before all the pieces come together and reveal exactly what she doesn’t want… the truth.
Purchase Held Captive on Amazon
About Grace A. Johnson
Grace A. Johnson is a Christian fiction authoress of the Daughters of the Seven Seas series and a smattering of short stories and novellas, as well as the founder of Sky’s the Limit Press and editor with S&J Editors.
You can learn more about her creative endeavors and connect with her at www.graceajohnson.com.