Questions & Answers

With Greg Johnson, author

Q&A with the author

Q:  Beyond the Red Mountains is your first novel.  What inspired you to write it?

A:  I had been developing the story in my mind for months before I actually started writing, but it was my stepson who provided the final inspiration. He was twelve years old at the time and I wanted to write something that would be both entertaining to keep him engaged, but that would also help teach him how to process the emotions and overcome some of the challenges of being a teenager.

Q:  How can a fantasy adventure story help young adults seek out answers in their everyday lives?

A:  A good story can be a great way to teach young adults the lessons of life, because readers will recognize themes in the story that mirror their own lives. How the characters handle the emotions of life as they come of age will help guide readers as they encounter the same situations on their own journey.

Q:  Is the book appropriate for young adult readers of all ages?

A:  The book is written with suitable language and themes for young adults 13 and older. My stepson read it when he was fourteen and he was easily able to understand the subject matter. As I had hoped, events in the story sparked many conversations about thoughts and feelings he was having in his own life.

Q:  How did you develop your two protagonists, Kelvin and Elizabeth? 

A:  When I set out to create personalities for Kelvin and Elizabeth, I wanted to make them as real as possible. They are not based on any one single person I know, but parts of many people I have encountered in my life. It was very important for me to create characters with whom readers could identify. Both Kelvin and Elizabeth have strengths and weaknesses just as any of us do. That is why I think readers will recognize parts of themselves in my characters.

Q:  How did you create your world?

A:  Creating a new world is no easy task. The first step I took was to draw a map of the land and water that would be covered in the book. Once I had this, I could place cities, mountains, and other geological features. 

Once these were in place, the story was easier to write. For example, if a character was traveling somewhere, you can see if there is a barrier that needs to be crossed. The nature of those barriers can lead to specific events in the story. I would not recommend writing a story with a new world without first developing a map. 

After the map was in place, I had to develop the physical properties in my world. In the case of Beyond the Red Mountains, I wanted to incorporate some form of magic. I then set out to develop the rules of my magic. For this I looked to history, and based it loosely on the beliefs and practices of medieval scientists. 

Q:  You have a lot of different terrain in the book, as Kelvin and Elizabeth go on their journey.  What kind of research did you do, or experiences did you pull from, to describe the different places?

A:  The travel I have done in my life has definitely influenced my writing. I think it is much easier to write about a certain terrain or landscape when you have experienced it yourself. An example is when you are in a forest, what do you hear, what do you see, what does it smell like?

Q:  What are you currently working on?

A:  In my mind, the full story of Kelvin and Elizabeth will be a series of three books. The second book, Across the Golden Desert, is currently being edited and should be ready in 2016. I have begun to write the final installment, Over the Blue Sea, which I plan on being ready for release in 2017. 

Q:  I understand that you write in the evenings and weekends, while keeping a “day job”.  How do you stay focused on writing when you have a lot of other responsibilities?

A:  It’s not easy. I have to plan my days out and set aside specific time for writing. If I have time scheduled for writing it’s much more difficult for me to push it aside and procrastinate. Writing is fun for me and I really enjoy delving into the world I created, but to meet deadlines I have to look at it as a job. 

Q:  What piece of advice would you give a new author?

A:  Stick with it. There were many times when I wondered if what I was writing was any good or not. In fact, a year in to Beyond the Red Mountains I scrapped almost the entire story and started over. Persistence is key.


Greg Johnson