Interview with Christine Johnson – Author of Claire de Lune

Christine Johnson’s debut novel, Claire de Lune, is slated to hit bookstores in May.  Christine is super busy prepping for the big day, but she set aside some time to visit the virtual home of Manga Maniac Cafe. 

Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

Sadly, I used my Twitter feed to make sure I was within the allotted characters. Here goes: I’m a wife/mom/writer. I love my family, books and good food. I spend most of my time wondering "what if" and the rest writing it all down.

Your book, Claire de Lune, will be released May. Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Claire de Lune is about Claire Benoit, a girl who discovers on her 16th birthday that she is the latest in a long line of werewolves. She also finds out that contrary to popular belief, all werewolves are female. Though killing humans is forbidden by the code of the pack, a rogue werewolf has been breaking that law. As the pack struggles to find and fight the rogue werewolf and Claire struggles with her lupine identity, her heart and her loyalties are torn in two. Claire must keep her new life a secret from even her best friend–and especially from Matthew, the guy whose father is leading the werewolf hunt…and who also happens to be Claire’s new boyfriend.

How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

As my 140-characters-or-less bit indicates, I spend a whole lot of time paying attention to the random thoughts that drift through my head. Once, I wondered what would make a werewolf date a human instead of another werewolf. Which then made me wonder – what if there weren’t any werewolves of the opposite sex? And from that tiny thought, after much writing and re-imagining and re-writing . . . Claire de Lune was born.

The characters – I don’t know where my characters come from. I don’t think most writers do, really. When I look inside my head, they’re just sort of *in* there, milling around with their newspapers and half-drunk cups of coffee, waiting for me to tell their stories. Some of them are pushier than others. Their books get written first.

Why did you decide to write young adult fiction?

I’ve always written and enjoyed writing, but what made me settle on YA fiction as “my” genre was really the existing canon of teen-centered literature. I loved (and still love) reading YA fiction. I love the literary exploration of the intensity of the teen years and after awhile, I really, really wanted to write about it myself, rather than just reading what everyone else thinks. It seemed like a natural home for my writing. 

Can you share your experiences finding a publisher?  What was the process like?

Finding a publisher was really easy – my agent did all the work! Seriously, though, it’s nearly impossible to publish in YA without an agent, so finding one of those is where most of the work comes in. For me, once I thought my writing was ready, I spent weeks and weeks working up a query letter, sending it through the grist mill of my critique group, and then re-working it. I had bunches of rejections. Some were encouraging, others were just . . . rejections. But I kept mailing/emailing them out. Eventually, I got incredibly lucky and Caryn Wiseman at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. decided to take me as a client. And that’s how it happened for me.

Who was your biggest supporter while you were working on the book?

Probably my critique group. We’ve been together for nearly five years, and they’re the only ones who ever see my works-in-progress. While I wrote Claire, they alternately held my hand, shook me until I saw sense, and hollered enthusiastically, as appropriate. I love them, I rely on them, and I would be nowhere without them.

Don’t get me wrong, my family and friends are fantastic, but it’s hard to cheerlead someone who won’t ever say more than “I got some writing done today.” I’m very, very uncommunicative about whatever I’m currently working on. Someone once said something to the effect of: there are only two types of writers – those who never talk about their work, and those who won’t shut up about it. I always tell my family they should just be grateful I’m not the latter type. (And if anyone knows what that actual quote is and who said it, please contact me and let me know!)

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

The best thing I think I can say is that being a writer is mostly about perseverance. You just have to keep doing it. Even when it’s hard. Even when you’re uninspired. Even when you’ve just had your work rejected (again.) The writers who succeed mostly get there because they doggedly refuse to quit.

So if you want to be a writer, then just write. And keep on doing it. No matter what.

What are some books that inspired you to write your own?

Ooof. If you mean works of fiction that I loved and made me want to write? There’s not enough room on the entire Internet for that answer. But two books that are largely about writing (one more craft-oriented than the other) that I come back to again and again when I need inspiration are Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (the “craftier” one) and Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett.

They never get old, no matter how many times I’ve read them, and I always come away with a renewed passion for the process of creating a book.

So, that’s that, then. Thanks so much for letting me spend some time with you here on the blog – it’s been a lot of fun!

Thanks, Christine!!  Enjoy your debut!

Christine had some really interesting comments! I have a special fondness for werewolves, so I am dying to read her book! If you would like to read more about her, Christine’s website is hereClaire de Lune is available for preorder at Amazon and your local bookstores, so don’t wait to pick this one up!

(Author photo credit: Trinity Gossett-Lee)

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