I’m thrilled to share something special with you today: the release of Grace A. Johnson’s 9/11-inspired short story: Daylight! And in honor of the occasion, I get to interview the talented author herself!
Grace is a fellow Christian author I’ve been blessed to get to know over the past year, and I’m thrilled to be participating in the blog tour to promote her latest published story–which releases to the public on September 11th! (On Amazon here, and available everywhere else, here.)
Even as someone who doesn’t typically care for romance stories, I really enjoyed this book! Grace’s prose was superb (there were so many beautiful lines that actually made me stop and reread them), and the variety of vibrant characters who felt truly real quickly drew me in. Every person, whether a cameo or a main character, brought their own story to the page.
The themes of hope, love, and perseverance that Grace presented were powerful and left me inspired by the end. It’s difficult to write about such an emotional and horrific event, but Grace pulled it off with tact, skill, and an overarching message of trusting in the God that brings light from darkness. And all within a short story! I’m definitely glad I read this one.
Before we get started with the interview, you should probably take a look at Daylight‘s cover and synopsis . . .
It was too late.
The whole world knew it, the nations shaking their heads at the fallen United States, our beautiful country of hope and freedom covered in blood and ashes.
Only the devil could’ve planned something so disastrous.
Only God could save us now.
Only God could save August.
It was all my fault that he nearly lost his life, dashing back into the hailstorm of debris to save a man who was already dead. I can only hope that he’ll recover—that we will recover.
Because some things will never be forgotten.
Interview with Grace A. Johnson
I really enjoyed getting the chance to chat with Grace about Daylight, and I think you’ll enjoy getting to know her as much as I have! My questions are in bold, followed by her answers. First off though: an introduction!
Grace A. Johnson is a teenage Christian fiction authoress, book reviewer, and avid reader. She lives in beautiful (but humid) South Georgia, surrounded by farmland and forestry, with her parents and six younger siblings. She has written four novels, three of which are published, and a smattering of short stories and novellas, which you can find on Amazon. She’s also a homeschooler who loves learning about history, linguistics, art, and the world around her. You can find her on Goodreads, Pinterest, BookBub, or blogging on her website at www.graceajohnson.com. Join her for a virtual cup of tea and a free short story when you sign up for her e-newsletter!
And now for the interview!
1) First of all, I haven’t read many stories that center around the 9/11 crisis, but appreciated the time you took to give the situation justice in this book. What first inspired you to write this story?
Grace: Thank you! *grins* I haven’t read many either, so I’ll admit that the lack of 9/11 stories (at least in my genre) was part of the reason why I went with this setting. But the main reason was a song that was partially inspired by 9/11. My intention had been to write a simple aesthetic story, but the more I began thinking about how the song would shape the story, the more I began to fall in love with the idea of it being set in the aftermath of 9/11.
2) Obviously, when writing about a huge event in time like this–especially one that many readers would still remember well–relaying it accurately is crucial. How did you research for this story? Do you generally enjoy the research part of writing or not?
Grace: No kidding. I’ve never been so nervous about research…and this is the one era I wouldn’t have to dig for resources on! Most of my research was conducted through Wikipedia, Google Maps, and YouTube. I watched a National Geographic video with footage of the towers that really helped me picture and capture all that happened. Everything else was simply fact-checking what I already knew with what the internet told me. That, and my expert beta readers picking out anything I missed!
And to answer your last question, no, I do not. I absolutely despise research. Weird for a historical author, I know. I enjoy researching things like names, mythology, and strange stuff like perfumes from the 1680s and the origin of fruitcake. But when it comes to no-holds-barred, read-til-your-eyes-fall-out research into every single detail about a certain event or place – or, worse, plotting my character’s course through Google Maps and figuring out which building existed when – or, worse yet, translating entire articles into English – or, worst of all, calculating the distance from Port Royal, Jamaica to New York, then converting that into knots and determining how long it would take for a ship traveling 3 knots per hour to get from Point A to Point B…yeah. Not fun.
3) Another thing I appreciated about Daylight was the variety of characters! Despite the short length, each of them felt vibrant and real. How did you approach designing the characters for this story? Do you ever base them off of people you know?
Grace: Thank you! I almost never base characters off of people I know personally. Some of my characters are inspired by my ancestors, but as I’ve never met them, I doubt that counts. So, yes, I started from scratch with August and Sylvie. My character development for these two was limited, since the story is so short. I gave them each a short backstory, quickly wrote out the details of their appearances, then figured out their birthdates. That’s usually the amount of characterization that goes into my first outline for a story I intend to work on years into the future, so I started out with the bare minimum and winged basically everything else. I tend to wing a lot of things. *winks*
4) Which of the characters do you relate to the most? In what ways?
Grace: Oh, hmm. That’s a good question. I never delved into their personalities before writing – simply letting them pour out onto the page as I wrote – so I can’t really say who I’m the most like on a surface level, but the more I think about it, Sylvie and I share the same method of…coping, you could say. She tends to doubt herself and feel responsible for everything that goes wrong – so do I, and I think that bleed into her character as I started wrestling with her grief. August is way too upbeat and peppy for me to relate to him about anything.
5) I’m curious—if you could spend a day with Sylvie and August, how do you think you’d spend it?
Grace: Pig out on ice cream and pineapple pizza on the couch while watching Rambo. No, seriously. They are living my dream life! Sylvie and I might go shopping for a few hours (antiquing, actually, since neither of us could afford anything new) before meeting up with August for Italian. Ah, that’s the life…
6) What’s been the hardest part of writing this story for you? What’s been the easiest?
Grace: The hardest part? Getting it right. Writing about an event that transpired twenty years ago is leagues different than writing about one from centuries before – people remember this. People alive today were there. People still mourn for what occured that day. And I had to capture the emotions and experiences they went through as best as I could, having never lived through anything a fraction as terrific.
The easiest, though? Probably capturing the era apart from the events. The early 2000s are easier for me to write in than the early 2020s – probably because I still listen to 2000s music (which drives my sister crazy), watch 2000s movies and shows, and reminisce over the simplicity of 2000s technology. That was also really fun, since I’ve wanted to write a story set in the 90s-00s for forever.
7) Who do you think would enjoy this story most?
Grace: Ooh, good one. Most of my books have a limited demographic (as in, me), but Daylight is probably my most…inclusive work yet. It is a romance, but almost to the point where I wouldn’t even call in that (no declarations of love, no kisses, nothing that would make Jane Austen proud). It’s not quite historical, not quite contemporary. It wavers between a YA story (because Sylvie’s only eighteen) and a story for anyone, because 9/11 was an experience everyone, of all ages, shared.
So, to be honest, I think any American would enjoy it. Or even a foreigner who wants a glimpse into what we went through that day. It’s one of those stories I’m not going to try to box in, for fear of rejection. It’s one that I’m hoping will touch everyone who reads, no matter who they are or where they’re from.
8) What writing project is next for you? Any sneak peeks you want to share?
Grace: Projects, you mean. I’m still working on Bound and Determined, the third novel in the Daughters of the Seven Seas series…and after that, I don’t know. I’ll probably work on several more short stories (including one to bridge the gap between Prisoner at Heart and Bound and Determined), and once I finally finish BAD, I’ll have a bunch of other things I can work on. I do have a Daylight novel in the works, though! I’m only in the outlining stages, but it looks like it’ll be about 50-60k words (one of my shortest novels yet) and I do have a tentative title! Something Bright and Beautiful. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
9) I think every author has special little tidbits, or ‘easter eggs’ if you will, about each of their stories. Things readers may never know about their story details or its characters, but we as authors have filed away and think are neat. Do you have any of those that you’d like to share about Daylight?
Grace: That’s a tough one! Well, let’s see… In the first scene, I mention that a song by Alicia Keys is playing. That would be “Fallin’,” which was #2 on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 list. Later on, I mention that Sylvie drove her mom’s old Toyota Corolla Tercel…which I purposely chose after searching for some of the ugliest cars. Lemme tell ya, that’s one ugly car. And I used Sylvester Stallone as inspiration for (1) Sylvie’s name, (2) August’s appearance, and (3) their favorite movie, Rambo. I…may have an obsession. *winks*
Also, the title of the story and the opening line of the second scene (“A shaft of daylight breaks through the shadows sprawled across the wall”) both came from the song that inspired the story, “Sky Is Falling” by Lifehouse.
10) As a fellow young author, I’ve been very inspired by your writing and publishing journey. What advice would you give to aspiring authors and what’s one thing you wish you’d learned earlier?
Grace: What most people don’t know is that I didn’t learn anything before publishing, so it’s not just one thing I wish I’d learned – it’s everything.
The main thing, though, would probably be that I didn’t have to publish Held Captive the moment my cousin and I finished editing it. Had I waited just a couple more months, tweaked the story a little bit more, and done some more research, then I could’ve published a book I wouldn’t cringe at every time I read. Not only that, but I might’ve had some time to research self-publishing and building my platform as an author.
Then I remember I was only thirteen.
My advice for aspiring authors?
And don’t ever stop. Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep breaking the rules and trying new things. Keep seeking God and His will for you and your writing. Pray and ask Him to guide you, to speak through you, to write for you.
And, seriously, whatever you do, don’t publish your first draft. Or your second. Or even your third. Work on your story until you can’t stand to look at it any more. Research different publishing routes and platforms. Build your brand and your following even before you start considering publishing. Get involved with other writers.
And whatever you do, don’t write for people. Write for God. Write for yourself, even. Write the stories on your heart, not the stories people tell you to write or the market finds popular. You can never satisfy everyone. You can’t write a story everyone will enjoy. So don’t try to. Just write what you feel led to, and God will take care of the rest.
That’s a lot of advice, I know, but that really only skims the surface of what writers need to know, trust me. I’m still learning most of these things myself, and I’ve been at this for nearly three years. There is always something new to learn, always room to grow, always a way from God to use you!
Thank you SOO much for doing this interview with me!! These questions are AMAZING and were a ton of fun to answer! I really appreciate you joining the tour and reading Daylight!!! <333
Thank YOU, Grace! Your answers were a lot of fun to read, and that advice is so true. Writing for God is the best use of our time and talent as authors.
And that concludes my interview with Grace! I hope you had as much fun as I did, and if Daylight sounds like something you’d enjoy, I also hope you’ll consider purchasing your own copy! It’s definitely worth the read, and if you preorder from September 1st-10th, the price is lowered to just $0.99!
Are you interested in potentially winning a free copy of Daylight? Then head over to this page to subscribe to Grace’s newsletter and enter her giveaway! From there, you can collect more entries by commenting on tour posts and answering the trivia question. One winner will be selected and notified through email, and the winner will be announced September 12th on Grace’s blog!
You can find full information about Daylight at Grace’s website, here.
Grace’s complete tour schedule and links to the participating blogs are as follows:
Review – www.Kristinahallauthor.wordpress.com
Review + Interview – www.egbella.com
Review – www.teenwritersnook.com
Book Club Kit – www.graceajohnson.com
Author interview – www.intomywritingjourney.wordpress.com
Character Q&A – www.eccoltonauthor.wixsite.com/quillofhope
What Readers Are Saying About Daylight – www.graceajohnson.com
Review – www.vanessahallauthor.wordpress.com
Giveaway Wrap-up – www.graceajohnson.com