This week I’m really pleased to have JB Johnston here. Most of you will know her through her blog Brook Cottage Books but as you will see, she’s a lady of many talents…
Hi JB and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?
Hi Jo and thank you so much for having me on Tuesday Talk. What an honour! My real name is Debbie Johnston (not to be confused with Debbie Johnson the published author). I write and blog under the name JB Johnston but generally answer to any name. I’ve gotten quite used to my alter ego. I’m from Northern Ireland and I live about 14 miles outside of Belfast. In my ‘official’ job I’m a social worker working in Children’s Services. In my other life I’m a reader, blogger AND author. I blog over at Brook Cottage Books where I coordinate virtual book tours for authors as well as sharing reviews. And, I’ve written a novel which has been critiqued by a reader in the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme. I’m not sure I’ll ever get the thing finished! Still a lot of work to do! I’m also married with 2 children and 2 step children and over the past year I’ve become slightly addicted to yoga. I lead a very busy and stressful life and I find it’s a wonderful escape from all that.
You are the mastermind behind Brook Cottage Books. What made you decide to offer this service to writers?
I have always adored books and part of me dreams to one day publish my own book. I initially started reviewing books on a personal blog I used to write for parents of kids with special needs. Being a carer myself I wanted to offer a site that was supportive and had a bit of humour too. I had posted a few book reviews on that blog, but I soon became so inundated with requests for reviews that I set up Brook Cottage Books to meet that demand. A few years later, with the guidance of lovely book blogger and former book tour organiser Sharon Goodwin, I began organising book tours and other paid services to authors alongside the free stuff I do. I adore helping authors get the word out about their books and themselves. It’s something I’m passionate about as there are so many amazing authors out there who maybe haven’t been picked up by big name publishers but still have some wonderful writing to share with the world. I particularly love it when I find an indie author who stuns me with how amazing their book is. I also get a real kick out of meeting new book bloggers too. I love having a good old chat about bookish things!
Have you a favourite genre?
Oh gosh! That’s a difficult question. I love them all though tend not to read too much science fiction. When I first started blogging I adored thriller or horror novels. However, the more book tours I started to take part in the more I forced myself to slip out of my reading comfort zone and try new genres. I’m so glad I did because otherwise I wouldn’t have read so many wonderful books that have surprised me and taken my breath away with how amazing they are. If I had to give an answer though I think my favourite is ultimately Crime thrillers. I love a good whodunnit, but I’ve become a real sucker for a good old romance. I love everything from the classics such as Rebecca and Pride and Prejudice to books about zombies and killer viruses! If you like that sort of thing I can recommend The Passage Trilogy by Justin Cronin!
You have recently embarked on a writing career. How did this come about? Are you enjoying the experience?
I’ve always had ideas buzzing about in my head for as long as I can remember and used to write short stories when I was a teen. I did manage to get a short story published in a magazine when I was in my early twenties and then I had my son and my brain turned to mush. When I started book blogging I rediscovered my love of writing again but was too afraid to share it with anyone. However, in 2015 I took part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and wrote the first draft of my novel in 30 days. This almost killed me! Its exhausting. I’ve been tweaking and editing the book ever since and at times I adore the experience and there are other times I could burn the book! I’ve been told that’s normal behaviour for a writer. I’ve joined a writing group and help to run it along with the other members. This has forced me to take a leap and start reading my work out to other people! What I have discovered about writing is that authors are the bravest people on the planet. Writing a book, short story or poem is like going outside without your knickers on! Terrifying. That being said, I’ve ideas for 4 other novels and written the opening chapters to 2 other novels. I just need to find the time to develop them!
How has the RNA New Writer’s Scheme helped your writing?
My lovely friend Les Moriarty who sadly died in 2016, was an amazing support and was always encouraging me to apply to become a member of the Romantic Novelists New Writers scheme, but I was too afraid. Les was so supportive of so many writers that lots of us owe him a huge debt of gratitude for pushing us out of our comfort zones. When Les died in 2016 I was devastated and decided to finally make that leap and join the scheme. The scheme has been amazing in terms of support and guidance. I had the opportunity to submit my manuscript for critique back in August. I received an in-depth report which at times wasn’t easy to read. Looking back on it now with a slightly more rational mind I can see a lot of it was very good advice, so I’ve been working on incorporating some of the suggestions on how to improve the story and my writing. The RNA also holds an annual conference and I attended that and was even a member of a panel on one of the conference days. Again, I received some wonderful support from other authors on the scheme and have made life long friends. I can’t sing the scheme’s praises highly enough. The RNA is simply amazing, and its members are the friendliest people!
Beach or city girl? Where are your favourite holiday destinations and why?
Oh a beach girl. I long to lie on a sandy beach somewhere with a cocktail in one hand and a book in the other! Living along a main road I crave somewhere quiet. I love the ocean and I think its because of my grandfather who was in the navy! My favourite holiday destination is Malta. We went there on our honeymoon and it was just beautiful. If I had to choose a city though it would be Rome. Really enjoyed our stay there. Our hotel was a converted monastery, half of which was still a working monastery and still had monks worshipping there!
What advice would you give to newbie writers?
I think the best advice to give is to accept constructive criticism of your work in the manner it was intended. Its there to help you develop as a writer. Well, as long as its not rude, hurtful or plain horrible which is unlikely. Also, seek out the support of other writers. The book community is an extremely supportive world where you will find lots of wonderful people to guide you. Establish links also within the wonderful book blogging community as ultimately these are the people who will read your book and tell the world about it. Their dedication is amazing. But always remember to be kind and courteous throughout. The book world, while supportive is protective too so rudeness will just not be tolerated, and people will not want to read your book. I think kindness should be practiced in all areas of life. It’s my mantra!
And finally, you are hosting a dinner party and can invite four celebrity guests (dead or living). Who would you choose and why?
Oh, excellent question. I think the first person would be Stephen King as I’m a huge fan! I’ve enjoyed his books for many years and think he is a fantastic writer. He scares the life out of me! Secondly, I’d invite Harper Lee as I’d love to hear more about her life and why it took so long for her to release Go Set A Watchman. Last two guests would be Donald Trump and the Queen. I can just imagine the stilted conversation between those two! I think it’d make for a fun night!