Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Liz Johnson grew up reading Christian fiction and dreamed of being part of the publishing industry. After graduating from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff with a degree in public relations, she set out to fulfill her dream. In 2006 she got her wish when she accepted a publicity position at a major trade book publisher. While working in the industry, she decided to pursue her other dream—becoming an author. Liz makes her home in Nashville, TN, where she enjoys theater, exploring the local music scene, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her two nephews and three nieces. She loves stories of true love with happy endings.

Did you see yourself becoming a writer as a child? If not, what did you dream of being?

I’m not sure I saw myself becoming an author, but I definitely always loved to write. I wrote my first short story when I was 7 and my first (really, really bad) novel when I was 12 or 13. Throughout high school I wanted to be a physical therapist, but when I got to college I realized that I’d have to take a lot of science classes, and I was really bad at science. But talking to people and writing had always been easy for me, so I decided I was going to work in Christian publishing, and I worked at it until God opened that door for a job as a publicist 5 years ago.

How long did you write before you sold your first book?

I wrote all through high school (mostly fan fiction) and I wrote a really terribly plotted full-length novel in college. I took the Christian Writers Guild apprentice course after college, but it wasn’t until I moved to Colorado in 2006 that I started to get really serious about getting published.

Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?

My favorite piece of writing advice is one I heard at a writers conference years ago. A speaker was sharing about a failing office cleaning business on the verge of bankruptcy. And then a businessman bought it and gave it a new business model and turned it into Merry Maids, one of the largest companies in the country. This businessman saw that the company was worth starting. It had just been started poorly. The speaker equated that to writing. Anything worth starting is worth starting badly. You can go back and fix what needs to be fixed. Just get it started.

Now for the readers…many times, it’s easy for them to connect with the characters in a book, but not so much the authors themselves. Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.

My day-to-day life isn’t very exciting. Like many writers, I have a full-time job. Mine is in marketing for a Christian publisher, which is pretty cool. I market books written by one of my writing heroes, which is very cool. And at the end of the day I go home and sit in front of my laptop, trying to write new books. In my free time I love to plan trips to far-off locations that I hope to get to visit. Usually I try to think of a good book idea related to said location, so I can have a valid reason to visit. It works about half of the time.

Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?

I’m sorry. I hope it was okay for me to laugh at this question. Of course I still get rejected! I’ve had a YA series that’s been rejected from all but 2 Christian publishers out there. And I’m pretty sure those other 2 sent rejection letters that got lost in the mail. Rejection is just part of the writing process. And while it’s certainly not easy, it is part of growing and learning as a writer. The difference now is that the rejection letters go to my agent, who sends me the gentler versions of them. But they still sting. And I still struggle with taking them too personally. But sometimes, just sometimes, those rejection letters turn into acceptance letters. Both of my publishers rejected my first books with them and then ended up contracting those same stories. What I’ve come to learn from rejection letters is that I can’t always please everyone. But God has promised that if we come to him with a contrite heart, He won’t reject us. I take comfort in that.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Code of Justice is my third book from Love Inspired Suspense and tells the story of FBI agent Heather Sloan, who is the only survivor of a deadly helicopter crash that takes the life of her sister Kit. As Heather begins to recover from her injuries, she realizes that the crash may not have been an accident and she has to investigate Kit’s last words, “Follow the drugs.” Sheriff’s deputy Jeremy Latham is assigned the case—he’s the only one who can help Heather find the person responsible. But as they begin to trust and care for each other, they may lose it all when the killer targets Heather.

If you could only share one line from CODE OF JUSTICE, which one would you choose and why?

This is a tough question. The line that I love the most is toward the end of the book, but if I quote it, it’ll give away the ending. I will just say that at one point Heather realizes that showing mercy is not the opposite of justice—it just frees her from a burden she was never intended to carry.

Writers often put things in their books that are very personal—like a funny story that happened to them, a spiritual truth they learned through difficulty, or even just a character trait that is uniquely theirs. Is there something in CODE OF JUSTICE that only people close to you know is about you or someone you know?

The key verse of Code of Justice is Micah 6:8, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Around about the time I was 12, I had a minor (or major, if you ask my dad) attitude problem. Whenever something didn’t go as I hoped, I’d pop out with an “Oh, man!” So my dad decided that any time I offered my “Oh, man!” I’d have to follow it up with Micah 6:8. I memorized that verse pretty fast, and it stuck with me all these years. So when I sat down to write Code of Justice, I knew the themes of the book would fit with justice and mercy, things that God requires of us.

Readers often talk a lot about the hero and heroine of a story, but today I’d like to know something about your villain. Does he or she have a redeeming quality? Why or why not?

That’s a great question, but I’m sorry to say, he has no redeeming qualities. He’s just plumb greedy and selfish. He doesn’t care who he hurts, and he loves no one but himself. But I think that reveals more about the heroine’s choices at the end of the book than anything else.

What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?

I did quite a bit of research on how helicopters work and what kinds of choppers might be used for tourism. I also read a lot about ACL injuries and how long it takes to recover from an ACL surgery, as that was Heather’s main injury from the crash.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

I just completed a manuscript that will be part of A Log Cabin Christmas Collection available from Barbour in September. My novella is called "A Star in the Night" and is set at the end of the Civil War in Franklin, Tennessee. I’m also working on several proposals for other projects.

The most common thing I hear when people learned I’ve published a book is, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Faced with this statement, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in this business?

I don’t get this too often, and when I do, I’m usually tongue tied. If I’m really on the ball, I ask what they’ve written recently. Usually they say they haven’t written anything, so I suggest if they’re serious they should get started writing.

What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?

The one question I always get and absolutely hate is: Why aren’t you married yet? It’s the plight of the single late 20- and 30-something women in our Christian culture. The unanswerable question. I have no idea why I haven’t met Mr. Right yet. But one thing I do know is that it’s been much easier for me to follow God’s call on my life over the last 5 years (and 3 cross-country moves) as a single woman than it would have been as a married woman with kids. While I’m waiting, I’ll try to get a few more books written. :)
To learn more about Liz and her books, visit her at
Liz is giving away a copy of her book, Code of Justice. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!


  1. Great interview, Liz. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  2. Liz I love a good mystery suspense book....but what I loved most about your interview is how you let God lead your life. you are right on...and He will give you the desires of your heart. don't get discouraged, you are after His heart and like I said he'll give you the desires of yours!!!!! You go girl....


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