Author B.C. Johnson stops by to chat with me about his debut novel, Deadgirl. We also talk about what one of his most embarrassing moments was in high school, which fictional character he’d choose to have dinner with and what the second installment holds.
Annabell: Tell us a little about yourself.
B.C. Johnson: Happy to. I've lived in Southern California my whole life, except for the odd vacational jaunt. Wanting to be an author has defined most of my life: it began at an early age, six or seven, the need to tell stories and entertain friends and family and hopefully strangers too. I'm a chronic procrastinator, which is probably why I never finished college and instead jumped into a long string of wacky day jobs while I wrote on the side. I worked technical live theater the most, and I probably know the lyrics to more show tunes than is strictly healthy.
I'm currently engaged to an awesome lady named Gina, and we'll be getting married in April 2013, assuming the Mayans don't blow up the world. Frikken Mayans.
Annabell: Three words to describe your writing style.
B.C. Johnson: Informal. Dialogue-heavy. Fast.
(I think I cheated with the hyphen there, but such is the power of writing!)
Annabell: Describe the plot of your book in one sentence.
B.C. Johnson: A smart young girl dies on her first date and refuses to go out so easily.
Annabell: What do you think is alluring about your book that would make someone want to read it? What separates it from other books?
B.C. Johnson: I think the main character, Lucy Day, feels like a real person. She isn't a Mary Sue, or a reader avatar, or even one of those ball-of-problems characters that is responsible for all of their own drama. Lucy is smart, but she's also young and in love, and makes brilliant decisions in one scene and terrible decisions in the next. She says all the dumb things I know I've said when I'm angry or unhappy, and yet she genuinely cares about her friends' feelings.
The book also runs the gamut of emotions, I feel. There are funny scenes and funny characters, and yet it'll switch gears into soul-sucking zombie-faced horror, then back to adventure or romance or mystery.
Annabell: Where did the inspiration for Dead Girl come off?
B.C. Johnson: Deadgirl came from a lot of places, but I'm going to say that the biggest debt owed is to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As a kid born in the eighties and raised in the nineties, Buffy came along at the perfect time in my life. Just about to enter junior high, a little freaked at how my world was about to change, confused and for the most part completely unprepared for the change from child to young adult. Buffy had super-powers, and she was still just as confused and lost as I felt. Ditto with her friends, especially Xander, who I related to hard. Xander was funny but heroic, and tough even if he didn't have any super powers or ninja fighting skills. I think Lucy Day is probably some twisted combination of Buffy, Xander, and myself. Buffy featured smart teenagers with problems both real and supernatural, and they didn't always make the best decisions even if their hearts were in the right place. Deadgirl fits that mold pretty well.
Annabell: What would you say makes Lucy so relatable? What are some qualities you think you share with her?
B.C. Johnson: Lucy is a resourceful girl who, for the most part, solves her own problems with toughness, wit, and sheer ain't-gonna-quit stubborness. She isn't perfect, but tries hard to be a good person. She's loyal to her friends. At the same time, she freaks out, she gets angry, she does the dumb little things we slap ourselves in the forehead for doing.
I probably share with her my self-deprecation, my quick tongue, and my temper.
Annabell: What is the title to the next installment can fans expect to read? Any details you’re willing to give away as to what will happen between Lucy and Zack?
B.C. Johnson: There will definitely be a second book: I imagined the thing as a series, and while the first book ends the story satisfactorily, there are a few obvious threads I left to pick up elsewhere. Without getting too spoilery for the ending of Deadgirl, the sequel is going to feature these things pretty prominently: Daphne. Morgan, especially after all she's gone through. Lucy's purpose and the "what now." Puck not being able to talk. As for Zack, I'm keeping that one in the 'ole back pocket.
Annabell: Why did you choose to write your debut novel in the Young Adult fantasy and paranormal genres? What is it about the genres that you love?
B.C. Johnson: When I finished my first book - which wasn't Deadgirl, but a fantasy novel - I showed it to my then girlfriend Gina at the time. She read it and ripped it apart. She's an English teacher, so she's been invaluable in helping me in the editing process. What she told me at the end surprised me: "You realize you write young adult, right?" This kind of blew me away, not because I disliked young adult (I didn't, I actually enjoy it quite a bit), but because I'd never thought of my writing that way. She made a convincing argument though: I tend to write about younger protagonists, coming of age, the problems with parents and friends and the like. My violence, while visceral, isn't needlessly graphic. Sex has always been on the table in my prose, but never sensational or lurid. Combine that with the Buffy stuff above and I am extremely happy to call myself a Young Adult author. I love watching people grow, and I think the journey from child to adult is endlessly fascinating.
Annabell: What’s your favorite aspect about writing a book?
B.C. Johnson: Discovering the characters. I tend to start with an idea in my mind - something like "Smartass Girl" or "Quiet, Intense Guy." I give them a name and a bit of background, sure, but as soon as I put them on the page and they start interacting with the scenario and each other, they change completely. They become richer, they develop dimensions, they tell me what they're afraid of, what they can't stand, and how far they're willing to go to get what they want. It's exhilarating. Puck became one of my favorite characters during the writing of Deadgirl, which is funny because he was meant to impart useful information and die early on. Obviously, that is NOT how it went down.
Annabell: If you could have dinner with any fictional character from one of your favorite books, who would you choose and why?
B.C. Johnson: That's a tough one. Haymitch from Hunger Games would be a fun choice, just because I think he and I would have a hilarious time after a few cocktails. Cersei Lannister from A Game of Thrones, just so I could throw a serving dish at her head. However, I'm going with Philip Marlowe from Raymond Chandler's detective novels.
That guy is a genius who pretends to be a thug, a poet who pretends to be heartless, and a hero in a world full of tarnished people. Plus he's a real smartass, which I appreciate.
Annabell: Random Fun Questions:
Would you ever go sky diving?
B.C. Johnson: When I was a teenager, hell yeah. Somewhere between then and my twenties I learned I was mortal and am way too chicken to do it. I'd still love to, though, if I could work up the nerve.
Most embarrassing moment in high school?
B.C. Johnson: That's like asking which is the thickest piece of grass in a haystack. Most of them involve girls, naturally. I'm going to say it involved Valentine's Day, giving a girl WAY TOO MANY gifts, and then being soundly rejected at the end of the day. The worst part was learning later that she actually did like me, and that I had just scared her off, which was sort of my move in high school.
If you were stranded on an island with only one of your characters from Dead Girl, which character would you want with you and why?
B.C. Johnson: Daphne. She's crazy pants, and would probably help dull the tedium of seeing the same person every day. I would've chosen Puck, but the lack of conversation would eventually bug the crap out of me.
Favorite Snacks You Can’t Get Enough Of:
B.C. Johnson: Chips and salsa. Anything and salsa. Salsa. I would drink it if it was socially acceptable. The hotter the better. I want my face to fall off when I eat it.
Favorite quote from a book you love:
B.C. Johnson: "Because talent won't be quiet, doesn't know how to be quiet. Whether it's a talent for safe-cracking, thought-reading, or dividing ten-digit numbers in your head, it screams to be used. It never shuts up. It'll wake you in the middle of your tiredest night, screaming, 'Use me, use me, use me! I'm tired of just sitting here! Use me, shithead, use me!'" - Ted Brautigan, Stephen King's "Dark Tower"
Annabell: Definitely check out Deadgirl and thank you to author B.C. Johnson for stopping by TeamNerd to chat! Can’t wait to read the next one!
Synopsis: "You know how it is: go on a date, get killed, wake up the next morning. No? Just me?" - Lucy Day
Fifteen-year-old Lucy Day falls between the gears in the machinery of the afterlife. She is murdered while on her first date, but awakens a day later, completely solid and completely whole. She has no hunger for brains, blood, or haunting, so she crosses “zombie,” “vampire,” and “ghost” off her list of re-life possibilities. But figuring out what she is becomes the least of her worries when Abraham, Lucy’s personal Grim Reaper, begins dogging her, dead-set on righting the error that dropped her back into the spongy flesh of a living girl.
Lucy must put her mangled life back together, escape re-death, and learn to control her burgeoning psychic powers while staying one step ahead of Abraham. But when she learns the devastating price of coming back from the dead, Lucy is forced to make the hardest decision of her re-life—a decision that could save her loved ones...or kill them.
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Check out Annabell's review of Dead Girl: "The book was wrapped its deadly imaginary tentacles around me and didn’t get go until finished it!"