Monday, June 18, 2012


I am thrilled to share with you an interview with the unstoppable Elana Johnson whose sophomore novel, SURRENDER, hit shelves this month. Elana is an incredible writer and blogger but she is also much more: She is a FRIEND TO WRITERS at all stages of the "dream," providing help, support, encouragement and inspiration for so many of us struggling alone at our keyboards. Elana is the author of From the Query to the Call, an ebook that every writer needs to read before they query, which can be downloaded for free on her website. She runs a personal blog on publishing and is a founding author of the QueryTracker blog. She blogs regularly at The League of Extraordinary Writers, co-organizes WriteOnCon, and is a member of SCBWI, ANWA and LDStorymakers. Today, Elana has stopped by to share some thoughts about the experience of the second novel.

1. Tell the story of selling your second novel. Was it part of your first book deal or a separate project? Do you have the same publisher and/or editor for this book?

EJ: I sold my second novel about two months before POSSESSION came out. I’d always envisioned POSSESSION to be a stand-alone novel, and in the fall of 2010, my agent, editor and I started talking about a second novel. I wrote it and had a full ready to send in by February. It sold soon after that, also in a one-book deal. I do have the same publisher and editor for SURRENDER (book #2) as I do for POSSESSION.

2. As you prepared to write your second (published) novel, did you worry about making the book similar to (or different from) your first book? Did you think about reviews, book #1’s fans’ expectations, or other factors? Did you have any issues with writers’ block?

I am still constantly worried that all my writing will sound like POSSESSION. I did not consider reviews (I wrote SURRENDER before reviews were available) or fan expectations (I had no fans—though I envisioned the future fans of the novel, and I did consider who they’d like to see in the second book). I did consider how SURRENDER, which is a companion more than a sequel, would be able to continue the story of the key players in POSSESSION while still maintaining it’s own story and character arcs.
I don’t really get writer’s block because I draft so fast. I wrote POSSESSION in 17 days and SURRENDER in 25. Once I start, I just can’t stop. It’s the editing that blocks me sometimes, because I see the problems but I have no freaking clue how to fix them. Sometimes those can take me days of mindless activities to unravel. Those are the times when my house is really clean and all the laundry is folded. I use any mindless activity (video games, folding laundry, showering, driving) to help my mind unravel the mysteries of my novels.

3. What would be your #1 WRITING TIP FOR BOOK 2?

Just do it. It’s not going to be easier tomorrow or next week. So just open the document and DO IT already. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time, but you can’t edit what’s not on the page. So just do it.
4. Are you doing the same type of marketing for the second book as you did for the first? Do you feel you’ve found a “comfort zone” for self-marketing? How have you done so?

I don’t think I am. With the release of POSSESSION, I did everything everyone asked of me. And more. This time around, I’m relaxing more and doing high-quality things over the sheer quantity of promotional items. 

I don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable self-marketing. It’s a hard gig. I just want to tweet for fun and share my excitement for books and writing (and bacon and reality TV) and interact with other authors and readers online. Anything beyond that, I have to force myself to do.  So I do. Because publishing is a business, and authors probably should be doing something to help their books sell. I really like blog tours and making fun videos for exclusive content and stuff like that.

5. What would be your #1 MARKETING TIP FOR BOOK 2?

Write a better story than book 1. Oh, wait, that’s not really a marketing tip, is it? How about: Do only what you like doing. I say it all the time with social media, but it’s a good slogan for marketing too. Just because Author A does amazing giveaways doesn’t mean you have to do giveaways too. Authors should market in a way that they like, and not feel guilty about it.

6. What’s next for you as a writer? As a, well, human?

I’m hoping to be a career writer, so I’m hoping that there will be more novels and more characters to love and more stories to be told. I love writing, and I have ideas that I think could become good novels.
As far as a real human, well! Who knew we were those too? I’m a mom, a teacher, a taxi driver, a wife, a sister, and a friend. I try to do my best at all of those (okay, maybe not the taxiing) on a daily basis.

 Tomorrow, Elana will be sharing some SURRENDER CINEMA here at the blog.  Curious? You know it.  Thanks, Elana.  See you in the AM!


Veray said...

I halfway through Surrender and I love it so far. It seems a little more complex than Possession and harder to follow. I get lots of interruptions from my kids, so I just have to reread, but I love it just the same. :)

Vivien said...

I really do love second novels. Especially companions. They really can make or break a series. With companion novels, you have a easier time, I think because the readers have a harder time predicting what's going to happen. Keeps it refreshing!!

Sarah @ Breaking the Binding said...

I think it's fascinating that your envisioned Possession as a standalone novel, but were so easily able to write a sequel. It flows so well it feels as if the entire story was planned out from the beginning!

Taffy said...

Love the advise on marketing. Thanks!