New Author Spotlight: Sarah L. Johnson
What drew you to writing stories that move across genres? Is this a new direction for your writing?
I read broadly across all genres, and as such I don’t think I’ve ever written a story that didn’t skate between those lines. Even my literary fiction tends to carry a whiff of noir or slipstream. Sadly this ‘contamination’ often makes the work a hard sell, but the idea of confining myself to one genre gives me creative claustrophobia.
The theme for this issue is Silent Communication. Did you write it for the theme, or was it something that you’d already completed that seemed to fit?
Writing for a specific theme doesn’t work for me. I end up birthing a malformed story-type thing with too many tentacles and no heart. Then I have to kill it with fire. So I’m glad I wrote this story on my own because it fits the theme and CG overall is the perfect home. I couldn’t be happier to be here!
Henry, the protagonist in “Loud as a Murder,” is an adult in love. He is also an adult with autism. When writing Henry, did it occur to you that neurotypical readers might struggle to identify with him? Or do you credit everyone with as much self-awareness and depth as you do people with disabilities?
It honestly didn’t occur to me, because I wasn’t trying to write an autistic character, or a queer character, or a shut-in. I was writing a unique human being with talents, flaws, challenges, and desires. That said, Henry’s autism is a part of what makes him unique and in writing him, I drew heavily on my own experience. My 12-year-old son has autism and as he gets older I often need to remind myself that his critical thinking faculties operate on a much higher level than he can articulate. As for neurotypicals being able to relate, who among us has never felt lonely, confused, or unheard?
I also wanted to give a perspective on autism grounded in reality. The popular media portrayal of autistic people as savants, childlike in their wide-eyed innocence, with no hint of sexuality whatsoever is such bullshit. Henry is of average smarts, is more emotionally mature than people realize, and thinks about sex as much as any other dude. I had fun getting to know him.
Although “Loud as a Murder” is a horror story down to its bones, it has a subtle, dry wit. Why so complex?
Because down to my bones, I am an incurable smartass and it’s a deeply embedded part of my writer’s voice.
Tell us something about your future writing projects. Are you developing more short stories? Do you have a novel in the works?
My first novel, Infractus, will be published by Driven Press in the next year. It’s a Bourne Identity meets the Book of Revelation, fantasy/sci-fi mash-up, with a bit of what could be romance if the characters weren’t such emotional lummoxes. My current work in progress is a neo-noir crime novel.
Where is your favorite writing place? Can you draw us a visual picture of the kind of space you create for yourself when you write?
I have always needed quiet and privacy to write. My house has a loft above the second floor, with a vaulted ceiling and a big window looking out onto our street. I do a lot of neighbor watching from there, but mostly it’s a room of my own where I write at my desk, do yoga on the floor, or curl up to read in one of the wingback chairs. The best part is that if my kids want to pester me, they have to climb three flights of stairs to do it.
What’s the question that you wish someone would ask, but no one ever has?
This is one I like to ask fellow writers. “If forced to choose between reading and writing, to choose one and never again do the other, what would your choice be?”
What’s the answer to that question?
I spend way more time reading than writing. I think everyone should. And my love of reading is not a polite civilized thing. If books are food for thought, then I am a beast with disgusting table manners, cracking spines, sucking out the marrow, finishing off my plate and yours, drinking all the wine and then eating the glass. You wanna take books away from someone like that? You just go ahead and try.
Is there anything I didn’t ask that you think is important or that readers might want to know?
Only that it’s been fun to talk about what goes on behind the curtains. I also love connecting with readers and writers so feel free to say hi on Twitter @leadlinedalias or drop me a line through my website www.sarahljohnson.com.