Author Interview: A.H. Johnstone

 ‘My friend, if the story is written against you, what you need to do is—’

‘Change the story?’

‘I was thinking more like hunt down the author and gut him in front of his family, but your plan works too.’- Charon Unguarded

Who is A.H. Johnstone?

When not swinging an axe at Viking re-enactment events, A. H. Johnstone is busy experiencing silent dismay over the lack of honest pillaging in the world. They would dearly like to see an end to poverty and abuse and has wielded their fundraising sword in support of ‘Responsible Charity’ several times.

It is their fond hope that education will become free for all as the opportunities for Viking raids are slim and don’t offer much of a career choice for modern school leavers.

AH Johnstone

The first book in Johnstone’s Ferryman Saga, Charon Unguarded, is available to purchase on Amazon.

Charon was once the Ferryman of the Underworld. Now he’s the doorman of a disused office block. If only the old Gods hadn’t lost that drunken bet all those centuries ago, things would be very different. For a start, Ragnarök probably wouldn’t be on its way.

Ra is looking for a way of escaping the mortal realm, but there’s something about his plans he isn’t telling everyone.

Maybe Charon is the only one who’s noticed. He certainly seems to be the only one who cares. But can he do anything about it? It looks like he’s going to try. But there are others who might profit from the situation, and the last thing he wants is the Fae Courts breathing down his neck.

How Did You Get Started as a Writer?

Johnstone doesn’t remember a time when writing wasn’t a part of life.

I’ve always been a bookworm, and wrote stories to myself since I could pick up a pen. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve always had a book on the go.

There were some difficulties for Johnstone getting started, but that didn’t mean an end to the dream.

I decided to stop letting life get in the way after I finished my history degree in 2016. Before that I kept a blog for a little while, but that was more my take on current affairs and had to take a back seat while I was studying and raising three very excitable and energetic little boys..

What is Your Author Dream?

Johnstone puts recognition above financial incentives.

To see my books in shops. It’s not about the money (though that would be nice) for me. I just want to get my stories out there.

What Genres Do You Write?

Johnstone sticks to favorite reading genres, and writes historical fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy.

Mostly because it’s what I enjoy reading. My mum is a big sci-fi reader so I was dragged up on the likes of Ursula Laguinn, Orson Scott Card, Brian Aldis, Arthur C. Clarke, and James Blish. I drifted toward fantasy after I read the Hobbit when I was about 10. It’s pure escapism but there’s always a message in there somewhere.

We can also look out for a historical fiction about vikings in the future.

History has always been a bit of an obsession of mine and I have a Viking saga in outline. Early days on that though

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing

Johnstone went with a hybrid method to publish Charon Unguarded. 

Charon Unguarded began as self-published but I moved to a hybrid model in November 2018 to get an ISBN that would let me get the book into shops and give me a bit of help on the marketing side of things. I needed to take a few demands off my time and have been so busy running my editing business that I didn’t have the time to do all the things I needed to and write.

This decision is different for every author though. It all depends on how much help you need and how much control you want over the process.

I would say that it’s entirely down to the author as it depends entirely on how much time you have.

Traditional publishing methods give you access to marketing and editing help, which is important if you don’t know where to start. Self-publishing is simpler, but you have to take care of these issues yourself.

Going traditional just felt too much like asking permission to get my work published, but self-publishing takes a lot of time and effort because it’s not just a case of whacking out a first draft and uploading to Kindle… Going traditional, means that the publisher handles the production side though.

Self-publishing doesn’t mean you can just upload your first draft. You need to find the resources that will help you create a polished product.

While uploading is a physically simple process, if you want a professional product at the end of it you still have to navigate through the editing and cover design stages which often means a lot of upfront costs. If you are doing that for the first time it can be a very daunting prospect, I think I spent more time and effort promoting Charon Unguarded than I did writing it.

Do You Have Any Other Publishing Advice?

Do your homework and learn as much about it as you can. The Creative Penn podcast is great for marketing advice, and is aimed at indie-authors.

What Does It Take to Succeed as a Writer?

Johnstone recommends starting with an outline for your stories.

Outline. Even if it’s just a bullet point list of chapters and what you want to happen. It will help you see where your scenes fit and save you a great deal of time in the editing process.

What Makes Writing Rewarding for You?

It’s sheer escapism for me. I can forget about the list of a hundred other demands on my time and throw myself into my own weird little world. It gives me the head-space I need.

What Challenges Do You Face as a Writer?

Self-promotion. I’m really not good at it because the anxiety and imposter syndrome kicks in, not to mention a lifetime of being told to stop showing off or being an ‘attention seeker’. I suppose we all have emotional blocks to get past, but for me it was the Wall of ‘No’.

Luckily, Johnstone has used the challenges as motivation.

That said, being told no to things and told what I can’t do has, ironically, made me more determined to do them anyway. Lesson learned: Never let anybody limit your horizons. I just need a time machine now so I can go back and tell my younger-self.

Who is Your Favorite Author?

Terry Pratchett. I love the Discworld series.It’s fantastically funny, and the characters jump out of the page at you, but it also makes you think. I’m also a big Neil Gaiman fan. I just love his brand of weirdness.

What Projects Are You Working On?

Since completing Charon UnguardedJohnstone has worked on the second book in the series, a prequel to the first.

I’m currently working on The Bet which is the prequel to Charon Unguarded (I had another mad idea and ran with it.), and I plan to have published in August 2019 (teaser chapter on my website).

The rest of the books in the series have a beginning as well. Johnstone has created outlines for two more books.

I have books two and three of the Ferryman Saga in outline for publishing in 2020 and 2021.I’d rather take my time to get the story and characters just right than rush to pump out more than one book per year.

You can watch for the rest of the books on Johnstone’s Goodreads page, or website. You can also watch for updates on Facebook or Twitter.

Famous Last Words

Keep trying and listen to your editor (that doesn’t mean blindly obey). They are on your side. Remember that you are paying them to tell you the problems with your work before it gets to your readers.

For more author tips and tricks, check out the other author interviews in writing resources.

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