Kindle Author Interview: Marc Johnson

Marc Johnson, author of Catalyst: The Passage of Hellsfire, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Catalyst: The Passage of Hellsfire?

MARC JOHNSON: Catalyst: The Passage of Hellsfire is the first book in my high fantasy series. It tops 105,000 words. It begins with a young man who stumbles upon a princess. He rushes in to rescue her, alone and unarmed, by unleashing an uncontrollable, magical force. He doesn't want the powers he has yet must learn to master his abilities lest he hurt the people he loves.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you do your world-building?

MARC JOHNSON: World building is the last thing I do. I tend to think of a characters then a story idea and finally a world to put everything in. I think of the world when I need certain situations or themes to happen. While they seem to be the least important thing to me, I do love exploring the world I create. It sometimes surprises me and can add certain backgrounds characteristics to a character I never thought of before, or move the plot forward in an unexpected way.

DAVID WISEHART: What is the system of magic in your novel?

MARC JOHNSON: The magic in my book is pretty basic. The characters are connected through the world because of the life force called mana, surrounding them. The wizards of the world can access and channel it. I tend to use magic more as a metaphor than anything else. I try not to focus on it too much because it's not that important to me. The characters are what's important.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

MARC JOHNSON: I get the majority of my ideas from dreams. The major characters come out of those dreams. I start building my stories with them and their relationship to each other or the idea in mind. Once I have them down, I expand. I think about adding other supporting characters. I try to give all my characters a weakness or a quirk much like Marvel Comics. It may be minor but it may also come into play later. The characters I add, I also try to make them have different personality traits, backgrounds, or goals from each other.

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

MARC JOHNSON: My ideal reader is one who will buy every single book, short story, and novella I write and love them all. For The Passage of Hellsfire, I think that the guys will love the adventure of Hellsfire as he explores the world and his magic. I hope the women will love the budding romance between Hellsfire and Krystal. I think everyone can relate to how Hellsfire feels while growing up, even if they lack magical powers.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

MARC JOHNSON: My journey as a writer was a long one. One that involved many late nights in front of a computer, a lot of rejection, a lot of reading, and a lot of rewrites. It was also rather boring, but writing is a boring and often lonely pursuit.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

MARC JOHNSON: I'm at computer when I wake up, hammering away, and return to it before I go to sleep. Sadly, I am also at one at my day job but can't actually write there. I do tend to write with my feet up and my chair reclined. I like to write comfortably although I've left so many marks on the walls over the years.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

MARC JOHNSON: Every author I read inspires me—the good and bad. That's one of the reasons I love to read is because I learn from them. I have my favorite writers but I doubt I'll ever be as good as them if I try to imitate them. However, I love Rod Serling and what he wrote and did businesswise. I love how he had an idea or a theme and didn't let himself be pigeonholed. His stories had themes everyone could relate to whether it be in Patterns, Playhouse 90, or The Twilight Zone.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

MARC JOHNSON: Lit Life. It's such an amazing book and a simple one too. It's about two writers—one star and one who could never make it big. Their lives come together. I love books about characters and it's a great character book with twists and a lot of emotion. And you don't have to be a writer to enjoy it because the emotions they're going through is universal.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

MARC JOHNSON: I've emailed bloggers and podcasters and have paid for advertising. I don't know what affect those will have because it's going to take time. I also have a website at Longshot Publishing. It's updated weekly with my thoughts on writing or what I've done or am doing during the publishing process. I'm taking a month off of writing and editing before starting the second book in The Passage of Hellsfire series.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

MARC JOHNSON: I believe I have more of a business sense than the Big Six. While I still took my time in releasing my book, it didn't take as long as it would have in print and I'm able to (hopefully) pinpoint what went right or wrong and can do more more cost-effective things with my dollars and time. I also believe ebooks are the future and like most corporations, the Big Six are slow to change. Lastly, I love my Kindle and felt giddy to see my book on it.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

MARC JOHNSON: My advice would be to have a business plan and some capital saved. While you can do everything yourself, you shouldn't. You should get your manuscript edited with at least a developmental edit then copy edit. As good as you think your manuscript is, it needs a professional outsider's point of view. Even editors have other editors edit their work. Pay someone to do your cover. You can give them an idea you have in mind, but they understand pictures, font, and spacing way more than you do. Reason out everything you do whether it's the price point, advertising, promotion, cover design, title, etc. Calculate the numbers, if you can earn out what you spend, if it's worth your time, if you'll sell more books, and so on. Think from a business point of view, not a creative one.


Marc Johnson lives and writes in the Bay Area. He has been reading his entire life and writing for almost as long. Until magazines went away, he used to freelance on the side, covering gaming. However, his first love has always been writing fiction and he loves stories in all its forms—movies, television, video games, comics. He will always write fiction because it’s the only way to get all of the crazy ideas out of his head.

He has recently released his first book Catalyst. It’s the beginning of his coming of age, romantic, high fantasy series, The Passage of Hellsfire. Marc Johnson plans to release one book a year and finish the six book series before he dies.

Visit his website and follow him on twitter.

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