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Author Interview: J.R. Johansson

Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Today, I'm delighted to be interviewing with J.R. Johansson, whose debut novel Insomnia, book one in The Night Walkers, comes out June 8th!

Instead of sleeping, Parker Chipp enters the dream of the last person he’s had eye contact with. He spends his nights crushed by other people’s fear and pain, by their disturbing secrets—and Parker can never have dreams of his own. The severe exhaustion is crippling him. If nothing changes, Parker could soon be facing psychosis and even death.

Then he meets Mia. Her dreams, calm and beautifully uncomplicated, allow him blissful rest that is utterly addictive. Parker starts going to bizarre lengths to catch Mia’s eye every day. Everyone at school thinks he’s gone over the edge, even his best friend. And when Mia is threatened by a true stalker, everyone thinks it’s Parker.

Suffering blackouts, Parker begins to wonder if he is turning into someone dangerous. What if the monster stalking Mia is him after all?

Tell us about yourself and how you got into writing.
My degree is in Communications/Public Relations with my minor in Psychology...clearly not a combinations that screams: WRITE BOOKS! ;-) I never thought I'd like to write books. I never even enjoyed writing when I had to for my university courses. Basically, I went through a really rough time in my life, had an idea in my head, and started writing as a form of release. Then I never stopped. Believe me, I was just as surprised about it as everyone else I knew.

It's interesting, and wonderful, how once you started writing, you kept on doing so, all the way to the publication of your first novel. What inspired you to write about a person who enters other peoples' dreams at night?
I have bizarrely wonky dreams and I always have. I remember waking up one morning and thinking, "WOW! That was crazy! I wonder what other people would think if they saw the things I dream about." It kind of evolved from there.

I love how the craziest things can come to us in our dreams. It would be so interesting to visit other peoples' dreams. On your website, you mention that your minor in abnormal psychology inspired many of your characters. How has this background helped with writing your YA thriller Insomnia?
It helped because of the thriller aspect. Abnormal psychology classes were the best. One of my favorite TV shows is Criminal Minds. I love researching the mind and what situations/abnormalities can result in an average person turning into a sociopath. With Insomnia, this interest took a slightly different turn. Sleep deprivation is a scary thing, physically speaking, but it was so interesting to look into what it does to the brain. Without giving too much away, let's just say a brain without sleep can be a terrifying thing. *insert ominous music here* :-)

I like my sleep. I don't want to think about going a night without sleep, much less four years like Parker! Parker's a teenage boy whose unique abilities threaten to drive him crazy, and now he wonders if it's turning him into something dangerous when all he wants is a good night's sleep. How did you go about developing his character and balancing his vulnerabilities with the craziness he finds himself entangled in?
Great question! That was definitely a tough line to walk. His situation has so many physical repercussions that hold him back. He has tremors and looks terrible, half the people around him (his mom included) think he's doing drugs. On top of all that, he knows he's dying but can't tell anyone. It's a terrifying situation to be in. And that's before the "craziness" really gets going. At the heart of it all, he is a good guy. He wants to do the right thing. But when questions of morality and mortality get swirled up in his crazy mess of a life, the answers aren't so black and white. With all the shades of gray, how do you figure out what the "right" option is? It's a fascinating question that I loved exploring with this character.

Parker has a lot going on in his life. It really makes me appreciate my peaceful, not-so-eventful days of classes and organization activities. Do you plan on writing more YA thrillers, or will you branch out into other genres?
I have a gigantic folder with random ideas in it. Some have fantastical/supernatural elements, some are more contemporary, some even lean toward sci-fi. But the one constant between them all is the scary bits. I see myself going different directions in regards to the other parts, but I'm a YA thriller author, and I don't see that changing. Not for awhile anyway.

That's good to hear. We need more YA thrillers! If you could choose what you dreamed about, what would it be?
Ooh, I think I would probably dream the next scene of my WiP in full detail. It would make the drafting process a lot smoother. Then again...I have some scenes coming up that would REALLY make my dreams more like nightmares. I take it back...I'd dream my favorite happy scenes from my favorite books. With Ryan Gosling, Aaron Rodgers & Adam Levine prominently featured in each one. Mmm...yeah. That.

It would certainly make writing a lot easier (and yay for free dream "movies" starring hotties)! What question do you wish I asked you (and totally forgot to add)?
Hmm...I don't know. These are most excellent questions! Let's see -- I wish you'd asked who my favorite character is in Insomnia. It's a very hard question, but I think it's Finn. Everyone should read it to find out why. :)

What are you working on right now?
Two things: 1 - Finishing up INSOMNIA 2 : WHEN INSOMNIACS ATTACK (unofficial title) 2 - A new project that is what I call a YA Contemporary Psychological Thriller. It's very visual, and VERY scary. I'm loving it.

Sounds exciting! Thanks for interviewing.

About the Author

J.R. Johansson's Website | Facebook | Twitter
J.R. Johansson has a B.S. degree in public relations and a background in marketing. She currently lives with her two young sons, her husband, and her cat Cleo in a valley between majestic mountains and a beautiful lake where the sun shines nearly 300 days per year. When she's not writing, she loves reading, playing board games, and sitting in her hot tub. Her dream is that someday she'll find a way to do all three at the same time.
2 comments on "Author Interview: J.R. Johansson"
  1. I definitely agree with MORE YA THRILLERS. I love the genre, but it seems there are so few in YA, and even fewer who do it well. I also found out that if I read too many thriller/horror books in a row, I'll start getting uncomfortable and be like, "Why is life so depressing??"

    I have some pretty.crazy dreams...not scary, just funky. Like being on a tv beauty game show, where the hardest thing is figuring how to put on mascara while sipping strawberry margaritas. Not a bad dream to be in, except that nothing makes sense. I am so gullible with dreams, I keep having dreams where I have to study for exams--then I wake up remembering "WAIT. YOU ARE ON SUMMER BREAK!."

    I'll definitely need to check out Insomnia when it comes out! Though I'd probably hold off on reading it until Halloween season.

    Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

    1. Yes! We need more YA thrillers. I too wouldn't want to read too many in a row, but I always appreciate a well-done YA thriller.

      I once had to keep a dream journal for a poetry class. It was pretty bizarre to write down my dreams because the strangest things made perfect sense in my dream and none at all when I searched for an explanation for why I accepted certain things as fact.

      I hope that you enjoy Insomnia! :)


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