26 August 2013 - NICKY JOHNSTON - Australian Author


NICKY JOHNSTON


- Australian Author -

G'day folks,

Today I welcome another Aussie author with many talents, including being the mother of four young kids - Nicky Johnston. 

Changes in the book industry continue to have a ripple effect on the publishing landscape. Large publishers are placing increasing demands on their authors which is seeing more and more choose to self-publish or sign with smaller publishers that will give them the support they want and need. 

So, after selling 11,000 copies of her first two books, Nicky Johnston decided that she’d like some assistance with her third book 'Actually I Can' … she met Michael Hanrahan – who had recently started Rough Draft – at the Emerging Writers’ Festival in 2012.




‘I wrote and self-published my first book 'Go Away Mr Worrythoughts!' to help my oldest son when he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at a young age. I couldn’t find any books to help him, so I decided to write one myself! Self-publishing was a learning experience,’ said Nicky. ‘It was such a success I wrote a second book, 'Happythoughts are Everywhere' … however, self-publishing is very demanding, so I started to think about going with a publisher for my third book.’

Nicky had discussed her first two books with some larger publishers and wasn’t happy with their suggestions, but she knew as soon as she started discussing her next project with Michael that they had similar ideas. Nicky and Michael came to an agreement for Rough Draft to publish 'Actually I Can' …  Rough Draft’s fourth book.




Welcome, Nicky ...


 TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.



I am a mum to four boys (ranging 2-14 years) and live a very busy but fun life! I am a primary teacher, an artist, make-up artist and now author and illustrator of children’s books. I have been writing and drawing for as long as I can remember. I recently came across some very old ‘children’s books’ that I wrote and illustrated, ‘publishing’ some copies for my friends and family. (Albeit the publishing entailed lots of photocopying and staples!) I had forgotten they had even existed!



WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?



I have been writing and illustrating since a child. I wrote and produced books when I was younger, as gifts for family and friends. I believe my long love affair with reading books has been the catalyst for the work that I do today.



WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?



I love being able to tell a story, igniting the imagination of children. I really enjoy presenting at schools, talking with kids about how to enhance their own creativity – they are the future generation of authors and illustrators.





WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?



As well as being a writer, I am also an illustrator and I think the hardest thing for me is separating both text and illustration aspects of a story. I tend to think my ideas in illustrations, therefore write what I see, then I edit both my words and illustrations to bring the best out in a story...then again, perhaps this is a skill that makes it easier for me!



WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?



My background has always been one with lots of ‘projects’ on the go, a primary teacher, art teacher, make-up artist, mural painter....creative opportunities always seemed to be able to find me.



WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?



I am really proud of the huge success of my first children’s book “Go Away, Mr Worrythoughts”. I took such a leap of faith in my work and it was my gut instinct and passion that gave me the confidence to step into the unknown world of children’s book publishing. Even today, 5 years later, I still so humbled by my journey. My greatest achievement is helping my son (and thousands of other children) learn valuable ways to manage anxiety – life changing for these kids.



WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?


I always tend to have things waiting in the pipe-line. At the moment I have my next book (a follow on from Actually, I Can) that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into, polish, illustrate and produce, but before I can do that, I have a commissioned children’s book project this about to begin (still finalising details so I can’t give anything away) This book is one that will fit in a special niche of the children’s book market but I know will be extremely sought after by families and schools.

 

WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?



I write and illustrate children’s picture books, I also write article pieces for magazines (print and online), blogs and dabble in short stories.



DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?



Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write. Join writing communities (both online and in person) and build a supporting critiquing group. Writing and illustrating can be extremely isolating but, it doesn’t have to be.

DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?



To date I haven’t suffered from writer’s block....but I can get frustrated when I know an idea isn’t quite working or concrete in its flow...I can feel it....but it isn’t turning out the way I know it will. So, often, I have to allow my intuition the silence to find its own way out. It always does in the end, usually in the middle of the night, or in the shower or stuck in traffic.




DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?



I wish I could have a schedule. I have four boys, all varying ages, so my life on a day to day basis has a cram packed schedule. I tend to do most of my writing late into the night, when the house is quiet. But I do enjoy the rare opportunity of a solid block of hours dedicated to just writing/illustrating. I now have one day a week when my youngest goes into childcare for five hours, which I really look forward to spending either writing or illustrating.


DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?



I don’t have a favourite place to write, but my favourite writing ‘space’ is quiet, uninterrupted with a comfy chair. I do have a studio, but at the moment with a young toddler, I am better working in my office within the house. But, as he gets older, I will appreciate the use of it.


WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?



I LOVE hearing children read my books out loud – there is nothing better than hearing a child’s imagination ticking over, and seeing them predict what is about to happen.




WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?



I receive so many compliments from readers (and parents). I think I am always touched the most when a child believes the book has been written about (and for) them. A close second are the parents who send me messages telling me my books have been absolutely instrumental in changing their child’s life.



WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?



Hmmm...I think the most frustrating comment I have received was from someone who desperately wanted to review my book, and then said she couldn’t publish the review because their website wouldn’t condone violence. I was gobsmacked. In one of my illustrations the children are play acting a pirate game (with an eye patch and pretend pirate sword), which I thought was a rather extreme association to violence!


WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?



Absolutely. Everything I write is a reference to either my life or my children’s or something I have seen. These ideas are so intimate and real – making it easy to share and meaningful to the children reading it.



OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?



I love to paint, draw and create. This is something I do every day. I also love karate. I have been training for 10 years now and just last year I achieved my 2nd Dan Black Belt. The hardest thing both physically and mentally I think I have ever done!





WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?



I would voice the logic of ridding of poverty in our world. The world leaders can make simple changes for this to happen. That there is NO reason anyone should live, work or be governed by poverty.



WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?



As a mum I know my children will always be my focus in life, but, as they get older the opportunity for me to create becomes larger. I am looking forward to being able to pursue my many ‘pipeline creative projects’ as well as running art classes for children.



DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?



I have often thought about writing a book based on me as the main character – watch this space.


DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?



I haven’t had enough time to become frustrated by the publishing business as every aspect of my life moves so quickly, I have just adapted to way of constantly learning and changing. I can however, become irritated by some pre-conceived ideas about self-publishing still not considered as successful as being traditionally published, but, then I remember I am too busy to think about it!



DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?


Never.



HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?



I think ‘success’ as a writer is different for everyone. The comments, feedback and thank you notes I receive on a daily basis is what I use to re-energise myself. This reminds me why I do what I do. For me, this is success.



WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?



When my books are read, I hope that the reader feels a connection, thinks ‘oh, so it isn’t just me who thinks this?’ I hope that both children and parents can gain a sense of relief and normality ridding of the isolation experiencing anxiety normally brings. I hope that the reader uses my books as a constant reminder of the superpowers that we all have when battling our worry thoughts.



HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?



For me as an illustrator I consider SO much when designing the front cover of a book. With my new book ‘Actually, I Can’ it was the first time I hadn’t used an image from inside the book, but, it does link to both the first and last illustrations of the book. The font is extremely important also, if not designing the font; it can take days and days of playing around to find the ‘perfect’ one!




WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOU’RE BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?



I have spent 5 years building a brand, marketing both my books and myself. It is extremely important to foster a relationship with the public while also being genuine. I educated myself in business marketing areas, learning so much about social media, websites, URL names and images, but I also wasn’t afraid to break the rules. I took the information that I believed would benefit my work, but recognized my gut feelings about things, keeping true to myself and creating a point of difference with my brand.


ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?


My first two books ‘Go Away, Mr Worrythoughts!’ and ‘Happythoughts are Everywhere …’ have been highly successful and were self-published by my business Happy Hero.

My new book ‘Actually, I Can’ is published by Rough Draft. This change of tact has raised some conversations about why I went with a publisher after self-publishing so successfully. My decision wasn’t one I took lightly, I battled with ‘letting go’ a little, because I was just so used to doing it all myself. But, in the end, leaving the publishing process to Rough Draft has enabled me to utilize my time creating future projects. It is an enormous amount of work running the business (self-publishing) and creating in the business (writing/illustrating) that for me the value was in continuing to foster my creativity and knowing that the publishing process would be at a very high professional standard.

Rough Draft’s values are to foster and develop a close personal relationship with their authors, working with them to produce the best work possible. The marketing, PR planning process has been of a very high standard, using their many years of publishing experience to extend the distribution of their books far wider than I ever could.


ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?



I am scared of snails...ewww...just thinking about them makes me squirm. I can’t swim very well and I have a dream every single night. I love licking the beaters when baking a cake and although I am a make-up artist I wear very little myself!


I can’t sing, I’m not good at running, but I will give anything a go.







http://www.happyhero.com.au/




Clancy's comment: Mm ... Nicky, I'd give you a top prize for being the mother of four kids. Well done and good luck.

I'm ...










Think about this!