Saturday, August 1, 2015

Want to write a book? Here's how Johnnie Alexander did it.

Johnnie's book to be released in January 2016

Johnnie Alexander

I read a gazillion books on different aspects of World War II before and while writing my debut novel Where Treasure Hides.

Often a book suggested a path for my character, such as Colditz: The Untold Story of World War II’s Great Escapes or The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Theives, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.

My hero, who is captured at Dunkirk, is imprisoned at the infamous Colditz Castle for a time. Later he joins the Monuments Men.

Keeping a record of all the interesting information I found as I delved into the history of this tragic war was a challenge. My solution was to write pertinent information into tablets and blank books.

It’s not the most organized method because I often read more than one book at a time. So the notes from different books are interspersed throughout the pages. But there’s something about that little bit of chaos that nurtures creativity. When I reviewed my notes, I didn’t know as I turned a page if I’d still be reading about an infamous Vermeer forgery or details about the Battle of Dunkirk.

Johnnie's debut novel 
The journal served a different purpose.

At the top of the third page, I wrote: My name is Alison Schuyler, a fitting name for me and my forebears. It’s Dutch, like my ancestors, and has the connotation of hiding and shelter.

The entry continues, revealing tidbits about Alison and her family that I didn’t know.

A few pages in the journal almost resemble math homework as I reconciled years of birth and ages with historical events. Major characters have a page to themselves with descriptive notes taken straight from the manuscript.

Even The Girl in the Garden, a fictional painting of Alison’s mother, has its own page.

There’s a page titled “Questions!” and the following one begins, “What’s next.” Near the end of the book, “Revisions” tops a page which is followed by a long list of items to double-check or reconsider.

Here’s one of my favorites, totally forgotten until I flipped through the journal to write this post:

May 13th – Got the call!

Treasure is a Genesis finalist!

A few months later, Where Treasure Hides won the American Christian Fiction Writers 2011 Genesis contest in the Historical category.

Now that I’m writing a contemporary romance series, I use small artist sketchbooks. I can’t draw, but a page without lines allows freedom to make connections, to scribble, to play with colored markers.

The tablets, journals, and sketchbooks I prefer measure approximately 6 inches by 8 inches—just the right size to balance on my lap with another book and not too cumbersome to carry around. As I work on my manuscript, the sketchbook is next to my laptop so I can jot notes or refer to something I’ve already figured out in its pages.

The tablets full of research notes still come in handy when I want to write a WWII guest post. Those three notebooks hold a treasure of material that’s easily accessible even if a bit disjointed. I cherish the Treasure journal and Where She Belongs sketchbook because they reveal the nitty-gritty process beneath their finished stories.

Back Cover

Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life.

Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow.

As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?

Meet the Author:

Johnnie Alexander writes inspiring stories that linger in the heart. Where Treasure Hides, her debut novel, won the ACFW Genesis Contest (2011) and Golden Leaf Award (2014). The first of her three contemporary romances, Where She Belongs (Misty Willow Series), releases from Revell in January 2016. Her first novella, “The Healing Promise” will appear in Barbour’s Courageous Bride Collection (July 2016).

She also has won Best Novel and Best Writer awards (Florida Christian Writers Conferences), and Bronze Medalist (My Book Therapy Frasier Contest).

A graduate of Rollins College (Orlando) with a Master of Liberal Studies degree, Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, road trips, and stacks of books. She lives in the Memphis area where experiences farm life with a small herd of alpacas and Rugby, the princely papillon known for treeing raccoons.

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