Welcoming Myra Johnson

I’m delighted to have my dear friend and fellow Seeker Myra Johnson at Cup of Faith today. Myra and I met in 2005 when we were finalists, along with Julie Lessman and Tina Radcliff, also special friends, in Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart contest for unpublished writers. I asked Myra some questions that I hope will help you get to know her better.

Myra is giving away a copy of her latest book Where the Dogwoods Bloom. I love this beautiful, romantic cover. Dogwoods are a favorite tree of mine. Leave a comment for a chance to win.

Hi Myra. Describe your typical writing day.

I usually start my day having breakfast with my husband and sipping Earl Gray while we read the morning paper and catch the news on Good Morning, America. Then I spend 30 minutes or so on devotions and journaling. Then—if I’m being really good—it’s 30-45 minutes of Wii Fit, after which I get busy on e-mail, errands, etc. After lunch with my husband (he’s semi-retired and works from home—oh, joy), I settle down with my novel-in-progress. It may be writing new pages, editing what I’ve already written, doing editor-requested revisions, drafting a proposal, or whatever. I’ll put in four or five solid hours, stopping only when my husband starts nagging me about what I have planned for supper. I’m working on getting him to be a little braver in the kitchen, but he is also a “work-in-progress”—LOL!

Any tips on productivity you care to share?

Get a routine going and try to be consistent. Set office hours and stick to them. I have a laptop computer, but I rarely work anywhere besides my desk. That helps keep me in “working writer” mode. Besides, my office is where all my reference books and notes are, and I can always close the door if things going on in other parts of the house become a distraction. (As in, hubby talking loudly on his cell phone with a client.)

I’ve also become an avid spreadsheet user. I start a new Excel workbook for each book and use it to track plot turning points, goal-motivation-conflict development, character details, daily word count, etc. During the planning stages I begin by filling in what I already know. After I start writing, I use the spreadsheets to record other details as they come to me. By the way, my Novel Planning Workbook template is available for download in the Writers Helps section of my Web site.

With two books on the shelves in 2009, One Imperfect Christmas and Autumn Rains, and two more out in 2010, Romance by the Book and Where the Dogwoods Bloom, what’s been the biggest change in your life since publication?

Learning to cope with “real” deadlines, plus so many extra demands on my time! I knew marketing and PR would become essential as my books were released, but I had no idea how much time it would take. I’m continuing to learn about and experiment with a variety of promotional venues, not all of which turn out to be successful. I could and probably should be doing much more in the way of bookstore and library visits, ferreting out speaking opportunities, etc., but I would so much rather do the actual writing.

What is the hardest aspect of being a writer? The easiest?

Probably the very hardest aspect is continuing to believe in myself as a writer. Self-doubt can be such a drain on creativity, and from what I’ve heard, there are very few writers who don’t suffer from at least occasional self-doubt. Rejection, criticism, a not-so-kind review, tough edits—they all take their toll.

The easiest? Going to work in my jammies!

How do you keep from being overwhelmed with writing, promotion, family responsibility, and still have time to smell the proverbial roses?

I’m not sure I do keep from being overwhelmed!!! It would be even harder without the support and encouragement of my number-one cheerleader, my husband. At a time in our lives when he’s cutting back on his work hours and thinking toward retirement, I’m finally living my publication dreams! It isn’t always easy for him to accept that when he has time to “play,” I need to be writing. But he’s genuinely happy and excited for me, so he’s always a good sport about giving me the time and space I need to work.

Because I respect what my husband sacrifices for me, I do whatever I can to make sure we have plenty of togetherness time. I consistently make a point of shutting down the computer by 5:00 or 6:00 every evening, and only under the strictest deadlines will I do any kind of writing-related work on weekends. Even if all we do is watch TV together or tackle household chores, those hours belong to husband and family.

Tell us about your next release.

Just out is Where the Dogwoods Bloom, the third and last novel in my series of three Heartsong Presents contemporary romances set in Missouri. The story is about an injured pro tennis player who must find a way to forgive the foster parents who robbed her of the one thing she wanted most—a “forever family.” From the back cover:

Who says you can’t go back home?

Jilly Gardner left Blossom Hills ten years ago with a broken heart, determined never to return. But the ache in her heart has never healed, and when Cam Lane calls to ask for her help…she finds she can’t say no.

Cameron doesn’t know what came between Jilly and her foster family, but whatever did, he feels it’s high time she set things straight. Her foster parents never recovered from her abrupt and permanent departure, and now—when her presence might encourage an ill woman’s return to health—she refuses to even see them? But how can Cam address the unforgiveness in his friends’ lives when his own is paralyzed with self-inflicted guilt and shame?

With all their striving focused on themselves and the events of their past, will Cam and Jilly ever realize that unconditional, forgiving, forever love comes only from God the Father, whose mercies are new each morning?

Thanks for the interesting, fun interview, Myra! And for giving away a copy of Where the Dogwoods Bloom to one of our lucky commenters.


  1. kathy taylor
    Jul 8, 2010

    Oh, I can almost smell the garden in which the dogwoods are growing! Where the Dogwoods Bloom sounds wonderful, and it's not just because every one I have planted has died. It's because there's so much life in the paragraphs you have shared with us. Best wishes for it, Myra, wishes full of the Lord's wonderful mercies.

  2. Janet Dean
    Jul 8, 2010

    Hi Kathy, thanks for stopping by with your precious wishes for Myra. Dogwoods bloomed in the woods where I grew up, but they're apt to die in climates with cold winters unless they're planted in a sheltered spot.

    Please leave your email address for a chance to win Myra's book.


  3. Kathryn Page Camp
    Jul 8, 2010

    I also need a set schedule and a set location (a desk in my office) to keep on track, but I can't do it in my jammies. I need to treat writing like a job, and the jammies just ruin the mood. Great for those who can do it, though.


  4. Linda Glaz
    Jul 8, 2010

    Oh, I'm definitely a jammies or semi-dressed (depending on Michigan's hot, humid weather) kind of gal. Only when teaching, presenting, do I get all slicked up and looking professional. I get enough of that on the day job three days a week. Ugh. So I look forward to the "comfort zone" of home. This sounds like a great book, and my congrats to Myra.

  5. Myra Johnson
    Jul 8, 2010

    Good morning, ladies, and thanks so much for the sweet comments! It's a gloomy day here but your words have brightened my little corner!

    Kathy, I haven't had much luck growing dogwoods either. My very favorite blooming tree is the redbud, and we have a couple growing wild out behind our house.

    Well, I'm definitely a "jammies" kind of gal (sorry, Kathryn!). For my brain to disengage with real life so I can venture into my story world, the rest of me has to be in its own comfort zone.

  6. Janet Dean
    Jul 8, 2010

    I used to write in my jammies, Kathryn, but got caught a time or two. Embarrassing. 🙂 Now I dress before I begin.


  7. Janet Dean
    Jul 8, 2010

    Hi Linda, I love your home state! We were in Petoskey earlier. Not hot or humid then. More overcast but we did have a beautiful sunset over the water and a great time so I'm not complaining.

    Thanks for your interest in Myra's book.


  8. Cindy W.
    Jul 8, 2010

    Where the Dogwoods Bloom sounds like a book I would really enjoy. I use to live in Missouri and absolutely loved the state. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

    Cindy W


  9. Janet Dean
    Jul 9, 2010

    Hi Cindy. Thanks for stopping by! And for leaving your e-mail address.

    Blessings, Janet

  10. Julie Lessman
    Jul 9, 2010

    Oh, Myra, I'm chomping at the bit to read Where the Dogwoods Bloom, not only because I LOVE your writing, but because I live in Missouri and LOVE dogwoods too. Actually have a ton in my front and back yard, but that's because I live in a really wooded area.

    Great interview, Janet and Myra!


  11. Janet Dean
    Jul 9, 2010

    Great to see you, Julie! Didn't know you were surrounded by trees. Do you rake or let it go natural? We had a pink and two white dogwoods at our previous house. Redbud too. They were beautiful but I don't miss raking leaves from the ash and oaks, even a hickory tree.


  12. Myra Johnson
    Jul 9, 2010

    I agree–Missouri is a beautiful state! I lived in Kirkwood for all of 8 months back in 1976, but both my parents were from Missouri (St. Louis area), and as a kid I visited grandparents, aunts, and uncles every year. I don't ever remember being there during dogwood season, but my grandpa had a gorgeous old cherry tree in his yard!

    Janet, it's been great being on your blog this week! Thanks to everyone for visiting!

  13. Janet Dean
    Jul 9, 2010

    Thanks for sharing with us, Myra! I'll draw the name of our winner next week.


  14. Merry
    Jul 14, 2010

    I loved all the beautiful dogwood trees when we lived in the south. Where the Dogwoods Bloom sounds terrific, please include me in the drawing.

  15. Myra Johnson
    Jul 14, 2010

    Thanks for visiting, Merry! One of my favorite times of year is spring when all the flowering trees are in bloom–redbud, dogwood, Bradford pear . . . The blossoms are here and gone all too quickly.

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