I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Insider Scoop – Interview with Hart Johnson (soon-to-be-published author and hilariously witty blogger)

Welcome to The Insider Scoop, where I’ll be bringing you interviews, useful tips and tricks, and all sorts of insightful information from those deep within the children's book industry.

Today I’m interviewing Hart Johnson, blogger extraordinaire over at Confessions of a Watery Tart and fan of all things naked (including Naked World Domination!). 

So take it away Hart!!!

First, I want to thank Rachael for hosting me! This Blogger Crusade she has going on, has really taken off, and it’s exciting to see. I’m also honored to be asked for an interview… not sure if Rach knew what she was getting herself into, as y’all will probably be naked by the time I’m done, but that is a risk she took... Okay… so you were asking…

Question 1: What are the five most important things we should know about you?

1) I suffer from FOMS (fear of missing something) so pretty much participate in everything… I really participate though, not just on paper, so it’s all good, 2) I am a Harry Potter nut, 5) I am a Monty Python nut! Ha! Got you! Counting Brother Maynard style! *cough* But seriously… okay, all the above are true and sort of at the core of pulling my delusional world together, but also… erm… I’m Naked and leading a quest called the Naked World Domination Tour…

I’m not altogether sure that stuff classifies as IMPORTANT, but it is sort of the quintessential me… Say… quint means five and quintessential starts with quint… is that where you got the number 5?

Rach: Tee hee, I'll never tell!

Question 2: Your blog is called "Confessions of a Watery Tart," how on earth did you come up with that name and that spin on branding?

As mentioned, I am a Monty Python nut. And a Harry Potter nut… My first dive online was in Harry Potter forums (HPANA) discussing predictions for what would happen in first the 6th, then the 7th book, and under our screen names (Gnargles&Snorkaks) was a ‘status’ based on how many points you had (earned by posting comments and reading news articles) There is muggle, student, prefect, head girl… witch, professor, auror… you get the point… but when you got to 2400 you got to pick your OWN title… That was where I first dibbed myself the Watery Tart.

In the Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, this comes from the argument between Arthur and the peasant, Dennis. Dennis says, “You don’t become supreme ruler just because a Watery Tart lobs a scimitar at you!” But actually… you DO. See, if I want to rule the world, I only want to CHOOSE who is in charge, because if I were actually in charge, it would be a lot of WORK WORK WORK. But if I get to PICK who is in charge, I get all the glory and none of the effort!

The ‘Confessions of’ part was me thinking I was being clever at the time and I’m not entirely happy with it anymore. Lots of blogs claim to do a lot of confessing… I mean… I do a fair amount, but that part isn’t as much me as the Watery Tart part…

Rach: LOVE your reasoning...Don't get me started on Monty Python quotes :)

Question 3: Tell us about the brand of your blog. What's it all about? Do you find people really support the idea?

I guess I didn’t really set out to brand (oh, I know… you can lecture me… I’d heard). But you see I was under the illusion that my BOOKS and my personality were sort of contradictory. I was writing suspense and doing rotten things to my characters (I’d only finished one book, but the other ideas were as bad or worse). But I tried to think of what I had to say… what I COULD say day in and day out, and realized I can only be me. My very first blog quotes the Dread Pirate Wesley: “Then why didn’t you list that among our assets?” Because honestly—what I am GOOD AT is engaging people in play. When I am giving people blogging advice I always say, “You either need to be helpful or entertaining, and I’m not a utility model.”

I am not for everybody. I don’t hide my outrageousness, and I know some people see me as loud and obnoxious, but I figure people who think that are going to be offended by me eventually anyway, so best they know up front and make an informed decision.

I think though, that it works. By just being me, nobody is shocked later to find something different. And it really IS the only thing I could sustain. And I think as BRANDING, people can tell this couldn’t be faked and I’m the only ME there is. There are some other people who are as nutty (it seems we all label ourselves wenches, sluts and tarts—except the males—they usually go with titles with cheese in them), but my particular breed of insanity is fairly unique, so I think I definitely don’t get mixed up in the heap.

Rach: That's such a good point about being yourself, and being able to sustain it through your blogging...

Question 4: What advice would you give to beginner bloggers and aspiring writers about starting their journey through the blogosphere?

You know, I have written a couple fairly lengthy blogs on this, if you’ll indulge me to link:

Be a Blog Slut

Why Blog?

But I can also summarize. WRITE as yourself. That doesn’t mean you need to tell all your personal secrets (I only get away with it because my husband isn’t really online). But you NEED to choose content you are excited about and talk about that. Blog regularly, so people who find you can see you are worth following and adding to their blog rolls. I think anywhere between three and seven times a week is ideal—predictable timing is ideal. But the BIGGIE, if this is networking, is to get out there and READ and COMMENT on other peoples’ blogs. Bloggers know the deal: tit for tat. Someone comes into my blog ONCE, it’s possible I miss following them back to their blog because I’m easily distracted—two or three times though—I’m all over it. I OWE them a check back.

Now that isn’t to say I follow all or read all regularly. In fact that FIRST time, I follow if the content or bio is appealing, because that is just a click but the blogroll takes a little longer to make (mostly because my memory is bad so I need the reminder of seeing people several more times). If there is something that seems canned or dull, I probably won’t follow, and there are a few content area I just know I won’t get back to—it isn’t that I don’t support the bloggers, but I’m not particularly interested in religious blogs, blogs that are strictly craft stuff, straight political blogs (once in a while, yes, but not as key content), technology? Product reviews? Just some things I’m not following. But MOSTLY, I am open-minded.

Rach: That's such great advice.

Question 5: Do you have any branding tips you can share? How do we make our own blogs stand out among the hundreds of others?

Erm. No? Seriously, I am so unintentional on how I go about it. I really do think a little self-analysis might help, though. Who is your favorite person? Who brings out the very best in you? How are you WITH THEM? At least for me—I’ve got some friends with whom I ALWAYS laugh, and totally enjoy myself. Some of it is because of history and inside jokes, but actually, I’ve tried to pull in my readers—that is where the Naked World Domination Tour came from—a plot I have been joking with several of my online buddies about for years.

But some people feel their best when they are helpful, or nurturing, or taking care of kids or animals, taking great photographs… writing (the OTHER angle to my own blog)—what YOU do you feel happiest with? I really think it is a bit of an organic process, so letting it change when you get comfortable—allowing you to grow into yourself as a blogger—that’s probably what I’d recommend. I know we are all supposed to have platforms, but I think if you force it, it is boring or unsustainable. My platform is I’m a nut, and I might just give you a laugh when you need a coffee break. That’s it. Not very cohesive.

Question 6: Tell us about your book deal (and your book, of course).

Aha! And oddly, here we get to the success of just being yourself. I am one of the rarities that came into my book deal through my blogging voice. One of my first blog readers said very early that I had a perfect voice for Cozy Mystery. At the time I’d never HEARD of Cozy Mystery (you know… light hearted little murders, with crafts and zaniness, where nobody is too sad to have the victim gone). Turns out I’d read some—just hadn’t known it had a name. I resisted, mostly because I thought MYSTERY was too complicated… erm… and they seemed sort of perky (remember, I am wanting to be dark and mysterious!—oh, contradictory me). She planted the idea though, and it is the PROCEEDURAL I was really too terrified to address—I didn’t want to learn forensics. And it is a rare PI that I can get in their head. Cozies have an amateur sleuth. Anyway, last February her agent asked her if she had time for another series and she didn’t but she passed on to ME what they were looking for and I auditioned.

See, several highly selling genres do series that way—editor has an idea and then seeks a writer to fill it out and write the series. I had to write the first 50 pages, then REVISE (because the editor really liked my voice, but there was too much of this and not enough of that), so I did THAT, and then I was offered a three book contract. It is all under a pen name (after my two grandmas)—I think because they want to make sure the authors don’t then go on to write something contradictory to cozy mystery (though it makes sense for me, too—my other stuff is all a lot darker).

My first book is due to the editor December 31. At the moment, I am at the ‘read out loud’ polish stage and plan to send it to my agent Monday for her feedback. It’s been a GREAT experience. Mystery has more structure than suspense and I think I’ve learned a ton about plotting and pacing—stuff I can apply to my other writing. Plus, there really IS something to writing in a voice that so closely matches what I sound like when I PLAY. I managed to fit the phrase, “I’m naked!”, a boxers versus briefs debate, and a cross dressed man all into one book without straining the plot.

My OTHER persona has written 6 suspense books—I am currently polishing the 2nd I ever finished and am excited about it. It’s possible I will try to get it ready for the Amazon Contest this January… unless I jump the gun and query it (which means I will probably do both—you know… the FOMS)…


Thanks so much for sharing with us, Hart. It’s great to get to know you much better. And can I say, I’ve managed to work in more than a few “naked” references into my WIP in honor of you (*chortles*).

Make sure you all pop over to Confessions of a Watery Tart and leave Hart a comment or seven and say hi from me.


Hart Johnson said...

Thanks so much for hosting me, Rachael! I had a great time with this!

And you can never have too much nakedness!

PK HREZO said...

What an intriguing and funny interview! Love the Watery Tart, tho I only just started following her blog, but now I feel like I know her better and want to make sure i read more of her.

Also great blogging advice, Hart! You have to give a little to get a little.

Great questions, Rach!

Amanda said...

What a great interview, Rach and Hart.

I've just written a cosy mystery *only a short story mind you* and must say I loved writing it. + I also love reading them too - so look forward to reading Hart's book!

Denise Covey said...

I was just over at The Watery Tart recently and loved what I saw - hmm, the eye candy! Seriously, this was a great interview, and I'm glad Hart didn’t try to hide her outrageousness. Thanks for hosting Rach..:)

Rachael Harrie said...

@Hart, no worries at all :) Had heaps of fun!!!

@PK, thanks so much, glad you enjoyed :)

@Amanda, (*grins*). I'm so going to have to look up the cosy mysteries, I'm sure I've read some but I can't pin down any from memory. It sounds like a cool genre :)

@L'Aussie, no worries :) Those pikkies were rather scrummy!!!

Hart Johnson said...

Ha! A coupl familiar faces! PK and L'Aussie, I recognize you! Thanks for stopping in and checking out the interview!

Amanda, great to meet you! Cozies ARE fun to write, aren't they? It's totally like playing to me.

I should probably mention my pen name: Alyse Carlson. It's in my blog side bar, but it's not entirely clear how public I'm supposed to be with it... anyway, agent has it now...

Anonymous said...

Wow! Take a breath after reading that one. Hart you are so full of energy - it was like trying to catch a whirlwind, staying up with you.

Thanks for the lively interview, girls. :)

Seems like your blogger blog isn't talking to my wordpress ID tonight, so I have to be Anonymous.

Kat (http://katswhiskers.wordpress.com)

Megan K. Bickel said...

Excellent interview! I've been following Hart, but I don't think I've commented much. I love how her voice and personality shine through her writing! Unique and funny!!

Hart Johnson said...

Kat-is that code that I make you tired? *snort* It's funny... I hear that energy thing... maybe that's why in real life I feel tired... I've uploaded my energy supply...

Megan-HA! I don't think you HAVE commented much! You should! I really try to keep track of who is there, but I am easily distracted, so tend to lose track of people who don't comment--sorry about that!

Stina said...

Awesome advice on blogging and branding.

Great voice is definitely important for a blog. I've visited tons that lack a voice, and they're the ones that are so easily forgotten.

Hart Johnson said...

Stina-I think some still have good INFO, but you're right that voice is easy to pick up and those really have more draw--I feel like I get to know the BLOGGER, rather than just engaging in an information exchange.

erica and christy said...

Loved the interview, ladies! Hart-I'd never heard of anyone auditioning for writing before. Somewhere on your blog you'd said that and I had no idea what you were referring to. NOW I get it. Very cool and I think I'll love cozy mysteries (though I'd never heard of that genre before reading your blog). Can't wait until your books come out. Great interview, Rach. Christy

dolorah said...

This was fun Hart. I love your zaney voice, and I'm glad to see it doesn't change on a guest blog.

Very interesting Q & A.

Now go forth and be naked :)

Thanks for hosting this guest Rachel.


Cholisose said...

Great interview--she's got a great title for her blog too.

By the way Rachel, I really like your profile picture. Lain is awesome! And really trippy. =P

Adina West said...

Loved the interview. And thanks for sharing your road to publication Hart. There are so many different ways it can happen.

Don't give up hope on those dark and mysterious manuscripts you have lurking away there though. Their time will come...

N. R. Williams said...

I came over from Golden's site because of the crusade which I'll check out in a moment. I discovered I'm already a follower, so I have to apologize for being way to busy to check in with everyone. Nice interview, sounds like a sweet deal.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Patricia A. Timms-McGehee said...

Second interview I've read of you today but just as interesting as the first and lots of different and new information. I love your voice as well. I think you're very funny. Your journey is very exciting.

Rachael Harrie said...

@Christy, thanks so much. I'd heard of auditioning, but I always thought it was more of an urban myth - it was neat to hear from someone who's done it!

@Donna, thanks so much, and glad you could stop by :)

Hey @Cholisose, thanks heaps. I love Lain, she's so cool. And...don't tell anyone...but I look amazingly like her in real life!!! :P

Thanks @Adina. Go the dark manuscripts!!!

Hey @Nancy, great to see you again :)

@Patricia, Hart has such fantastic voice, pity she can't bottle it and sell it!!! LOL

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