Debbie Johnson is a journalist and writer based in Merseyside. After a lifetime of retelling other people’s stories, she decided to come up with some of her own. She won the Harry Bowling Prize in 2010.
Debbie’s second fantasy novel, Dark Touch is published by Del Rey (part of Random House) on 26th March and is the sequel to Dark Vision – ‘A modern tale of magic, love and destiny.’
“If future instalments build on the strength of this debut, they’ll be ones to look out for.” (Starburst magazine)
“A sassy and often very funny fantasy romp, lifted above the mass by the wit of protagonist Lily and her best friend, the fabulously ballsy Carmel… Clever and full of sharp wisecracks … a deftly told entertainment that shows there is certainly room in the world for a Liverpudlian Charlaine Harris.” (The Guardian)
Debbie, Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
My name is Debbie Johnson, and I write fantasy, romance and crime – which is about as confusing as it sounds! I live in Liverpool with my husband and three children and an assortment of pets, and also work as a journalist and a copywriter. So I spend most of my life at my laptop, dishing out Haribo to the aforementioned children!
What do you like to do when you’re not writing, and does it come in useful for your stories?
I don’t have a lot of spare time – but I enjoy walking the dogs. We live near the coast, which is both very lucky and very beautiful, and I do find having time out and about very inspiring. It clears the brain and allows your imagination to take hold. I also like holidays; planning them, going on them, and organising my If I Won The Lottery trips to exotic locations! A lot of my ideas come from places I’ve seen, people I’ve eavesdropped on etc, so yes – it does help, honest! After on trip to Cornwall I wrote a whole story based there.
What is at the root of your current book/story?
Dark Touch is the sequel to Dark Vision, which tells the tale of Lily McCain, an ordinary Liverpool girl with some extraordinary abilities – like seeing visions of a person’s future if she touches them. She’s never understand why it happens, and has always tried to avoid them – leading to a life of isolation. All of that changes when she discovers her own history, and the vital role she plays in the supernatural subtext of the world she thinks she knows. It draws heavily on Celtic mythology, especially the wonderfully barmy Irish myths and legends, and combines that with Lily’s ‘day job’ as a music writer on the local paper. Dark Touch explores what happens next!
Is there any genre or style of writing you haven’t tried yet but would like to?
Crikey, I think I’m busy enough! I write urban fantasy for Del Rey UK, chick-lit style romantic comedy for Harper Collins, and have also had a supernatural crime thriller published with Maze, part of Avon. Despite all of that, I think I probably have a few good YA or children’s stories knocking around in my head…
Name your superpower and why that one.
Flying. It has no real value, but it’s the one that always comes into my head when you have those drunken ‘what would your superpower be…’ conversations with your mates! It’s a sensory thing – I’d just love to be able to take a bird’s eye view of the world. Other than that, I’d like a snippet of one of Lily’s powers – which is to be able to look at a scene or place, and see it the way it was in the past. I studied history at university and did some archaeology, and I would love to actually be able to experience some of the things I learned about.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most tricky?
Plotting! I find that character and dialogue comes naturally – and is in fact usually the starting point for a story idea. But I am completely rubbish at planning, and often find myself half way through a book with no idea of what happens next. I suppose on the plus side it keeps it fresh – if even I’m guessing what the ending might be, hopefully my readers will be as well!
Do you have music playing when you write? What are your tracks of choice?
Like Lily, I was a music writer for my local paper – the Liverpool Echo in my case. I spent ten years going to gigs and meeting bands and reviewing albums. I even met my husband when I was ‘interviewing’ him! So yes, music plays an integral role for me, especially with the urban fantasies. Part of Dark Touch is set in New York, which I visited while I was writing it, and I had a big list of relevant music to listen to that helped get me in the mood – the Ramones, Blondie, lots of hip hop, the Dropkick Murphys (even if they’re not from NY!), Lou Reed etc. I even drew up a Spotify playlist to accompany Dark Vision, which included the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Stone Roses, Nirvana, The Doors and Otis Redding.
If you could have dinner with any writer in your field (past of present) who would it be and why?
Writers themselves don’t tend to be as fascinating as their characters – so can I have them instead? I’d invite Eve Dallas round for tea, for sure, as well as Sookie Stackhouse. That would be fun. And if it has to be a writer, I’d invite the crime author James Lee Burke – he writes the most beautiful books, and looks like he’s lived an interesting life.
What was the first (*genre ) story you read and what kind of impact did it make on you?
The earliest books I remember having a big impact were Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree books! Probably explains a lot! But the first real genre hit for me, probably like a lot of people my age, was the David Eddings Belgariad series. I was a teenager, and just completely swept away with it all – it led on to me reading slightly more sophisticated stuff, and heavier sci fi. Now I’ve come full circle and like reading lightweight again – I think the ‘serious’ part of my brain was systematically killed off by having three kids…
What/when was the first piece of fiction you wrote? And what happened to it? (Be honest now!)
My first pieces of fiction were fan-based – Blake’s 7, Battlestar Galactica, the A Team! Yes, sad but true! I used to go to cons and be very involved in the fan scene for a while – there are loads of talented and creative people in that world. My mum died a few years ago and I found a few of them in ‘zines’ – the old pre-internet printed up versions of fan fiction! Some made me cringe, others were okay – but hopefully they are lost to the wider world as they are not in cyber space!
Oxford commas – discuss!
My style of writing is quite relaxed, informal, conversational. My use of commas is more instinctive than rigid – I work on the basis that if a piece of writing needs a pause, it gets a comma. If it doesn’t need a pause, it gets no comma. Make of that what you will!
What are you up to next? (Published works/conventions/random fun!)
Dark Touch is out in March, and I have a romantic comedy e-book due in April. I’m going on holiday to Dorset in August with the assorted kids/dogs, and hope to be inspired by the beautiful countryside and coastline there – maybe I’ll end up with a Thomas Hardy style epic about a fossil hunter!
Dark Touch by Debbie Johnson
It’s not easy finding out you’re a Goddess.
For Lily McCain, the move from local music journalist to being the incarnation of Mabe, Mother of Mortals was a surprise to say the least.
Thrust into a game of gods and monsters, the rules of which she barely knows, one thing is clear: if you have power, someone will try to take it from you.
With just one touch she can see a person’s future, whether it’s a good fortune or a terrible fate. Afraid of the potent visions she foresees, she distances herself from the world, succumbing to a life of solitude.
But at the touch of a mysterious stranger – who has powers of his own – Lily sees a new, chilling future for herself: one where she is fated to make a terrible choice…