I am beyond thrilled to be hosting my agent sister, YA author Lana Wood Johnson, on the ball today! Lana was born and raised in Iowa in the time before the internet but has spent the rest of her life making up for that. After years working in wireless communication for companies of all sizes, she now works doing the same for a local youth shelter. Lana lives in Minnesota with her husband and their English bulldog. TECHNICALLY, YOU STARTED IT is her debut novel.
Written entirely in text messages, this book about friendship and mistaken identity is simply so clever, so funny, and just downright adorable. “Poignant and hilarious, nerdy and joyful, Technically, You Started It reminds us that true connection transcends any medium, even in–especially in–the digital age.” –Adib Khorram, author of Darius the Great Is Not Okay
You can connect with Lana at her website: lanawoodjohnson.com
On Twitter: twitter.com/muliebris
On Instagram: Instagram.com/muliebris
Or on Facebook: facebook.com/lanawoodjohnson
Read on to learn more about Lana and how to win a signed copy of her book!
The road to publication is twisty at best–tell us about some of your twists.
I decided to pursue publication after the company I’d worked for almost 15 years in essence closed. I had the great fortune to be supported by my CEO who still had projects for me and some consulting work on the side to keep us afloat while I decided what I wanted to do next.
It was a great luxury, time to explore my future instead of living second by second. So I sat down and thought and realized I either needed to continue the path I was on or take a risk. If I was going to continue I would benefit from an MBA. If I was going to do something else, I needed to figure out what that was. After several months studying for the GRE and exploring MBA programs I decided I was going to put the same exact energy into getting published.
Working as a consultant I wrote revised and queried two books in as many years. Each book got closer, but not quite there. And then, one day, late in my second book, I got five full rejections on the same day. I also realized that thanks to my consulting I hadn’t actually left the house in seven days. Only one of those things I could change. By the following Tuesday I was volunteering on a crisis line for a local youth shelter. Which is where I discovered my skill of connecting with people via text messages is actually kind of special.
I realized that like the youth I was helping, I used the internet to connect with people and I decided to channel that into a story. That’s where TECHNICALLY, YOU STARTED IT came from. While volunteering I wrote the book. And the week after that turned into a full time IT job at the shelter I signed with an agent. In the end I took both paths, but I’ll always be grateful for the time I was finally able to figure out what I wanted versus having to always do what was next.
Do you have a regular first reader? If so, who is it and why?
There is one person who reads every single word I write, unfiltered, unfixed, and has done so for over 20 years now. My BFF literally followed me home from the internet because she loved my characters so much.
We met via an online roleplaying game where I played a bored trophy wife tired of spending all her time shopping in a game primarily peopled with overpowered princelings. That character was not only the most fun to play, but attracted many of my dearest friends. Ever since a fateful meeting in the general hangout area my now BFF has been my cheerleader and support system. If I ask for criticism she responds “You’re the writer,” and no matter what the words all she always begs for more.
Which helps most when I’m trapped in a first chapter that I cannot stop “fixing.”
Were you an avid reader as a child? What kinds of things did you read?
I crawled deep inside books as a child to escape a challenging family life. You name it, I read it. I never planned on being an author because I was far too busy reading. In 7th grade I tackled the classics and determined Charlotte Bronte was my queen and Dickens was my nemesis. In 8th grade I started the SFF canon. Then in high school I discovered the “juvenile section” which is what they called YA at the time. I read everything I could get my hands on, but mostly I read Mercedes Lackey and Tamora Pierce over and over and over.
Eclectic and voracious is the best way to describe my reading habits. I read the books I picked up from the library and the ones my father did…until he suggested I read Thomas Covenant at about 12, he didn’t get to pick after that.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I allowed myself one indulgence with my advance money: an iPad Pro 10.5” with an Apple Pencil. Because there were about 4 months between when my book sold and when I got to announce it, and because my line edits were done before my contract was done, it was about the only thing keeping me going.
Not being able to complain about edits on Twitter is just about the cruelest punishment you can give an author. But I had my iPad to get me through. With the pencil I was able to mark-up all my edits and make marginal notes so I didn’t have to print things out. I literally always had my edits at hand that way, so every passing thought could be recorded.
That iPad made my very quick revision cycle even quicker, and what started as an indulgence quickly became an extremely useful tool.
Which talent do you wish you had?
More than anything, I wish I could cut a smooth straight line! I’m a left hander and, if you’ve followed my swag exploits on Instagram, a crafter. Yet I’ve never quite gotten the hang of nice clean cuts. I can’t even cut without making chewing motions at the same time.
I now have tools that help me fake it, like my swivel cutter and straight edge, but it’s not the same as the beautiful smooth cuts I watch folks make on YouTube.
When a guy named Martin Nathaniel Munroe II texts you, it should be obvious who you’re talking to. Except there’s two of them (it’s a long story), and Haley thinks she’s talking to the one she doesn’t hate.
A question about a class project rapidly evolves into an all-consuming conversation. Haley finds that Martin is actually willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. Haley and Martin might be too awkward to hang out in real life, but over text, they’re becoming addicted to each other.
There’s just one problem: Haley doesn’t know who Martin is. And Martin doesn’t know that Haley doesn’t know. But they better figure it out fast before their meet-cute becomes an epic meet-disaster . . .
Don’t miss your chance to win a signed copy of Lana’s smash debut! Follow us on Twitter or Facebook (or both) and share this post to be entered. Drop a comment below for extra entries! And don’t forget to follow us so we can contact you if you win. (US only)
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