Halloo! I’m Brooke Johnson, author of The Clockwork Giant and Le Theatre Mecanique, part of the Chroniker City steampunk series, and The Wizard’s Heart, a standalone fantasy based on my love of ancient Persia. I’m a novelist, freelance editor, and stay-at-home mom with a penchant for serious nerdery, and my little family consists of a dog, husband, and daughter, acquired in that order.
I’m excited to be a part of the Scriptors; though, I think most of us have been in unofficial cahoots for some time now. It’s nice to be labeled.
My five most favoritest and influential authors:
I have many favorite authors, and it’s hard to single out just five, but these are the writers whose work has stuck with me ever since I first opened one of their books. Diana Wynne Jones, Rick Riordan, and Terry Pratchett for the sheer volume, diversity, and repeatable enjoyment of their works, and J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien for building such fantastic, inspiring worlds.
Why I write:
I’ve always disliked answering this question. Why do I write? Because. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Truthfully, I’ve always loved telling stories—lies, really. I was the kid who tried to convince everyone that my parents were aliens and I had a roller coaster in my front yard. I like to think they believed me. Perhaps they just thought I was weird. But I enjoyed making things up, and because I had the sort of parents who always told me I could do anything when I grew up, I chose to be a writer, because who else gets to play in their imagination all day?
But why do I write now? Why do I sit down at my desk and write day after day? Because I have stories that need to be told, entire worlds existing only in my head, and they deserve to be shared, to be known. They deserve to live somewhere other than my crowded headspace.
Why I love writing steampunk:
Steampunk is liberating for me. There’s the stilted social mores of the Victorian era, sure, but it was a time full of optimism, of hope and excitement for the future, very different from the dystopian outlook of modern society. The Victorians were dreamers, and it’s an excellent diversion from reality to slip back into that time, dream of impossible things, and then bring them to life in all the glory of clockwork and steam engineering. Steampunk is escapism at its finest for me. It helps that I love mechanical science too. Physics was always my favorite subject in school, so it’s fun to test the limits within the constraints of Victorian technology.
Why I love writing fantasy:
I’m cheating and doing this a second time because fantasy is just as important to me. Fantasy is where I found my home as a writer. When I was twelve years old, I first read my first fantasy novel: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. And when I turned the last page, I was in absolute awe. Within the pages of a single book, J.K. Rowling created an entire world parallel to our own, a world that I wanted to escape to. She managed to make something fictional as real to me as if I were a character in her world, and at that moment, as I lay in bed dreaming about Hogwarts and wizards and flying brooms, I wanted nothing more than to create a world just as vivid, just as real as Hogwarts was to me. In that moment, I decided that I would be a writer. And I have been writing ever since, working toward building a world just as wonderful and inspiring as Rowling did with the Wizarding World.
Being able to create worlds out of nothing, creating people, cities, and histories, weaving magic and mayhem through the very fabric of these realties—it’s like being the god of your own universe. At its core, writing fantasy is creation. It’s putting life into things that wouldn’t exist without me, making the impossible possible, an intoxicating addiction that I never want to relinquish.
First story I ever wrote:
When I was a kid, just about the only thing I read was Goosebumps. Ghosts and skeletons and possessed dolls and sentient slime were my reading subjects of choice. I don’t know why because that stuff scared the bejesus out of me, but still, that’s what I read. So, it’s only natural that I would write something similar. I guess I was six or seven or so—second grade, however old that makes me—when I wrote my first proper story, chapters and all. I still have it, all but the last page. I have no idea what my little brain decided for an ending, and it’s driving me crazy.
Anyway, the story… I titled it The Night of the Living Dead until I found out that there was something else titled that, and so I scribbled it out and just went with The Living Dead. In it, I tell the story of a Thomas J. Trokten—childhood, marriage, death—a prologue of sorts. I then jump forward to present day, dreaming of a spirit telling me that my house was built on a graveyard. The spirit names two of the deceased: Thomas and his wife Alexandrea. Later that day, my teacher at school introduces two new students: Tommy Trokten and Alex Volaxquez. And I’m like Whoa! Dead people! But then we became friends. As you do. The story goes on, and Tommy and Alex start to deteriorate into zombies and want to kill me, and I’m put in the hospital repeatedly from injuries from these guys until I finally go off to college and get married. Well, obviously the zombies aren’t done with me yet: “On the night of Halloween two skeleton dressed kids came to our door for candy. As soon as we gave them candy they tore off their costumes and…… Boom, I’m in the hospital with Cody [my husband] by my side. ‘I don’t know how many times you’ve…’”
… That’s it. That’s where it leaves off. WTF. I don’t even know.
Things that inspire me:
I get inspiration from a lot of different things, mostly other story mediums—TV shows, movies, books, video games, fairy tales, histories, and mythologies, etc. I’m rather derivative. I won’t deny it.
For my fantasy novel The Wizard’s Heart, I was inspired by the Prince of Persia franchise, Persian mythology, Norse culture, Avatar: The Last Airbender, all three of Diana Wynne Jones’ Castle books—Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Air, and House of Many Ways—in varying magnitudes.
Most of the time, I’m inspired by a particular bit of imagery, not specific plotlines or characters—the buried library in the Avatar episode “The Library”, the idea of a wizard’s heart existing separately from his body as in Howl’s Moving Castle, or a magical animal companion as in House of Many Ways. All of those pieces come together in my head to create something new, something different from the original source. So yes, you’re likely to see similarities to those stories, especially in The Wizard’s Heart, but it is what it is. I can’t help what inspires me.
I’m going to opt for a picture instead of words because seriously, this thing is a mess.
This is what it looks like on a normal day. Sometimes, there are more dirty dishes than my single mug. But usually, there’s a clipboard of editing work, a smattering of post-its, candy wrappers, and other random things like fabric flowers, a dish cloth, and a vial of glitter. What you can’t see in the picture is the hutch above the monitors. That’s where I keep all my binders, things that need to be edited, a Buddha statue, and various other things. I can’t stretch my webcam far enough to get that all in a good shot, so just use your imagination. I use the top drawer to the right of the desk as a shelf more than a drawer. Extra desk space.
Works in progress:
The more I write, the more ideas I get for other things. So, list of things in various states of progress: The Wizard’s Heart, a Persian-esque fantasydue for publication in July/August 2014; Dark Lord in Training, a silly little middle-grade fantasy romp, drafting stage; and The Guild Conspiracy, the second Chroniker City novel, plotting stage, though I’ll soon start drafting. I have about thirty more ideas brewing in my head, too many to name here, so I’m going to spout off just the few titles that I plan to write in the next two or three years: The Chroniker Legacy (third Chroniker City book),The Amarant Seal, The Path of Kings, and Secrets of the Jinn.
Ice cream flavor:
Cookies and cream. It’s by far the most satisfying ice cream. Not too decadent, not too plain. Just right.
I have no shenanigans. I am without shenanigans. Shenaniganless.