Thursday, 1 November 2012

Author Interview: Johnny Walker

What is your name and where do you live now?
Johnny Walker. I live in New York City.

Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I have always written stories and songs, but I initially wanted to be a professional recording artist. I worked for many years as a musician and did several recordings, including a CD of my own, but I started having shoulder and wrist problems in my thirties. I turned to sound design fulltime and did well, primarily because I had first-hand knowledge about being on stage and knew what obstacles the entertainers were faced with. I tried my best to stay a step ahead of their needs and be accommodating.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it what would you say?
The latest book is called EKKO Thirty Six Black Bees. It’s a continuation of book one, detailing the adventures of CJ, the protagonist, and the semblances he collects to use in his stage shows.

How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
Roughly eighteen months, give or take. Completing the book moves pretty fast. Fixing the snags usually brings the pace to a halt. Then research and fact checking undoubtedly slap me in the head with more repairs. I try to provide the reader with a sense of familiarity so I use actual locations in cities before adding the fiction, which creates more research. It becomes a big paperwork puzzle.

Do you have plans for a new book?
I wrote a small How-To and have started a few other stories, but right now I’m focused on the third book in the EKKO series.

What genre would you place your books into?
Tough call there. Because of a technical device used in the stage shows, EKKO has a dash of sci-fi, so I have to start with that genre and then include Historical Fiction and Paranormal Adventure. The sci-fi label throws people off though, because the series is set in present day as opposed to inner planetary wars and aliens.

What made you decide to write that genre of book?
I didn’t feel another ghost story would be very intriguing. I wanted to spice it up. I also love historical composers and anything music related.

Do you have a favourite out of the books you have written? If so why is it your favourite?
I think number two, Thirty Six Black Bees. Probably because I keep learning and growing as a writer, which helps me accommodate the reader while staying true to the story line.  

Do you have a favourite character from your books? Why are they your favourite?
I think Cavanaugh is one of my favourites. He’s a slime ball sent out to steal CJ’s gimmick by some music moguls. He’s fun to write. I tend to call on some experiences in the past where I’ve run across extremely arrogant people. As a villain, his vanity is a complete contrast to most other characters. He’s a blundering mess and he’s on a mission to uncover CJ’s secret. His confidence is unsupported, even though he believes he’s got things under control.

Where do you get your book plot ideas from? What/Who is your inspiration?
I got the idea from having a few strange encounters in older venues across the country. There were times when I knew I wasn’t alone, but I was the only one working. One night I had finished working and decided to play this piano for a while. I turned off every light in the club with the exception of one profile, which I left at a soft glow, aimed at the piano on stage. I sat and ticked the ivories for a few minutes when something whispered against the back of my neck. I froze. All I could do was tell myself that whatever it was—it wasn’t there to hurt me. That’s when I realized that the other occurrences weren’t figments of my imagination. 

That was the turning point. Even though I really couldn’t explain or define what was happening, I decide to start writing this stuff down. I still have a bunch of logs and journals from the traveling days and I refer to them often. I also tried to go a little deeper and give the ghosts more of a role in the story, give them some personality and humour as opposed to always being creepy. I don’t see why a spirit can’t also be fun.
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
Most times I keep it quiet, but sometimes I’ll listen to classical guitar or piano. Love the pianist John Boswell. His music is thought provoking. Songs with lyrics tend to distract me. Otherwise I stay in the study for days on end. 

Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
I had the title picked out first. I had a series of dreams that sparked me to do some research and led me to EKKO. It seemed to fit like a glove.

How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
I usually define the character’s role first. I’ll write for long periods naming characters as XXX until I find the name that fits. I have a whole list of unique names or names I just like. When I run across a cool name I place it on the list. When it’s time to bring the character to life, I refer to the list, which then gives the character a face and a picture in my head. Then I can move forward and give them a personality.
I recently implemented an act of appreciation sort ‘of thing on my mailing list called Top Five Fans. Based on the amount of feedback from readers, I chose five and promised to name characters after them in the next book. I thought it would be a fun way to say thanks to some readers who constantly support the series. So I obtained a few names that way for book three.

Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
I usually have the characters mission or purpose mapped out in advance, but I have a tendency to get bored. If I’m bored, then the reader will probably be bored, too, so I toss in some conflict, or romance, or maybe even knock someone off. That’s when I need to develop a new character. To develop some traits, I’ve called gift shops and help lines in different areas of the globe to speak with people who have different dialects, which I fell adds a ton of credibility to the characters role. That helps me decide if the interaction will fall into place or not. If I wanted shy or quiet, I’d call a small town library. I may visit a lesbian bar if I wanted to get the lowdown on a tomboy’s characteristics. I also watch people in the park. I have to keep an open mind and decide if the character adds to the story. I’ve scrapped entire sections that I thought were great, but eventually cut because they just didn’t fit.

Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
That’s when I switch gears and do research or study some online courses. They seem to stimulate me and get me back on track. That’s also a good time to support other artists, get on their sites and leave messages and hit LIKE buttons.

Is there a certain author that influenced you in writing?
I appreciate almost every author’s work, but I like the descriptive methods of Orson Scott Card and the action of Suzanne Brockman. Always been a huge admirer of Steven King’s imagination even though most of his endings, to me, seem to just fizzle. One good exception, though, was ‘The Mist’, which had a (great) heart-breaking ending.

What is your favourite book and Why?  Have you read it more than once?
The list of favourites is long, but I don’t really have one favourite. I don’t usually read a book again, either. I do, however re-start one chapter earlier when reading a book, as opposed to just picking up where I left off, so in a way I guess I read a book twice the first time. Whaaa??

Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst  book to movie transfer?
I try to read the book or see the movie, but usually not both. That said, I think the Count of Monte Cristo is one of the best adaptations ever.  I could watch any of the numerous adaptations at any time. There is a writer working on a screenplay for EKKO right now. After slightly getting involved with the process, I honestly don’t know how screenwriters do it. That’s an art like no other.
I couldn’t really pick a worst adaptation. I guess because I know how much effort it takes. Whether the final result is crappy or not, I know someone put a lot of work into it.

What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it?(ebook, hardback or paperback)
I’m reading a book called D-E-D- Dead, by Larry Garner. I had promised to give a review of it. It has a mysterious edge and I’m enjoying it. At 593 pages, I’ll be reading it for a few weeks. I’m reading that book as a downloaded PDF. I prefer hard copies, though.

Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
No. Too many people, myself included, enjoy the feeling of a book in the hand. There are definitely benefits to the eBook readers, but I don’t think a machine will ever replace the warmth of a book.

What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Don’t stop. Take the blows in stride and don’t let anyone stop you. I believe in the word, want. What you want to do, you will do. When you say you wanted to do something but didn’t get to, then you really didn’t want to do it. What we want to do... we do.

If you want to write, then study, read, listen, research, write, and repeat. Be open to criticism, develop a tough skin, and get involved with other authors for support, but take everything with a grain of salt. You have to believe and stay true to your mission, even when it seems impossible. 


Johnny Walker is a musician turned soundman turned author. He has received two Billboard Song writing Citations and written songs for himself and others for over twenty-five years. After spending his youth on the road, he settled down in New York City where he became submersed in the live music and theater community. While still performing on stage, he became much more involved in sound design and began working for Ralph Lauren Media Services, Miramax Films, and name a few. First published in 2006, Johnny continues to pen the EKKO series from his home in New York.

You can purchase Johnny's books from the EKKO Mysteries website when the books are available in most formats and includes links to other places to purchase from.

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