Linda S. Godfrey is the award-winning author of over a dozen non-fiction books on strange creatures, people and places and recently released her debut paranormal/urban fantasy, God Johnson: the Unforgiven Diary of the Disciple of a Lesser God as a self-published e-book, the first in a series. Godfrey is also an artist and illustrator and a former newspaper reporter. She has been a featured guest on dozens of national TV and radio shows including Monsterquest, Sean Hannity’s America, Lost Tapes, Inside Edition, SyFy’s Haunted Highway, Monsters and Mysteries, Wisconsin and Michigan Public Radio, CoasttoCoastAM radio and many more. She lives with her husband and Lhasa apso, Grendel, on the edge of Southeast Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest, and her latest nonfiction book, “American Monsters; A History of Monster Lore, Legends, and Sightings in America” will be released in August by Tarcher/Penguin.
Stephanie: Hello, Linda! Congrats on winning the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Please tell me about your book, God Johnson: The Unforgiven Diary of the Disciple of a Lesser God.
Linda: Thanks so much for the honor, and I’d be happy to discuss God Johnson!
Premise: A geeky, lesser known deity named God Johnson takes on the form of Abraham Lincoln to persuade just one unsuspecting person to trust him enough to become his disciple. He finally lures Liberty Abbott, an aspiring actress, by permanently changing her mousy brown hair to a dramatic auburn, keeping her car’s gas tank eternally filled, and promising to help her become a superstar actress. What he cannot tell her is that he has a secret commandment, which Liberty of course soon breaks while unknowingly involving her brother and best friend, as well. She’s then subjected to an arena-style battle against monsters and magical pitfalls. Liberty must try to save her brother and friend as well as herself from death or eternal slavery in the alternate universe that the huge and crazy pantheon of lesser gods call the Whetherworld. The book is set in the downtown and university areas of Madison, Wisconsin.
Stephanie: What a unique premise. Tell me what inspired you to write this story.
Linda: I was meditating one day about three years ago when the name, God Johnson, popped into my head, along with the thought that this should be a book title. I started imagining what a lesser deity with such a name might be like, and assumed that like any has-been demi-god, he would be looking for some sort of disciple. That, of course, led to the creation of my narrator, Liberty, who is lured in by his promises and has to confront many things about herself as she discovers the true nature of God Johnson. I immediately sat down and wrote the first page of her diary, and the book grew from there.
I’ve always been fascinated with the variety of gods and goddesses found in ancient cultures around the world, and this book details my own fantasy of where they came from and what they are. Bizarre doesn’t begin to describe them, and they have pet sphinxes!
Incidentally, I found out much later that there was an old time radio drama episode starring Peter Lorre that was titled God Johnson, and also a Minneapolis cover band that goes by that name. The band and I became Facebook friends.
Stephanie: Tell me about your character Liberty. What are her strengths and weaknesses?
Linda: Liberty is a smart young woman who grew up as a small-town daddy’s girl and then continued to seek attention with a career in theater and eventually, she hopes, as a movie star. Part of her strength lies in her genuine love for and loyalty to her family and close friends, although her sense of loyalty is what keeps her attached to God Johnson just a tad longer than will be good for her. She’s very ambitious, almost painfully self-aware of her minor foibles, and has a knack for sizing up a situation and using what’s at hand to her advantage.
On the flip side, Liberty can be a little flip. She has a tendency to speak and act impulsively, and that usually doesn’t go well for her. Her worst problem, though, is her tendency to make decisions for others “for their own good,” and that NEVER turns out great for her or for her loved ones. She’s also blind to the powerful need she has to be admired and adored by the men in her life as she was by her doting father. This just leads to all the wrong romantic choices.
Stephanie: Is this your first published work?
Linda: This is my first published work of fiction, co-self-published with the literary agency Dystel & Goderich (I’m represented by agent Jim McCarthy) as an e-book. I have 14 traditionally published works of non-fiction, however, between 2003 and the present, on strange and eccentric creatures, people and places. Some of my publishers include Tarcher/Penguin, Stackpole Books, and Barnes & Noble (The Weird USA series), with titles such as Weird Michigan, Monsters of Wisconsin and Real Wolfmen; True Encounters in Modern America.
Stephanie: What is up next for you?
Linda: I’m a good way into the sequel for God Johnson, and still working with editors on the final stages of American Monsters: A History of Legends, Lore and Sightings in America which is due out in August from Tarcher. I’m also busy preparing a book proposal for my next NF work.
Stephanie: When writing, what is your process like?
Linda: That depends upon how close I am to the deadline! But in general, I need to have some idea of where I’m headed, with at least a rough outline before I start. For non-fiction, it’s usually a fairly detailed outline with chapters and topic subheads.
I do a lot of research and like to have all needed books and files out and close at hand, which means I end up with a fort made of book stacks and file crates piled around my desk. I also do plenty of research for fiction (I have three unpublished fantasy novels that each required plenty of digging) but for fiction there are more files and online pages than books.
Most of my nitty gritty habits come from writing for a newspaper for ten years. There, I was always on deadline and had to learn how to churn out decently written things quickly. I discovered I could write a lot more if I took a ten minute break every hour or so and I still do that. Of course, writing at home with more distant deadlines greatly increases the temptation to stretch those ten minute breaks out waaay longer, but I do still get the work done. It’s a good test of self-discipline.
Stephanie: How often do you write and where in your home do you like writing best?
Linda: I usually give myself a regular five-day work week and try to spend the majority of my time at the computer during those days. I will also write on evenings and weekends when I can and/or need to but I like to be available for my family and other things then. I feel if I don’t leave space to inhabit my actual life, my characters are going to start acting like empty suits, too.
Almost all my writing happens in my office, formerly known as my son Ben’s bedroom. I’m surrounded here by my books, monster figures and paraphernalia, with windows that look out on our yard and adjacent woods. The room’s most important feature, however, is the door that closes out everything else when I need to be in the zone.
Stephanie: Is there ever any challenges you face when writing?
Linda: Are there ever NOT any challenges when writing? Let me say this; if it were easy, I wouldn’t enjoy it. The biggest challenge is probably just keeping at it. I’ve already mentioned the temptation to play hooky on myself. There are so many things to take me away from my work; social media, my needy Lhasa apso, the woods outside my window, kibitzing with friends, snacks, crossword puzzles, and even my own reading list. All these things are wonderful and important, but not allowed to keep me from working. I’m also expert at convincing myself that almost any book I wish to read is germane to something I’m writing at the time. Although that may often be true, I need to keep an eye on balance.
Another constant in my writing life is fighting the urge to rewrite and polish too much before I have at least a first draft. It’s so much easier to cut the unnecessary ballast loose if I haven’t grown to love the contents of that ballast. That’s equally true in fiction and non-fiction.
Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?
I came across indieBRAG while looking online for support for independent publishers, and was amazed to find such a great service. The hardest thing, in my view, for indie writers is getting the word out on our books, and indieBRAG is part of what I see as a new wave of sites and apps that help connect readers with quality indie books.
Stephanie: Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?
Linda: One of my major motivations is the thought that I can always be better. I consciously try to improve my craft with every book, and it’s always gratifying when readers and editors notice. The idea of merely gliding along, repeating the same mistakes and becoming Queen Hack-a-lot is my worst nightmare. I’m curious to see how good I can finally become, and that keeps the writing process fresh and enjoyable in my own mind. Whether I rise to the level of any of the great icons of literature is irrelevant (and probably unlikely). But as long as I keep raising the bar on my personal best, I’m happy. I would encourage every writer to try to grow with every new project.
Stephanie: Where can people buy your book?
Linda: God Johnson; the Unforgiven Diary is available through Kindle Books on Amazon and most other e-book venues. There’s a clickable list of those vendors on my God Johnson page at http://www.lindagodfrey.com/god-johnson, or just go to your favorite vendor and search.
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Linda Godfrey, who is the author of, God Johnson; the Unforgiven Diary of the Disciple of a Lesser God, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, God Johnson; the Unforgiven Diary of a Lesser God, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.