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Friday, March 24, 2017


Cj petterson is the pen name of Marilyn A. Johnston whose publication credits include two contemporary romantic suspense novels as well as nonfiction and fiction short stories that have appeared in several anthologies. She is currently working on a mystery series. Today cj sits down with us for an interview. Learn more about her at the Lyrical Pens blog. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?  
After I retired from Chrysler in 2001. My job required a lot of travel and long hours, and when I retired, I had the time to do something else. I took a class at the University of South Alabama in 2003 called “Storming the Walls of the Publishing Industry,” got positive feedback on the first seven pages I wrote, and was hooked on learning as much as I could to scale those walls. Those seven pages became the start of my second novel that was published in 2015.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication? 
My first three short-story memoirs were published in 2008: “Don’t Ride the Clutch” in Cup of Comfort for Divorced Women, “The Blue-Eyed Doll” in Christmas is a Season 2008, and “Dancing with Daddy” in Christmas Through a Child’s Eyes.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?  
I am traditionally published so far, but looking into indie publishing for the novella I’m working on.

Where do you write? 
My Dell computer is in a bedroom I converted to an office that I share with my photographer son and his Apple computer and a slew of other equipment and furniture.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?  
I like to listen to music without lyrics. My son likes the white noise of a fan so I have both going on when I write.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?  
About fifty-fifty. There is a part of me, real or wished-for, and/or my personal adventures in all of my female protagonists. That’s especially true in one of my romantic suspense novels. I once spent five-and-a-half days whitewater rafting in Colorado and a year later spent two days driving a doors-off, stick-shift Wrangler on a Jeep Jamboree off-road adventure in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The protagonist in my romantic suspense novel Choosing Carter enjoys some of these same adventures.

Describe your process for naming your character? 
That’s a challenge always. I read newspapers, magazine, obits, and do Google searches, but I would never use a complete name from anything I’ve read. I want character names to reflect their nationality or where they live. Because I correlate words and names as musical, my character names have a rhythm. The names are, hopefully, a bit unique even if they do, I am sure, really belong to somebody somewhere…Mirabel Campbell. Bryn McKay. Carter Danielson. Anders Olsson.

Real settings or fictional towns?  
I have to say both, but even the fictional ones are based on real places I’ve been to or lived in. My short story, “Bad Day at Round Rock,” is a historical fiction piece based on real events that took place in 1878 in the real cow town of Round Rock, Texas.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
I think of quirky old Talley Munroe, the unwashed prospector in “Bad Day at Round Rock,” who dreams of finding a hidden cache of stolen gold then loses both his life and the gold when he finds it.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I used to do all my ironing wearing high heels, but I do very little ironing now and I’m wearing aerobic trainers. However, I still love to hang my laundry out to dry on the clothes lines outside my laundry room.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
I would love to have written Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, because I think it’s the ultimate romance novel.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours? 
I wish I had started college in my teens or twenties instead of waiting until I was thirty-seven and divorced.

What’s your biggest pet peeve? 
People who assume they know what I’m going to say or do in a given situation…and then I do it! Ticks me off to be so predictable.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves? 
Survival things . . . a way to make potable water, a way to fish, and my Bible.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held? 
I worked in the labor relations department of a large corporation early in my career. My boss was almost intolerable. I started every morning with a prayer that I could get through the day without quitting or getting fired. As sole provider for my mother and my son, I couldn’t afford to do either. I felt like I was in jail.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read? 
There are too many to choose from, so I’ll pick the one that hooked me on action, adventure, and historical stories: Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. I was about ten years old when I read that one. It took me several weeks one winter, but once a week, I tramped through snow (seriously) to the Mark Twain Library in Detroit to read it. Sounds a lot like the old saw of walking five miles to school, barefoot through the snow, uphill both ways, but hey, the story absolutely fascinated me.

Ocean or mountains? 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Slightly citified country girl.

What’s on the horizon for you?
Gosh, I hope there are more novels, either the second book in a possible detective series or a stand-alone. But I’m not a fast writer. I’ve never been able to throw words at a piece of paper and then go back later for edits. Like computer coding, the next scene doesn’t work for me until the one before it is as good as I can make it . . . at the time. Of course, it gets changed later. Writing that “decent first draft” means it takes me a long time to complete a novel. I know. I know. Hiring a development editor could speed up the process.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? 
I am especially happy with “Bad Day at Round Rock,” and was thrilled when the publisher accepted it with a one-word edit. Everything in the story about Sam Bass is as true as newspaper reports and lore have made it. The character Lilly Malmstrom is a composite of my imagination and my black-haired, blue-eyed, maternal grandmother, Selma, who emigrated alone from Sweden in 1904 at the age of 18 and truly did have to work off a debt because her money was stolen on the ship.

Seven authors contributed short stories to The Posse. The are Lyn Horner, “The Schoolmarm's Hero”; Frank Kelso, “One Way or Another” and “Tibby's Hideout”; Charlene Raddon, “The Reckoning”; Chimp Robertson, “Headed for Texas”; Jim Stroud, “Savage Posse”; Chuck Tyrell, “Set a Thief”; and of course my own “Bad Day at Round Rock”.

Check out the trailer here. 

The Posse
The Posse is an anthology of Western human interest short stories that includes cj petterson’s historical fiction “Bad Day at Round Rock.” The Posse has the action you’d expect from stories about cowboys in the old Wild West, but it’s not your average shoot-em-up Western anthology, and “Bad Day” is not your average Western story:

When the outlaw Sam Bass robbed the Union Pacific train of $60,000 in uncirculated gold pieces, he set off a chain of events that culminated in a “Bad Day at Round Rock.” Men lose their lives seeking their fortunes, outlaws are shot down in the streets, an innocent man is accused of murder, and a girl becomes a woman in a story of history, mystery, myth, greed and love torn from the pages of West Texas history.

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cj petterson said...

Good morning, Lois. Thanks for hosting me on Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. Looking at the interview, I can't believe I revealed all that info. You asked some great questions. Since I'm in such a talking mode, I'll be happy to answer any questions your readers' have as well.

Thanks again for the opportunity to tell you about The Posse.


cj petterson said...

I meant Good morning, ANASTASIA.....(I needed a coffee to get my brain in gear.)



No problem, cj. We're interchangeable! ;-)

Angela Adams said...

Great post, CJ, and I know just what you mean about needing coffee to get your "brain in gear" (smile!). Have a great weekend!!

cj petterson said...

Thanks for stopping by, Angela. I am now on my fourth cup, so I hope brain is working. cj

Mahala Church said...

I have the privilege of calling cj a friend and we have been in several critique groups together. Good author. Good friend. Good woman.