Authors will give presentations at Summit County Library
February 20, 2015
The Summit County Library will continue celebrating Library Lover’s Month when it presents three locally based, nationally recognized authors who write young-adult thrillers.
These writers, J.R. Johansson, Natalie Whipple and Courtney Alamdea, dubbed "Scream Queens" by various book reviewers will visit various Park City-area schools during the day, and then appear at the Summit County Library Kimball Junction Branch on Feb. 26 at 7 p.m.
Whipple is the author of "Transparent," "Blindsided," "The House of Ivy and Sorrow," and her new book, "Fish Out of Water."
Alamdea’s debut novel, "Shutter," has been in stores since early February.
Johansson, whose is known for her "Nightwalker" series that includes the Beehive Book Award-nominated novel "Insomnia," is looking forward to the presentations.
"We’re going to talk about our paths to publication," Johansson said during an interview with The Park Record. "Then we’ll then take questions as well.
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"At the schools, the teachers assigned their students to write something they want to be published," she said. "They will probably write a poem or short story or something to that nature."
Johansson, known for her 2013 book "Insomnia," which is the first in her "Nightwalker" series, didn’t plan to become a writer and got a degree in public relations and a minor in abnormal psychology.
"In college, I was required to take a class that wrote for the school newspaper, and I did not enjoy it," Johansson said with a laugh. "[When I started writing] I think I got to a point in my life where I had a lot going on and it was extremely stressful but I kind of got this idea in my head for a story.
"I wrote because I thought it would be a good distraction and get the idea out of my head," she said. "That’s all I thought it was and it sounded like a good idea."
So, she wrote the story and, all of a sudden, found she had a book.
"I said, ‘Huh. That wasn’t so bad. I should try that again’ and I kept writing," Johansson said. "I stumbled into it, which is a strange way to get into writing books. That’s what happened."
To this date, however, that book remains unpublished.
"It’s what we call a ‘shelf book,’" Johansson explained. "Most authors have a shelf book or multiple shelf books. Those are basically books that authors have either started or finished that are part of our learning process."
In retrospect, the book’s premise wasn’t a good one, Johansson confessed.
"It wasn’t commercial and not unique and I just wrote it down," she said. "I realized if I wanted to pursue writing, I’m going to have to think a little harder and come up with more interesting and unique things, or else the books that I write will just end up being a lot like a million other books out there."
That’s when she came up with the idea for "Insomnia."
"It’s about a guy who is slowly going crazy because he can’t sleep," Johansson said.
The Children’s Literature Association of Utah recently nominated "Insomnia" for a Beehive Book Award.
"That was a surprise," Johansson said. "When I got the email telling me I got nominated for it, I felt so honored to know that librarians out there are helping get the book into the hands of readers."
The public can vote on the book through the end of April by visiting http://bit.ly/1DGGA7l .
The follow-up to "Insomnia" is called "Paranoia" and was published last year. The third and final book in the series, "Mania," will be published in July.
In addition, Johansson published a stand-alone book, "Cut Me Free," last month. The book is about a teenaged girl who has suffered abuse by her father and is trying to put her life back together, according to Johansson.
"The stories are different in many ways, and that proved to be a challenge writing the different story lines," she said. "I made it as difficult as possible on myself on what I was doing."
One big difference is "Insomnia" is told from a boy’s point of view written in the first-person past, and "Cut Me Free" is written from a girl’s point of view, written in the first-person present.
"So, I’m changing tenses and genders and going from supernatural elements in ‘Insomnia’ to real-world in ‘Cut Me Free,’" Johansson said. "I didn’t know what I was thinking when I did that."
Because the books were so different in approach, Johansson couldn’t draft both books at the same time.
"I did figure out that I could draft one when I was editing the other one," she said.
The author also discovered a system that would help clear her mind for the respective projects.
"I would read a book between writing," she said. "I would read a book that was written in present tense if I was going to work on ‘Cut Me Free’ and vice versa."
The common thread throughout the books is the dark element, and to get the right atmosphere for the writing, Johansson taps into her abnormal psychology schooling.
"I draw from that for most of my characters," she explained. "All characters should be flawed in some way.
"For example, the boy in ‘Insomnia’ hallucinates and can’t tell what is real. He’s the ultimate unreliable narrator," Johansson said. "’Cut Me Free’ deals with a more sadistic methodology for the antagonist who enjoys hurting other people. And that’s obviously something I pulled from my minor."
Her studies also helped with the other side of the "Cut Me Free" tale.
"Interestingly, the over all message of ‘Cut Me Free’ is very hopeful," she said. "The survivor is trying to fight back and start over and move on with her life, and I explore the trials she goes through."
Thriller and horror writers such as Dean Koontz and H.P. Lovecraft have influenced Johansson’s writings.
"I also grew up on Stephen King," she said. "I went from ‘The Babysitters Club’ to Stephen King, and I think that might have shaped a little bit of what I write.
"There are also a lot of authors in this area that have influenced me," Johansson said. "Dan Wells and his ‘I’m Not a Serial Killer’ series is very good. I will often read one of his books as a palate cleaner."
Nationally recognized Young Adult authors, J.R. Johansson, Natalie Whipple and Courtney Alameda are all coming for a "Scream Queens" author event at the Summit
County Library Kimball Junction Branch on Thursday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m.
There will be a book signing afterwards with books available to purchase supplied by Dolly’s Bookstore. For more information, visit http://www.thesummitcountylibrary.org . For more information about J.R. Johansson, visit http://www.jrjohansson.com . For more information about Natalie Whipple, visit betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.com/p/projects.html. For more information about Courtney Alameda, visit courtneyalameda.com.
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