This week we caught up with the talented author Johanna Handley, who has just released her second novel in the Juniper Series, ‘The Embers of Juniper Slaide‘ – a follow up to ‘The Burning of Juniper Slaide.‘ Find out who the F she is, what she’s into and what she’s up to next…
Who the F are you?
I’m Jo. Johanna. Pompom. An English/French hybrid living in the Middle East who is, by definition: a woman, an author, a mother, an animal-lover, an avid, easily-excited, easily-enthralled, easily-disappointed movie watcher/book reader/music listener, a wife, a friend, a socially-inept/brilliant 39-year-old teenager, who drinks wine, and strokes cats.
What do you do?
I write. Psychological thrillers, so dark they need to be heavily edited so I don’t get outcast from society. Or arrested. And kid’s books; cute animal capers, often with an eco-message, or a ‘be kind to people’ one.
What are you currently enjoying?
TV, TV, TV. I’m not ashamed to tell you how much I love watching TV. Good dramas and thrillers feed my soul and give me inspiration. Best TV this year has been without a doubt the second season of 13 Reasons Why (I was prepared for disappointment; what I got was call-off-the-search amazingness. Jodie Comer in Killing Eve was the most exciting and lovable psychopath I’ve ever seen. I binge-watched The Disappearance on a flight- very clever, bad-guy-with-sad-past drama. I love family secrets and sagas. I love how the decisions parents make can have such horrific consequences on the children and grandchildren that follow in their footsteps.
Books. If I can’t read, I can’t write. I aim for 60 books a year, but often it’s much more than that. Best books this year- My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix was the most heartfelt exploration of friendship and growing up in the 80’s I’ve ever read. With a small dose of horror for good measure. Insert heart emoji eyes here. Non-fiction- I’ll be gone in the dark, by Michelle McNamara. A woman becomes obsessed with finding out who the Golden State Killer was and bringing him to justice. (For those that don’t know, The Golden State Killer was a rapist turned murderer who had hundreds of victims over a 40-year period in California.) The title of the book comes from a line the serial-killer whispered to one of his victims: “You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.” Chills. This book made me cry and blew my mind. And Michelle, an amazing researcher and writer, passed away in her sleep just before figuring out the mystery. Her book had to be finished by her husband and research partners, from her notes. Tears in my eyes just thinking about it.
Music: I’m currently listening to the Pampa Folks album, South by West, on repeat. It’s sunny, lazy-day music. It’s perfect for reading the above book. Perfect for writing. Perfect for letting my mind disappear into oblivion, and then waking up with IDEAS. I love it.
What’s coming up next for you?
Two new novels plus the third instalment in The Juniper Series in 2019 and 2020. Four children’s books coming out before the end of 2018. I’ll be heavily involved in the International Book Fair in Doha in November/December. Also, watch this space for The Juniper Series coming soon, to a screen near you! All three books have been optioned for TV/Movie production, which is incredibly exciting!
And… I’m turning 40. Which I’m really looking forward to, because I get to care even less about how offensive I (sometimes) am.
Today’s best advice?
So… let me apologise in advance for this next bit because it’s going to be cheesy as F… but I can’t help it, because I believe this whole-heartedly. Don’t give up. Simple as that. I just want to put that into perspective a little bit: I got eighteen rejection letters the first time I tried to sell a manuscript. I went back and started again from the beginning. The second-time around, I only got fifteen-rejection letters plus three, slightly more hopeful notes and comments and requests to re-read with amendments. The third time around, I hooked a publisher. The fourth time around, I got myself an amazing agent. Now, I’m on a roll. But that process took a long time and those rejections hurt. The thing is, I knew I couldn’t stop trying. So… that’s it. Don’t. Give. Up.