A few weeks ago, I spoke to RM Johnson, the author of the Million Dollar Series. Here is our conversation where Johnson speaks about his writing and the future of the series.
What inspired you to start writing?
It was something I always wanted to do. I really didn’t desire writing until I was 21 years old. I always knew I was going to be an artist of some sort but first it was sketching and drawing. At 23 years old, I thought I wanted to be a filmmaker and I was in film school but I realized I wasn’t very interested in that and I was taking an intro to creative writing course and that’s when I realized that’s what I wanted to do. I’ve never worked fulltime longer than four months. The decision to get training in the medical field was only to back up the ultimate desire to write. The plan was always to write full time and to use the medical training to support me.
So what steps did you take towards making your dream of being an author come true?
When I was undergrad, I took creative writing electives and my undergrad degree is in science but I took writing classes whenever I could. And after graduating, I worked as a radiation therapist and an x-ray technician and I continued writing on my own time. In 1995, I wrote my first book and I started sending query letters to agents and an agent decided to represent me in 97. My first book the Harris Men came out in 99.
What is your writing process like?
For the most part, I’ll come up with an idea and I will do notes for a month or two and then I will take the next 3,4,5 months to write the novel. I will wake up in the morning and write the novel from 8-12. I write full time
How did you come up with your million dollar series?
I had no intention of this being a series. I was forced into the idea of that book. The book I presented to my publisher before hand was rejected, and I had a week and a half to come up with a new idea. I just focused and I thought about what would be interesting to my readers. I came up with the Million Dollar divorce idea. It was based on nothing and it was based on no one. That book was released in 2004 and it was quite successful. I wanted to write a sequel after the success of that book but my editor wasn’t crazy about the idea of a sequel. So I wrote another book and a year after that the Million Dollar Deception came up. It was just an idea I came up with that worked very well.
Is there a fourth book coming out in the Million Dollar Series?
The book I just finished, which I believe is coming out in September, is the third Harris book and there are characters from the Million Dollar series in it. From the last book, the story lines from both characters will continue in the Harris Brothers book. I believe I am going to write a book solely about Nate Kenny about how he became who he is today. The last book will be the Million Dollar Destiny, which will come out in 2012.
What kind of response do you get from your books?
I have a loyal following that really enjoys my work. I’ve been with the same publisher for 10 years and I have published 11 books, so I assume that I’m doing something fairly decent. My fans enjoy my work and appreciate it.
Do you have a favorite book you’ve written so far?
I don’t. They’re all so very, very different so I really don’t have a favorite.
You stated that you were once a film major, are you working on turning your books into film?
There’s such a wide canon between books and film. A friend and I, who was a film major, in 1999 wrote the script for the Harris men and we presented it to several film companies. It’s a process that’s just too daunting and time consuming. If someone comes calling, I’ll be very excited but if you look at Push, that was ten years in the making; that book came out in 1996. That is something I would love to happen, but I’m not aggressively pursuing it.
Which writers do you admire?
While I was studying writing and aspiring to become a writer myself, my two big writers were Steven King and Richard Wright. There is a vast difference between the two. There are a lot of great writers out there that I read but those are my favorite.
Do you have a favorite book besides one you’ve written?
The outsiders by Richard Wright. It was written in 1956 at a time when it was rough for black folks but he was a New York Times best selling author. The writing is beautiful and poetic but its conscious and intriguing. It’s great stuff and a very powerful book.
What advice do you have for up and coming writers?
I say write as much as you can and practice. If you’ve never written a book, start with short stories with a beginning, middle, and end and continue to expand until you write a novel. But you have to be informed and reading other writers work helps. Read as much as you can and write as much as you can. Don’t copy someone else’s style, create a style of your own. A lot of us come and go but if you’re going to study a writer, study someone who’s been around for 10-20. I wouldn’t write what’s popular, write what excites you and intrigues you because trends come and go.
What advice do you wish you were given when you first started writing?
Start a series from the very first book. Just continue writing those characters in that series because I think that’s what makes a writer popular. Look at JK Rowling, the Twilight series create a group of characters so if someone is going to read those characters, they have to come to you.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I have started my own company because I’m going to self publish my book this summer and I’m going to do that on a regular. I just want to become a bit more known and I want more people to read my books. To do what I’m doing now but on a major scale.