Author Ana Johns Answers all our Questions
- Latest Book: The Woman in the White Kimono
- Can you give us the ‘elevator pitch’ version of your latest book.
Oceans and decades apart, two women—one in 1950s Japan torn between her culture and her heart, and the other in present-day America on a journey to understand the truth behind her father’s early life—are inextricably bound by the secrets between them.
- Tell us something about yourself that we likely don’t know! The more obscure the better!
After a diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis in 2008, I began Shorei Goju Ryu karate with my two boys to gain back balance and coordination (and to keep the family’s focus on goals rather than the illness), and I absolutely fell in love with the artform.
I earned my black belt two years later, taught at my Dojo, and my oldest son and I competed all over the country. I retired in 2011 at the age 40 after earning the national title in forms with the PKC (Professional Karate Commission) and the international title for forms at Disney’s ESPN ISKA competition. (the International Sport Karate Association). Now I just kickbox/box to stay mobile and active.
- Do you write in silence, or with music? If you write to music, give us the top three songs on your writers’ playlist this week.
Silence. I even use an air purifier/fan to create white noise and drown out distractions.
- Are you a plotter or pantser?
Both. I do a plot-line first to set the structure, then I let loose in-between plot points.
- Have your characters ever ‘gone off script’ – hijacked your story and taken it in a direction you didn’t expect?
All the time. That’s the magic of writing. Michael Angelo is quoted to say, “Every block of stone has a statue inside and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” I believe a novel is much the same. The story already exists and knows how it should be told, we simply need to listen.
- If you could spend time with any character from any of your books, who would it be and what would you do?
It would have to be Pops, my American character’s father. He was inspired by both my father who I lost just after I turned seventeen and my grandfather. And I would do exactly what Tori and her father did, a road-trip in his Caddy because it gave them something I didn’t have—time.
- Which of your characters can you say you would least get along with in real life?
Obaachan, Naoko’s grandmother. While she was so much fun to write with her stubborn opinions and meddlesome spirit, her narrowmindedness would be difficult to navigate.
- Do you read your reviews?
I do in the beginning to gauge how well the novel’s received.
- What has been the toughest criticism you have been given since becoming a published author?
I can’t think of anything specific, but of course anything negative tends to sting a little.
- What is the best compliment you have received?
Ellis Moore of Bolinda said in BookSeller, “So many titles have claimed to be competition for The Memoirs of a Geisha, but I think now that the claim is finally and entirely justified by The Woman in the White Kimono.” It touched my heart to read those words. I may have even teared up. Also, the best-selling authors who gave such enthusiastic early reviews: Karen Dionne, Kelli Estes, Carol Mason and Renita D’silva. I am still in awe of their praise.
- Do you have a day job when you are not writing? If so, what do you do?
I write full time, although in the summer months, my time is split between writing and raising Monarch Butterflies.
- Can you name three authors who have inspired your writing?
There are so many, but the main three that come to mind are Khaled Hosseini, screenwriter Dan Fogelman, and Gillian Flynn—her narrative structure is a work of art.
- What was your favourite book as a child?
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and The Velveteen Rabbit.
- What scene in your latest book was the hardest scene to write (without giving away too many spoilers!)
Tori’s narrative was difficult overall. I drew so much of her father’s story from my own. I still can’t read a particular scene without my throat closing up and tears.
- Do you have any other author friends? If so, can you name a few and have any of them given you a piece of advice you would consider invaluable on your publishing journey?
There are so many wonderful authors who have offered a kind word along the way, but Karen Dionne, author of the international best seller, The Marsh King’s Daughter, has been a wonderful source of encouragement.
For Bonus Points – Answer four fabulous frivolous questions!
- What is your biggest fear?
Answering this question! If I say what my biggest fear is, it will present itself, right?
- If you could have any superhero power, what would it be?
To heal. Wouldn’t that be something?
- If you could write one line to be etched into your tombstone, what would it read?
I’d rather not have a tombstone. Just send my ashes on the wind somewhere beautiful and quote Cicero, “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living,” and I’d hope to be remembered well.
- If you could give your younger self ONE piece of advice, what would it be?
My younger self requires a lecture, but if I had to choose only one piece of advice, it would be to know your worth, find your voice, and use it.
- Finally – Who are your latest Cover Crushes? (No more than two!)
Pam Jenoff’s The Lost Girls of Paris cover is so intriguing you know the story must be good, and I’m still in love with the cover for Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride. I also should mention that Park Row Publishing did a fantastic job capturing Noako’s strength on the cover of The Woman in the White Kimono. She’s beautiful and fierce!
You can read our full review of The Woman in the White Kimono here on our Book Club or purchase Ana’s latest book: The Woman in the White Kimono here on Amazon.