How Can Fictional Stories Help People Deal With Real-Life Struggles Interview with Mike Johnson, Author of "Blonde to the Bone"

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Interview with Mike Johnson, Author of "Blonde to the Bone"

Mike Johnson’s book, “Blonde to the Bone,” is out this week (2/27/06). We were proud to interview Mike in all his excitement. Welcome to Reader View, Mike.

Irene: “Blonde to Bone” was released this week. It’s exciting news. Summarize the story for our readers.

Mike: Leo Calvet, a fashion magnate, has disappeared. Daniel and Michelle, his bickering, beautiful twin daughters, embark on a surprising journey to find him, following secret clues. Things aren’t as real as they seem when Michelle’s fiancé Rick disappears before their eyes and the sun stands still. The search takes the sisters, Rick and Jack – Danielle’s “date” – on an extraordinary quest from Washington DC to Paris where they discover a terrorist plot to topple the Eiffel Tower. During the adventure, the sisters uncover the truth about their rivalry when each falls in love with the other’s man.

Irene: “Blonde to the Bone” is your second published novel. What inspired you to write it?

Mike: I can say that it was a full moon on a beautiful August night in San Diego. That night in the backyard I had already decided I was ready to start another project, and Blonde to the Bone came to me while looking at the moon – of course it was a take off of the George Thorogood song, Bad to the Bone. I just love the title. It was fun. So you could say I reverse-engineered a story that I thought would fit the title, but with enough depth to keep it out of slapstick comedy territory.

Irene: Although this book is entertaining, it also offers a unique approach to solving family problems. What was your goal for including this method in the book?

Mike: There’s no real mission. My primary purpose for the book was entertainment. Something to give the reader a mini-vacation. Just for fun. Beyond that, I guess you could say I wanted my characters to be “good” and “lovable” people. The world will never have too many people who care for each other, and in my novels I uphold those qualities. But anyone who reads the book will know that the method presented is impossible considering the current state of technology. I like to think that Leo is behaving like any loving father: willing to go to any extreme to ensure his daughter’s happiness and well-being. I’m actually quite worried that many readers will hold his views against him. Personally I wouldn’t advocate spying on one’s grown children to learn the truth – but it sure would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Irene: How did you create the characters in your book?

Mike: I make them on demand. A writer has to ask, “Who should be in this book?” With Blonde to the Bone for a title, I thought I needed a beautiful young naïve woman (isn’t that a phrase we’d normally associate with?), and thought it would be more fun to work with the idea of ​​identical twins than a character like Michelle. And Daniel came to life. They are actually the same person with a combination of internal decisions about two rational paths taken by the same person in life. Michelle chose one and Daniel the other from essentially the same tabla rosa. Naturally, any light, entertaining story needs some romance, so Rick and Jack came around. But what was happening? The characters need to solve problems.

Although I wanted the book to be funny, life is full of serious problems. I think Danielle’s problem is probably fairly widespread on one level or another, and something that many female readers will understand in a depth of experience outside of my own. I’m sure I had no intention of making light of issues that are too serious for many women, but I believe that the ability to laugh at life’s problems, even serious ones, creates a healthier state of mind. And I like to think that most men, as they get older and have children, are as loving as Leo and want to find a way to solve their daughter’s problems. Leo was thus the catalyst for conflict resolution. Other characters come and go as needed – although I think I’m in love with Valerie! (Don’t tell my wife…)

Irene: How much “real life” is there in this book? Are you “blonde to the bone?”

Mike: How could it not be? Writing, especially novels, comes from one’s own experience. Even if you are writing about something completely unknown to you, you must accept it before you can write about it with certainty. Therefore, it becomes a part of your own experience. When you express yourself in writing, your personality, by definition, comes out. On the other hand, it is a novel, and entirely fictional. Nothing that happens in the book happened to me or anyone else I know, the little things that help bring a scene to life, or the personality traits that define a character.

To tell what these things are specifically, I have to go back page by page and see which ones come from my personal experience and which ones I project onto characters based on observations of real people. One comes to mind: In one scene, one of the main characters says he thought the CIA was in a different part of the DC area. That was actually me. During business hours, I drove through Langley a few times on my way to the Patuxent River and thought the facility was located there. It wasn’t until I was researching a global satellite image program that I found that the CIA was in a different Langley.

To answer your question more directly, I guess I’d have to say I’m leaning towards Jack, a combination of Jack and Rick. Maybe one day I’ll grow up to be Leo.

Irene: While reading your book, I found that you set the scene very nicely. I felt like I was “right there” with the characters. Can you tell our audience how you set up these scenes so that the reader feels like they can take on the character and become part of the plot?

Mike: I would say it’s a combination of imagination and exploration. I imagine myself in every scene and become every character. From there I just look around and write down what I feel, trying to engage the five senses and look for details that are common to all. For details that may not be so common to an average American reader, I make a painstaking effort to describe them in a way that the reader can understand and thus, share the experience. For example, in an action scene I try to feel what the character is feeling so that I can put those sensations into the writing. If a car is driven off a pier, the driver will feel weightless. Distorted experience becomes much more real and enjoyable if, when the character experiences it, the reader experiences it too.

Irene: What kind of research did you do before writing the book? Have you actually visited some of the places mentioned in your book?

Mike: My wife and I went to Paris on vacation, and I went with the intention of researching locations for mysteries. I was pleasantly surprised to learn a few things, and without giving away too much of the plot, a certain line from a certain monument actually pointed to our hotel room. Most of the Parisian scenes were based on places we visited – including an abundance of sidewalk cafes. But writing Blonde to the Bone was a lot of fun because I didn’t have to do a lot of research. In the age of the Internet, research is at our fingertips – or in my case primarily within a mouse’s grasp.

Most of what I needed to know came from web sites – like the CIA example in your previous question. To rationalize the technology in the book, I researched DNA computing – projecting the current state of technology and future possibilities. I have also been to Washington DC many times on business. And the original cover art for “Blonde to the Bone” was purchased from a Parisian artist halfway across a bridge over the Seine near the Louvre.

On a little side note, I work for a company called Computer Sciences Corporation, who sponsored the Lance Armstrong Tour de France team. Our trip to Paris coincided with the end of the Tour de France and Lance Armstrong was poised to win his record-breaking seventh Tour de France. Our return flight was on the morning of the last day of the race. Around eight o’clock we left our hotel (Hilton Paris) and made a detour to the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysees on our way to the airport. They were already laying the boulevard for the final run. We were halfway across the Atlantic when the race ended, and the pilot announced over the PA system that Armstrong had won. So I can forever say I was on the Champs Elysees the day Armstrong made history in the Tour de France. I never saw him do it.

Irene: Thanks Mike. Is there anything else you want readers to know about you or your book?

Mike: First of all, thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to appear on the Reader View website! I really appreciate it! “Blonde to the Bone” is published by Suncoast Publishing. Readers can visit Suncoast’s website to read the first chapter and get a glimpse of the story here [http://www.suncoastbooks.com] “Blonde to the Bone” can be ordered at your local bookstore, but is also available at the following online stores.

I hope you enjoy it!

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