Where Are They Now? Kimberly Johnson—Writer and Graphic Designer

Jan 18, 2019 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


Some students immerse themselves in music; still others pursue athletics. And there are those who enjoy art. Today we would like to feature a student who has a passion for writing fiction and who also enjoys art—specifically graphic arts. Kimberly Johnson published her first novel in 2018, and she’s just getting started! She has two more novels planned to round out the series. And she published her first novel before she was out of high school! Enjoy learning more about Kimberly, and if you have any aspiring writers among your students, be sure to share her story. It just may inspire them to begin writing their own novels!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm an only child and I've lived in Eastern North Carolina my whole life. I've also been homeschooled my whole life, but since third grade, I've been a part of Classical Conversations.

This is my senior year of high school, and I’m also dual enrolled in college, so I'm mostly getting schoolwork done and preparing for college. I'm also trying to develop a freelance graphic design/illustration career to go along with my writing.

What IEW courses did you take, and how did they help you in writing your novel?

Ancient History-Based Writing Lessons, Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons, and U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons. IEW definitely taught me about the importance of structure and planning, which is absolutely a part of writing a novel (even though it took me a while to learn that). It was also my first introduction to basic story structure.

What type of writing do you most enjoy?

Creative writing, definitely, especially fantasy fiction.

Tell us a little bit about your book. What is it titled? What is the book about? What is your target audience?

It's titled Stars Are Shining. It's a fantasy novel for readers ages approximately 10‒14 and is about a girl who chooses to save her world. Her choice brings her to a marvelous place called Welterra, but it is also a land thick with dangers and doubts. Ashling must summon all of her courage in order to save her world.

What motivated you to begin writing a book?

I loved—and still love—reading good books, but as I got older, I noticed that there weren’t a lot of really good children's or teens' literature being written. In many cases, the book's content was an issue; others simply didn't mean anything. Plenty of books tried to show morals but came across as shallow, bland, and poorly written. I wanted to try to craft a book that teaches what courage and goodness and beauty and other virtues truly mean, without the teaching being forced or fluffy.

How long did it take for you to write the book? Who edited the book?

I wrote the first draft in about a year, maybe a bit more. Editing took another year and a half or so. My first editor was my mom—she does an amazing job catching plot holes, typos, or confusing scenes or dialogue. She went over it after I thought I had done everything I could to polish it (I was wrong!). After I worked on her suggestions, I asked for volunteer beta readers on a Facebook group for a Christian homeschool camp I attend. It's full of avid readers and even has a few writers. I ended up getting about ten sets of feedback from the volunteers, and while it wasn't all useful, most of their responses made a lot of sense, and my book benefitted very much from their help. There were a few more minor rounds of polishing after this, but the beta reader feedback was the last true edit.

What process did you use to frame your book? Did you outline it before you wrote it, or did you start with the kernel of an idea and develop it as you wrote?

I've heard the first draft of a book described as “telling the story to yourself,” and that's the best description I have for what happened. I planned a few scenes I wanted to happen, but most things in between I made up as I went. Part of the way through the first draft, I realized I wanted this story to be really good, not just a story I wrote for fun. Once I acknowledged that, I started studying story theory (which is truly amazing—I could go on for a long, long time about that). I used the knowledge I gained from that study to pull my first draft, the story I told myself with all its extra pieces and missteps, into something with structure and purpose.

Were you still homeschooling when you wrote the book? If so, how did you juggle your schoolwork along with your writing? Did you take a break from your other lessons to focus on the writing part, or did you do both at the same time?

Yes, I was. I was fourteen when I started writing, and I mostly wrote in the evenings, on off days—whenever I had free time. My schoolwork kept me fairly busy, but I still had plenty of opportunities to work on my writing.

Do you have any more books that you are working on? t looks like you're planning a trilogy. If so, can you share anything about them?

I'm a little over halfway done writing the first draft—with a lot more planning this time—of the second book of the trilogy, Rain Is Falling. This will pick up Ashling's journey exactly where it left off in Stars Are Shining, but introduce plenty of new characters and new challenges. I have a few rough plans for the final book, Day Is Dawning, as well, but only as far as it will relate to the overall series arc—details for that one are mostly nonexistent. After that, I have plenty of ideas for other books, but they're pretty much in the brainstorming stage as well.

Do you plan to pursue a career as a writer? If so, what type of writing do you plan to focus on? If not, what career path do you think you will pursue?

I do plan to keep writing fiction for children and teens, but I also intend to be a graphic designer and illustrator as my primary job.

What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Criticism does not hurt you; it grows you. The first draft of something is definitely not perfect.

We hope you enjoyed learning more about Kimberly. Be sure to check out her book! We look forward to learning more about Ashling’s experiences in the final two novels and wish Kimberly well as she ventures from high school to college.

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