Q: How did you get started writing?
I started writing when I was at school. My favourite lesson was English and I was a massive reader. I remember devouring every Enid Blyton book I could find when I was a kid, along with Hans Christian Anderson’s stories and fairy tales. I remember at Junior School that we were reading Miss Pepperpot and we had to write our own story based on it, and I put many of my classmates into it, and the teacher read it out, and everyone was laughing. That was great. I also wrote a lot as a teenager, and I got into writing poetry at 16. At university, life took over and I didn’t write so much, followed by full-time working. Then, in 2002-ish, I was made redundant, had a free month, and I wrote Kiwi in Cat City, starring my cat in a fantasy world of cats. I sent it off to one publisher, got rejected, and put it away. Then I wrote things that I never quite finished or poetry. Later, in 2010, a friend read an article about an author who self-published on Amazon. I published Kiwi in Cat City, met a lot of supportive writers, and ended up writing a series about Kiwi, the magical cat. I’ve written 17 books.
Q: What made you decide to write in the genre you chose?
I really like fantasy, because it can go anywhere. I like the world building it involves and that the characters can do anything really, and be as wild and as wonderful as you like. Fantasy is like taking the lid off things and spilling out the unknown. Most of my books have a fantasy side, whether it’s the series about animals and a magical cat who comes from a world of cats (Kiwi), or my series about zombies (I Dream of Zombies), or my book where the hero is a dog who has his own romance in a romcom (3 Heads & a Tail) and I go inside the head of the pooch for half of the book, Day of the Living Pizza, which is about a bungling detective from Crazy Name Town investigating why people are turning into pizza zombies, or The Sea Inside, which is about a girl who is left paralysed after an accident who finds herself in an alternative reality. I also write poetry, which are little pieces of fiction, and I enjoy that.
Q: What are some of the steps you take to ready yourself to write?
With writing fiction, I’d think about the characters a lot and have them in my head, so I’d know where the story is going. I’d carry around a notebook to write down ideas. Lately, I’ve been writing poetry more than fiction, so I just sit down with my laptop or notebook and write anything, without editing it until I’ve finished, and I might redraft it. I need quiet when I write. I read that Stephen King writes to rock music and I have no idea how he does that! There’s also a poetry course that I love, with Cahal Dallat, which I’ve taken a few times, which gets the creative juices going.
Q: Do you have any hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time?
I like reading and going out to meet friends, going to pubs and gigs. I also like travelling, when I can, and seeing new places. I like cooking. I’m also a sucker for cute animals, so I like spending time around them. Recently I did the sleepover at London Zoo, waking up to the sounds of birds and monkeys, which was great. All the monkeys seemed to have different voices. We fed the porcupines, had lots of tours, and slept next to the lion enclosure. It was great. I am doing NaPoWriMo for the month of April, which involves writing a poem a day from prompts given each day. I’m posting those poems on my blog.
Q: What is your all-time favorite book? Movie?
My favourite book is Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl. It is also his favourite book, and he said he thought all the parts were in the right places. Favourite movie is harder to choose. There’s a few that I’ve watched several times. So I’d have to go with one of my favourite movies, which is Pan’s Labyrinth – a magnificent movie that mixes reality and fantasy, and every time I watch it I see something new. I love the character of Pan and the fantasy worlds created in this film. I never get bored of it. And the colour – it’s very rich.
Q: When you read for yourself, what is your favorite genre?
That’s interesting because I tend to pick character-driven books, rather than fantasy. I’m currently reading Will Smith’s autobiography (he’s had a crazy life) and The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris. During lockdown, my reading went down to almost nothing. I realised that I was doing all my reading commuting to work! I’ve read a big mix of books in probably every genre. I also love the old classics, like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. I also like reading poetry – I love Sylvia Plath and Tomas Transtromer. Stephen King’s On Writing is great too.
Q: After a difficult day what do you do to recuperate? How do you unwind?
I’d probably watch something funny on Netflix or dig out a DVD and lounge around, have a nice cup of Tetley tea (it solves lots a multitude of things) and make something nice to eat. I love crunchy bread! And eggy soldiers – they are a real comfort food. Or I’d message some friends. If it was a really stressy day I might have a glass of red wine. I really like Campo Viejo Rioja. Yummy.
Q: For what are you grateful?
Family, good friends, health and all the freedoms that we take for granted.
Q: If you could go back in time to when you were seven years old, what wisdom or advice would you pass on to yourself?
Don’t worry so much, walk away from trouble, don’t take anything for granted and do the things you love. Explore! And maybe plan ahead a little. Oh, and save some money! And speak up, although sometimes sticking up for yourself can land you in trouble. It’s a balancing act.
Q: At what age were you the happiest? What triggered such joy?
Oh god, that’s a hard one. I’d say my 30s were the best. I made a lot of good friends in my 30s who I am still friends with now, and I did a lot of travelling on my own – to Australia, Canada, Alaska and Europe. I think life got more complicated after my 30s, so I’d travel back to there! I thought life got simpler as you get older, but no, it really doesn’t, and your body could do with a trade-in! I’m hoping the 60s are peace-ville.
Q: How can our readers connect with you?
My blog: vickiejohnstone.blogspot.com
Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/AuthorVickieJohnstone
Facebook page for the Kiwi Series: www.facebook.com/KiwiinCatCity
Facebook page for my poetry: www.facebook.com/KaleidoscopePoetry
Amazon US: www.amazon.com/Vickie-Johnstone/e/B004SZ9TGE
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/%22Vickie%20Johnstone%22