Sybil Johnson’s love affair with reading began in kindergarten with “The Three Little Pigs.” Visits to the library introduced her to Encyclopedia Brown, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and a host of other characters. Fast forward to college where she continued reading while studying Computer Science. After a rewarding career in the computer industry, Sybil decided to try her hand at writing mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mysterical-E and Spinetingler Magazine, among others. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in Southern California where she enjoys tole painting, studying ancient languages and spending time with friends and family. Sybil is here today on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours with her new book, FATAL BRUSHSTROKE.
My Writing Journey
by Sybil Johnson
I never expected to write mystery novels, let alone have one published. I’d been a fan of crime fiction ever since I discovered Encyclopedia Brown in grade school and Agatha Christie in junior high, but I’d always thought a mystery would be too difficult to write.
My experience in the fiction world was limited to a few stories I’d written in grade school and junior high. I’d never tackled anything as complicated as a novel. The only writing I’d done as an adult were technical papers and design documents in my life as a software developer/manager. Other than those and the required papers in college, that was pretty much it.
Then one day I woke up with an idea that just wouldn’t go away—a young woman finds the body of her tole painting teacher in her garden—and a mystery writer was born.
Not right away, of course. Off and on, over a period of many years, I wrote stories and studied the art and craft of fiction writing. I read every book on the subject I could get my hands on and took a couple online courses specifically geared toward writing mysteries. I studied plotting, characters, setting and description. I analyzed short stories and novels I enjoyed reading, trying to figure out what made them tick.
Over the years, I wrote a half-dozen short stories, using them to develop characters and improve my plotting skills. After submitting each of them to numerous print and online markets, I eventually found homes for them all in online magazines. The submission process often took one or two years per story, which was a little disheartening, but I persevered.
While I studied and wrote short stories, I continued writing the book that would eventually become my first published novel, Fatal Brushstroke. I finished draft after draft, figuring out what worked and what didn’t. I have no idea how many drafts I finished over the years. I just kept on plugging away.
During this period, I joined my local Sisters in Crime chapter, meeting many fellow writers and learning from them. I also served on the chapter’s board and co-chaired a writing conference, gaining knowledge about writing and the business of publishing in the process.
Finally, one day I finished the umpteenth draft of my novel and felt it was publishable. By this time, ten or fifteen years had elapsed. This coincided with my attendance at the California Crime Writers Conference where I met the managing editor of Henery Press. Nine months and a few drafts later, I had a publishing contract in hand. My dream of having a novel published has now come true, less than two years after I submitted the book to Henery.
My writing journey continues. I’ve learned a lot along the way. I’m still honing my writing skills, but I now believe I understand how a mystery novel basically works and how it differs from a short story. I have a writing process that works for me. I know a lot more about the publishing industry than I did when I started. And I have a lot of writer friends to talk with about writing, contracts, and marketing.
But, most important, I’ve learned that with persistence and a lot of elbow grease, you can make your dreams come true.
ABOUT THE BOOK
A dead body in her garden and a homicide detective on her doorstep…
Computer programmer and tole-painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson doesn’t envision finding either when she steps outside to investigate the frenzied yipping coming from her own backyard. After all, she lives in Vista Beach, a quiet California beach community where violent crime is rare and murder even rarer.
Suspicion falls on Rory when the body buried in her flowerbed turns out to be someone she knows—her tole painting teacher, Hester Bouquet. Just two weekends before, Rory attended one of Hester’s weekend painting seminars, an unpleasant experience she vowed never to repeat. As evidence piles up against Rory, she embarks on a quest to identify the killer and clear her name. Can Rory unearth the truth before she encounters her own brush with death?
In the short time they have been around, Henery Press has become one of the places you can go to for a cozy you know you will enjoy. And they have another winner with FATAL BRUSHSTROKE. Good characters you will want to get to know. Here and in future books. A good series setup with tole painting as a backdrop. ♥♥♥♥♥
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