The six generation saga, A Good Girl, is currently a finalist in the Kindle Book Awards and has received praise from readers and reviewers. Author, Johnnie Bernhard, has been kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
1. What attracts you to an idea? Do you have many ideas floating around in your head at one time? What makes you decide to write a particular one?
Overhearing a conversation, listening to a song, watching a mother interact with her child, or reading the newspaper - all of these things have inspired me to write. I particularly like history, so I am also motivated to research how someone might be affected by the experiences of war, social issues, or "once in a life time" events, such as a Hurricane Katrina or the potato famine of Ireland. It isn't unusual for me to have several ideas at once. This doesn't always become part of a manuscript, but I do record ideas or particularly moving events in a notebook. Later, I'll play with a concept. If it grows or becomes a bigger picture, it will become part of a manuscript or creative essay.
2. Do you edit your own work? Is that hard to do?
It is not unusual for me to have ten drafts of a manuscript as I work through the edit process. I always work with a beta reader, who will draw my attention to a particular weakness or strength within the manuscript. I also work with a critique group for editing. The manuscript will go through a further edit with the publisher.
3. Advice for any first-time writers?
The best advice I can give to a beginning writer is to read and write every day. Some days you may only produce a paragraph, and that's okay. What's important is that you are developing a working habit of writing. It is also important to believe in what you are writing. This will sustain you through the difficult process of rejection from literary agents and publishers. This is all part of it. You can't give up!
4. What surprised you the most about the whole publishing experience?
Like any business, there are good guys and bad guys. The only way to protect yourself is to understand how the business works! Attend conferences, read writer magazines, and join a writing group. The more information you receive, the better. It is important to learn early that no one can promise you a big publishing contract. Do your research. Vet literary agents and publishing companies. Also, there are many great writers who are published with small or medium-sized publishing companies. Not everyone, despite the talent, will receive a big publishing contract from a large house. You must educate yourself, then decide what you want in a publishing career. Is it to see your work published? Is it to make a lot of money? Rarely, do these go hand-in-hand. It is a highly competitive business.
A former English teacher and journalist, Johnnie Bernhard life’s work is reading and writing. A published author, her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines, both nationally and internationally. She has written articles and columns for: the Suburban Reporter of Houston, World Oil Magazine, The Mississippi Press, the international Word Among Us, Heart of Ann Arbor Magazine, Houston Style Magazine, University of South Florida Area Health Education Magazine, and the Cowbird-NPR production on small town America. Johnnie's entry for Cowbird, "The Last Mayberry" received 7,500 views, nationally and internationally.
A Good Girl is published by Texas Review Press. The historical fiction novel received top ten finalist recognition in the 2015 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition, one of America's most prestigious literary prizes. The novel has been selected for panel discussion at the 2017 Mississippi and Louisiana Book Festivals.
Johnnie's nonfiction work, "Ignorance or Innocence" received "Runner-Up, Short-Listed" for the 2016 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition in the essay category. The international essay competition was judged by bestselling non-fiction writer and poet Rodger Kamenetz.
Johnnie is the owner of Bernhard Editorial Services, LLC, where she writes book reviews for Southern Literary Review, as well as assists writers in honing their craft. If you are a writer interested in what Bernhard Editorial Services, LLC can do for you, please send an email describing your particular project to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Johnnie and her husband, Bryant reside in a 19th Century cottage, surrounded by ancient oak trees and a salt water marsh near the Mississippi Sound. They share that delightful space with their dog, Lilly and cat, Poncho. All residents eagerly await holiday visits from the Bernhard's adult children and granddaughter Frieda, the Belle of Crossmaglen, Ireland.