Joanna White is a prolific author of over 50 books, varying in genres of fantasy, romance, and religious novels. She has published books both independently and mainstream, having much wisdom to bestow on her fellow writers. Her recent release, “Shifter,” is a romantic fantasy that tugs at the heart strings while grappling with the inner turmoil of obeying expectations versus morality.
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS- AMELIA ALBANESE (AMA)
INTERVIEW ANSWERS: JOANNA WHITE (JW)
AMA: Did you always want to be a writer? Was there a defining moment that made you realize that this is what you wanted to be?
JW: Actually, no I didn’t. I’ve been writing since I was ten, so it was always just a hobby for me. I wanted to be a paleontologist until high school because of my love for dinosaurs. In high school, I got more realistic and wanted to go into archaeology and so I started looking for history degrees in college. I ended up at one college where I wanted to double major in history and missionary work, but I ended up coming back home—I couldn’t take the homesickness. In the end, I met my husband and went to college online for writing which helped me develop my skills in many different genres and areas, so it was God’s will for me to come back home. After that, I had already been working on and almost finished my seventeen book series called the Valiant Series and it was my dream to become a best selling published author since I was little. At the time, it seemed like just a silly dream, but I tried self publishing after I graduated while I freelanced. I didn’t think I could make it as a writer because of the lack of income, but my husband worked hard so I could stay at home and be a full-time author. I had several rejections, but eventually Ambassador International accepted the first two books in the Valiant Series, so I’m really excited at what God has in store for me.
AMA: How do you usually get inspired to write a particular story? Do you have to be in certain mood or in a specific place?
JW: I would say probably yes. My husband and I talk story ideas all the time—so many, it seems impossible to write all of them into books. But sometimes the ideas click and inspiration hits and I can write a 50,000 word novel in six days like I did last week. Other times, I start a story, inspiration runs dry and it’s left unfinished. Ultimately, my inspiration comes from God, so I figured out, it’s up to Him on whether I’m inspired enough to write it or not. The ideas, plot, and characters really have to click with me, though, and if anything’s even slightly off, I can’t write it.
AMA: You’ve written a LOT of books thus far. Which book has been the most fun?
JW: That’s a really, really hard question. 54 books is hard to choose from. The Valiant Series was the longest—about seven years of my life total—and several books from it has definitely been fun. Rogue was more fantasy with comedy added to it so there were so many funny moments that had me busting up laughing. Inspiration really clicked for Born of Sand, which I wrote in six days last week and I was so into the history aspect of it and inspired from God that it was a lot of fun, but also too much writing and sitting all at once. I would have to say that Republic Dynasty has been the funnest. It was literally a book I wrote for myself, just for fun. I created about thirteen magic guilds each with five characters in each. I built each character and their personalities and wanted to go to one main POV from each guild for the entire book. The guilds were having a competition, so I went to all thirteen (or more) POV’s for each challenge in the competition. Then, their world is attacked, so the ending is literally about 150 pages of non-stop magical battles as they go through a planetary siege. It’s probably not going to be published because even if you disregard how I have about 50 characters in all in it, there’s wayyy to many POV’s for people to keep straight. But I’m leaving it that way because I wanted it that way and I had a total blast coming up with all these different many plot lines for each person as the story unfolded that eventually got all weaved together at the end.
AMA: What inspired you to write the “Shifter” series? How did you first get the idea for this novel?
JW: Well, Shifter is the second book in a series called the Valiant Series. It began with Hunter. Originally, I just wanted to write an epic franchise like Star Wars but I couldn’t write SciFi so I tried fantasy. I took the idea that each book could take place on a different world with different characters and plotline that eventually would all come together in the last few books.
After writing Hunter and three of the prequel books in the Valiant Series (they weren’t prequels at the time), I wanted to write something different. Werewolves and vampires were really popular, but so cliché to me. So I took the idea of shapeshifters but I was like, “what’s a cool creature instead of a wolf?” since wolves had been used too much. Then it hit me, dragons! I knew I really wanted other types of shapeshfiters so I just threw in a bunch of creatures I really liked then decided that shifters would be divided into clans based on whatever they could turn into. But I knew I wanted the main male protagonist to be a dragon shapeshifter.
AMA: How long do you think the “Shifter” series will be? Do you see an end point with the story?
JW: The Valiant Series is seventeen books long and I spent seven years writing it and yes, they’re all already written! At the time, no. My husband and I sort of just improvised as we went along and for the most part, I focused on one book at a time—what was happening in that book, on that world, with those characters. It wasn’t until we got to the final four books that we had to bring them all together, started furthering the main plotline. Then we realized we needed to connect the overall series storyline sooner, so we went back and added in scenes and snippets in the previous books to kind of elude to what takes place later in the series.
AMA: When writing a series, do you always know how many books will be in the series?
JW: NEVER! Haha. With me, I have trouble ending things, especially if I love the characters and story. Valiant had been with me for years, so I couldn’t let go of the characters. Even after seventeen books and after I had finished all of them, I still wanted to do a second series because I couldn’t let them go. It took maybe two years before I finally accepted the Valiant Series, including Shifter, was over and let them go. Now, I’m working on other books but publishing the Valiant books still keeps them in my life in a way
AMA: Your characters take on very diverse roles. What is the most difficult character for you to create and why?
JW: Wow, that is such a hard question. I honestly have no idea. Sometimes characters click and sometimes they don’t. And it’s always really random too; like there isn’t one specific type of character that’s easier or harder for me. This might sound really odd, but guy characters are usually easier for me to write than girl characters—I have no idea why. Typically, they always have to have some sort of backstory that really gives me feels in order for me to get into them. With girls, I always have to put a part of myself into them or I just can’t write them. Here lately, it’s been harder and harder to write a book strictly from a female’s POV.
Writing someone who is logical or strategic based is hard. One, because I’m no strategist and I’m definitely not logical and two, because I always do a lot of emotion and really delve into that with my characters when I write.
AMA: Dragons are the main theme of “Shifter,” but what are your favorite mythological creatures to write?
JW: Dragons are probably tied with mermaids, actually. I’ve done so much with mermaids and I could still do more if I wanted to. I love writing ocean scenes and the characters are so different, same with the cultures and storylines. I really just love the idea of mermaids in general and like I said, underwater scenes are my favorite for some reason. I guess it’s because I’ve always been so fascinated with the ocean and it holds so much mystery to it and I love watching documentaries about the ocean and just imagining what’s down there… It’s inspiring. Haha, even answering this right now is getting my imagination spinning!
AMA: Besides fantasy and romance, are there any other genres that intrigue you that you have yet to write?
JW: This is a perfect question because recently, I’ve wanted to branch off into other genres. Born of Sand was my first romance and my first Biblical fiction combined into one. I’ve always wanted to write like a modern day thriller or mystery, but I have never done them before and I’m not sure I could come up with the ideas to make a full novel out of something—a short story maybe. Just last night, my husband and I came up with the idea for a romantic comedy, but I don’t know if I could be funny with my writing, or make someone laugh and I don’t know how it works, so I’m not sure about it yet.
AMA: Who inspires you as a writer? What authors are you reading lately?
JW: I actually don’t read, honestly. I used to, but when I started writing full time, every time I went to pick up a book, my brain would be like “you need to go right.” It was the Valiant Series that really got me to stop reading. I have read Cassandra Clare since I was in high school, so any of her new novels that go with her main series are pretty much the only books I read. I have read and reviewed a fellow author’s book and I’m currently trying to get around to finishing a few others I promised, but reading is just so difficult for me. My inspiration comes from three main sources: God (if He doesn’t want me to write a story, it won’t happen) 2) My husband. He isn’t much of a writer, but he can come up with a story idea off the top of his head so fast. 3) The movies and TV shows I watch. I’ll take aspects I like from them and combine them together, tell my husband, and he’ll give me ideas back until we come up with a story.
AMA: Indie authors can have it rough. But, what do you enjoy most about independent publishing?
JW: I love having control over things. Obviously, traditional publishing is my preference—Hannah, the Creative Director did such a great job with Hunter and Shifter’s cover that nothing I could ever do could compare to it. Daphne’s professional editing is far better than what my husband and I could do alone. And the marketing and sources they have available to them, especially my publicity director, Liz, can’t be replicated by just little ole’ me, especially on the tight budget I have. But with self publishing, if I want to run my book for free, I can and I can determine how long I want it to run and share it around. They can’t really do that and if we do a discounted price, I have to ask and there’s a lot of coordinating involved that makes it complicated. If I wanna give out review copies, I had to ask and make sure it was okay. Not that these are bad things, mind you, but in these few areas, self-publishing is a bit easier, but I prefer traditionally published because it’s so much more professional and helpful to me as an author.
AMA: What do you dislike most about indie publishing?
JW: Ugh, marketing by far. I have no resources and a tight budget, which means I can’t pay for advertising or promotional websites. I only earned about ten dollars a month back when Hunter was self published, so I’m hoping now it will do better now that’s its been traditionally published.
AMA: If you knew what you know now ten years ago, how would your publishing journey be different?
JW: I would have submitted to Ambassador International much sooner. There’s a lot of details about launching a book that I would have done better when I had self published. I would have also used Facebook to get to know authors like I am now because that’s been an incredible resource to me. I would have focused less time on Wattpad and more on actually marketing myself.
AMA: Do you have any current projects that you are willing to reveal to us?
JW: Funny story, since I just finished Born of Sand, I was at that stage where I didn’t know what to do since I had just finished writing a book. I have several started books that are unfinished:
1) The Plans I Have For You – About a guy who is in a rock band who was abused and he falls in love with a Christian teacher and has to overcome his past to move on with his life.
2) The Book Whisperer – a book nerd college student can talk to characters in books.
3) Beside Still Waters – technically this one is finished but it’s only 30,000 words, so I have to get it to 50,000 to count as a novel. It’s about a Christian gospel group who travels and sings but their family is falling apart.
I also have a few more story ideas that have come to mind. My current main focus is a fun project on wattpad.com. I am the host of a writing competition there where writers get together and follow prompts I put out every week to create a story when they’re all put together. I also write the prompts to make my own story too. This one is where all the fandoms in the universe have now merged and every supervillain you could ever think of is trying to take them over. Each writer has a different villain and have created their own original characters within their favorite TV shows, movies, and books. We’re on task three, which is a battle for a new realm, so I’m trying to get through mine as my vampire villain from the Vampire Diaries – Klaus – teams up with Darth Vader to attack Smallville – an older TV show about Superman before he became Superman. It’s seriously so much fun even though it isn’t for publishing.
AMA: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers out there?
JW: Never give up and never stop writing. Write at least once every day and make that a goal for yourself that you keep. Even if it’s a short story or micro-tale, or not in your main novel, just write something.
AMA: What would you ask your readers, if you could ask them anything?
JW: Do my books inspire and encourage you? Do you love them? Can you read them and just fangirl (or fanboy) and talk about them and enjoy reading them and being part of these worlds I’ve created?
AMA: What question do you hope to get asked in an interview? And, what is your answer?
AMA: I want someone to ask me what I love about writing or why I love writing. My answer is that I love writing because I can literally create characters and form stories that I can live through and experience as I’m writing them. As I mentioned before, I don’t read much, but I get that same experience as I’m writing, only writing for me is better than reading because I write stories I wanna read. So every detail, every part of it is something I want included in there, rather than reading a story and disliking this or that or wanting to change something. In my own books, I can create the story I want to experience.
Beroan is a shapeshifter, part of the dragon clan. His clan’s Alpha, Sirath, wants to watch the world burn.
For ten long years Sirath has attacked villages, killing thousands of humans and burning towns to the ground. Beroan has had enough, but his resistance will only end in suffering.
Nsi is a human living in a small village with her grandmother and cousin. Her ignorance about the existence of shifters won’t protect her for long. Her family was killed in a dragon attack when she was younger, and now dragons have come again. Now she will stop at nothing until the dragon shifters are stopped, to save humans from suffering the same fate as her family.
Together, Nsi and Beroan will risk everything to save humanity from Sirath.
Darkness is spreading through the galaxy, Corrupting one world after another, and now it has come for theirs. Sirath already belongs to the Corruption of darkness.
He will not stop until he burns down the world and leaves it covered in fire and ash.
Book Worm Giveaway!
Win a book holder, book reading light, toy dragon, and a tote bag and puzzle of Shifter’s cover.