Guest Post, Interview, Uncategorized, Words on Wednesdays

Interviewing Grace A. Johnson on Writing Romance!

Hello, friends! I am SO EXCITED for this interview! A few weeks ago, I reached out to author Grace A. Johnson, asking if I could interview her about writing romance as a young writer. She said yes, and I loved reading her answers. Hopefully you’ll learn something new from her advice!

Welcome, Grace! To get started, where do you get your ideas for your books?

That honestly depends! Most of my ideas, particularly the ones of stories I’ve yet to write/publish, come from writing prompts, images, song lyrics, movies and TV shows, people, basically everything all around me. But the ideas behind my Daughters of the Seven Seas series are decidedly more abstract—in fact, I’d say the inspiration for those novels, especially Held Captive, came from God! 

Inspiration really does come from all around us! Why did you decide to write in the romance genre?

Well, to make a long story short, I’ve always loved romance and fairytales and love stories, so when I picked up my first Christian historical romance YA fairytale retelling (very specific genre 😂), it was a match made in heaven. It was that book, The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson, that inspired my first story ideas and planted the desire to write deep in my heart! So, to be honest, even though I now have a couple story ideas that aren’t full-fledged romances, I can’t really separate writing from romance, because if it weren’t for one, the other wouldn’t be a part of my life, you know? Now, almost eight years after I picked up The Golden Braid, I know God brought that book into my life and drew me to the romance genre for a very special reason!

Very interesting! I’ll have to look up that book. When you decided to pursue writing romance, what was the first thing you did?

Read romance. Since I have had zip, zilch, nada experience with romance (as of yet!), there was only one recourse: reading it! I picked up all the cues, the language, the chemistry, the structure, and the tropes of romance and came to understand how writing it (even if I don’t fully understand living it) works! Watching romance movies and paying attention to real life love stories has also been a huge help!

That makes so much sense. Read what you write. How do you portray romantic relationships in a realistic, non-cheesy way?

I literally could go on all day with my answer to this question (and I kinda have, in my romance Q&A posts, so if you’re interested in learning more, you can read those here, here, here, here, and here!), but I’ll try and be brief!

Don’t be repetitive. Having twelve kiss scenes or seventeen “I love you”s or thirteen date scenes is not going to make your book more romantic—so don’t repeat elements that aren’t entirely necessary to the plot. It’s repetitiveness that makes Hallmark so cringe, so don’t make the same mistake!

Focus on the chemistry. If characters don’t have obvious chemistry and a purpose in being together, I don’t need to be writing their romance. It’s the physical and emotional connection between the hero and heroine that has readers shipping them from Page 1 and eagerly awaiting the moment they finally get together!

Use real life as a guide. Pay close attention to how real-life relationships work. Talk to your friends and family in romantic relationships. Don’t rely on Hallmark (*coughs*), your own understanding, or even other romance novels for an accurate representation of romance.

And that’s just a few of my many tips. 😂

I love those! I’ll remember them for when I rewrite my romance project. How have you learned to write romantic relationships in a sweet, God-honoring way?

How have I learned? By reading God-honoring romance and studying the Word of God! Reading romance that is written from a biblical perspective and with not just pure intention but pure execution is one of the best things I’ve done not only as a writer but as a person. And, of course, understanding what romance is, God’s purpose for it, and what His content guidelines are is the root of all of it. Romance and love cannot exist apart from Him, for He created it. True love is kind, patient, selfless, and unfailing. And romantic relationships—specifically marriage—is ultimately a reflection, an earthly representation, of our relationship with Christ.

Beautifully put. To you, what is the hardest thing about writing romance, and how do you overcome it?

To be honest, it’s not the writing that’s hard. It’s putting it out there. There are so many different readers with a wide variety of opinions on romance—and, naturally, you can’t please all of them. So handling negative reviews, naysaying, and the culture is what’s proven to be most difficult, and the only thing I can do is go back to the root—God. He’s the reason I write, the Author of the greatest love story ever told, and the One writing through me.

What do you find to be the easiest thing about writing in the romance genre?

Hmm…that’s tough. All of it? And, yet…none of it. 🤦‍♀️ I think chemistry and establishing a connection is the easiest part for me (thus far). I put 1,000% more work into characters than I do plot 😅, so bringing them to life, crafting the hero and heroine’s dynamic, developing their relationship…that all flows so smoothly and naturally, thank goodness!

Aww, that’s so sweet! And a great introduction to my next question: how do you give your characters real chemistry?

Perfect follow-up question! There’s a billion things you can do to create and cultivate real, tangible, beautiful, ✨shippable✨ chemistry…but for me, I start with creating characters who are meant to be together. Their backstories, arcs, personalities, appearances, everything needs to weave seamlessly together. No, they don’t need to be identical. In fact, some dissimilarities and conflict is what really causes that “chemical” reaction. But having a hero and heroine that readers immediately ship starts with making them exactly what the other needs.

From there, I love to utilize every single element I can—conflict, arguments, misunderstandings, interrupted tender moments, hidden secrets, deep conversations, unexpected confessions, unintended kisses—to cultivate and showcase the characters’ chemistry…and give their romance a nice slowburn quality. 😉

Ooh, that’s really good. Especially the misunderstandings! What are some tips you’d offer to young writers interested in writing romance?

Whoo, boy! Do I have a ton of tips to tell…but lemme boil it down to, say, the main three.

  1. Pray. Read the Word. Talk to God about your stories, characters, romances, all of it. Involve Him in the process—no, surrender it all to Him, and let Him and His definition of romance guide you. Not the market, not the culture, not even yourself—just Him.
  2. Read romance! Of course, if you can experience romance, that’s probably about as good as it gets…but reading good quality, clean, Godly romances will help you learn (a) how to put those feelings and experiences into words, (b) what readers want and expect from romance novels (not that you should always follow trends and preferences, but it’s good to be aware), and (c) how to master to technical elements, such as dynamics, development, pacing, plot, etc.!
  3. Write romance. There’s no teacher like experience, as they say. And I don’t just mean experience like being in a relationship yourself—I mean experiencing writing romance. The more you write, the more you explore different characters and dynamics and relationship types/tropes, the better you get at writing them. Plain and simple. As harsh as it sounds, you can’t expect to just up and write a romance one day and it be pure gold (trust me, I know that from experience)—you have to work at it and hone your skills!

An informative interview condensed into three simple steps! Thank you, Grace! Reading your advice was so helpful and I enjoyed seeing a young writers insight in romance.

Thank you so much for interviewing me, AnnaKate! I loved your questions and had such fun answering them! 🥰

What about you? Do you have any other questions about writing romance? What is your favorite romance story?

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10 thoughts on “Interviewing Grace A. Johnson on Writing Romance!”

  1. Lovely interview!! This was so insightful and helpful! I love your advice, Grace, and thanks for sharing, AnnaKate!! This gave me some great ideas for my own story.

    Liked by 2 people

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