This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal

My First Author Interview.


I don’t normally post twice in one week, but this is a special occasion. I have had my first author interview!

Today, I speak with fellow blogger, Jonny Pongratz over at Jaunts & Haunts, about my writing process, film and television, and my short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek. I really enjoyed the interview and found it to be a lot of fun. Many thanks to Jonny for taking the time to do this, I really appreciate it.

You can read the full interview here at Meet the Author: Debbie Johansson

Does this make me a ‘real’ author now? 😉

Main image courtesy Pixabay

Movies/Television

Revisiting the film ‘Dragonwyck’.

In a previous post, I mentioned watching the film Dragonwyck for the first time when I was younger. This was shortly after I had read the book. It was only a few weeks ago, that I happened to come across the film once again.

Dragonwyck is based on the historical novel of the same name, set against the backdrop of the anti-rent war in New York during the 1840s. It tells the story of a young country girl, Miranda Wells, and her marriage to her cousin, the rich patroon, Nicholas Van Ryn.

Watching the film a second time around, now as an adult, I discovered that this was apparently Vincent Price’s first major movie role. When I was younger, I didn’t fancy him in the role of Nicholas Van Ryn, but now, I couldn’t imagine anyone else in it. The character of Nicholas has a commanding presence, one which Vincent carries extremely well.

The character of Miranda Wells is a young, naive, country girl, and I liked Gene Tierney in the role. Perhaps having to condense a book into a film, the change to Miranda’s personality was not entirely gradual. Hints of an inner strength do appear early on, which comes to great effect during one particular scene in the film. This event dramatically changes her, both in the film and in the book.

There were scenes within the book that never appeared or had changed dramatically. This was a shame because this would have given the viewer an even better understanding of Nicholas’ character. Some of these scenes and issues may well have been too sensitive during the time the film was made (1946). As a result, some of the events that took place felt a bit rushed to me, denying a build-up of character, like Dr. Jeff Turner, for example, and his relationship with Miranda, as well as his views against the establishment.

I was disappointed with the ending, for it was very different from that of the book, which again, revealed more to Nicholas’ character. I remember feeling this disappointment when seeing the film for the first time as a child after reading the book.

On the whole, I still enjoyed the film, after all, with Vincent Price in the main role, really, how could I not? 😉 The film manages to reveal Nicholas’ arrogance, his cruelty, and his descent into madness. It’s a good introduction to the novel for those who have never read it before.

What I’ve been watching this past month:-

Tiger King (Netflix)

Words fail me on this one. This was a show I had to watch a little bit at a time, for it was like watching an episode of Jerry Springer. Joe Exotic, Tiger King, is being investigated by the FBI. By the time this show comes to the inevitable conclusion, we learn that some people are beyond redemption, and the only real victims here are the animals.

Big Little Lies, Season 1 (Foxtel)

Based on the novel by Liane Moriarty, this tells the story of five women and their involvement in a murder investigation. I came a bit late to this one, and never having read the book either, I was impressed with it. I was appalled by the teacher’s actions at the start concerning an incident between two students, making me question her skills, and I had to look twice at Laura Dern, as I haven’t seen her since Jurassic Park. I found this show addictive, well-acted, and having just the right amount of humour thrown in around the subject matter. I’ll be sure to watch the second season.

Safe (Netflix)

This is another show based on a novel by Harlan Coben. It tells the story of a widower, Tom, and his frantic search for his daughter, Jenny, who goes missing after a party. It took me a few episodes to get used to Michael C. Hall, of Dexter fame, speaking with an English accent, and despite the plot devolving into some strange territory, it was another binge-worthy show. This murder-mystery has plenty of twists, with the ending being the biggest one of all.

What have you been watching this month? Do you prefer to read the book before or after the film? Do you think reading the book before the film ruins the experience for you?

IWSG · This Writer's Life · Writing Process

IWSG: Writing in Obscurity.

Last year, I finally ventured into the world of indie publishing. I had read that writers should make the most of their time before publication and this worried me, for I am not comfortable with change. The biggest change has been the need for a shift in mindset, for now, I am running a business, which is a steep learning curve. Otherwise, I remain a small fish in a big pond.

It is now six months since I took that giant leap. My sales may be low, and although disappointing, I am not overly concerned. I never expected anything different. Right now, I am being realistic, knowing that I am only getting started and that I have a long road ahead of me. I am in this game for the long haul.

Of course, one hears stories of debut authors ‘making waves’, which is great as it gives the rest of us hope, but it also gives us pause for thought. We need to keep in mind that when it comes to writing, everyone’s road is different.

Keeping with that analogy, I haven’t made a ‘big splash’, but I am truly grateful for it. I continue to work in small steps, building up a body of work as well as my platform. I still feel, very much, within my comfort zone, knowing that some things take time. Like writing in general, being an indie author is a learning experience. I’m planning to make the most of it.

This is not to say that some good, and quite unexpected changes haven’t happened. 😉

In February, I decided to try the Kindle Unlimited program. My biggest takeaway from the entire ninety days? My short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek, made the Amazon Top 10 Bestseller list in Australia.

Last month after an awful lot of apprehension, I stepped out of my comfort zone once more and created a Facebook author page. I felt like a pretentious fraud. After all, who am I, and why would anyone be interested? I was pleasantly surprised to watch the numbers go up as people began to like and follow my page, and in a matter of weeks, I have come close to one hundred followers.

It was around this time that I received another pleasant surprise, which completely floored me. I received a request from a fellow blogger for an interview. Soon, I will be having my very first author interview, so watch this space!

I have been experiencing a lot of insecurities these past few months. Stepping out of our comfort zones is not without its challenges, but it also comes with some satisfying results.

Are you happy being a small fish in a big pond as an indie author? Have you had some pleasant surprises when you began self-publishing? What insecurities have you been experiencing lately?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Main image courtesy Pixabay

Movies/Television · This Writer's Life

How are You Coping with Life in Isolation?

Life has begun to settle down here in this ‘new normal’. The reality is this was pretty much what my life has been like even before COVID-19. Being an introvert now has some advantages. 😉

Of course, I’m not immune to what is happening in the world and what is happening in some other countries is truly shocking, but in order to not let it overwhelm me, I have cut down my news intake. And I make sure I get my news from reliable sources as there is a lot of misinformation going around, which doesn’t help.

Fortunately, my family and I have not come into contact with the virus, nor faced any real issues of unemployment (although I do naturally worry about the future of my children). I try to keep myself as busy as possible, focusing on my writing and my health and those of my loved ones. Trying to be positive and keeping a sense of humour is also helping to get me through.

I’m gradually returning to early morning walks and yoga, and now that we’re in autumn, I can get back to doing some gardening. When I’m not writing I’m reading, watching Netflix, et al and playing Animal Crossing (both New Horizons and Pocket Camp). I’m finding Animal Crossing a happy place to be during these uncertain times.

As far as writing goes, I have been focusing on doing some on-line courses and learning as much as I can, as well as experimenting with Canva and Book Brush. I am currently undergoing re-writes on two novellas before finishing off the first draft of a third. It’s a series of novellas, which I’m really getting into at the moment and has been a great help during this crazy time.

I also need to get back into blogging. There has been so much going on of late, that some things have fallen through the cracks. I hope to remedy that situation because, without social media, I probably would be going crazy right now! During this time, I want to make my blog a happy place as much as possible (although that has always been my intention). And writing a blog post keeps me happy!

Today, I’ll leave you with what I have been watching this past month. I aim at making this a regular feature, so if you’re ever stuck for something to watch in isolation, I’ll be giving you some recommendations. I watch just about anything, but mainly crime and paranormal. 😉 Stay safe everyone!

What I’ve been watching this past month:-

The Stranger (Netflix)

Based on the novel by Harlan Coben, a mysterious woman tells a man a secret concerning his wife. When his wife goes missing, he undertakes a desperate bid to find her. Uncovering more secrets along the way, this was a show that hooked me in, so I was guilty of binge-watching. With Richard Armitage in the lead role, it’s all the more reason to watch! 😉

The Valhalla Murders (Netflix)

Murders take place in Reykjavik, Iceland, where those killed reveal they have become victims of a serial killer. Delving into the murders, as well as the personal lives of the lead investigators, the story has some interesting twists. This series threw me a bit at the beginning as the voices have been dubbed (I’m used to reading sub-titles), but I soon went with it. The story also captured my attention due to its location, as I’ve rarely watched shows from Iceland.

Haunted Hospitals (Foxtel)

Hospitals are places of birth and death; we are told in the introduction to this series. This docudrama tells the real-life stories of experiences by medical staff within the UK, US, and Canada. Whether you are a believer or not, this series raises the possibilities of what happens to us after death.

Murder Wall (Foxtel)

This docudrama of true crime cases focuses on how a visual murder wall can work as an aid to help police investigations and eventually solve the crime. There were some interesting cases here that I hadn’t heard of before.

How are you coping with the isolation? Have you been writing lately or taken up a new hobby? What have you been watching lately?

Main image courstesy Pixabay

IWSG · This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal

IWSG: How are Things in Your World during Caronavirus?

These past few weeks have been surreal. It’s certainly been an emotional roller coaster for many of us.

In late February, I had to see to a family issue. My mother has dementia and is going downhill fast, struggling to cope with even the basics. On my return, I had some minor surgery which then became infected and took a little while to get better. During all this, the coronavirus was in the background.

Where some people had difficulty in fully grasping the situation, like those on Bondi beach, we also had the complete opposite where shopping hoarders made it look like something out of a zombie apocalypse. Fear does strange things to people.

Since then, in Australia, things have been moving fast; social distancing, travel banned, state boarders closed. News can change on an hourly basis. Here in New South Wales, there are now fines if someone is caught outside their house without a ‘reasonable’ excuse. Reasonable is essential grocery shopping, exercise, a medical reason, compassionate grounds, or work or education which cannot be done in the house.

Only this week, my husband started working from home after trying to make it happen for some time. It has been during this past week that his offices began taking things more seriously, due to Government intervention.

During this difficult time, people need hope and humour to help get them through.

This made me wonder about my writing and my chosen genres, which are not exactly happy places. And yet, my muse tends to go down dark alleys. Lately I am once again plunged into darkness. Of-course, I like to come out into the light every once in a while!

As writers, right now we have the opportunity to write and share our stories with the world. Whether they are of love, hope, comfort, or to help others face their fears, we need tales of humanity and connection. Now more than ever, more people will want to delve into the world of fiction*.

These times are tough, but we need to remember to just keep going, one day at a time. Tomorrow is a new day and a chance to start afresh, we will make it to the other side. Stay safe everyone!

How are things in your world during caronavirus? How have you been coping during this time?

*Amazon’s Kindle is currently offering two free months to its unlimited e-book service to new users. Both my short stories, The Ghost at Willow Creek and Legacy and Other Short Stories are available through Kindle Unlimited for FREE. Now could be a good time to try stories from new authors. 😉

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Main image courtesy Pixabay

IWSG · Legacy & Other Short Stories · The Story Behind the Story

IWSG: Have You Put Family Traditions into Your Stories?

Before the end of 2019, I entered a competition, where I managed to write my first Christmas short story, but I have also written a short story that included a more family tradition. The story is an account of a fictional event that happened at a seaside location.

When I was younger, my family and I would regularly spend our holidays at the same caravan park on the south coast of New South Wales. First, we camped and then had a caravan down there and would go down at least three or four times a year. Most often, our visits would be during the Christmas school holiday period, a usual Aussie summer.

We would spend our days on the beach, in the water, bushwalking, fishing or exploring rock pools. Lazy days!

On one part of the beach was a lagoon, which was an ideal spot for younger children. Hanging on the branch of a large gum tree in a corner of the lagoon, was a Tarzan rope, where older kids would swing over the lagoon and fall off into the water. My family and I never did that, nor did we know anyone who did, but I always watched the older kids as they took up the challenge. All these years later, this scenario became the idea behind my short story ‘The Lagoon’. It is included in my short story collection, which I published late 2019.

My ‘tradition’ is more a location than anything else, but nevertheless, one that evokes fond memories to this day.

Other than obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs into your stories?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Main image courtesy Pixabay

Movies/Television

A Ghostly Love Story: Revisiting ‘Ghost’.

With Valentine’s Day almost upon us (just let that sink in), I thought it was a suitable time to revisit the movie Ghost. And if you’ve never seen it, this comes with a spoiler alert!

What might start off as a romantic movie soon turns to tragedy when Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) is shot and killed. Finding himself between worlds, his only hope is ‘medium’ Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg).

Spirits are said to inhabit our world if they have some unfinished business to attend to, and following this assumption, Sam wants to see justice done. By doing so, he also wishes to ensure the safety of his girlfriend, Molly (Demi Moore).

Watching the scene of them both working on a slab of clay will never be the same again, I think, after all the humourous send-ups that have been done to it over the years.

Who could forget this version?

The movie gets a bit weird when Sam inhabits Oda Mae Brown’s body in order to touch Molly again, but the audience gets it – it’s Sam’s last and only chance of physically being with Molly.

The movie introduced to a whole new audience at the time (myself included) Unchained Melody from the Righteous Brothers. Released in 1965, even listening to the song today, it has stood the test of time. As for the movie, itself, it was released in 1990, so the special effects have become a bit dated over the years as has, of course, the computers and the fashion. It’s times like these when I really start to feel my age! 😉

I have nothing against the other actors, and I really miss Patrick Swayze, but personally, I believe that Whoopi really steals the show in this one. Her comedic skills helped lighten the subject matter and it looked like she and Patrick had fun working together.

If not for Oda Mae Brown, Sam would be stuck between worlds and Molly could have ended up with the guy who betrayed Sam (eek). Thank heavens for Whoopi!

Do you have a special Valentine’s Day movie? Is there a ‘ghostly’ romance that you recommend? Do you think Whoopi stole the show in Ghost?