Monday, January 3, 2022

Lisa Johnston Interview - Wakeless

Photo Content from Lisa Johnston

A communications graduate of the University of Calgary, Lisa Johnston is an established writer and editor in the magazine and corporate publishing world. Wakeless is her first fiction novel. When not catering to the needs of her husband and two sons, Lisa enjoys traveling, reading and ocean walks near her home on Vancouver Island.

To connect with Lisa and to learn about upcoming releases, follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
I was hugely influenced by fellow Canadian author Margaret Atwood. After I read her novel The Handmaid’s Tale when I was a teenager, I was consumed with all the intricacies of her strange Gilead society. I knew some day that I wanted to create something as dark, disturbing and unique as Gilead which led to the creation of my first novel, Wakeless.

Greatest thing you learned in school.
I learned I was not very good at math and science so I had better hone the skills where I was strongest – reading and writing. Following high school, I wanted to obtain a journalism degree but ended up doing a communications degree instead. Since then, I have had a long career in the magazine publishing world which has strengthened my skills as a writer and editor.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling allows us to share and escape into a world far different from our own and I think books accomplish that better than movies and TV because we get to create what that world looks like in our own minds – and that applies whether we are the reader or the author. Storytelling helps us connect to others; it makes us feel less lonely; it gives us purpose. When I write I can be anyone – a superhero, a villain or a young woman repressed by a male-dominated regime. It allows me to try on someone else’s cloak for the day and in that moment broadens my mind – and hopefully others – to a world of possibilities.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book?
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I am currently writing a three-book dystopian series titled The Castra Project. It takes place at a time when Canada, the U.S. and Mexico no longer exist but are instead divided into hundreds of independent nations, many warring but also relying on each other for trade. My protagonist, Brie, comes from the poor country of Somalt where the only tradeable commodity is people. When she turns nineteen, she finds herself traded to Castra to become a human lab rat in the race to create the world’s newest pharmaceutical drugs. The series will explore her survival in this bleak enviornment while attempting to escape and/or defeat the project.

In your newest book; WAKELESS, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
Wakeless is written in journal format by the protagonist of the story, Emma, a young woman who grows up in the wreckage of the late 21st century. It is a time when gas reserves have dried up, hospitals have closed and humans have resorted to living in basement hideouts. Early in the book, she is discovered among the rubble, proclaimed clean and moved to Redemption City – a fully self-contained existence cut off from the turmoil of the real world. However, Emma soon learns life in the utopia is nothing as it seems – secrets abound, no one is free and eyes are always watching. Troubled by ghosts of her past and an unreliable vision of reality, Emma must find a path to redemption or pay the ultimate price.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope they think it is original while also being addictive, dark and disturbing. I want to make them think about life today and how they would react in a similar near-extinction situation. Emma makes a lot of mistakes and is not the most likable character, but she is a survivor. She is willing to do whatever it takes and I hope the readers question whether they would be able to do the same.

What part of Emma did you enjoy writing the most?
Emma is an unreliable narrator which was so much fun to write. I love delving into her mind which is obviously a product of the environment she grew up in. When it comes to Emma we are never sure if we get a reliable picture of the world she finds herself in. Is she imagining all the terrible things going on in Redemption City or are they as real as they seem to her? I am not a plotter but a seat of my pants writer. I have no idea where my story is going until the characters tell me. There were times I disagreed with everything Emma was doing and even yelled at her to stop, but she didn’t listen and definitely told the story; I just put her voice to paper.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would definitely like Emma to meet June Osborne from The Handmaid’s Tale. I think June is more level headed and some of her prowess could help Emma make better decisions.

Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
I went to Hawaii when I was sixteen which spurred my love of travel ever since.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
I would encourage them to travel. They should step out of their comfort zone and go somewhere they would have never imagined. Don’t just go someplace because it is comfortable and convenient. Take the road less traveled. It really opens your eyes and makes you more appreciative and accepting of different cultures.

Best date you've ever had?
When I went to Antigua for a week with my boyfriend and we came back as husband and wife. We had a lovely wedding at a church on a hill overlooking the ocean. I wore a sundress and my maid of honor was our taxi driver. We picked up his father-in-law along the way to serve as best man.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
Definitely our travel moments and I have actually contemplated writing a humor book about the taxi drivers we have met around the world to losing our children in foreign cities (not funny at the time).

What is your favorite restaurant in town and why?
That is so hard as I love a number of the local restaurants in our small seaside town but I will have to say my favorite place to eat is from the food trucks at the marina in the summer with views of the Pacific Ocean.

First Heartbreak?
My first heartbreak was the passing of our family dog, Scruffy. I picked him out of the litter (or more accurately he picked me) when I was 11 and he was part of our family for almost 15 years. We do not have a dog right now but I miss both my dogs every day. (Harley joined our family after Scruffy and was with us for 15 years as well).

What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
My favorite job (besides being a writer) was also my most meaningful. I worked three summers at Heritage Park Historical Village in Calgary, Alberta, where I dressed in period costume from the 1910s and greeted visitors to the park. It is where I met my future husband who was also dressed in period costume so I guess you can say we have been dating since the 1910s!

This is really hard as I love so many books and I know I am probably forgetting some of my favorites but here I go:
  • 1. Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
  • 2. Ken Follett – The Pillars of the Earth series
  • 3. Neil Gaiman – Neverwhere
  • 4. Cormac McCarthy – The Road
  • 5. Michael Christie – Greenwood
  • 6. John Irving – A Prayer for Owen Meany
  • 7. Stephen King – 11/22/63
  • 8. Tatiana de Rosnay – Sarah’s Key
  • 9. Anthony Doerr – All the Light We Cannot See
  • 10. J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter series (because I read it with my son from start to finish)
Your journey to publication
What a lot of people don’t know is I actually wrote Wakeless over 25 years ago when I was in university. I did try the traditional route about 20 years ago, sending inquiries to publishing houses and literary agents but what I found was that if you did not know anyone and they did not know you, you did not hear back. It is hard to get your foot in the door. When things slowed down with COVID and I was stuck in the house like everyone else, I began to look more in depth into self-publishing. I signed up for some courses and decided to take control of my own fate to get this book into the hands of readers. It was a scary thought as I was letting others into the dark recesses of my mind. However, it was also pretty exciting and self-publishing is amazing. There are so many authors, bloggers and podcasters happy to support indie authors and share their knowledge. I am so appreciative of everyone’s generosity and time.

One future. One chance at redemption.Emma has somehow survived the wreckage of the 21st century-gas reserves have run dry, hospitals have shut and deadly diseases are rampant. She now faces her greatest challenge. Discovered living in a basement hideout, she is proclaimed clean and moved to Redemption City. Despite escaping the contaminated world, Emma soon learns that life is no better in the promised utopia-secrets abound, no one is free and eyes are always watching.A young woman in a repressive role, Emma begins unraveling the true purpose of Redemption City. Rebelling against the male hierarchy, she reluctantly joins forces with a potential ally. Troubled by ghosts of her past and an unreliable vision of reality, Emma must find a path to redemption or pay the ultimate price.

You can purchase Wakeless at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you LISA JOHNSTON for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Wakeless by Lisa Johnston.