Compose Q&A with Tiffany Turpin Johnson

Tiffany JohnsonTiffany Turpin Johnson is a young adult novelist represented by Annie Bomke Literary Agency, Senior Editor of the Blush imprint at Entranced Publishing, and the founder of TJ Writeography, a freelance writing and photography service. She regularly contributes to such sites as Bookalicious and Writer’s Fun Zone, and maintains the all-things-fiction blog Fictiffous. Tiffany holds a Master’s degree and now spends her days writing kidlit and chasing her three small children.

Who are your greatest literary influences, and which of their works have had the biggest impact on your own writing?

I write mostly young adult fiction, so the young adult writers I read as a child (before Twilight blew up the genre) have greatly influenced my writing to this day. In particular, L.J. Smith (best known today for the original Vampire Diaries books) has had the most influence on my young adult writing. I read her Forbidden Game trilogy in middle school and it changed not only my writing, but my whole way of thinking.

As an adult, I’ve enjoyed everything by Anita Shreve. She writes such poignant, beautiful novels that are more on the quiet side, but have these characters that you can’t get out of your head. I read The Last Time They Met in college and was so blown away that to this day I can remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, and even what I was wearing when I finished that book. I remember having a visceral reaction, this huge and aching sadness, when I reached the end. I also love anything by Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak), who writes young adult novels with the gritty reality, deep issues, and sharp characters of adult novels. I strive now to write stories that affect my readers with even an ounce of what those authors made me feel.

What is your writing process like?

I start with an insane amount of writing in my head. By that I mean researching, flipping through baby name books, researching more, writing various types of outlines, researching more… I can never seem to get started on the actual writing until the idea has marinated in my mind for a while and I’ve completed loose outlines and complete character profiles. I’m a character-driven outliner, so I like to have a flexible inkling about the plot, but a complete portrait of the characters. That way, I have an idea of what the characters should be doing, but by the time I get to writing, I know them so well that they are capable of creating surprising plot changes.

Usually after I’ve spent months turning the idea and the characters over and over in my head, I’ll get this itchy feeling and a tentative first line will pop to mind, and I’ll finally start the writing. I can usually get a first draft out quickly using this process. Then it sits for months before I go back in for revisions.

What books are on your to-be-read list at the moment?

I have a toddler and a new baby, so there are a ton of books on my to-be-read shelf that I feel I’ll never get to! But I’m trying to work through some Lauren Oliver (Delirium books) now, and I’d love to finish Maggie Stiefvater‘s wolf series. I also love writing resource books, and The Plot Whisperer Workbook is what I’m working through now. All of these books are patiently awaiting my attention on one of my many bookshelves.

Tell us about the most painful and/or the most hopeful rejection letter you’ve ever received. How about your most victorious acceptance?

I’m bad about not letting people read my work, which was obviously a problem when I decided to pursue traditional publication. You always expect rejections, and you know they’ll hurt, but they still come as a bit of a shock. So when I got the offer from my agent, and she wrote me the sweetest email about how much she loved my book, that came as a surprise too. It’s amazing to know that someone has read your work and actually enjoyed it. For me there are few greater rewards in the world than to create something that someone else loves. Something that truly affects another human being.

What are your long-term goals for your writing? Where to you hope to be ten years from now?

I just want to be able to walk into a brick-and-mortar bookstore and see my book on the shelf. I recently got an agent so hopefully that will happen for me before the bookstores all close! I don’t need to be famous, or even rich–but if I could fulfill that dream and also contribute a bit of money to my family, that would be awesome. But what really matters is just achieving that pie-in-the-sky goal I set for myself way back in first grade: to see my book on the shelves. If I could affect even a single person in some way with my writing, that would be icing on the cake. But I have three kids to send to college, and since I’m hoping for Ivy League admittance, an advance or two wouldn’t hurt!

Connect with Tiffany on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, and at her blog.


  1. Very thoughtful; thank you. I have an adult novel looking for an audience/agent, but also am working on a YAl

Speak Your Mind