The Writer’s Life Chats with Lloyd Johnson author of Living Stones

About Living Stones

She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nearly killed in Seattle during a jihadist bombing, Ashley recognizes the synagogue bomber and is later stalked by a hired Muslim hit man in Israel. There she reacquaints with Najid, the Christian Palestinian scholar she had met at the University of Washington. She falls in love with him, putting her at odds with her Zionist pro-Israeli convictions.

On the run, Ashley sees the beautiful rock churches and shrines.  But the living stones, the people of the Holy Land intrigue her. She meets Jews and Palestinians, Rabbis for and against Israeli settlement expansion. Gentle Palestinians like Najid’s family, and those in the West Bank suffering under military occupation. Both Muslims and Christians living peacefully together.

Najid and Ashley find the bomber in Seattle despite the FBI dragnet put out to arrest him.. Living Stones is the story of an American woman coming to terms with the truth of the Middle East, and the lies she had been fed. Will she survive the forces that threaten to tear her apart?

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Lloyd.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A:  Surgeon, professor, retired, married, grandfather, I’ve worked, lived and traveled in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.  Former volunteer executive director of an NGO at work in Central Asia.  A previous author of 26 scientific articles in peer-reviewed publications, I’m now learning to write fiction. 

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A:  It’s the story of a graduate student whose life is turned upside down- first a jihadist bombing in Seattle, and later abduction in Jerusalem.  But it’s the living stones (the people) she meets in Israel/Palestine and falling in love with a Palestinian Christian.  These make her question everything she’s always believed about the Holy Land.
          I enjoy writing—very much.  And I wanted to write a good story, that captures the imagination.  It should be something that makes a difference, that causes people to think, that comes from a fire within me.  That deals with questions people are asking.  And most of all, our friends in the Holy Land asked us to tell their stories in America.  They understand how we know so little of their lives.   

What kind of research was involved in writing Living Stones?

A: Living Stones springs from my experience first visiting (twice, 1967 and 2008) and then living in the Holy Land during the summer of 2012.  We were shocked by what we saw and didn’t know of life there under 46 years of military occupation.
          I have read non-fiction books extensively, met with many experts in the Middle East both there and in the U.S.  I keep up with current information direct from Jerusalem and the West Bank via electronic media.  We Skype regularly with friends there.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

A:  Nine months.

Do you plan subsequent books?

A:  Yes.  One sequel is complete, but still being edited

Can you describe your most favorite place to write?

A:  At home in my office, facing some beautiful trees out the window- with squirrels.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

A:  Book marketing experts to provide skills and advice- actually underway within my budget.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

A:  Important.  I’m blogging actively and frequently on the issues as it is a fast moving and contemporary subject of great interest to many as the Middle East burns.
I have been engaging heads of organizations in the U.S. and in the Holy Land who have endorsed the book and are promoting it.  We have a book- signing coming up and sponsored by the main bookstore in town—and a yogurt shop.  Friends and family are spreading the word as they read the book.  An email blast went out to several hundred friends/acquaintances about a free book week for Kindle readers on Amazon.  (It was rated highly for the promotion.) 
And finally, engaging expert help in social media and internet promotion, tours, press releases and beginning speaking opportunities and a lot I don’t realize yet.  

What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?

A:  Because it is so difficult to be published today, they get discouraged.  I was told at one point my protagonist needed to be female, that the publisher accepted only one first-time author per year in the U.S. and if I wrote Amish fiction my agent could get me a contract. LOL  Discouraged? yes.  Quit?—no.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

A:  Write about something you really care about, put it into a rollicking good story and persist.  Winston Churchill allegedly gave a short commencement address and then sat down.  His advice: Never, never, never give up. 

Thank you for your interview, Lloyd.  I wish you much success!

About Lloyd Johnson

With special interest in the current Middle East, retired surgeon Dr. Lloyd Johnson turned to fiction writing, putting out two books, his current book Living Stones and there is a sequel in the works. He is a member of Seattle writing group, and blogs regularly on Israel/Palestine subjects. Johnson is a Clinical Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington in the Department of Surgery. He is Fellow in the American College of Surgeons, and past president of the Seattle Surgical Society. He authored 26 scientific articles in peer reviewed journals/texts. He has worked and traveled extensively overseas, including Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and served for six years as volunteer executive director and board member of a humanitarian NGO in Central Asia. The author lives in Edmonds, Washington.

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