GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with J.R. Johansson, Author of INSOMNIA

ImageToday’s Lucky13 interview is with J.R. Johansson, author of the YA thriller INSOMNIA.  I had the opportunity to read an eARC and could NOT put it down.  Totally creeptastic!!  Here’s a blurb to get us started:

-Her eyes saved his life. Her dreams released his darkness.-

After four years of sleeplessness, high school junior Parker Chipp can’t take much more. Every night, instead of sleeping, he enters the dreams of the last person he’s made eye contact with. If he doesn’t sleep soon, Parker will die.

Then he meets Mia. Her dreams, calm and beautifully uncomplicated, allow him blissful rest that’s utterly addictive. But what starts out as a chance meeting turns into an obsession; Parker’s furious desire for what he needs pushes him to extremes he never thought he’d go. And when someone begins terrorizing Mia with twisted death threats, Parker’s memory blackouts leave him doubting his own innocence.

What inspired you to write INSOMNIA? Were there any special challenges writing from a male point of view?

I’d been complimented a lot on my writing in super tense, action-packed scenes and I have always been obsessed with abnormal psychology, so I thought I’d put the two together and see how it worked. Turns out…it’s kind of freaky.

There were definitely special challenges to writing in a male PoV. I called on some male beta readers just to help me be authentic to the voice, and they were extremely helpful. I made quite a few alterations based on their suggestions and I’m really happy with the results.

The first line of the novel—It’s been four years since I slept, and I suspect it is killing me.— drew me in immediately!!  Was this always your first line?  Or did it take some tweaking?

No, it originally started with,

Most people don’t know it, but they always make an appearance in their own dreams. They can’t always see themselves and sometimes feel like they’re only watching.  But it doesn’t matter, they’re always there.

And I can always see them.

Which I still really like, but I like the sentence I ended up changing it to better.

I think dreams are extraordinarily hard to pull off in a novel — so many come across as contrived — but you do it so seamlessly!   Like, how did you do that?  

Haha… I’m not entirely sure. I think it works really well in this scenario because dreams are extraordinarily real to Parker. He knows how dark, dangerous and truth-filled they can be. It brings the dreams to life in a different way, on a different level.

Parker goes through some really harsh physical issues due to lack of sleep – did you do any special research for that aspect of the book?

Absolutely! Obviously, because of the fact that he is a Watcher (a purely fictional problem) I was able to take some creative license with how it would take 4 years instead of a much shorter length of time to die of sleep deprivation. I also got to play with how the addiction to sleep would interact with the sleep deprivation and speed up the effects. Other than those two things all the physical ramifications of sleep deprivation that happen to Parker in the book is absolute truth. Tremors, lack of focus, poor decision making, hallucinations and everything that comes with them would happen to any of us if we pushed ourselves for several days without sleep. It was fascinating (and kind of terrifying) to research.

One of my favorite characters was Parker’s best friend Finn!  (I loved his t-shirt collection!!)  If the teenage you had to spend the day at the mall with one of your characters – who would it be and why?

Haha, yeah, Finn is definitely a highlight for me as well. Hmm…I’d say Finn except I’m afraid he’d drag me to some old Kung Fu movie. So I’ll pick Addie. Neither of us are huge on shopping and we’d probably just grab something to eat, chat and then see a movie we’d actually both like. 🙂

INSOMNIA is a series.  Did you have that in mind when you began to write the novel?  How many books are planned?  Any teasers you want to share?  Any new projects you are working on? (this could be a separate question if you’d like.)

I didn’t know if it would be a series when I started, but by the time I wrote the end I realized it needed to be. There will be two books, so it’s a duology. As far as teasers…let’s just say that book 2 will bring in more characters, more psychological thriller elements (with more than just Parker), and more of Finn’s shirts.

As this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid?

Hmm…good question! As a kid, I loved Pride and Prejudice, before that A Wrinkle in Time, and before that it was anything by Dr. Seuss. I still consider him an absolute genius.

Great interview! It was so much fun! Thank you for having me! 🙂

Thanks for stopping by Jenn!  And Happy Book Birthday!!

IMG_8183_CROPPED_WEBJ.R. JOHANSSON is a young adult thriller author published with Flux & FSG/Macmillan. Her debut, INSOMNIA is coming June 2013. She has a B.S. degree in public relations and a background in marketing. She credits her abnormal psychology minor with inspiring many of her characters. When she’s not writing, she loves reading, playing board games, and sitting in her hot tub. Her dream is that someday she can do all three at the same time. She has two young sons and a wonderful husband. In fact, other than her cat, Cleo, she’s nearly drowning in testosterone.

You can find Jenn here:

Twitter  / Blog  /  Website / Tumblr / Facebook / Goodreads Author page / Goodreads INSOMNIA page

Here’s where you can buy INSOMNIA:

The Book Depository /  Indiebound  / Books A Million / Barnes & Noble / Amazon

Robin Constantine is a born and bred Jersey girl who moved down South so she could wear flip-flops year round. She spends her days dreaming up stories where love conquers all, well, eventually but not without a lot of peril, angst and the occasional kissing scene. Her YA debut, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING, will be released in 2014 by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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