Guest Author: Dawn Kimberly Johnson


Welcome Dawn, why don’t you start by telling everyone a bit about yourself.

Thank you, Andrew. Whenever I’m asked to tell someone a bit about myself, my mind immediately goes to the data police collect at a crime scene, either for the victim or the perpetrator: age, race, gender, height, weight, and what they’re wearing. “Just the facts, ma’am.” I’m a fifty-year-old African American lesbian who writes about men in love, to quote my Twitter bio. I worked as a copy editor for a daily newspaper right out of college. I’m a lapsed artist, meaning I have a hefty collection of art pens but haven’t touched them in years. I’ve been writing instead and can’t seem to do both in the same time period. I draw women and write about men. I used to participate in spelling bees as a child but never made it to the big leagues. Still words and writing have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, working on school newspapers and reading obsessively. However, lately I find myself staring at a word and thinking, I know there’s another way to spell this that has the meaning I’m seeking, but it eludes me. I think it’s “middle-aged editor’s homonym brain.”

Your new novel–Button Down–was released recently, but this isn’t your first published work.  Tell us a bit about those and how they were different from this book.

Broken200Home200My first novel is called Broken and came out of a combination of a newly discovered passion for reading m/m romantic fiction, my crushing on a certain actor, and my mobility issues. Because of a gay bashing, the main character walks with a cane and is suffering from the loss of his partner. Sounds like a real downer, I know, but I don’t think it is. I like my stories to have a sense of hope and a good amount of humor. I did a sequel called Home, because things are rarely tied up in a neat little package outside of Brady Bunch episodes. Between those two novels and Button Down, I’ve written seven short stories and three novellas dealing with holiday themes, paranormal activity, and time travel.

BD200I love the cover art to Button Down, it’s really different. Tell us a bit about your reaction when you got the final cover art?

It was created by the talented Maria Fanning, and when I first saw it, I found it striking. I loved the composition, the colors, what the image suggests. I could see a story unfolding just within that image.

Okay, let’s talk specifics; tell us a bit more about Button Down.

The story is set in a small fictional town in Georgia and revolves around Ford Reilly, the second son of a prominent member of the community and Gus Hansen, an out and proud architect with a broken heart. Ford is black and Gus is not, but that’s not the issue of the story. It’s about Ford breaking out of the limits he’s placed on himself because he meets someone he desperately wants to be with. Gus is the golden ring on the merry-go-round he’s set himself on, and he needs to reach out and grab it…uh, him.

Where did the inspiration come from for these characters?

This story came together in pieces, from several different directions: interracial relationships, the tension between the gay and African American communities, the fight for civil rights for all, and my love for HGTV and old houses. The characters were born out of what I had to say about those subjects.

Ford's Old House

Ford’s Old House

Your book deals with legal issues and lawyers, do you have some legal training or did you find a really good beta reader to help you out?

No beta reader. I haven’t had one for a while, and I should probably remedy that. I did more research on the renovation process than the legal aspect, which I’m just this minute beginning to worry about.

The closeted main character, Ford, finds himself in a quandary, working for ‘the other side,’ what made you write about a closeted man working for anti-gay people?

I wanted to put him in an impossible situation. We learn of LGBT people working for the enemy (usually after the fact) but it happens. I created Ford as I tried to imagine how that would wound a person over the years.

Tell us something(s) interesting that is not in the blurb? 

Gus has a thing about colorful shoes, which came from my youthful desire to have a pair of Reeboks for each day of the week. I blame Whoopi Goldberg.

Have you ever based characters on anyone you know?

No one I know personally. Eli from Broken was based on the actor Dan Radcliffe in appearance, and Ilsa from the same novel is simply the woman I wish I were, minus the alcoholism. There’s a dash of me in all my characters.

Gus's Condo

Gus’s Condo

What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

Shaping the characters: what they look like, their quirks, the reasons why anyone would fall for them in the first place, naming them. And then when I begin to tell their story and they become real for me, that’s what I like most. I still think about Alec and Eli from my first book. I still wonder what they’re doing. My favorite part of the writing process is when they come alive for me.

What’s your least favorite?

Getting stuck and feeling like the story sucks and isn’t going anywhere and wondering why I even bother…etc.

GQ200Since there is always another story to tell, what are you working on now?

Actually this is the busiest I’ve been since I started on this writing road in 2009. I’m working on a sequel to my short story Good Question, called Answer Me, a very short story for an anthology, and there’s this old, never published novel I have that I’m thinking about rewriting and submitting for consideration, but that one is always on the back burner. Also, I have a novel coming out in May/June called Right On Time, which is a sequel to One Constant. I had some strong reactions to the end of that short story and decided Charleston and Barnaby had more to say. Lastly, next month I have a short story coming out called Come Clean.

What have you read lately that most people haven’t read but should?

Hmm, the “most people haven’t read” part stumps me. I can tell you what I’m reading right now: the Men of Myth series by Brandon Witt. I snapped them up because I enjoyed his The Shattered Door so much.

If you could meet any writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Isaac Asimov or Hugh Howey. Asimov because I have fond memories of consuming everything he’d written when I was younger and Howey because Wool rocked!

What’s a fun – non-writing – day for you?

Watching Dexter on Netflix, just one of several super popular shows I never watched when it was on. They were right. It’s brilliant.

Besides reading and writing, what else do you enjoy?

The two Ts: TV and Twitter, preferably at the same time where Scandal is concerned, but there are fewer TV shows these days that I just can’t miss: Elementary, Scandal…oops, that’s it, I think. Haha! Although we just got BBC America in my neck of the woods, so that may change. I also enjoy keeping up with Husbands the Series. Can’t get enough of that.

Last question is all yours – feel free to talk about anything you want your readers to know about you, your book, anything at all.

Well, my health isn’t the greatest, so I write when I have the energy. I fear I’ll never be as productive as some authors out there, but I do what I can. It’s an absolute joy to get a story done, terrifying to submit it, thrilling to have it accepted, and terrifying again when it’s time for reviews to accumulate. So…totally worth any effort I can manage.

Thanks for being my guest, now it’s time to plug your work.


BD200When he finds himself captivated by a movie-star handsome stranger he meets in a bar, lawyer Ford Reilly watches a simple one-night stand develop into a taste of what living honestly might bring him.

Out and proud Gus Hansen has built a small architectural firm from nothing, but could lose it all as he tries to break a contract he signed before knowing about the project’s antigay ties.

After Ford discovers he spent a passionate night with the man on the other side of the dispute he’s handling, he finds himself in more than one quandary. He can either maintain the status quo, enforcing the contract to the letter, or he can defy his overbearing father and break free of the closeted life he’s built for himself in order to be with Gus.

Gus has his own choices to make. He knows the sting of loving a man who hides himself, but the longer he lingers in Ford’s presence, the more difficult it becomes to deny their attraction.

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A native of West Virginia, Dawn earned a BA from the Marshall University W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications and worked as a copy editor at The Charleston Daily Mail for eight years. She enjoys writing just after waking, after her characters have strolled through her subconscious, chatting with one another, making love, arguing, figuring out how to live their lives and hold on to their lovers.

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