Intimate Conversation with RM Johnson
RM Johnson is the author of twenty-two novels to include, The Harris Men, The Million Dollar Divorce, the Hate the Air Series (NA), My Wife's Lover and My Wife's Baby. He holds an MFA in creative writing, is the recipient of the African American Arts Alliance Award among many others, and he resides in Atlanta, GA.
BPM: How did you get to be where you are in your life today? Who or what motivated you?
It took hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Although that sounds like a generic answer, it is true. As a novelist, you alone, do all the work. As another writer said, “There’s no one to throw the ball back to you.” You must be dedicated; writing a novel is not a sprint, but a marathon. It can take quite a long time to write a great one, equally as long to pen one that is horrible. Both are accomplishments, but you can’t finish either unless you stick to it. Referring to success: it likely won’t come without sacrifice. I have an undergraduate degree in science. I left a lucrative career in the medical field to pursue my passion for writing. As any artist will attest, there are as many valleys—if not more—as peaks, but many of chose this: to sacrifice a normal life for that of an artist’s, not for the money, but because we feel this is why we’ve been put on this earth.
BPM: Who does your body of literary work speak to? Do you consider authors as role models?
My work speaks to Black folks: men and women, married and single, young and old, fatherless and motherless, divorced, deceived and cheated on, poor and affluent. My work speaks to readers who want relevant, heartfelt, relatable and suspenseful fiction. In regard to authors being role models, I’d say only if one wants to be a writer oneself, then authors might be seen as inspirational. Aside from that, I’d say no; authors should not be seen as role models, because many of us can be pretty screwy in the head.
BPM: What inspired you to sit down and actually start writing this book? Why now?
Five years ago, a 44 year-old, good friend told me how disappointed he was with the turn his new marriage had taken. During their one-year marriage, he and his wife traveled, partied, drank and loved more than couples half their age. When they had their first child, he noticed a shift in the attention he was getting. It was a hard adjustment for him to make, and although he didn’t say he was, I detected a jealous tone in his voice. I felt there was an intriguing story there: man becomes envious of his newborn son, and does whatever he must to revert things back to the way he preferred them. I decided to write this book when I did, because, for the past several months, I’ve been working on a dystopian novel: Hate the Air, and I needed a break from the heavy lifting of that book, to something a little lighter, more familiar to me.
BPM: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I loved writing this book. Like I said, I’ve been working on something far less familiar to me—something that required a lot of research. “My Wife’s Baby: I Am Not A Murderer” is right in my wheelhouse—my comfort zone. If you’ve ever read “The Million Dollar Divorce” or “Bishop”, you know that I often write about unsettling family situations and the toll taken every day, just to exist in them. This book is first person, from my main character, Stan’s POV, so the reader is right there in his head, experiencing his every thought as he grapples with his unwanted, jealous feelings toward his son.
BPM: Where do your book ideas come from? Are your books plot-driven or character-driven? Why?
The idea for the current novel, like I said, came from a friend. My novels are definitely character driven. I love the conflict, the havoc, the destruction caused by differing opinions: each character believing he or she is right, attempting to impress their beliefs upon the other. It creates the potential for great drama.
BPM: Could you tell us something about your most recent work? Available on Nook and Kindle?
“My Wife’s Baby and My Wife's Lover” are available on Nook and Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.com. The premise: Stan doesn’t want children and marries a woman who says she feels the same. They have a great year of marriage, childless and obligation-free, traveling and over indulging in each other, when Erica winds up pregnant. To Stan’s dismay, she decides to have the baby. After the baby arrives, she spends almost all her time with the infant, neglecting Stan, and forcing him to take the drastic and unthinkable measure of eliminating the issue he believes is stealing his wife from him.
BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters or speakers. What makes each one so special?
I like to put my main characters in positions where, the result of them not accomplishing their goal is equivalent to the worst fate imaginable. In other words: if they fail, they die—or they will feel as though they’d want to. So when I write a character that feels he or she must succeed at all costs, they let nothing stand in their way, making them desperate. Those, in my opinion, are the most interesting characters to read.
BPM: Are there under-represented groups or ideas featured in your book? If so, discuss them.
What’s notable in this book are the intimate, emotional, non-fantastical struggles that Black men contend with everyday. It’s not about a kingpin drug dealer, or a cheating minister, or a thug that sleeps with his team of prostitutes. “My Wife’s Baby: I Am Not A Murderer”, is just an extremely intense look inside the thoughts of a Black man when faced with the notion he might lose the woman he loves most in this world.
BPM: How does your book relate to your present situation, spiritual practice or journey?
It really doesn’t. I don’t have an infant child. I’ve never experienced the jealousy, Stan, my main character, has. But men very close to me have. I’ve seen marriages fall apart because—with the addition of the baby—couples seemingly forget how to function as they had before: they forget what brought them together, what made them happy, and in some instances—not all—the mother puts the wellbeing of the baby so far ahead of the father that he feels he no longer has a place in the mother’s life.
BPM: Did you learn anything personal from writing your book?
I think I’m learning more from the reader responses to the book than from the actual writing of it. This is a controversial piece of work: there is subject matter here that some people would rather not address, and issues that provoke people to think about how they relate to their most significant other and their infant. I think the female reader—if nothing else—will be forced to ask herself if she might’ve neglected her husband while caring for her newborn, or the male reader may question if he was understanding enough of the mother’s responsibilities, and was not needlessly envious of his own child during this period.
BPM: Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?
I met a woman with two children, both over the age of 18. When I asked her what her situation was like soon after she had given birth, she told me that she spent most of her time with her newborn: some days she spent as many as fourteen hours alone with the child. This time would be spent away from her husband, because she was so engrossed in the care of the infant. What was most intriguing was that she was shocked at the idea that she had done something wrong. She did say that her husband was gone a lot during this period; she did not relate it to the possibility that she might have been shutting him out, just thought his job had suddenly become more demanding. She said, looking back, if she had considered the possibility that her husband might have been envious of the time and attention not given him, she might’ve made more of an attempt to him include him more.
BPM: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
The most major intention of this book was to shed light on the possibility that some men might find themselves jealous of their own children and enlighten mothers that this envy is real, and although they feel—as one mother told me—that men should be just as excited and wanting to spend every minute of the day with the new baby, that is not always the case. Not to say that fathers don’t love their children as much as mothers do, but when the baby arrives, we have not had the opportunity to bond with the infant. We have not carried the baby for nine months, so we might need more time to build a relationship with the infant.
Do I feel I achieved my goal in the writing of this novel? I’m not certain. I think the novel will incite some serious discussion and maybe a few arguments, but I also believe, those of you who read it, will find it intriguing, disturbing, suspenseful and very enjoyable—which is always my ultimate goal.
BPM: What projects are you working on at the present?
“Hate The Air” is about all human beings over the age of twenty years old dying, due to something in the air. Left alive are young adults to fend and fight for themselves, to run the country and to solve the problems of ensuring humanity does not die. It was inspired by the often self indulgent and over confident opinions of kids today believing they could do a much better job running the world than their elders. It will be an ongoing series, but I haven’t determined just how many books there will be.
BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
My readers can always contact me directly via email: RMNovels@yahoo.com, Twitter: @Marcusarts and on Facebook at: Facebook.com/RMNovels
Purchase My Wife's Lover by RM Johnson (Book 2)
Purchase My Wife’s Baby by RM Johnson (Book 1)
Purchase Hate the Air: The Abbreviated Life of Shea Kennedy
New Adult/Urban Fiction by RM Johnson
Post-Apocalyptic Fiction; Dystopian Fiction; Suspense; Mystery; Romance