I recently read Dragon's Touch, debut novel by A. R. Johnson. A Christian fantasy. I was really taken by this novel and this author, and I was very impressed when I discovered she was only 16 yrs old!
Both these factors, tempted me to see what makes this author tick and to see what contributing factors have led to the sophistication and depth of plot and characterisation and the well developed world Ariel has created. It is not everyday that an avid reader like myself comes across one such author of such a young age. So, what better way to investigate this author than through an interview!
Just before we start this interview this is what Dragon's Touch is about, from the Amazon book page:
"Dragons, mages, and estranged siblings collide in a struggle to control the Kingdom of Rioch."
The Guild of Mages is determined to destroy the dragon race at all costs. Queen Christine, keeper of the peace and leader of the dragon riders, strives to maintain stability in Rioch. Amidst this struggle, Zharah is torn between the anti-dragon teachings of her childhood and her unwitting bonding with the dragon hatchling Elihan. She must cross the kingdom in search of her long lost brother and the answers to her future as a Dragon-Touched human. She finds both friends and enemies along the road, but above all she finds herself."
Okay Ariel, how about we start this interview with you telling us a little about yourself?
I have lived in several different countries and currently live in Taiwan and attend Morrison Academy. I adore classic literature, classic rock, and a lot of different sci-fi and fantasy movies and shows, like Doctor Who.
What inspired you to become an author and has it always been your desire to write?
I started having an interest in writing when my dad became an author. I did not write much when I was younger, in fact I hated writing. But when I started beta-reading dad’s chapters as he was working on Fool's Errand (Chadash Chronicles)
, I started to get excited. I then realized I had stories I wanted to tell as well, and dad was always there to help and encourage me to write them down.
Your first book is in the fantasy genre. What lead to this or influenced this choice?
Dad writes fantasy, and he introduced me to Tolkien, Lewis, etc from when I was little. I was interested in fantasy novels from early on, and I wanted my first novel to be of the genre that was most natural to me.
How much influence either directly or indirectly has your father, also an author, influenced your writing and or choice of genre?
Very much so, I would not have started writing if my dad had not introduced me to it. He always encouraged me to read and to push the level of the stuff I was reading when I was younger, and I believe this, and seeing dad’s book starting to come together, led me to want to become a writer.
For a teenager, and at 16 yrs of age at that, you write very well. Better than most of your peer group age. Have you always been this proficient with the English language?
I am not sure about my writing proficiency, but I have been reading at college level since around second or third grade, so I imagine that had a great deal to do with it.
How do come to terms with the fact that some reviewers, including myself, consider that your writing, plot and character development is sophisticated and more mature for your age?
I am honestly glad to hear it, and it is very encouraging. I was extremely worried that it would be immature and that older audiences would not enjoy it, so hearing that it was well-done encourages me to continue writing.
I loved Dragon's Touch. I found the plot well constructed and the characters very real, the fantasy world very enthralling and captivating and loved the spiritual themes. What resources did you use for this?
I simply observed my friends and those around me for the characters. With the fantasy world, it honestly just appeared in my mind. I love creating fictional worlds in my free time, so this was fairly easy for me. Dad is also an avid world builder, and seeing the amount of time he put into detailing his worlds, and getting to help him with some of that, well…”monkey-see, monkey-do” as my dad says.
How much of Zharah is based on yourself? Who is your favourite character?
She isn’t actually based that much on me, but sort of a combination of other people I know. She is some things that I wish I was, but not so much based on who I am now. It’s very difficult for me to pick just one favourite but I would say my top three are Elihan, Albin, and Daric (not in any particular order).
Yes, I have a soft spot for Daric, admire Albin and want to learn more about Elihan!
What do your friends think of you being a published author?
Some of my friends are extremely happy about it, and very encouraging about my writing. My two friends Brianna and Josiah, who are in my dedication, were the most influential in encouraging me to write this novel.
How do you feel about being 16 and having published your first book? This is not common for someone in your age group. A great achievement by the way!
It was very fun to write, but it is exciting and somewhat terrifying to know that my book is out somewhere where people can read it. When dad helped me do a Kindle Countdown promotion recently, and I saw the numbers rolling in, it was really weird. When dad sent me the screenshot showing Dragon’s Touch had hit #1 in one of its categories, I was blown away.
Yes, I have no doubt about that! Dragon's Touch comes up in some of the book recommendations on book pages I investigate, so yes, your book is definitely out there! Very encouraging for you!
What do you say to others in your age group that want to write and publish as you have done?
I would encourage them to do so, and to follow their goals and dreams. If God puts it in your heart to write, dedicate yourself to learning how to do it the best you can and go for it.
That is very wise and encouraging advice and I pray other aspiring writers take this on board.
What kind of reaction are you hoping to receive from readers?
I am hoping they enjoy the story, and that I can influence them to write like my favourite books did for me. Also, while the spiritual elements in this first book are fairly subtle, I hope they will spark an interest in someone to find out more about who God is.
I have no doubt that God will honour that, Ariel!
What has surprised you the most about becoming a self-published author?
I think what surprises me is that people are actually reading and enjoying my novel. I’m very surprised that I’ve gotten so many reads and it’s fantastic.
What influenced you to make this Christian fantasy rather than conventional fantasy that most fantasy lovers read?
I think that the influence my faith has over my life led me to include some Christian themes. Dad also encouraged me that if I was going to write, that it was a great chance to tell others about God. I am not quite the open evangelist my dad is, but we all have to share what we can in our own way.
Yes, I agree with you, and you have made a great start on this with Dragon's Touch!
I guess this leads onto the next question. How has writing and being an author impacted your relationship with Jesus Christ?
Writing has not really affected my faith as much as the other way around. My faith influenced my writing, but my writing did not affect my faith.
Obviously becoming an author has been a huge accomplishment for you, but can you tell us what a major goal of yours is outside of the world of writing?
I would love to be able to become an art teacher someday, and I love drama and would like to be in a play. I work with the drama club at school, and that is a lot of fun. It is a Christian school so this is another way to share faith in a fun and interesting way.
Yes, now that you have said that and reading Dragon's Touch, you definitely have a very creative side to you!
So we know you like to write, but can you divulge to your fans out there what’s something that you like to do in your downtime, when you're not writing?
I love to draw, and I love to read. I also like spending time with my friends and drinking tea and coffee, especially Java Chip Frappuccinos from Starbucks.
Another Java lover! This is good!
Your fans, I’m sure, want to know if there is more to come. Would you mind giving an exclusive glimpse for us of what is to come?
I am considering writing a sequel to Dragon’s Touch, if I can find the time over summer. School is quite busy for me, and it is hard to balance school and writing, so I think it will be easier to write when I am on break. The sequel will be following up on the hints I dropped in Dragon’s Touch that dragon eggs can be force-hatched. That is all I can say right now (spoilers!), so fans will just have to see when it comes out.
Ariel, that sounds wonderful and a great lead in to the proposed sequel, my appetite is more than whetted! I am glad you have stopped there with those spoilers!!
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
I would like to thank them for being so supportive of my writing, and encouraging me to do so. I hope I can continue to write and provide them with something to read in the future! I don’t think I would write another novel if they weren’t so supportive of this one.
Do you have any words that you’d like to leave us with?
Asparagus. No, uhm, in all seriousness, just thank you for interviewing me on this blog, and thanks to my readers for being so supportive!
It has been a pleasure Ariel, and as one of your readers, it has also been a pleasure supporting you in return for transporting us to the wonderful world of Rioch and entertaining us immensely!
Ariel, I have enjoyed discussing your journey to published author and I now have a better understanding of Dragon's Touch and what makes you tick. It certainly has been a great journey you have been on. Thanks for letting myself and the visitors reading this, into your imagination and a behind the scenes look at the Kingdom of Rioch.
I am sure it is not just myself who hopes that you create the sequel, I feel Dragon's Touch needs to continue and look forward to seeing this happen with anticipation.
You certainly are very fortunate to have had such a great influence from your father. I have read his Chadash Chronicles and I am very impressed.
You can keep in touch with Ariel via her dad’s book series email: