The Writer’s Desk features the desks and writing practices of Gemini Ink faculty, visiting authors, teaching artists, volunteers, students, interns, staff, partners and more. Receive new posts in your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter at bit.ly/geminiinknewsletter.
Join Johnnie on Wednesdays, February 15 & 22, 6:30-8:30pm, CST, via Zoom
Creating Fictional Characters with Personality and Presence with Johnnie Bernhard
We’ll learn to develop authentic fictional characters with the building blocks of character development: physical description, dialogue, and action. But we won’t stop there! We’ll also explore the history, psychology, weaknesses, and motives that keep the reader hooked.
- Describe your first writing desk. How is it different (or not) from your current writing desk?
My first writing desk was in a small bedroom of a very old, wooden house. The magic in this space came from the six windows in the room, creating natural light and a view of a massive oak tree in the yard. I was very comfortable in that space, although it was not well insulated. The winter wind seeped through every window and board. It didn’t matter. I became one with the room, adjusting to the ever-changing temperature by putting on a jacket and drinking more coffee. The view from the window closest to my desk was of an ancient oak tree with its bark twisted and scared from age and storms. It was never professionally pruned, making its massive canopy interesting in its varied branches, some shorted by life’s course, others elongated, untouched and perfect in dimension. I was lucky to live in a house with a history of over one hundred years. I often thought about the people who lived there before me. This became a springboard for writing character sketches.
- What theme or symbol often emerges in your work? Why are you drawn to this theme/symbol?
The themes of my novels are based on the human journey – what connects us as individuals, regardless of geography, race, and religion. And that is the need to love and be loved.
- What are some misconceptions about being a writer that you can discredit?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about being a writer is that it is a glamorous life. Writing is hard work, often lonely work. It is filled with much rejection and doubt, but I love it for one simple reason. I have a need to tell a story that has moved me. I want to share this with a reader, regardless of the rejection and self-doubt. That is the price you pay to tell your story. It is what compels me to sit at my writing desk, alone, until those characters breath within the pages I write.
- Does good writing result from best practices, magic, or a bit of both?
Good writing comes from good editing and reading. It is the trinity writers cannot ignore. Read good literature, books that keep you up at night; books that make you cry; books that make you view the world in a new way. Editing and writing are disciplines. You cannot have one without the other.
- What is your next project?
My next project, Hannah & Ariela will be published on August 1, 2022. It is a thriller based on an Anglo widow and a Mexican girl, who must decide to follow their conscience, rather than the law, in saving their lives. It’s set in West Texas, where my family’s home is. It was a very difficult manuscript to write because of the research and interviews I did on human trafficking. My hashtags for the novel are #SOS #SaveOurSisters #SalvarNuestrasHermanas
- If people want to learn more about your work, where should they go?
People can learn more about me and my work at www.johnniebernhardauthor.com
Award-winning author Johnnie Bernhard has written four novels: A Good Girl (2017), How We Came to Be (2018), Sisters of the Undertow (2020), and Hannah and Ariela (2022). Early reviews are calling Hannah and Ariela her “best and bravest.” Johnnie’s novels focus on the family, social issues, and the human condition. She served as a 2020 TEDx speaker for the Fearless Women Series. A Good Girl (2017) was a finalist in literary fiction, Kindle Book Awards. Her second novel, How We Came to Be (2018), received the Summerlee Book Prize, HM. Her third novel, Sisters of the Undertow (2020), was selected for discussion at the AWP Conference, the Pat Conroy Literary Center, and the Southern Book Festival/Humanities Tennessee. Named “Best of the University Presses, 100 Books” by the Association of University Presses, it also received First Place in the Press Women of Texas Communications Contest. All her novels are in the permanent collection of the Texas Center for the Book. Johnnie was a 2020 TEDx speaker for the Fearless Women Series. You can find more from her at her website, johnniebernhardauthor.com.