One of the great aspects of the web is the writers I meet online -- one of whom includes our interview for today-- the eclectic author B.S. Johnson. Her books include the non-fiction Maters, Taters, and Grits and the poetry book, Rhymes From Darker Times.
A few words about Barbie Sue: She lives in a small town in Georgia with her husband, son, and parents. She loves the outdoors, animals, and fishing. She is currently studying
Canine Obedience and hopes to eventually work with Search and Rescue Dogs.
SARETT: What was the source of your interest in writing a specifically “Southern” book? JOHNSON: I guess it was the onset of all the reality TV shows that are coming out. You know, like, “Honey Boo Boo” and things of that nature. That particular one happens to give us a bad name, by the way. I wanted to write about how it really is. From my point of view- a blue collar one.
SARETT: In nonfiction, like Maters, Taters, and Grits, the big decision is tone. What kind of voice and tone were your aiming for?
JOHNSON: Exactly how I sound in real life. I wrote “Maters” the way I talk. With slang.
I wanted the reader to be able to relate to me on a personal level- almost like they were sitting right next me having a glass of tea while we were shootin’ the breeze on a summer evening.
I didn’t really have any other literary models in mind. I just sat down and wrote. I wrote it as if I were tellin’ my grandyoungins a story about my past. When I write non-fiction, I tend to hear the voice of the narrator, Waylon Jennings, from the TV show “ The Dukes of Hazzard”.
SARETT: How would you describe your approach to writing, specifically with Maters, Taters and Grits? Did you pick incidents first, or just let it flow?
JOHNSON: With this particular book, I just let things flow. Really the only thing I had to be particular about is the way the chapters fell into place. It does seem as though it jumps around a bit at times. But I promise there was a method to my madness.
SARETT: Much of Southern writing is dark, gothic, even violent -- Flannery O’Connor, Faulker, Carson McCullers, the list goes on. Is there something about the South that invites this?
JOHNSON: Perhaps. I know that for as much beauty as the South holds, there are just as many creepy looking places. Our very own Savannah has been featured on many television shows as one of the most haunted places in America. It is beautiful as well, but holds so much history. Just walking through the town at dusk is scary enough! The South does have a scarred past though, filled with everything including murders, racism, hangings and tons of cold cases where the people are still missing, and will probably never be found.
SARETT: You also have published in Haiku Journal and written poetry. What’s your POV on the new tweet fiction? Is it too short to matter?
JOHNSON: I don’t think any form of poetry, fiction or haiku is “too short to matter”. It was a creation of the brain, of the imagination. I published a story of 25 words which had to have the title of a nail polish (which I called Crimson Red.)
SARETT: I’m always trying to discover new interesting writers. Do you have any suggestions for our readers?
JOHNSON: A few of my faves are my own friends, John A. Miller, Sharon Williams, Justin Price, Allison Hawn. Sharon’s book is coming out this month. John, Justin and Allison all have published books that are very good reads. They are all up and coming authors that I am proud to call my friends.
SARETT: Tell us about other projects that you’re working on.
JOHNSON: I have another non-fiction in the works. It is called “Whining Is For Puppies”. It’s basically turning into a motivational book. But it is written in my blue-collar Southern Slang like ‘Maters’ is. Hopefully it will be coming out by next summer. Other than that, just studying right now.
Barbie’s website can be found here: https://www.bsjohnson.com. You can follow her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BSJohnson12 and Twitter https://twitter.com/B_SJohnson
Maters, Taters and Grits
Read one of her short stories here: