When Elana Johnson wrote her first published book, “Possession,” she wrote it as a stand-alone novel. That’s all she ever it intended to be. Now, the author of four works in that world — two novels and two short stories, with another novel planned — Elana says things sort of have a way of taking on a life of their own.
Elana’s books, “Possession” and “Surrender,” which comes out on Tuesday, are part dystopian, part science fiction and part paranormal thrillers. They are set in a future world where people do exactly what they’re told to do — dressing the same, adhering to restricted travel and plugging into a nightly feed.
“Possession” focused on a young girl named Vi who was struggling with the rules; Zenn, Vi’s brainwashed boyfriend; and Jag, a rebellious outsider. “Surrender,” which Elana considers a companion novel rather than a sequel, features Raine, the daughter of Freedom’s Director, and Gunn, a young man who’s spent his life flying under the radar, until now.
When asked if the third book in the series would follow the same format, Elana told Cracking the Cover, “My series is a mess! Ha. The answer here is ‘sort of.’ I think ‘Surrender’ is a true companion to ‘Possession.’ It takes place months later, it’s told from different viewpoints, and the story isn’t a true continuation.”
The third book, Elana says, is much more of a sequel to “Surrender.” “It is a bit of a companion — I suppose — in that it is narrated by two different characters,” she continued. “Not new characters — can you guess who might narrate it?”
Despite her success as an author, Elana says little in her everyday life has changed since the publication of “Possession.” “You can find me teaching elementary school from August – May,” she said. “I still drive my children to their various activities, and I’m making sloppy joes and spaghetti for dinner just like everyone else. … The biggest change in me is the amount of jewelry I wear. No lie.”
But though her everyday life has remained the same, Elana does admit her writing has evolved since starting this journey. “I’d like to think I’ve gotten better at pacing a novel,” she said. “I’ve always struggled with that, and now I have a method to help me make sure all the plot elements are present and executed in a timely manner. It’s still something I struggle with, but I’m working on it.”
Her feelings toward writing have evolved, as well, though not how you might initially guess. “I love to write,” Elana says. “I love crafting characters and stories. That hasn’t changed. The thought of writing has a little bit. Now I see it as something I need to get done, instead of something I want to get done. Does that make sense? It’s still enjoyable, but the perception has changed a bit.”
And as long as she still loves it, Elana will keep on writing. She is currently hard at work finishing up Book 3 in the “Possession” series, and she’s busy researching what she says is a “massive amount” of scientific principles for a sci-fi that’s on the horizon.
As always, Elana likes to mix things up, and that’s probably part of the reason behind the appeal of her books. “I think “Possession” and “Surrender” are genre-blending novels,” Elana explained. “I know those are becoming more popular, so maybe they’re not stand-out in that regard anymore. But “Possession” is a science-fiction novel with tech and gadgets. It’s also dystopian in the fact that there’s an oppressive government and a rebellion. It’s also paranormal, in that the government stems from paranormal abilities. This sort of genre blending is still relatively new, and hopefully, that’s part of the series’ appeal.”
What’s the other draw behind her books? Elana hopes it’s because of a feeling. “I hope readers can find a connection to a character, a situation, a feeling in the books,” she said. “That’s why I write them. To bleed those things out of me and hopefully impact someone else.”
*Elana took a lot of care answering Cracking the Cover’s questions. Read a complete transcript of her interview.
***Elana will be at The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 South 1500 East, in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 5, at 7 p.m. for the launch of her new book. She’ll be reading from and signing “Surrender.”