Author Interview & Giveaway: Johanna Rae

Reading Lark is happy to welcome Johanna Rae, author of The Mercenary, to the nest today. We are giving away a cop of The Mercenary to one lucky follower after the interview.

   When and why did you begin writing?
Books have always both fascinated and inspired me. Before I was old enough to know how to read, I had my favorite stories so well memorized that I would scold my parents for forgetting a single word. I would sit there lovingly turning the pages as I recalled the stories, reading them to my dolls and teddies.
When I was five or six, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her that I would be a writer and an artist. Even then my creativity knew no bounds and I would drive my family crazy with my made up worlds and phony accents. I loved to invent far off places with magical goings on… things that left the real world pale in comparison.
I haven’t changed much over the years; I’ve simply grown more determined. I am no longer content to write the stories, now I want to share them with the world.

   Do you have a specific writing style?
I would say I have a fairly relaxed writing style - I like to throw in a little humor here and there to keep the reader entertained. For some people they have a story that needs to be told and they use a series of characters to do that. For me it is the reverse. I am always discovering new characters.
As I begin to write them and get to know them, it is they who tell the story. I believe that if you can bond your reader to the character, they will follow them almost anywhere in their fictional journey. If you can do it well, they will feel all the emotional highs and lows your character goes through, thus urging them through page after page to see what happens next.

   What inspired you to write Therian Secrets Book One - The Mercenary?
                 I grew up in and around a small beach community in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. This is a region lush with natural wonders and picturesque beauty. On my doorstep I had beautiful beaches, mountains, lakes and a huge expanse of native forest. I was fortunate enough to have parents who took full advantage of that, exposing us to as much as they were able.
I was sitting at the river mouth of the Whakatane Heads one day, looking out at the fresh water crashing against the ferocity of the incoming tide and my mind started to wander.  I began to wonder how many other families would count this spot as a piece of their childhood. I gazed up to the rugged cliffs above, wild native flora and fauna atop their pohutukawa clad sides. I began to imagine back in time when the Maori tribes lived up there, and the forest was their home.  My imagination kicked into overdrive as the past collided with the present, and my love for the paranormal started creeping in.
I began to wonder what it would be like if there were a multitude of residents in this small community who held a secret as big as having a second form. How easy would that be to hide from the human population? Would they require their own laws in order to co-exist? From here I created the fictional town of Redcliffe, to house the growing family of characters already forming in my mind.

    Is there a message or moral you’d like others to get from this story?
I think the deepest message in this is that the bonds and relationships we develop are often what carry us through the most difficult aspects of our life journey. Family is very important to me and I hope that shines through in the relationships I write about between my characters. I also believe that family does not always mean those who you are bonded to by blood. Sometimes circumstances can throw people together and they ‘become’ family.

   Do you have a favorite character?
I could never choose just one. Every single character I have ever created carries a piece of my soul, even those who have never made it beyond the view of my own eyes. I have soft spots for several characters, each for a totally different reason. I would have to say the characters in my novel ‘The Mercenary’ are probably the ones dearest to my heart. I love that despite how big and tough my Therians appear to their enemies they think of each other as brothers. They welcomed Jodie into their unusual family group because she accepted them for who they were and saw beyond the violence to the people they are inside, the parts of themselves most people never get to see.

   Which of your characters are you most like?
There is a little of me in every character, which I think could be said for most authors. Each character possesses a part of who I am or who I’d love to be - mannerisms, actions, dreams, likes, dislikes etc. The character that carries the most of my traits would probably be Jodie since she is the protagonist. I like to think I’ve kept her unique enough that she also has many attributes all her own too.

   Is there an underlying message in your story?
No matter what life throws at you, there is always a way forward. Sometimes circumstances might push you in a direction you might not otherwise have chosen but you can still find the way forward if you are willing to look for it. Life is a journey, it was never meant to be easy. This means you have to fight for your happy ending. Every experience contributes to the person you are today and it is only you who can decide whether to embrace the strength you’ve gained or keep looking over your shoulder at the path you thought you would be on.

   What was the hardest scene to write?
Without giving away too much, there is a scene in The Mercenary where Jodie attends a dinner with the guys. She is thrust into a situation she could never have envisaged and it becomes quite an emotional experience. When writing this scene, I felt very in touch with the character and my heart ached as I wrote her through the ordeal.

   Which book(s) have most influenced your life and/or writing career?
In my younger years I enjoyed reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz. During this time my writing reflected that and I wrote many short horror and thriller pieces. As I moved into my twenties I began reading David Eddings, Terry Goodkind and Ian Irvine. I found that I had begun to lean toward the fantasy realm with my writing. As I approached my thirties I found my true passion. When I began to read Laurell K Hamilton, Jr Ward, Richelle Mead, Charlaine Harris and a few others… I realized that my heart lay in the Paranormal. It was then I began to write about shifters, vampires and other fantastical creatures and I’ve never looked back.

1  Do you bring any of your experiences or parts of your personality (or those of people you know) into your writing?
Since I am an artist as well as a writer I would have to say yes. I would never duplicate an entire event or experience play by play into my writing but I do draw inspiration from real events. Most of the time it would never be obvious as it is the emotions and interactions between people that stick in my mind, not the events themselves. I think this is why I’m such a character driven author. I take real emotion and mold it around circumstantial ideas that I’ve conceived myself thus coming up with something original.

Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I think this is something every writer experiences from time to time! I find that as long as I surround myself with my own ideal writing environment, it doesn’t tend to happen too often. I always start with a fresh cup of coffee and some music playing which draws the right character from my mind. When writing Danny and Jodie’s scenes I usually play the band Muse. For me they are firmly integrated with Danny’s character. Jodie’s brother Luke however, speaks to me more if I play Seether or Switchfoot. Music is essential for me when writing because the songs have an emotional effect and this then transfers to the page.

1 Are there any new authors who have captured your interest?
I’m lucky enough to be a part of a great little online community of writers. Most of us have never met in person but we support each other by means of promotion and often in beta reading for each other. It is awesome to have these people on hand if you need to run the viability of an idea past someone. Another writer will understand how difficult or straight forward it will be to bring that idea to page.

Outside of family members, where do you find your biggest source of support?
I would say the writing community I mentioned in question 12 and all my loyal readers. It’s been such a wonderful experience seeing the enthusiasm first hand on my author page. I’ve been lucky enough to have interaction with some of the readers there as they talk about their favorite character and/or post pictures of some of the animals my shifters turn into.

1 Can you share a little bit about your next project with us?
My next novel will be Therian Secrets Book Two – The Fury. Jodie and Danny’s journey continues as they try to pick up the pieces after where The Mercenary left off while building on their relationship. There are additional voices in this book. Along with the three voices from the first book (Jodie, Danny and Luke) the reader will get to see things from the perspective of Rufus and Summer. I’ve explored the personalities and backstories of a few of the supporting characters in this book too, giving the reader a richer picture of the Unit.

Check out Tevya's review of The Mercenary HERE.

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To buy The Mercenary

To win a copy of The Mercenary, simply leave a comment on this post and tell us why you want to read The Mercenary. We will put all names into to select a winner. The winner will be contacted through email, so make sure you leave us your email address.


  1. Fascinating thank you. I always like to know what has inspired a particular series or book.


  2. this is great. Thank you for sharing this kind of book.

  3. it sounds like a neat book. shifters, eh? definitely something i would read about.


  4. A beach community sounds like a beautiful scene to grow up to or be near one. I like it because it's so peaceful and I can see why it would inspire you.

  5. It's right down my alley as far as setting and interest. Hope to win - thanks.


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