09 Interview with Johan Twiss
Charity: [00:00:00] This is Loose Leaf the podcast of an author with multiple personalities. My name is charity Bradford, lover of all things, science fantasy. I'm also river Ford writer of contemporary romance. I'm so excited to bring today's podcast to you. We have guest author Johan Twiss calling in, and we will get to that interview here in just a moment. Johanns. Audio is coming through. Great mine. It definitely sounds like I'm on the phone. So in the future, I'll do a little more research and see if I can get a better sound quality. I know I had a great time talking with Johan twists about his books and some of the things that he's passionate about.
So without further ado, let's get to the interview. Thank you Johan for being with this. Would you like to take a few minutes and introduce yourself to our listeners?
Johan: [00:01:02] Yeah, it'd be happy to. My name is Johan twist. Um, a lot of people get it wrong when they see my name written out. Cause it's J O H A N and then called lots of things. Joanne Johanne. Um, so it's Johann.
Uh, I started writing about, I guess it's been really like seriously writing about six years ago. Um, I have seven books. Published and I have a new story I'm working on. That'll come out later this year as well. I mostly write science fiction, fantasy, uh, stuff that's appropriate for middle grade and up. I also do write some, um, Light historical, I guess fancy, you could say just to touch a fantasy as well as, uh, I have a crime series that I started.
That's about human trafficking. That's kind of a passion project of mine. I've worked with some nonprofits that combat against it in the past. And so I have a series about, uh, human trafficking that Rosemont different types of trafficking that happened around the world and kind of follow different characters with it.
Charity: [00:02:07] the name of that series?
Johan: [00:02:09] Uh, the first book is out, it's called 30 red dresses, and I have five more plans for it. They're short novellas kind of more bite-sized because it's a heavy topic. Um, but I try to write in shows, uh, you get, you know, what's going on, but I don't try to drag people to the mud.
And I kind of show here are the positive things. Here's what success stories are. Are here. The ways that people are combating against it.
Charity: [00:02:35] Wow. I think that's, that's great that you can do that through your literature as well. So that's you said, um,
Johan: [00:02:43] 30 red dresses, correct? Yeah. 30 red dresses.
Charity: [00:02:47] Yeah. And, um, some of your other books I know here in a little bit, we're going to talk about the, I am sleepless series since book number four just came out, but why don't you spend a little bit of time and tell us about some of your others.
Do you have a favorite book out of the ones you've written.
Johan: [00:03:04] Yeah, probably my favorite. I loved, I am sleep with series. Um, cause it's just fun. Action. Saifai kind of what I enjoy myself, but my favorite is probably four years trapped in my mind, palace. It's been my best-selling book. Um, And it's kind of a hard one to describe.
I say it's like Mitch Albom, uh, Tuesdays with Morrie kind of that field meets back to the future. So it's a it's it's about a 14 year old boy he's trapped in a coma like state he's awakened awareness head doctors don't realize that he has a locked in syndrome and he gets a roommate in this care facility.
And it's this older Jewish man, uh, with dementia. When the kid talks in his own head to stay sane, the old guy actually hears him and replies, but no one believes the old man. I can hear the kid because they think he's not. And when the old man will have these dementia dreams and episodes, he thinks he's living in the past.
It actually pulls the kid into those moments in time. So he experiences 1920s, New York city, Chicago nightclub in the thirties, world war two. And you get this very interesting relationship, how to kind of almost polar opposite people become best friends and help them
Charity: [00:04:16] see that's fascinating. Where did you come up with that idea?
Johan: [00:04:21] So that one came, um, There was a gentleman in our church congregation. I've kind of become friends with who he developed dementia and he kind of went downhill fast and. As I talked to him in his later years, he would think I was a friend of his from like the fifties and think he was in the fifties. At the same time, I saw a news story.
I think it was one of those like Dateline or 2020s. And it was about a man who, from the time he was a child, he had this same locked in syndrome and doctors weren't didn't know he was aware in there. So for 14 years he was trapped in his head and he'd make up his own world to stay sane. And he slowly came out of it.
So those two ideas kind of collided to create that story. Let's see.
Charity: [00:05:04] I love how real life and the things that we see often influence our imagination enough that we come up with a story. So, wow. Thanks for sharing that with us. Okay. Before we get to, I am sleepless, I did want to give you a chance to share anything about yourself, personally, that you may want.
Readers to know. I mean, things like, you know, what influenced your writing? Do you have a favorite author? Um, what do you do outside of writing? Anything you feel comfortable sharing? Go
Johan: [00:05:37] for it. Sure. I mean, so we'll go a favorite author right now by my favorite author is Jeff Wheeler. Um, You wrote them Yearwood series irrigate.
They're kind of a Epic fantasy, uh, fun, clean, very well-written engaging stories. He has a lot of books. Um, um, so that's been my, my favorite lately kind of inspiring authors for me, like things authors I've enjoyed reading kind of inspire me would be, uh, Brandon Sanderson. I love his miss porn series and his books.
And, uh, also I enjoy non-fiction as well, and they kind of play into my writing too, even, uh, lately. One of my favorites is just mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I came out and there's a movie that came out about it. I also enjoy Dean Hughes. He wrote a, children's a promise series kind of set during world war two.
And I've always loved world war II themes. And so mind palace kind of how stuff that happens in world war II. I have another short novella that takes place during world war II as well.
Charity: [00:06:38] I, I bet, uh, the fact that you also enjoy non-fiction probably. Has really helped your writing as a fiction writer, especially with those tough topics, 30 dresses and some of these other books.
Johan: [00:06:51] Exactly. Yeah, it has. And I've done a lot of research through those to kind of help get me grounded and make sure I'm planning things and setting that stories up correctly. Wow. That's
Charity: [00:07:03] wonderful. That's something that I think all of us fiction writers could. Could, uh, learn from you and, and get out there and enjoy a little bit more nonfiction than, you know, other than just for research purposes.
Cause I think we all dig in for research.
Johan: [00:07:17] There's a lot of great nonfiction out there and some of them, the way that they're written too, it almost feels like. Fiction, you know, it's, it's, it's storytelling in a way, and I love those books.
Charity: [00:07:29] Oh, wonderful. Okay. I know that you're pretty busy. So let's go ahead and, um, and let's talk about the, I am sleepless series.
I know it was the first time I read it, I guess it was probably shortly after the first book. Um, I am sleepless them two 99 came out. And I remember just being super impressed with it. Like it had kind of this feel of Ender's game by Orson Scott card, but it was also completely different. Um, like I was, I've been trying to figure out like what the mashup was, cause it kind of has this X-Men feel with your prime, but it's not, you know, and I really appreciated how well you.
Put us into your world and described it without like this big info dump. Um, so why don't you take a minute and tell us, you know, where did this idea come from? And then maybe spend a few minutes explaining what a prime is and how they fit into your story.
Johan: [00:08:31] Yeah, sure. Um, so the story came about, I had the idea, what could I get done if I didn't have to sleep?
Um, and that's what the main character, he has some multiple gifts and powers, but he can't sleep. He doesn't need it. Doesn't require it. And it also kind of masked with avatar the last Airbender, because our kids are watching it and I was watching it for the first time. And it kind of has that. I say it was a big influence on this storytelling, kind of the dynamics of the friends.
They kind of have a quest to goal and you even have some weird hybrid animals in there. Kind of like an avatar.
Charity: [00:09:12] But it's so funny. Cause I'm binge watching avatar the last Airbender right now. And when I saw their animals, I thought of your book. So we'll have to talk about feminine, but go ahead.
Johan: [00:09:23] Yep. Yep.
So a lot of the fun, crazy animals and my wife, um, She does the sketches. We do have a bunch of interior sketches with hybrid animals, like a spider goose or a bat monkey or a Wolf stag. Um, my kids up come up with them and they're a lot of fun. So they they're kind of in and out in and in the book. Um, So that was kind of the basis of it.
And it definitely has kind of an Ender's game vibe to it, as well as in my mind, uh, ready player one, uh, with the simulations. And so that's what the story is about. Is there. Uh, at war, um, with this alien race, that's attacking them and to help defeat them, they have come up with this injection that they give to children.
And from that, some of them develop powers and abilities. And then they're trained to go fight in this war, but every ability has fact of some kind. And so that's what our main characters, they are training for this war and they train in these simulations. The first book takes place at their training facility and there are 300 or 299 simulations.
No one's ever made it close to that far, except for Aiden or main character who can't sleep. So while everyone else is asleep, he's always practicing in the Sims. And when he reaches the end, he discovers something that kind of changes our world. And. Changes, uh, could change the way that the war.
Charity: [00:10:54] So I have to ask real quick.
Um, how do you say like their little group? Is it coterie? How do you one, I'm not sure
Johan: [00:11:02] coterie, correct? Yep. It's their coterie. Um, and that's when I found out, like when I was looking up, what's another word for group or team and I found one that was coterie. I'm like, I like that. And there's a few others that I have in there, like a choir, but not like a singing choir.
It's spelled S a Q U. I R E that's like a type of, um, like computer that they have. So a processor, I would
Charity: [00:11:27] actually love your name and everything in here. Like I said, your world is very rich and the fact that like the first chapter, you have to kind of think about it, but it's very easy to get into your world and just accept it.
So I think that's. Great talent that you have for creating this world and all these different things, because there are a lot of characters. You know, by the time we get to book four, there are a lot of people. There
Johan: [00:11:56] are, there are. Yes. That's probably the hardest part with this series is the first time I've written a series with keeping track of everything and continuity.
Oh man. That made it tough to write.
Charity: [00:12:09] That was one of my questions was what was the hardest part. And, and that was one of them, right. There was keeping track of the
Johan: [00:12:14] character. Yeah. Continuity like I, so I have some of my test readers and copy editors. They remember the world better than I do, because I'm off already thinking about new stories and I'm like, Oh wait, what happened?
And I have to go look it up or I'll ask my kids. I'll be like, uh, one of my sons I'll be like, Hey Kayla, can you tell me what happened here? Who is this? He's like, Oh, it's this, this,
Charity: [00:12:38] Oh, that's wonderful. That's wonderful that you have that support. So we didn't really talk about the prime powers. Um, But I was going to ask you if you could have one of those powers, which one would it be and why, or would you want a combination?
I know having a combination of primes is rare. Um, you wanna touch on that a little bit?
Johan: [00:13:01] Sure. So the prime ability is there a number of different ones that kids could develop and if they are they're conscripted and taken from their families to be trained, um, one of them is like a lug. A log is like super strength.
But with that comes the defect up. They're mute. They can't talk another one. Our max max are just incredible engineers and can build things, but they have dwarfism. And so they're very small as well. They also, one of their defects is a sabotage. Anything that they build unwittingly. I thought that was great.
Yeah, so they, they may not want to sabotage, but they're very protective of their technology and their inventions. Um, And some of the others are vibrancy, so they are blind, but they can see using airways, um, vibrations in the ground. And then around them, there's a host of others reader abilities, which I can't say what it is.
If you haven't read book one that comes in later, uh, there are some that are super fast. Like the flash you could say, but they have to eat constantly or they'll die. And then there's one. My, my favorite, although if I had a prime power to pick, I would pick a Mac so I could just build anything. Cause I love to build stuff.
But my other favorite is what's called aggravators and aggregators can change their weight so they can change it for their lies, a feather. And they could like. Jump. And then they fly through the air for long distances, or they can be super, super heavy, like a tank coming down on somebody. And so it kind of makes these interesting dynamics.
They run and jump and fly through the air, but then come down hard and I think, Oh, what's the other one? Is there another one I'm missing? Oh, I did it. Yes. So there it's like having a photographic memory. Uh, they remember everything they see read here, but their defect is they don't stop growing. So they continue to grow and they often die young of gigantism.
Charity: [00:15:14] Yeah. And I know is, uh, that kind of prime and he's actually one of my favorite characters. He's kind of one of the mentors of Aiden and it's been interesting to kind of see where he's at and where he's coming from. Kind of his history as we are starting to learn it, book three and yeah,
Johan: [00:15:33] he has a complicated past
Charity: [00:15:36] that makes the best characters as those that have a complicated task.
Okay. So my other question at the beginning of each of your chapters, you have like a little excerpts from, I guess there's actually two books. That kind of sets up the scene a little bit. It gives a little bit of history from, from two different characters. Did you write all of those before? Or did you come up with something for that?
Johan: [00:16:03] Yeah, I did. Yeah. I wrote, I didn't write them all beforehand, although I kind of knew everything I'd wanted to say. Um, and so I wrote them at the beat just as I came to each new chapter, I said, okay, what's going to work and gonna fit with what's going on with this chapter. Um, as much as possible, it was kind of my way of helping get some more world-building and history in there in short snippets, without it kind of.
Being an info dump and slowing the story down.
Charity: [00:16:29] Yes. Because there were only like two or three sentences. And have you ever thought about when you're all done pulling those together and releasing like a companion guide of the journals of Aiden or the TM Amori?
Johan: [00:16:44] No, I haven't. And that's very interesting. I don't know.
I've never thought about that. We are going to do a kind of companion fund, extra book, kind of like a. It's going to be with just the animals with more sketches and kind of some statistics and facts about the animals. Kind of like a, what is that? Harry Potter? My brain is just dead magical beef. Yes. Kind of like that magical beef, where to find them.
That will be
Charity: [00:17:12] so fun. I can't wait. That'll be great. Well, Hey, there's another idea for you though. Combine all that. History and just a short little, the history of the prime Wars or the splicer Wars. Can't remember which one? Which
Johan: [00:17:26] one? That's true. It would probably be like a note novelette size between all the books from the chapters.
Charity: [00:17:34] Okay. Favorite character from the series and
Johan: [00:17:36] why. That's always a tough one. I mean, you, as an author, you know this too, maybe say your characters are all a part of you. Like there's a little bit of me in every single one of them. Um, I would say probably my favorite character is Palomas. She is a lug and she's part of the caudry or the team.
And they grow up as like a family unit, um, all the same age, these kids together. And I would say she's kind of like the protector. Um, she's more of a listener, I guess that's what most of my life I've been like the listener friends come to me, they have problems. I'll listen, talk with them. So I kind of relate to that, but she's also very like athletic ability strong and she's a protector.
And so I can kind of relate to that too with my family, my friends, but she has a sense of humor too. She, she is not afraid to tease and joke around with her siblings. What's my siblings and I, and Anna, we get together. We. We can ride one another and have fun.
Charity: [00:18:38] Oh, that's wonderful. I was going to say, um, one of my favorites as we go along in the story and she doesn't come until she's not in the first book, but, uh, Camilla and I'm very excited to kind of see where her journey is taking her and, and, and what part she'll play in this final book.
Uh, so no spoilers. Don't
Johan: [00:19:00] tell me, but. Well, I'm smiling because it's good. It's really good. She has a great arc. Um, and when I imagined her for the book too, like I knew exactly, I knew how the series was going to end and I'm like, Oh, now she's going to tie into the ending and it's going to make it so much.
Charity: [00:19:19] good. Okay. Now I'm really excited. I'm about six chapters in, so I'll be honest. I actually had to stop. I think it's chapter six, where. Like, what can I say without spoilers, but we're at a point where my anxiety level went up and I was like, okay, I have to sit down and pause. I'm not ready. Cause I know something bad's about to happen.
And uh, you know, the best books you've got to get through all the bad stuff, but I get so emotionally tied that like, okay, I need to pause before we think it's a betrayal is the name of the chapter. I think, which is if that gives you any idea where I'm at, but. Um, but I love that. I love that your stories kind of pull me in emotionally and, uh, and that's, uh, that's.
Johan: [00:20:03] Well, thank you. Thank you. You're welcome.
Charity: [00:20:06] Last question. Do you think being a writer is a curse, a curse.
Johan: [00:20:12] Um, I'm going to definitely go with a gift. I mean, I think I never planned out to be a writer like that was never really a dream of mine. I was enjoyed stories in that, but I was too busy.
I played a lot of instruments and played sports all through junior high high school. Um, And I started writing because of human trafficking. And I wanted to take all the stories together, uh, that people I'd interviewed survivors. People I'd talk with them that kind of combined into something that was palpable because other people I know they say, Oh, I don't even want to read that book or touch it.
It's just too hard to finish, which it is. Some of them are very difficult. I came away like this is true, but I feel sick inside. And so I wanted to write something that was. A little more palpable that showed the successes and the good things that when people work towards combating it. So that was the first story I wrote and it was awful, but I had some great stuff and I got the writing bug.
Like it turned into something serious, turning a little bit into psych meets iron man, like superhero on like this, this is quite the tone I wanted, but it was fun.
Charity: [00:21:24] See, and I think that is such a powerful thing that you have found this cause that you're passionate about. And like I said earlier, that you can use your fiction to make people more aware of it.
And I can understand how some people may back away from that, because it probably does have, you know, those heavy emotions and topics, but I mean, that's a fact of life and if we don't talk about it, nothing's going to change so kudos to you for, for tackling that.
Johan: [00:21:56] And I think that's the hard thing too.
Sometimes they, uh, They're very, some books are very explicit. They give every single detail and I tried to write like people know what's going on. I don't have to give every single detail and kind of open up the door. So more people are willing to read it. I think that's like bring to the cursor busing.
I think that's been the blessing, like. I found something that I'm passionate about, like that. Cause as well as writing and I had the writing bug and started riding high and sleepless, and I've learned so much, and I think that's the blessing to be able to share your ideas and thoughts, even through fiction.
Like I am sleepless can share a lot of. Good things that, uh, I've had parents read it. Like, my kid really enjoyed this, but I liked some of the messages you have in there. The curse side. Maybe it was the same for you since I started writing. And the more I've I've written, it's harder for me to read some things or to watch movies.
Yes. Because my kids, like, I'll be like, Oh, if I were writing, this is what would happen. Like it's a fad. And then it happens. I'm like, Oh, they should have done this. Cause I'm thinking is like an editor mind going on. Um,
Charity: [00:23:02] And then of course there's always the things that you get to the end and you're like, no, that was not satisfying.
I would do it this way. So I'm always overly
Johan: [00:23:10] critical of everything. Exactly. I, I don't, I still enjoy books and I still enjoy movies, but not quite the same way. Cause it's, you know, your mind, your author mind is thinking about the story the whole time. Yes.
Charity: [00:23:22] Yes. Well, good news is my author. Mind shuts off when I'm reading you.
So you're doing a great job.
Johan: [00:23:27] Okay. Well,
Charity: [00:23:28] thank you. Is there like any kind of going back to the trafficking topic and, and those first, um, books that you wrote, is there like a website that you would recommend people go to? That would be a good source of information and ways that they can get involved. If they're interested in that.
Johan: [00:23:49] Yeah, there, there are about five groups that I really support. And I like the things that they do. I'll just name a couple of them. The first one is international justice mission. Um, so I, I believe it's igm.org. Um, but if you just search international justice mission, that'll come up. They have a lot of different groups around the country, volunteer groups, you can join, but their main focus is go after people legally and they fight and fight for justice.
Um, in a lot of countries. Uh, there, there are laws in almost every country against slavery and human trafficking, but in many of them because of corruption that it's hard to get prosecutions, like you're difficult and they just will fight for years until they get prosecutions. And they also do a lot of aftercare and their goal is if there's no.
Prosecution's people think they can keep doing whatever they want. So they help get people free. They help get a victim's aftercare that's needed and that's, that's crucial, but they've worked for prosecution. Uh, the other one is operation underground railroad and they actually, their goal is they go in and they work with police and law enforcement to go in and raid, especially brothels there.
Their focus is sex trafficking. And they do a lot of great work. They have freed thousands of children, especially in women, um, who have been trafficked into, into brothels. And that that's something too that usually a lot of people talk about sex trafficking, which is. Awful. And they think that's the only type of human trafficking with.
There are so many other forms that happen around the world with bonded labor, where people get stuck and the people who own the farms or the, the looms or the mills, they. The families are just stuck there. They can't leave until they pay off their debt, but they have to live on site and it always costs more for them to live than what they make.
And so there've been generations of families that are stuck in that, or people who are kidnapped and they work on fishing boats and they are stuck at sea for years until they get free. Um, they never touched land, uh, or child soldiers there. There's so many different avenues and things that, uh, just the harsh reality is it's cheaper.
For groups to get slavery then to pay for somebody and to kidnap people it's cheaper. So that's the economics of it. So I'll mention one other group. Um, it's called free the slaves. And because I just thought of them because economics they're run by professor Kevin bales. Um, And he writes a great book called ending slavery, and it goes into the economics of slavery and how we can eradicate it.
And it's very fascinating, very great stories, but kind of a logical approach to how we can really combat it. I
Charity: [00:26:33] think that's wonderful. And hopefully some of our listeners will reach out to find these. Cause I think it's so easy for us to just not pay attention and kind of forget that our world is like that.
And that it is probably way more common than we imagined.
Johan: [00:26:50] Yeah. And if there were one thing I tell people they ask, well, what can I do? Um, you can definitely, you can donate to these groups. There are some volunteer, um, groups in major cities around the country for these nonprofits. But probably the easiest thing I think anyone could do is if you shop on Amazon, which is most people, um, if you shop through smile.amazon.com that's Amazon's website, but it's their non-profit donation version of Amazon.
So if you shop through their percentage of all of your purchases can go to the nonprofit of your choice. And all of those that I listed are on there. So you can pick one and just always shop through there instead of going to regular amazon.com, the prices are the same. Everything's the same, but Amazon will donate a percentage of every thing that you buy to that nonprofit.
Huh? That's wonderful. I've
Charity: [00:27:41] never even heard of that.
Johan: [00:27:42] Yeah. It's a neat side. I came across it and I try to tell people to use that all the time.
Charity: [00:27:47] Okay, so smile.amazon.com and then just business as usual.
Johan: [00:27:53] I wish Amazon just did it as Amazon, not comma. I don't know why they try to make it. Everyone's got to go to smile, just make it part of their website and always donate.
That would be cool, but they don't do that economics.
Charity: [00:28:05] Yeah. Oh, well, that's wonderful that, that they are doing that. And hopefully, maybe we can share that information and. And more people will, will know of that option. Yeah. So thank you for sharing that with us. Okay. So last, let me, I'm just going to read the names of the series.
So book one was SIM two 99 and then we've got the Huntress, which she is a great character to have so many fields for her. And I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm waiting to see her final journey as well.
Johan: [00:28:35] Um, good art for her,
Charity: [00:28:38] all of these characters. There are bad guys, but they're not complete, you know, they're very well-rounded, you can understand their side and see, and, you know, from their history and feel for them and, and want them to find redemption in various ways.
So, um, once again, great job. Uh, book three is traders and then book four just came out this month, dark throne, and I'm assuming they're all on Amazon anywhere else that it can be found.
Johan: [00:29:06] Yep. They're uh, Amazon's is the main place, um, from, I, I don't know what library, some libraries have them, but Amazon's the best place to get them.
Uh, they're available in ebook, paperback, and hardback, and eventually they will be audio book. There'll probably be another year or so for that.
Charity: [00:29:25] Okay. I know you record your own audio books, correct?
Johan: [00:29:30] I have. Yep. Uh, except to, uh, to the others. I have not. And I've done some other audio books for others. Uh, mostly because the main characters are female and I just, wasn't going to do a first person, female, um, narrated book.
Charity: [00:29:44] you again, Johann for being here with us today, and I wish you the best of luck with this new release and any future ones. And. Hopefully we'll get some people to come,
Johan: [00:29:55] come check you out. Yeah, appreciate it. Thanks for having me on. And, uh, we will talk to you later. Good luck with your writing as well.
Look forward to reading your next book that you're working on.
Charity: [00:30:06] I hope you have a
Johan: [00:30:07] great day. You too. Take care. Bye
Charity: [00:30:11] isn't he great. I'm so glad that Johan was able to spend time with us today and let us get to know him a little bit better as well as the things he's passionate about. I will make sure to get
the organization's website links in the production notes, as well as a link to his Amazon page.
Go check out his other novels as well as the, I am sleepless series. Thanks for being with us. And until next time, remember to be kind to each other because we have more in common than we ever choose to see .