Sarah L. Johnson is a Canadian author of gritty, offbeat, and genre-defying literature. Her short story collection Suicide Stitch, received critical acclaim from Cemetery Dance and Locus Magazine and appeared on the Calgary Herald Bestseller list for five weeks running, two of those at number one.
The key to Sarah’s success is in her intelligent writing and devotion to the craft. This formula could never be more evident than with the launch of Johnson’s debut sci-fi/fantasy, Infractus on April 10th. Published by Coffin Hop Press, a Canadian publisher with a focus on dark crime, weird tales, and pulp fiction. Infractus creates a complex world coupled with a dark message.
FB: Sarah, you are the Literary Events Manager at Owl’s Nest Books in Calgary. You are also a bestselling writer of short stories. When did words first become integral to your life?
SLJ: As a young kid, I was a slow reader, a couple of grade levels below where I should have been for most of elementary school. When the comprehension finally did fall into place it kindled a world-eating appetite for stories. Most of my childhood, outside of school, was spent with my nose in a book and not much has changed since. I didn’t actually start writing until I turned 30, and I maintain that good reading is essential to good writing.
FB: How did you choose your path into speculative fiction? Was there a particular book that inspired you?
SLJ: There’s something irresistible about complicating the rules of the world we know. Those are the stories I love to read, whether speculative or not. People discovering that their reality isn’t what they thought. As for inspiration, there’s too many to list, but I will say that I’ve mined a heck of a lot of material from the Bible.
FB: You also write fantasy, noir and horror. As a writer, is there a go-to genre when you feel either stuck or in need of relaxation?
SLJ: Genre is about the last thing I think about when I write a story. It is what it is, and when it’s finished I try to figure out genre. My stuff tends to be dark, but sometimes I wonder if I’ve become lazy. It’s easier to write dark, gritty, and nihilist, than it is to create something authentically happy and hopeful. I need to try it some day…
FB: Speaking of horror, you released a short story collection called Suicide Stitch, which received numerous accolades. The book itself contains eleven stories exploring the sinister side of love. Which is your favourite one?
SLJ: I’d have to say my favourite is the title story “Suicide Stitch”. Each piece in the collection is a love story and this one is about sisters. I had a terrible time writing it because it scared me. Grief is the deepest kind of horror and while I’m pleased with how it turned out, I’m not sure how many stories like that I could write and not lose my mind.
FB: Infractus is your début novel, a post apocalyptic SF story, published by Coffin Hop Press. Tell us about the journey that brought you to it.
SLJ: Being raised Mormon is what brought me to it. The church and I parted ways two decades ago, but all that scripture study in my formative years led to much speculation later on. I concluded that if God did exist, He wouldn’t be a perfect, benevolent, all-knowing creator of humankind. There’s way too much shit that goes on down here. It’s pretty clear the inmates are running the institution. No, God would be a beleaguered single dad making a lot of mistakes. What if we got ourselves into some serious world-ending trouble and God couldn’t help? What if it came down to a group of His kids, the bad ones, to save us all?
FB: Did you draw any inspiration from the likes of Mad Max for Infractus?
SLJ: A bit. I’ve put both post-apocalyptic tropes to work in the novel. There’s an emerging utopia juxtaposed with a nuclear wasteland. The idea being that safety and security come at the cost of liberty and privacy. And road pirates are just fun to write.
Infractus is set to release on April 10th with an actual launch on April 19th.
What is the book about:
Abandoned as a newborn, a nameless boy roams the streets of Vancouver like a mouse, living by few rules, under the wing of a charismatic grifter, while a voice in his head whispers very bad things in the night. When a terrorist attack destroys the global balance of power, society bleeds into anarchy. For the mouse to survive, his rules have to change.
From the ashes of chaos, Panopticon rises, a shadow regime exercising
control through surveillance, and the occasional act of erasure. The mouse – now a man – becomes an invisible assassin in their New World Order. It’s a dirty job, but for a nameless
misanthrope with a terrible voice in his head, it’s just about perfect. At least, until he’s nearly decapitated by a strange woman with an even stranger proclamation of looming Armageddon. She offers him a choice: help her destroy Panopticon or take a seat for the end of the world.
The voice in his head has been biding its time, armed with a secret as old as time, as old as the world itself. It waits to speak an ancient name that will invite a reckoning. An edgy, subversive apocalypse tale that explores the depths of human existence and the heights of our collective fears.