Long and Short Reviews welcomes Bryan K. Johnson, whose debut novel Yield releases next week. Yield is the first book in the Armageddia series and has already received rave reviews, including being chosen Book of the Month by our very own readers.
Yield originally started life as a screenplay, because Bryan thought the concept made for a very visual type of story. The act of putting the story together in a traditional screenplay format helped him visualize the scenes, structure the story, and tighten up the dialogue, but it also limited the emotion of the story due to how concise and formatted screenplays have to be.
"I received a lot of feedback from prospective agents and production companies that the screenplay was overwritten and just too literary. So I took a deep breath and jumped in with both feet to expand Yield out into a novel," he explained. "It took some time, but was extremely liberating to be able to flesh out how my characters felt and thought—how the fear inside them was palpable and crippling. It allowed me to really explore my own style of writing and create a much richer story."
He's currently working on the second book of the series and loves the direction it's going. The follow-up book explores a darkening world—one filled with revenge, retributioin, and a desperate struggle to find hope within the chaos.
Even at an early age, Bryan enjoyed sitting down with a good book. He was giving a boxed set of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy when he was in the fifth grade by a teacher.
"Even though some of the language was challenging for a ten-year-old, I really enjoyed the story and the amazing world of Middle Earth that Tolkien created with each word," he told me. "I read a lot in high school, moving into more science fiction and fantasy, enjoying everything from David Eddings and Brian Jacquez to more mainstream authors like Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and Tom Clancy. I remember as I finished up one of Eddings's multi-part series having this odd feeling of disappointment in the pit of my stomach that it was all over. Eddings did such a masterful job of creating rich and memorable characters that they lived on in my mind well after the last page was turned. I honestly felt a little embarrassed that a book could affect me so much. That day, my mom could tell something was bothering me. She looked at me, and very matter-of-factly said, 'Well, just write your own story then. Finish it the way you want.' She said it like it was such an obvious thing. I started writing soon after, first with comic book stories, then screenplays, and finally my debut novel Yield." One of his favorites is Dan Brown's gripping, page-turning style—Bryan read Lost Symbol in two days.
"Sometimes short chapters make things too choppy, but Brown does a great job of hooking his readers at each chapter break and making his stories really hard to put down," he explained.
The original title for Yield was Dark Horizon, because Bryan thought the name had an interesting and suggestive ring to it. However, a movie came out with the same title a couple of years after Bryan started working on the project.
"Even though it was a very different genre, my story was still a screenplay at that time so I decided to just go ahead and change it," he said. "I liked Yield because it wasn't immediately obvious, but had several meanings intrinsically relevant to the story. As a measurement of nuclear force, it has the power to destroy our entire way of life. And as a question of personal strength, it evokes a question as to whether our characters and nation will crumble under almost impossible circumstances."
Bryan does a lot of traveling for his job across the entire state of Oregon (he has regional marketing responsibilities for a statewide television group), so he takes his workspace with him in his laptop, iPad, and Bluetooth keyboard—ready to be powered up at a moment's notice in a hotel room or coffee shop.
"There are some great mind mapping apps and cloud-based writing tools out there for that platform," he told me. "Book two of the Armageddia Series is being written a chapter at a time from the iPad most days, and compiled back on my laptop. Sometimes things just seem to flow better on the iPad. Only one app can be onscreen at a time which helps block out other distractions. Usually when I'm writing, I'm also listening to music."
He's very busy with his day job—not only traveling, but working 50+ hours a week—so his writing time is, in his words, "scattered and chaotic." He writes when he can, while he also balances time with his wife and kids when he's home. While he was writing Yield, he was also finishing up a very challenging MBA program.
"Looking back, I don't know how I juggled everything," he confessed, "but somehow you just do if you're passionate about it."
His kids are now of an age where they are able to do a lot of fun things together as a family.
"Spending time with my kids is something I don't get to do enough of. Riding bikes, playing games— just being together is more important as I get older. Time is the one thing we can never get back," he told me.
"Do you ever suffer from writer's block?" I wondered.
"I think everyone gets writer's block from time to time. Some days the words are flowing and it's all I can do to keep up with them. Other days, they can't be beaten out of me with a sledge hammer. If I'm stumped, I'll jump to a different part of the story or take a step back and try to look from a more macro perspective. Is it a local issue or is there a broader plot, character, or flow problem that needs addressing? Looking a page or two ahead of where I'm blocked and working down from there I also find helpful because it reorients me back to the broader story and helps to show the problem area in context."
About the Author:
Find Bryan online at
Ex-fire chief Devin Bane rises above the thick clouds for an interview in Seattle and the promise of a better life. Packing up his carry-on items for their descent into the city, Devin is blinded by a distant flash, followed by the screams and chaos of a crash landing.
Outside the plane's wreckage, a nightmare surrounds him. Seattle's iconic skyline is gone.
Searching for answers as he flees through the ruins, Devin and a handful of survivors are surrounded by the most primitive side of human nature. Plunged into the darkness of a broken society, their tattered souls are each tested by the horrors they face. Even if Devin can escape the city, a far worse danger now blocks his path back home . . . back to his family and the dawning of a changed world.