About the Book
Book: Capitol in Crisis
Author: Kathy Roy Johnson
Genre: Thriller/Suspense/Christian Thriller
Release date: September 2020
Simone Perez, Architect of the Capitol, is stunned when a terrible explosion which rocks the Capitol, totally collapsing the tunnel which connects the House and Senate Chambers and trapping several people. Simone promptly assembles an Interagency Committee to help her assess the damage to the Capitol and develop a strategy to rescue survivors. . She also assumes responsibility for briefing the press, making her job even more daunting. As the story unfolds, members of the Committee work together to find survivors and bring them to safety. We meet several true-to-life characters like Fire Chief Earl Bentsen who recognizes that time is of the essence and Rob Tate, a skinny maintenance worker who realizes that he can reach the Café as well as the mechanical room by crawling through an old vent space. Through several twists and turns, Simone maintains a steady hand, aided by the Speaker of the House, John McIntyre, who finds her very attractive. Although it seems an impossible task, one by one, victims reunite with their families.
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About the Author
Kathy Roy Johnson worked for a U.S. Senator for three years in the mid 1970’s. Thereafter, she worked as a lobbyist for United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Inc. before joining the Federal government as Congressional Liaison. She retired in 2015 and live in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband, Ed and their beagle/basset hound, Jake.
Interview with Kathy
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I would love to tell you that I have been writing forever—and in a sense that’s true. I have always LOVED to write and I even managed to win a scholarship from Guide Posts Magazine for a story I wrote. Although I began my college career as an English major I soon changed my major and graduated with a B.A. in Psychology. Eventually, I landed a job on Capitol Hill. This began a thirty-eight year career in disability policy. I did plenty of writing during that time, but most public policy writing is technical and—yes—boring! Except for a few pieces for my church’s blog, I didn’t use my creative writing skills.
I had the initial idea for Capitol in Crisis about fifteen years ago. I even took a stab at some rudimentary text. I was still working at the Access Board—a small agency of the Federal government—so I was a ‘weekend writer’. Because I didn’t have the time to devote to my writing, I soon lost my momentum. I stopped writing and forgot about the book. Who was I kidding? I can’t possibly have what it takes to be a writer. However, ideas are stubborn things: the idea was always in the back of my mind. Every now and then, it would nudge itself into my consciousness. When I retired from Federal employment, I began writing in earnest. My dear friend Carol Hooker read every draft, critiquing my work. My first attempts were-frankly-awful. I’d stop working on the book for several weeks. My husband and I would take a trip and relax together. Then a character—or scene would come to me with clarity, perhaps as we drove on the New Jersey Turnpike. I wrote, I refined, I rearranged. Finally, I decided the manuscript was good enough to reach my potential readers!
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Gosh, where shall I begin? First, I have to really care about what I am writing, or it doesn’t work. For example, when I began defining Simone Perez, the main character in Capitol In Crisis, I began to care about her inner struggles, what her priorities are, what things keep her awake at night. It’s that personal connection to the story that helps me keep writing.
One of my many quirks in writing is: I am constantly working on my mechanics! I tend to write with far too many passive verbs. True story: my friend, Carol (referenced above) had me stop writing for a couple of weeks to work on active verbs! This is embarrassing, and I don’t know if other writers have this problem. I will say this: I am much better writer today than I was even one year ago. I also believe that the more you write, the better you become.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to read! Most evenings find me curled up with a good book. My husband and I both love to travel. Although COVID-19 has made that impossible, we’re hoping to resume our travels sometime this summer. We’re planning to visit friends in Ohio and perhaps Florida. Our ultimate goal is to travel to Yosemite and maybe return to Yellowstone National Parks. Finally, I’m a nut about exercise! Some say I spend far too much time on my stationary recumbent bike!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
The thing that surprised me the most is that at least two of my characters invented themselves! For example, I had absolutely no intention of including the press in Capitol In Crisis. I worked on Capitol Hill for three years. One thing I learned early in my career is that members of the press often want details on legislation. In many cases—when legislation is still in the developmental stages—these details aren’t yet completed. So I have a healthy skepticism of the press. Still, I kept asking myself, should I invent a single reporter to act as a ‘Greek chorus’ for the story? Would this further complicate the plot? How involved should the press get with the other characters in the story? I was pondering these questions when out of the blue, Joel Carlson virtually invented himself, jumping onto the page, clearing his throat saying, “Okay, now that we’ve got that decision out of the way, we have a book to write!”
Joel is an expert on House rules, and a curmudgeon to boot. Old coffee cups, half-written memos, and reminders of meetings that took place months ago perpetually clutter his desk. Joel is brilliant and the Washington Post knows that in him, they have a gem. Through Joel, we learn some of the details of Capitol in Crisis and through his eyes, we gain an appreciation of the complexity of the Hill. That’s how one of my characters invented himself!
What do you think makes a good story?
I look for two things in a good story. First, I like strong characters who I care about. One of my very favorite authors, Jan Karon, has a wonderful ability to develop characters to whom the reader can relate. I’ve really tried to give my readers a similar reading experience so that the people you meet are similar to folks you interact with every day.
The other characteristic I think is crucial to a good story is movement. I’m an avid John Grisham reader and the thing I most admire about Mr. Grisham (other than the fact that I’ll never be as skilled as he) is the fact that he doesn’t leave you in one place very long. He moves the story along, drawing you into the story. Conversely, I recently read a novel that one a Pulitzer Prize, which was a painful read because it went on for pages in circuitous prose. Now obviously, this was a great book. I much prefer a story that moves along!
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