Writer Of The Week: Lesley-Anne Johnston

This week's 'Writer Of The Week', Lesley-Anne Johnston,; cheerful brunette in orange top.

Your story, ‘Operation Garden Gnome’, appears in our June 1 issue. What was the inspiration behind it?

Before the pandemic, I was trying to think up ideas for a cosy crime story, and one of the original elements was related to a missing gnome.

I never actually wrote that story, but the idea of a gnome going missing reminded me of the 1990s, when gnomes going on their holidays and sending back postcards was a bit of a thing.

I held onto the idea, determined to find a way to fit it into a story, when I bought a gnome dressed in the football colours of Heart of Midlothian – my favourite football team.

It helped me to think of new ways to take the gnome idea forward, and that’s where the story came from.

Do you write stories all in one sitting, or do you go through several drafts before submitting?

I tend to write in one sitting, then read a couple of times to change sentences around or fix punctuation.

The word count tends to alter a few times by ten or so words, but I don’t do drafts or multiple changes.

I tend to know straightaway if it doesn’t feel right for me, and either change elements or scrap it.

I sometimes doubt myself when I do it like this. I wonder if I’m doing it wrong when I hear of people doing second or third drafts etc, and wonder if I should be taking more time over it.

But in all my work over the years, I’ve worked like this, from song lyrics to stories and plays, and it works for me somehow.

How long does the process from idea to submission take?

If the idea is strong in my mind, and with no distractions, I can write a story and submit it in a working day.

I’ve been writing while my daughter is at college lately. I start at around 9.30am and can have a story complete by 3.30pm, with a break for lunch.

I know that might sound crazy, but I think the silence of the library I write in helps.

Comedy can be one of the trickiest subjects to write. Which is your favourite genre to write/read?

I agree, comedy can be really tricky but I like to write stories that create a giggle.

I don’t know if I would say I’m a comedy writer, as the work comedy writers do is really clever, but I do like to add a bit of fun to my stories. I like to think people laugh ‘with’ the characters.

I find sad stories hard to write. I sometimes think I’m being too dramatic with them, or feel a bit down when I’m writing them. I always need to add a bit of humour into them to brighten them up.

When I read, I’m a bit eclectic. I like a giggle but I’m not averse to a right good cry over a book every now and again.

I like a story that keeps me hooked.

Do you ever write in other formats?

I wrote poetry as a teenager and submitted my poems to a local newspaper under a pen name.

As I got older, I took that skill to lyric writing and would say I write more lyrics than poetry now.

I had a bit of a career as a top line writer for dance music songs. I always got a thrill hearing people singing my lyrics at festivals etc, or reading comments on YouTube videos from people saying they related to one of my lyrics.

Who are your favourite authors?

I like the work of Alan Bissett. His book ‘Boyracers’ was probably the first proper grown up book I read as a nineteen-year-old, when moving on from young adult books.

I’ve found myself reading a lot of his work over the years, from books to plays.

I still have a very childish streak when reading though, and love a well-written children’s book. I think it might be because I loved the book ‘In A Blue Velvet Dress’ by Catherine Sefton, as a child – and still do, so I often find myself reading new works by Emma Carroll.

She writes really good stories for children, to the backdrop of historical events, with a nice wedge of the mysterious and spooky.

What are your writing goals for the future?

I am writing a children’s novel, which I will complete and send to publishers once I’m not procrastinating by taking off on road trips to the beach all the time and calling it ‘research.’

I also hope to write more stories for the ‘Friend’ and continue to see them published.

I might even write a pantomime, it’s good to challenge myself I reckon!


Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!