Photo Credit: M. Patterson
RM Johnson is the author of several novels including the Essence bestseller THE MILLION DOLLAR DIVORCE. Johnson is best known for writing compelling stories about the struggles and challenges of the African American community. The Chicago born-Atlanta resident talks about his latest novel NO ONE IN THE WORLD which he co-authored with the late E. Lynn Harris.
PRIDEINDEX: You are certainly no stranger to the publishing world, you are the recipient of the African American Art Alliance Award for Outstanding Fiction. Tell us more about that and how does it feel to be recognized for your work?
RM: I was given that award for THE MILLION DOLLAR DIVORCE back in 2005. It was my first award and it means the most to me right now. I never saw myself as an award winning author, so to be recognized in that way was both surprising and truly fulfilling.
PI: What do you want your fans to take away from on NO ONE IN THE WORLD?
RM: I want them to be entertained intrigued, and most of all, benefit from, possibly, the last opportunity to enjoy the work of a master storyteller, E. Lynn Harris.
PI: What is your earliest memory of being a writer and when/where were you first published?
RM: I was first published in 1999. My first great memory was coming home for lunch from The University of Chicago Hospital where I worked as an x-ray tech, and hearing the message on my answering machine. It was from a New York literary agent telling me she loved the THE HARRIS MEN manuscript, and asked if she could represent me. I knew that moment I would become a published author.
PI: Tell us more about your humble beginnings here in Chicago; which part of town where you raised and did your upbringing influence your writing?
RM: I was raised in Beverly in the seventies and eighties. It was a beautiful neighborhood, and we lived in a great house, but we had hard times. Food stamps, government aid, the works. There were times when the family went without a car, a time without heat and once without electricity. I attributed a lot of that to my father walking out on us when I was young. It had a profound effect on my life, so much so, that my first book was based on that time.
PI: How did you first become acquainted with E. Lynn Harris? What was it like to collaborate with him on NO ONE IN THE WORLD?
RM: E. Lynn and I met at a book release party for Omar Tyree back in 1999. I was introduced to him by a lawyer friend of mine. Immediately after hearing that my book was coming out, he told me if I needed any help with marketing, he’d give me a hand. I later found out he did that with many new writers. That was the kind of man he was—completely selfless. Collaborating on the book with him was easier than I thought it would be. It was actually fun. The ideas came easy, along with the characters and the story. I think all of our fans will love it.
PI: Why did you wait so long after his death to release it?
RM: It was supposed to have originally been released for last November. That didn’t work out. There were all sorts of red tape, legal stuff, you name it. I would’ve released the book sooner. It was really the publisher’s decision to release it for June.
PI: I understand you’re going to be all over the place promoting this book when and where do you plan on going?
RM: All over the place about describes it best. I’m really concentrating on the southern region, though. If interested, it’s best to just check my website for the list of appearances. www.RMJohnson.net.
PI: If NO ONE IN THE WORLD were adapted into a screenplay who would you cast in the lead role of Eric Reed, why?
RM: Eric and Cobi are the two main male characters and they are twins, so the actor would play both. I would cast Laz Alonso, the guy from “Jumping the Broom.” I think he’d be right for the role.
PI: What would you like to tell us about THE MILLION DOLLAR series coming up later in the spring of 2012?
RM: Ah yes, the next book in THE MILLION DOLLAR series. I’m editing it now. It’s a good one! The brothers from my first series, THE HARRIS MEN will be in the book, along with THE MILLION DOLLAR characters. It picks up just where I left off in MILLION DOLLAR DEMISE and we get filled in on all the drama. I really can’t say much more other than this book will be the last before the final book that wraps up the series, MONICA’S REVENGE.
PI: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
RM: I just want to thank all of you for your support over the years. Check out NO ONE IN THE WORLD, available everywhere June 7th, you’ll love it. Oh yeah, I just released an e-book entitled KEEPING THE SECRET. It’s about two boys—one who is uncertain about his sexuality, another who is gay, but is, bullied about it, and sets out to seek revenge against the boys who had beaten him up.