#TTBF14 Interview: Alaya Dawn Johnson

alaya dawn johnson

~Post by Willa

Alayna Dawn Johnson is the author of over 20 works, her most recent being Love is the Drug, a story of Bird, a teenager girl living in Washington, DC who wakes up in a hospital with no recollection of what has happened to her. Johnson grew up in Washington, DC, and that experience deeply inspired her most recent novel.

“I went to this private school in DC – you know the kind of school with a lot of politicians children of that high pressure DC world, and also some scholarship students with a weird mix of DC life… That whole experience has always been my head, it’s just one of those weird sort of things that nobody really talks about, especially that interaction,” Johnson said.

This idea for the plot was not only from her experience in DC as a teenager, but also a vision she had, that would become the beginning of Love is the Drug.

“I woke up one morning with this vision of this girl waking up in the hospital and having missing days… and then there would be some sort of horrible political events while she was in the coma. And then I realized those two things could go together, and that’s where it came from.”

As far as research, especially the political world that is very present in the novel, Johnson pulled from a mix of personal experience, discussion with friends, and also the news. Stories of her sister in high school in DC, as well as DC’s reaction to various incidents during and after 9/11 influenced the plot as well as the characters of the novel.

“I lot of the political stuff was based on my experience during 9/11. I was in New York at the time, and I was at Columbia as a sophomore. But my sister was at Jack & Jill at the time, and what she told me… and an incident in DC with a sniper, which was the actual definition of terror… So over the course of time, the city just got more and more locked down.”

*Spoiler alert!* While writing, she said that she has a very broad notion going in, and then stays about 20% ahead. “With this end, I didn’t even realize Coffee was going to get sick until the very very end of the novel,” Johnson said.

As far as the future of her writing, Johnson is trying to finish an adult novel, and after that is starting another sci-fi YA novel about a girl who lives in a library haunted by books in a world that is a flat disc. “It’s a book that I’m writing so it’ll be absurdly complicated and hard to follow,” she said with a laugh.

Johnson’s most recent YA novel is Love is the Drug.