SLEEPER: Book 1 of the Toy Soldiers Series

I am extremely pleased to introduce you all to author S. M. Johnston. I was first introduced to her during a Pitch Madness event online, and found her to be extremely helpful to me as well as my fellow aspiring writers.  It wasn’t until after that event that I became aware of her novel SLEEPER.  Since then, I was granted an ARC of it to read, and I took part in her Release Day Blitz, which can be found here:

SLEEPER was quite good, and would appeal to both male and female readers.  I loved her female MC, “Mishca”, as well as the supporting cast that accompanies her.  I also enjoyed the Aussie terms which, being from the US, I was unfamiliar with.  It was great fun to read, and had a very intriguing premise.

I am pleased to be able to present my interview with Ms. S. M. Johnston. 



S. M. Nystoriak:  Welcome, Ms. Johnston!  For me, the best thing about blogging interviews with authors is getting to meet writers from around the world.  If you could, please share with my readers a little bit about where you are from, and what led you to become a writer.

S. M. Johnston:  I live in Mackay, which is in sunny Queensland Australia. I was raised on a steady diet of reading, starting with fables my dad read to me then onto a mix of books growing up. I dabbled in poetry as a teenager, but I didn’t start writing fiction until I was in my 20s. While my dad gave me a love of stories and books, he also taught me to be sensible about jobs, so I didn’t even consider writing as a career when I went to university. I only did it for fun and a way to process events, like the suicide of a friend. A work colleague, who was also a friend, asked to read my stories and then encouraged me to write a novel. She became my alpha reader for SLEEPER and pushed me to finish the story.

S. M. Nystoriak:  A comment:  Your novel, SLEEPER, takes place in Australia.  Being from the States, some of the things you wrote about were very new to me, though I know them to be commonplace “Down Under”.  For instance, the “Gap Year” was a concept I learned about from reading SLEEPER, as well as the term “Uni”, and the references to the sports that Mishca’s father coached.  I enjoyed reading about it, and as I read, I found myself fitting right in!

So many times, we as writers look to ourselves for inspiration in our writing.  Is there anything in SLEEPER that may have stemmed from your own life?  If not, where did the idea come from?

S. M. Johnston:  There’s usually a lot of author insertion in a debut novel, and mine’s not very different. There’s a lot of my personality in the main character, Mishca and I actually had a Himalayan Persian called Smelly Belly. I also was teased a bit about how different I looked from the rest of my family, so I was convinced I was adopted when I was growing up, which may have influenced the story line a bit. But that’s about where it ends. I’ve never had a heart transplant, or suddenly developed super powers, though I wouldn’t mind the latter. The rest of the story came from a ‘what if scenario’, which was the twist at the end. It was what if Mishca met Collin, so the whole plot was geared around those two characters meeting and the fall out afterwards.

S. M. Nystoriak:  In your book, I loved how the relationship between Mishca and Ryder played out from the beginning.  What can you tell us about how those two characters developed themselves during the writing process?  Did you have a clear idea of them from the get-go, or as characters’ often do, did their personalities and qualities evolve as the book was written?

S. M. Johnston:  Thank you! I had a very clear idea about Mishca from the start in the way she looked and behaved, but Ryder was a fun work in progress who came more to life as I wrote the story. His formal speech was an evolution of the plot; especially as it was part way through that I realized there was the opportunity to tell his story in book 2. One of the reasons it worked out this way was originally it was meant to be a Mishca and Collin love story. Then I realized that it was more complicated than that and Ryder appeared.

S. M. Nystoriak:  I loved the “super powers” that Mishca has after her transplant, and for that reason, SLEEPER might make for a really neat film.  Who might you see as a great actor to portray Mishca in a film version of SLEEPER?

S. M. Johnston:  Looks wise, Amandla Stenberg is a great match. She’s a bit young right now, in a few years time she’ll be perfect. An Aussie option is Keenan Macwilliam. She starred in The Saddle Club, an Australian show about girls who ride horses…if you couldn’t tell.

S. M. Nystoriak:  What’s on your iPod (if you have one)?  What would be on Mishca’s?  How about Ryder’s?

S. M. Johnston:  I have a lot of variety – there’s like 120 artists in my music app. Good Charlotte was what I listened to when writing SLEEPER, but I also have a lot of Taylor Swift, AFI, Ben Harper, Lana Delray (have I spelt that right?!), P!nk, Lily Allen, Adele, Daughtry, Jimmy Eat World, John Butler Trio, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, Nine Sons of Dan (Listen to their son Villain! It rocks). Mishca would probably listen to the girlier side of my music: P!nk, Adele, Lily Allen as well Lady Gaga, Kei$ha and more club music. Ryder would listen to Rise Against, 30 Seconds to Mars, 3 Doors Down, Staind, Snow Patrol, Ben Harper as well as Aussie artists like Powder Finger, Silverchair, Pete Murray, John Butler Trio and Grinspoon.

S. M. Nystoriak:  You had some great supporting characters in this book!  If you could do a spin off series, which characters might you feature?

S. M. Johnston:  Sophitia would be a great spin off companion book. She was so much fun to write. I would also love to write a story from Othilia’s point of view. Readers get to see a lot more of her in the second book. The background Nerissa’s family is another story I would love to tell, particularly her parents story. They don’t feature as side characters yet, but their journey is etched in my mind. As the series develops, the readers will get to see a lot more of some of the other side characters, as they step into main character roles.

S. M. Nystoriak:  Finally, SLEEPER is book one in a series of four.  Without giving anything completely away, what can you tell us about the coming installments?

S. M. Johnston:  The four books in the series each follow on Mishca’s story, but books two, three and four will all be dual POV to show the interweaving journey of some of the other characters. Book 2 is Deserter (Mishca/Ryder), Book 3 is Turncoat (Mishca/Nerissa) and Book 4 is Fodder (Mishca/Finlay). Two of Mishca’s friends all have a bigger role in the manifestation of her powers than what is revealed in the first book, while the third is a casualty of the situation, just as Mishca is. There’s a definite theme throughout of these characters coming to terms with who they are and finding their place in the world. Of course, at the same time as they are dealing with this, they also have to confront the threat of the organization that is trying to secure Mishca as an asset and were responsible for her changes.

S. M. Nystoriak:  Thanks so much for participating in my Writer’s Block interviews!  I look forward to following your successes.

SLEEPER can be purchased at Amazon, here:

S. M. Johnston:  Thank you for having me!

I invite you all to connect with Sharon Johnston!  Her links can be found here:

Facebook page: Twitter: Website: Blog:


Goodreads Sleeper Page:

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