{June 2013 Interview} R.M. Johnson

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It is always fun to sit down and chat with R.M. Johnson about his books. This man is a master storyteller who burst on the scene with his first book The Harris Men, and we caught up to chat about his latest novel Bishop about a Atlanta preacher who have a lot of secrets that start to unfold. Sit back and enjoy this interview.

A Cleavester Interview

Cleavester: RM, RM, RM, you have created another highly entertaining masterpiece. Tell the readers about your new book ‘Bishop’?
RM Johnson: Bishop is the story of the most successful, most influential spiritual leader in the south. He brought himself up from poverty, but is still affected by his devastating past. Three boys accuse Bishop Lakes of molesting them when they were members of his church’s boy’s youth ministry. This news affects Bishop Lakes’s already fragile marriage, and threatens to destroy everything he spent his life building. Meanwhile, his wife Marian deals with the advances of her newly hired, very sexy personal assistant. She questions giving herself to him since Larry no longer shows her affection of any kind. The story is also told from Van Meyer’s point of view. He is one of the boys that was alleged molested by Bishop Lakes. Van struggles to deal with his emotions and the living nightmare his abuse has made his life.

Cleavester: Where did the inspiration for this book come from? I must say when I first read the synopsis, “I said this is the untold of Bishop Eddie Long;” but when I read the book completely “I said there are some similarities between the two, but Bishop Larry Lakes is very different from Bishop Long.”
RM Johnson: Many people will believe that. I won’t say that is the case, although there might be some unintended similarities between the two stories. I’ve never really been a huge fan of the massive mega churches, often times built in lower class neighborhoods. I call them churchoplexes because they remind me of the multi-theater cineplexes that have been popping up over the last couple of decades. I know many of the leaders of these churches are legitimate, but many of them aren’t. Some of them take advantage of their following, take more money from them they need. These leaders are exposed everyday. I thought the story, the setting, the potential drama and the emotion due to the abuse committed would make for an interesting story. I will say, living here in Atlanta, watching that other case unfold, I could not turn away. I believe this novel when read, will have a similar affect on the reader.Bishop by-RM Johnson

Cleavester: In the book you covered a lot of the politics of the church. What kind of research did you do in order to write ‘Bishop’?
RM Johnson: I’m not a huge church-goer, but I made several visits for this book to “get the feel” of the church. I did quite of bit of research for the character of Bishop Larry Lakes. I researched church leaders who were accused of sexual molestation and similar crimes, as well as many of the victims. I wanted to get an idea of how such a horrible betrayal could affect those deceived.

Cleavester: Please give the readers a brief bio on you the person and you as a writer?
RM Johnson: I’m a U.S. Army veteran. I hold an MFA in creative writing. I was born and raised in Chicago, IL. I currently reside in Atlanta, GA. I always wanted to be an artist of some sort, but realized I would pursue writing in 1991.
I’ve been writing since then, and published my first novel, THE HARRIS MEN in 1999. I’ve written sixteen novels since and still enjoy much of the process. I hope to write for the rest of my life. If you’d like to know more about me, please visit RM-Johnson.com.

Cleavester: This July will be the 4th Anniversary E. Lynn Harris died and y’all collaborated on what was suppose to be a 3 book series. Please give us and idea of what the other 2 books was suppose to cover. Will you continue with the series or is book one it?
RM Johnson: Yes, I, as well as I’m sure millions others miss our dear friend E. Lynn Harris. He was a great talent, and I was blessed that he considered me a friend and that he co-authored the last book he wrote with me. The series was supposed to more or less follow these twin brothers, separated when infants and reunited when in their thirties. One is gay, the other straight. One raised by an affluent family, the other in foster care. One is a successful attorney, the other a career criminal. Lynn and I planned for this series of books to be a kind of open discussion about class—poverty and wealth, and also about gay men and straight men. How we see things differently and our similarities. We were both very excited about the project. It was something we had planned to write for more than five years. I’m sorry we weren’t able to complete it, but I am so thankful for the experience we had writing the first book of that planned series.

Cleavester: What can we expect in book two and three in the Bishop series?
RM Johnson: Bishop Larry Lakes goes to trial to defend himself against the allegations the boys make against him. Things develop with Marian and Paul, Van attempts to win back his wife and child, tensions tighten between Larry and Marian due to the impending trial, and most of Larry’s secrets come out, which will have a overwhelming affect on his private and professional life.
Not sure if Larry will win or lose in court, but I do know, many of the people he trusted to support him have left his side, and he vows to get revenge against them. Something tells me he might lose everything—his church, his kids, his wife. But Larry is a fighter with a very good memory, and an incredibly supportive ride-or-die side chick named Shreeva that will do anything, include killing, to support her man in distress.

Cleavester: What can we expect from you in the future, besides book 2 of Bishop?RM Johnson 1
RM Johnson: Yes, there will be a Bishop 2, as well as 3. But I believe I’m moving in a different direction with my writing. I think I’ve gone as far as I care to in this genre. As a freshman writer, I always thought I would write about whatever I chose. I feel as though I’ve been writing in a box for so many of the last years. Arguably, it was a box that my publisher stuffed me in, or maybe something I stepped into myself, or maybe something my fans just expected from me. Either way, I’m choosing to broaden the subject matter I plan to write about. With the advancements in self-publishing, there are many new writers to continue to write the stories many of us black writers have been writing, and I know they will do a great job doing that.
But I will write more commercial fiction, more high concept fiction—pretty much whatever interests me, opposed to what publishers believe I should write. I hope my fans will find my new work as entertaining as my previous offerings.
Please visit RM Johnson’s website RM-Johnson.com
Friend him on Facebook @ facebook.com/rmnovels
Follow him on Twitter @ Twitter.com/marcusarts
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