Monday, March 17, 2014

Madison Johns - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Madison Johns. She is the Author of the Amazon bestselling Agnes Barton senior sleuth mystery series.

Author Genre: Sleuth Mystery,Cozy Mystery,Romance

Website: Author Madison Johns
Author's Blog: Author Madison Johns
Twitter: @madisonjohns11
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Author Description:
Madison Johns began writing at the age off 44 without any prior education or formal training. Although sleep deprived from working third shift, she knew if she used what she had learned while caring for senior citizens to good use, it would result in something quite unique. In 2012 she unleashed her first Agnes Barton mystery, Armed and Outrageous, onto the publishing scene opting to become an independent author. In has gone on to be her first Amazon bestseller. In 2013 she published two other books in the Agnes Barton series and they like the first, have went on to become bestsellers in both the cozy and humor categories. Her Agnes Barton series features two senior aged ladies digging up clues with enough laugh aloud antics to cause James Bond to blush. It features zany and quirky characters that are easy to fall in love with.

She has also published a romance novella, Pretty and Pregnant, in 2013. In October of 2013, Tirgearr Publishing published her romance novel, Redneck Romance.

Madison is now able to do what she loves best and work from home as a full time writer. She has two children and black lab to keep her company while she churns out more Agnes Barton stories with a few others brewing in the pot.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on your books: Senior Snoops - Grannies, Guns and Ghosts. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

I have four Agnes Barton books out, Armed and Outrageous, Grannies, Guns and Ghosts, Senior Snoops, and Trouble in Tawas, with a box set of the first three books.

Next up is book five, Treasure in Tawas... I also have a crossover mystery, Pretty, Hip & Dead, featuring Agnes and Kimberly Steele, a character from my novella Pretty and Pregnant awaiting a first edit. Here’s a sneak peak of Treasure in Tawas.

Cop cars roared into the drive of the Butler Mansion and skidded to a halt. Then heavy feet pounded up the few steps that led to the door. My best friend Eleanor (or “El” for short) Mason and I froze in our tracks as the flashing bubble lights blasted through the sheer curtains. I’m Agnes Barton and I’m a senior sleuth. Eleanor is my partner and we’re here in the Butler Mansion, which was the sight of a couple of murders a while ago. At that time Herman Butler had fallen from a third story window. Now, there seems to be more trouble in the mansion. We were led to believe that a portrait of one of the Butler’s descendants had been stolen. Problem is that we weren’t exactly let inside; we used the key that was located in a real estate lock box. My daughter Martha is working as a real estate agent and I kind of “borrowed” the key to take a look around.

“I told you they had a silent alarm,” Eleanor said in an “I-told-you-so” voice.

I slapped myself on the head. “How on earth are we gonna explain ourselves out of this one?”

Eleanor shrugged. “Beats me, but somehow I see a trip to the pokey over this one. I mean, we are breaking and entering.”

“It’s not like I have a choice. Martha refused to let us in to check things out.”

“She sure takes her job seriously. You have to admire her for that.”

I pushed Eleanor along the hallway that led to the back door, where we exited the mansion. We pressed our bodies against the over-grown ivy walls until I felt it was safe to move toward the woods. We didn’t make it even two feet before we heard Sheriff Peterson’s shout, “Freeze!”

El and I raised our arms and the sheriff moved toward us, his eyes narrowed. “What in tarnation,” he bellowed. “What are you two doing here?”

“Actually, I was thinking about buying the place,” I lied.

“I doubt your social security check will cover that one.”

I waved the key in his face. “I have a key. How was I to know there was a silent alarm?”

“Which means you obviously don’t have permission to be here. Did Martha give you the key?”

I was tempted to just lie and say yes, but I didn’t want to get my daughter into trouble at the real estate office. “Not exactly, but the reason we’re here is—”

Peterson yanked up the waistband of his brown trousers. “I don’t care what the reason is, you’re both under arrest.”

No sense in arguing with the man, so we followed him to the front yard, Trooper Sales stood. When he saw us, he raised his brow. “Figures. Stay right here while we do a sweep of the house.”

The cops entered the mansion. It wasn’t long before one of them came back with a major newsflash “There’s a body in here!”

“I ought to know a body when I see one,” the trooper said. “It’s an old lady, too.”

“What do you mean, too? Like you think we’re old?” El asked.

“Yeah, you both are. Aren’t you two kinda old to off another old lady?”

I stepped forward. “Now, you listen here young man. Even if you found a body here, it doesn’t mean that we’re responsible. We only came here to see if a painting of the Butler descendants was stolen, that’s all.”

Sheriff Peterson gnashed his teeth together. “Please say you don’t buy in to that nonsense about a treasure map hidden in a painting here?”

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Did you use forums, newsletters and methods like that?

Twitter is still a mystery to me. It’s not hard to find followers in my opinion; it just takes time out of you day to really interact on there. I much prefer to interact on Facebook. It’s there that I feel I have the biggest impact. I’m active on the groups and I promo on them. I have even been invited into a secret writers group that has only five people in it. Truly an honor to be invited.

My main Facebook page, I interact daily with my friends and fans alike. It’s very engaging and they have supported me through out some tough times last September. I feel social networking in very important. I just built it from the ground up and I always tried to be positive and that’s caught on in a big way. I knew I was looking for people who loved mystery and I found them in a big way without really trying too, but many of the groups I’m in are mystery related. I didn’t start my newsletter list until later and I wish I had built it sooner.

Do you do book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

So far I haven’t done any of those things. I have tons of ideas, but so far they haven’t been implemented. I have done some blog talk radio interviews or blog tours and interviews.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

In the beginning my covers were not like that and it took a long time before I found my cover artist. I use the same one Leighann Dobbs has, an author I greatly admire. I’m proud to say they all have a signature look and exactly what I wanted. I send Susan my book blurb and she comes up with some great ideas. She works on mock ups for my approval, and we make changes accordingly. I’d be happy to ask my reader for their input, but I’ve never been at a point where I couldn’t make a decision. Too many opinions in the mix might not be the best of plans.

You have written several short stories. Can you tell us if they had an impact on the sales of your novels? Are shorty’s one of your styles of writing or are they created to give readers a sample of your work?

I did a short story collection and it was the first sample of my work, but since then I went another way. My novella Pretty and Pregnant is good example of a way to test out the waters in another genre for me.

Unfortunately, it’s not a great seller for me. In my experience people like longer books. My average word length is 50,000 words. They read quicker, but nobody complains that it was rushed that way, or not developed enough. The shorter the story is the harder it is to fit everything in. I have since decided that novels sell better for me, but then again, romance is a whole new area for me and I just don’t have the fan base to support it. One of the reasons I spun my Kimberly Steele character into a crossover cozy mystery with my Agnes Barton character.

I like the idea of bundling a series of novels. You have put together a set of your novels called Agnes Barton Senior Sleuth Mysteries. What was the impact on your other sales? What was your main objective in bundling your novels?

Great question. I had in depth decisions about this very subject with fellow writers. Box sets are also very popular these days. Everyone seems to have one or should. I boxed my books to make it a good value for readers who might have just discovered my books. It has absolutely no impact on my single titles. My single titles way outsell my box set. Having a box set also has marketing potential down the road.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

September of 2012 I did a five day free run on Amazon with the KDP Select with my book Armed and Outrageous. It was hugely successful for me as my book make it to number one for free overall. When it went back to full price I had a huge second month with over two hundred borrows. That lasted for a few months and then it went back to normal. I submitted to tons of websites and blogs to advertise my free book, which is how it climbed up that high I think. Amazon has made changes and now, it’s not so easy to get those residual sales after a free promo. I pulled my books out of KDP Select and no longer offer free books unless I give a book away for a contest. I think it works to find new reader or get yourself known, but there are many negatives too. People will pick up a free book and leave a scathing review because it just wasn’t a genre they’d like to read.

Also most of those books are never read at all. I want people to read my books. Overall it was a great experience, but these days I do bargain book ads. I much prefer my books to be more than one place, not just on Amazon.

How do you start your book launch process for a new book? Give a brief outline of the steps you go through to get your book to market. What methods were the most successful?

I always chat up my book throughout the process. I do a cover reveal a few weeks before and post the book blurb on both my author page on Facebook and my regular page with a blog posting as well. Once the book is released, I send out a newsletter announcing it. I have done book launch parties, but to be truthful they haven’t helped me accumulate sales so I’ve abandoned the idea.

What has been your experience with book tours? Did they contribute to the increase of your book sales?

I’ve done blog tours, but as for me, they just have never generated sales. I much prefer to do an occasional blog stop or interview. They are also a ton of work if it’s a big tour. I’d rather focus on writing more. The most important way to increase sales is to continue to write and publish books. If you’ve been fortunate as I have been to develop a unique cast of characters, you stick with it. You listen to your readers and continue a successful series.

Now to the good stuff. Thanks for the picture of the Bacon wrapped asparagus. It brought back memories. Had you thought about doing an Agnes Barton Cookbook? Your reading audience would probably like that. (I already started brainstorming the mystery dishes that could be included.)

No, but that sounds like fun. Thanks for featuring me in the author spotlight.

Author's Book List
Agnes Barton Senior Sleuth Mysteries Box Set - An Agnes Barton senior sleuth mystery
Hilarious senior sleuths, books 1 - 3.

Armed and Outrageous

Agnes Barton is not your typical senior citizen living in Tadium, MI, on the shores of Lake Huron. She drives a red hot Mustang, shops at Victoria's Secret, rankles local police officials, and has a knack for sticking her nose where it doesn't belong… (Complete Description Below)

Grannies, Guns and Ghosts

Senior snoop, Agnes Barton, has taken up residence in a Winnebago at a campground in East Tawas, Michigan. It’s not the ideal place for a woman of seventy-two to live, but she’s making do. She had planned to start a detective agency with partner in crime, Eleanor Mason, but a snag with the license has them free wheeling it, not that it matters because they are the ones folks call when dead bodies turn up… (Complete Description Below)

Senior Snoops

True to his words, Sheriff Clem Peterson sends Agnes Barton and Eleanor Mason packing to Florida via a Cessna, but things go haywire when during a fuel stop, two men shoot the pilot. Agnes springs into action slamming the door just as shots are fired while Frank Alton jumps into the cockpit flying them out of there… (Complete Description Below)

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Armed & Outrageous - An Agnes Barton Mystery
Senior sleuth — Grandma Mazur meets Murder She Wrote — cozy mystery.
Agnes Barton is not your typical senior citizen living in Tadium, MI, on the shores of Lake Huron. She drives a red hot Mustang, shops at Victoria's Secret, rankles local police officials, and has a knack for sticking her nose where it doesn't belong.

What does a murder that happened forty-three years ago have to do with missing tourist Jennifer Martin? Agnes makes it her personal mission to find out, and she's not letting the fact she's seventy-two get in the way. Butting heads with Sheriff Clem Peterson is something she's accustomed to, but lately Clem seems to be acting even more strange, making Agnes wonder what he may be hiding ala the Martin disappearance.

Agnes’ partner in crime, Eleanor Mason tags along, Watson to her Holmes. Together, they unearth clues. If only Eleanor would behave, as although lovable, she has a knack for getting into trouble by tangling with her rival, Dorothy Alton, or flirting with anyone—male or female—and gossiping! She's incorrigible, but she does carry a Pink Lady revolver in her purse, one that has proved useful at times.

Life for Agnes and Eleanor is shaken up when Agnes' former boss and secret crush comes to Tadium. Before long, the lady sleuths have more on their hands to contend with as goons roll into town and bullets begin to fly.

Adult content.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Grannies, Guns and Ghosts - An Agnes Barton Mystery
Hilarious sleuths Agnes Barton and Eleanor Mason aren't afraid of no ghost.

Senior snoop, Agnes Barton, has taken up residence in a Winnebago at a campground in East Tawas, Michigan. It’s not the ideal place for a woman of seventy-two to live, but she’s making do. She had planned to start a detective agency with partner in crime, Eleanor Mason, but a snag with the license has them free wheeling it, not that it matters because they are the ones folks call when dead bodies turn up.

A frantic phone call has Agnes and Eleanor racing to the scene of yet another crime scene. Herman Butler has fallen to his death from a third story window, and the widow, Betty Lou, is beside herself with either grief or competing for the Oscars, and it’s up to Agnes and Eleanor to unravel the mystery, which gets more interesting when a ghost is listed as a possible suspect.

This time around, Agnes and Sheriff Peterson can agree, the widow is nuts, but wait, a few days later the ghost ship, Erie Board of Trades, was spotted off the shores of Lake Huron. Ghost hunters, G.A.S.P., hightail it into town, and East Tawas is overrun with ghost sightings.

Agnes and Eleanor must sort fact from fantasy before another body is found or a curse is realized.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Senior Snoops - An Agnes Barton senior sleuth mystery
Hilarious sleuths Agnes Barton and Eleanor Mason head to Florida for the winter.

True to his words, Sheriff Clem Peterson sends Agnes Barton and Eleanor Mason packing to Florida via a Cessna, but things go haywire when during a fuel stop, two men shoot the pilot. Agnes springs into action slamming the door just as shots are fired while Frank Alton jumps into the cockpit flying them out of there.

When they land in Florida, they’re asked tough questions by Putner and Palmer from Homeland Security. They keep asking if they found a packet on board the plane, a packet that Agnes has tucked in her purse, but they never mention what’s in the packet. She decides to hold onto it; after all it contains twenty-five thousand in cash.

Sheriff Calvin Peterson, Sheriff Clem Peterson’s brother, picks them up from the airport in Florida, but tells them the bad news. His brother Clem made arrangements for them to stay at Sunny Brooke Retirement Village and work as the hired help to pay for their room and board. They go unwillingly, but discover in town that two maids have disappeared at Sunny Brooke.

It’s a race against the clock; will Agnes and Eleanor solve the case of the missing maids and finally figure out what happened to their pilot before they also show up on a milk jug?

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Trouble in Tawas - An Agnes Barton Senior Sleuths Mystery
Hilarious sleuths Agnes Barton and Eleanor Mason return in book four.

Agnes Barton has been waiting years for this day. She’s always told Sheriff Peterson he would rue the day when his re-election time came around and now — it’s finally here. What will Agnes do? Will she cause conflict or support the other candidate?

When the sheriff’s father Hal goes missing, Agnes and Eleanor Mason are on a mission to find him, leading them to the Soaring Eagle Casino. But when they haul him home it’s only to find that his companion, Raul Perez, is dead at the bottom of the stairs. When the cops show up it doesn’t look good for Hal who is in possession of the dead man’s credit card. With Hal now as a suspect, and Sheriff Peterson off the case, the sheriff hires Agnes and Eleanor to clear his father’s name.

Will Agnes be able to clear Hal’s name in time to save Peterson from failure at the polls or is this case too bizarre as a tenant claims aliens are involved?

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Redneck Romance
Twenty-year-old Kelly Gray arrives in the mountainous area of North Carolina, deep in Redneck land, intent on journeying into the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness to take fall pictures, which she hopes to sell to National Geographic. That is until she runs out of gas and needs to enlist the help of Jimmy Bob Willows, a redneck with sexy blue eyes. While he filled her tank with gas, she threw caution to the wind and hired him as a guide, ignoring the fact of how dangerous it may be. Hiring a man whom she doesn't even know, a man who insists on calling her, City.

Experienced mountain man Jimmy Bob Willows leads the inexperienced Kelly into the mountains, teaching her how to survive in the wilderness. This is a new experience for Kelly as she has never been out from under her mother’s thumb before, but she embraces what Jimmy Bob is teaching her, and for once in her life, she’s on a real adventure, one that results in Jimmy Bob saving Kelly from a copperhead snake and moonshiners!

Kelly fights the growing attraction between them, but will it be a losing battle?

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
Pretty and Pregnant - Romantic Comedy Novella
Kimberly Steele wasn’t like most women who were six months pregnant. She wore one form fitting pink ensemble after the next with sky-high heels, much to the chagrin of her boss, the sexy attorney Jeremy Preston. What did he care what she wore? All she knew was that she needed to keep her secret about who the baby’s daddy really is and where he is now.

Jeremy couldn’t believe any man would leave a woman as beautiful as Kimberly high and dry just because she was pregnant. He admired Kimberly for her decision to go it alone and keep the baby, versus making a choice that she’d later regret. One of the reasons he couldn’t stop himself from being attracted to her.

One fateful day it all changed for her when Clive Baxter offered her the chance to become the new spokes model for his latest perfume line, Pretty and Pregnant. Soon Kimberly had to deal with signing a contract and fighting her attraction to Jeremy.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
eBook Author’s Corner and
HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle


  1. I love Madison John's stories. I'm always looking for her next novel to come out.

  2. Terrific interview, Madison! My reading time has been cut way back (circumstances) and I can't wait to get back to is and read your work.
    Marja McGraw

    1. I so know what you're saying. I've been trying to get back to finding time to write.

  3. Madison, Love the interview!!!! Kove the books!!!