Johnson, Jane 1960–
Johnson, Jane 1960–
(Jude Fisher, Helen Jane Johnson, Gabriel King, a joint pseudonym)
PERSONAL: Born 1960, in Cornwall, England; daughter of Donald and Brenda Mary Johnson. Education: Goldsmiths College, London, B.A.; University College, M.A. Hobbies and other interests: Rock climbing, cinema, writing.
ADDRESSES: Home—Coleshill, Buckinghamshire, England. Office—HarperCollins Publishers, 77-85 Fulham Palace Rd., London W6 8JB, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Editor and writer. George Allen & Unwin Publishers, London, England, editor, 1984–90; Harper-Collins Publishers, London, editor, 1990–, Voyager imprint, publishing director, 1996–.
The Secret Country, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
Shadow World, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), in press.
AS JUDE FISHER
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Visual Companion, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2001.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Visual Companion, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2002.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: Visual Companion, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.
The Lord of the Rings: Complete Visual Companion, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004.
"FOOL'S GOLD TRILOGY"; AS JUDE FISHER
Sorcery Rising, DAW (New York, NY), 2002.
Wild Magic, DAW (New York, NY), 2003.
The Rose of the World, DAW (New York, NY), 2005.
WITH M. JOHN HARRISON; UNDER JOINT PSEUDONYM GABRIEL KING
The Wild Road, Arrow (London, England), 1997, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1998.
The Golden Cat, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1999.
The Knot Garden, [England] 2000.
Nonesuch, Century, 2001.
WORK IN PROGRESS: An historical novel set in Britain and Morocco in the seventeenth century involving pirates.
SIDELIGHTS: Jane Johnson began her career as an editor of fantasy and science fiction. She had long been devoted to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and a stroke of luck led her to a position at Allen & Unwin Publishers, which had originally published Tolkien's works. Within six months of being hired, Johnson was working as an editor on Unwin's Tolkien titles and their new fantasy list. Part of her work with the Tolkien list involved finding illustrators for new editions of Tolkien's work, including John Howe and Alan Lee, whose work served as an inspiration for Peter Jackson's movie trilogy of Tolkien's work. She has worked with such well-known fantasy and science-fiction writers as Arthur C. Clarke, David Eddings, Raymond Feist, Robin Hobb, Steven King, George R.R. Martin, Kim Stanley Robinson, and M. John Harrison, the last with whom she began writing her first fantasy series.
When she began editing the work of Harrison, the pair hit it off and began a personal relationship that lasted until 1995. Though this relationship ended, their professional work had just begun, and the pair, under the joint pseudonym Gabriel King, published four titles together. The Wild Road was the first of a series about Tag, the cat. Johnson explained to an interviewer for Eternal Night Web site, The Wild Road was "submitted under the Gabriel King pseudonym, so that the work would be judged on its own merits and not for who either of us were."
The Wild Road is the story of Tag, a young cat with the destiny to rescue the king and queen of the cats. Tag is pursued by a human known only as the Alchemist, who wishes to travel the Wild Roads that cats guard. "This is a story about the overwhelming instinct to survive against insurmountable odds," noted S. Kay Elmore in SFSite.com, the critic continuing: "It reads like a forgotten mythology, including all the elements of a classic hero story, but it is by no means formulaic." Georges T. Dodds, also writing for SFSite.com, commented that The Wild Road "strikes an excellent balance between an animalistic and anthropomorphic treatment…. [The characters] are rich and complex, each having their own histories, personalities, and hurdles to overcome."
Tag's story continues in The Golden Cat, and the tale grows darker as animals are dying at the entrances and exits of the Wild Roads. The royal cats have three golden kittens, but all three of the young ones disappear, and Tag must solve the mystery. In the final book of the series, The Knot Garden, a human, Anna Prescott, becomes a central figure. She settles in the town of Ashmore, a place that intersects the Wild Roads, and Anna herself becomes the cause of chaos unleashed on both the village and the Wild Roads. Again, cats must come to the rescue. After completing the series, Johnson and Harrison created the stand-alone novel Nonesuch, which again features the village of Ashmore.
While her writing work had just begun, Johnson's work with Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series reached a new level when Peter Jackson's movie trilogy of the series made its way to theaters. To accompany the movies, Johnson, as Jude Fisher, created a number of "Visual Companions." While working on the books, she traveled to New Zealand where the movies were being filmed. "It was the most amazing time," she told an interviewer for Eternal Night Web site. "As a Tolkien fan since the age of twelve, and Tolkien publisher for over ten years … it was a very emotional experience to see the world coming to life just as I had envisaged it." Of her work on the "Visual Companions," Susan Salpini wrote in School Library Journal, "The informative, interesting text is supplemented by many gorgeous pictures," and Patricia White-Williams, in the same publication, found the "Visual Companions" to be "an entertaining read."
In 2002, Johnson tried her hand at writing her own series and produced the "Fool's Gold Trilogy," published under her pen name Jude Fisher. She commented to the Eternal Night Web site interviewer that the sale of her first series as Gabriel King "was pretty exciting; but not as scary as selling the solo fantasy series in 2000, which was terrifying beyond belief." Sorcery Rising, which begins the series, takes place at Allfair, a festival during which a truce is called among the nations of Elda. Katla Aranson comes to sell her metalwork; Virelai, a mage's apprentice, comes to escape. He has stolen Rosa Eldi, his master's mistress who has no memory of her life, and a black cat, which contains his master's magic. The characters simply mean to go about their lives, but their fates are intertwined, and much more rests on their decisions than they are aware. "This is a complex novel, with a dense plot and an intricate interweaving of many different viewpoints and storylines. It's clear, however, that it's only the opening to a much larger saga," claimed Victoria Strauss, writing for SFSite.com. Jackie Cassada of Library Journal considered Sorcery Rising to be a "fast-paced introduction" to a new world, and recommended, readers "of epic fantasy should enjoy this tale."
Wild Magic follows Virelai into the service of Lord Tycho Issian, who is obsessed with Rosa Eldi, who has married the Eyran king Rayn Asharson. Issian will stop at nothing to take Rosa Eldi from the Eyran king. Katla, who escaped death at the end of the previous novel, wishes to accompany her father on a dangerous journey, even though she has been told her destiny is elsewhere. Commenting on the number of characters and subplots, Victoria Strauss wrote in SFSite.com that "It's not just a narrative, but a technical challenge to juggle so many stories and players without dropping or shortchanging at least a few of them, but Fisher manages this with great skill." Cassada, writing again for Library Journal, noted the combination of "largescale intrigues with personal accounts of struggle and courage," while Booklist reviewer Paula Luedtke gave the novel a "thumbs-up." Johnson herself called the novel "Lord of the Rings meets Bridget Jones," reported Benedicte Page in Bookseller.
The series concludes with The Rose of the World, which explains that Rosa Eldi is actually one of the three original gods of Elda, and the cat Virelai stole is the second. As she remembers who she is, Rosa Eldi realizes she must be united with the third god, Sirio, the Man, or chaos will come to all of Elda and the world will be destroyed by magic. Luedtke, in Booklist, considered the novel "the nerve-wracking, intoxicating conclusion" of the series, and commented on its "fabulous, multilayered poetic story of a world, full of complex, painfully real, endearingly vulnerable characters." Harriet Klausner, writing for MBR Book-watch, commented that the novel "ties up all the loose ends, answering all questions satisfactorily while rewarding readers with a fantastic climax."
Although many of her novels and her work on the Lord of the Rings movie companion books appeal to a young-adult audience, it was not until 2005 that her first novel specifically written for children was published. As she explained to Adam Volk in SFSite.com, "I wrote The Secret Country as a sort of secret, selfish project when I should have been working on something else, and never designed it for a market or a readership, but for the 9-year-old in me who's still alive and kicking." The Secret Country tells the story of Ben, a boy who, though he does not realize it, is from the magical world of Eidolon. On a visit to a local pet shop run by Mr. Dodds, Ben encounters a cat who speaks to him, explaining that Dodds is bringing magical creatures from Eidolon into the world, where they are dying without magic. The cat, Iggy, begs Ben to help him and the other creatures of Eidolon to return home, thwarting Mr. Dodds's plan. Dodds's "bigger plan, though, we find in the second book is to take over Eidolon," explained Johnson in an interview with Sandy Auden of Alien Online. The second book, Shadow World, additionally reveals that Mr. Dodds is also known as Dodman, and can transform himself into an eight-foot-tall monster with a dog's head.
Asked by Adam Volk of SFSite.com whether she preferred writing or editing, Johnson replied, "They really are very different jobs, so it's hard to compare: one is all about teamwork, talking, persuasion and compromise (that'll be publishing for those who are still guessing); the other is most of the time solitary, selfish and a bit mad. I think the combination is a good one, at least for staying sane, since there's not much room for creativity in the publishing industry now and writing gives me an outlet for that energy which I need."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 2002, Paula Luedtke, review of Sorcery Rising, p. 1696; July, 2003, Paula Luedtke, review of Wild Magic, p. 1877; February 1, 2005, Paula Luedtke, review of The Rose of the World, p. 950.
Bookseller, May 9, 2003, Benedicte Page, "A World of Her Own: Writing as Jude Fisher, Voyager Publisher Jane Johnson Creates Fantasy Novels Which Feature a Powerful, Rock-Climbing Heroine," p. 25.
Cartography and Geographic Information Science, October, 2004, Denis Wood, "The Maps of Tolkien's Middle-Earth," p. 255.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2002, review of Sorcery Rising, p. 624.
Library Journal, July, 2002, Jackie Cassada, review of Sorcery Rising, p. 127; July, 2003, Jackie Cassada, review of Wild Magic, p. 132; March 15, 2004, Michael Rogers, "Go to the Movies—Off Screen," p. 80.
MBR Bookwatch, February, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of The Rose of the World.
Publishers Weekly, June 17, 2002, pp. 48-49; June 23, 2003, review of Wild Magic, p. 51; January 17, 2005, review of The Rose of the World, p. 39.
School Library Journal, April, 2002, Patricia White-Williams, review of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Visual Companion, p. 189; March, 2004, Susan Salpini, review of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: Visual Companion, p. 252.
Alien Online, http://www.thealienonline.net/ (September 28, 2005), Sandy Auden, "Fantasy/Horror Book Deals: Barclay, Johnson, Gallagher."
Eternal Night Web site, http://www.eternalnight.co.uk/ (October 10, 2005), interview with Johnson.
Jude Fisher Home Page, http://www.judefisher.co.uk (September 28, 2005).
SFSite.com, http://www.sfsite.com/ (October 10, 2005), S. Kay Elmore, review of The Wild Road; Georges T. Dodds, review of The Wild Road and The Golden Cat; Victoria Strauss, review of Sorcery Rising and Wild Magic; Adam Volk, "An Interview with Jane Johnson."