Debut Review Challenge with KT Johnston

I am pleased to welcome KT Johnston to the blog today! Read on for insights into her nonfiction debut.

New this month: a chance to win during every author interview. Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway!

Debut By-the-Numbers: RAILWAY JACK

Number of years writing: 

About 6 years

Number of years from contract to published book: 

About 16 months

Date your book was released: 

February 1, 2020

Number of pages: 


Number of launch events: 


Number of days per week that writing takes a backseat to marketing & publicity:

More than it should! I try to spend part of each day doing both. I work on book-stuff when I’m inspired, which isn’t every day, and it might even fall on weekends. There’s no calendar here.

Number of critique partners: 

None per se, but I do have a couple great literary friends who are sounding boards, Beta readers, cheerleaders,….

Number of books you hope to publish over the next ten years: 

I currently have ideas on about a dozen and hope to publish a lot of them.

Number of times you’ve pinched yourself that you really have a book out: 

I hope the bruises don’t show!

A Few Questions

  • Why do you write for children?

I write for children because children are the future. Cliché? Sure. But children literally are the main characters in the future of the human race and society. I hope to spark children’s curiosity about our world by telling interesting true stories, and that my books seed conversations with their adults about human issues. A compassionate and informed future is worth cultivating.

  • Who/what are your greatest inspirations? 

My inspiration comes from ordinary animals who had a profound impact on an everyday person; stories from one-half century or more ago that are barely a footnote in history, but left ripples that can be felt on humanity today.

  • Without giving anything away, tell us about your work-in-progress. What do you love about it so far? Where are you stuck? 

I love bringing humble stories like my current work-in-progress out of the shadows of history and probing its correlation to society today. However, this story has grim elements and I wrestle with a suitable way to tell it without putting on kid gloves (pun intended, lol) or sanitizing history. We’ll see if it works out!

  • What does your work space look like? Tell us about a typical work session.

I use two screens so I almost always do my writing at my desk. I use the second screen to look things up and refer to my research notes and articles. Email’s always open there too, but I close my social media when I’m working! I was never a morning-person until I gave up working at an “office job” and began consulting. I experienced the indulgence of setting my own schedule. During this time, I also began writing. But as you know, writing is a solitary endeavor. Once I found the “community” of #5amwritersclub, I realized how snug it is to write when it’s still dark outside. Now I’m up before the sun nearly every day, usually doing something related to my books.

Time to Play: STORY SMASH!

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Think about all the stories you’ve written that have hit a dead end or are hidden away in a drawer somewhere. For each of the items below, lift an element from a different story to create a weird, unexpected mash-up. Who knows? It may even inspire a new manuscript! 

Character(s): an old woman              

Setting: an assisted living facility

Theme: the meaning of community

Problem: the Romans have laid siege

Pitch: While researching a 19th century tintype she found on her family’s property, a forgetful octogenarian discovers the romans have laid siege to the assisted living facility. [Working Title] is about the ideals of higher education and what it means to Be.

Wow! Story Smash becomes even more interesting when nonfiction ideas are merged. This sounds like a very compelling novel!

Okay, Challenge Participants! It’s Time to Write Some Reviews!

Leave an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other online site. Every time you write five reviews for debut Kidlit creators between March 1-April 30, 2020, you can fill out this ENTRY FORM for a chance to win prizes. KT has generously donated a copy of her book (mailed directly from the publisher, US addresses only). Thank you, KT!


  • Support debut authors by suggesting their book titles to your local library.
  • Purchase them as gifts for children in your life, a teacher, or a local school.
  • Share book titles or reviews on social media and tag the author/illustrator.

New this month: a chance to win during every author interview. Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway!

About KT and her Book

Bio: KT Johnston writes historical narrative nonfiction. KT’s interest in the past developed from a sweeping curiosity about the way things were and how history has impacted the way things are. She enjoys feeding her interests by traveling, whether she’s touring a historical site, experiencing a foreign land, or mind-wandering in a good book. Born in Minnesota, KT earned a degree in biology and conducted wildlife studies before settling into a corporate career as an analyst. KT hopes to inspire others to be curious about our world as well, one true story at a time.

Twitter: @KTDidz


Author/Illustrator: KT Johnston/César Samaniego

Publisher: Capstone Editions

Year: 2020

Synopsis: RAILWAY JACK is the true story of the remarkable partnership between a man and a baboon in 1880s South Africa. When railway inspector Jim Wide lost his legs in an accident, he had to find clever ways to get around and perform his work. He obtained a very unusual helper: a baboon named Jack. But not everyone was happy to see a baboon at the rail yard signal hut, and Jim was fired. He pleaded with the authorities to give Jack a chance and they agreed to a test. Jim and Jack’s futures lay in the hands—er, opposable thumbs—of a baboon!

This inspiring story celebrates the history of service animals and a devoted friendship.

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