Dr. Brad Johnson, LSSBB, CSM, is an influential Bible Teacher, Communication Practitioner, and Kingdom Writer. His life’s assignment is to help people, particularly urban people, articulate their experiences, find resolution, and gain the language of the Kingdom of Christ. As a Bible Teacher, Dr. Brad is passionate about teaching the truths of the Kingdom of Christ and the reality of the balanced and thriving life available to anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord.
Dr. Brad is also the CEO and owner of Communic8 Life Consulting; a communication consulting firm that specializes in helping couples, families, and business teams develop better interpersonal communication skills through virtual sessions and workshops. Using the pen name BJ Communicates, he consistently releases a gambit of music, podcasts, books, and digital platform shows aimed at inspiring and encouraging urban people. Along with his wife Quiana, he is the Co-Pastor of the urban cafe church Transformed City Church in Richmond, VA where their focus is helping believers learn, heal, and become everything God had intended them to be.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
First, thank you for having me on your platform; I really appreciate it. I have been writing since I was eight years old. I started out writing songs about random things that I saw around the house and about my toys, then when tapes and cds started to include the song lyrics, I learned about structure and begin to really understand how to write songs. As a teenager I began writing for my school paper and writing poetry. Writing papers or stories were never a challenge for me, it naturally flowed out of me and I found a love for it. Writing just developed into a form of therapy for me where I could write my emotions, my story, and the story of others. Throughout college I had the opportunity to write different things like tv and broadcast scripts, short stories, essays, speeches, etc. All the writing has shaped me into the Kingdom writer that I have become.
The thing I love about being a writer the most is the ability to articulate my experiences as well as the experiences of others. There is a power and a healing that occurs in telling our stories. There is a cleansing and a clarity that comes when we tell our story, and when we hear someone else’s story that mirror our experiences.
I don’t really having a frustration about writing because I have come to realize that whoever the project is for, it is for. I just know what I am to release and so I let it flow and release it into the world so that it can benefit the audience that needs it; whether it is 2 or 2 million.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
My new book Hard Conversations: Book 1 Breadcrumbs to the Past is the first book in my new urban fiction series. It is a collection of short stories about the lives of five urban people that have achieved, what most people would consider, to be successful lives, but still they find themselves unhappy and cycling in the same patterns that they know aren’t where they want to live. They realize that the lass ceiling they can’t get past is because they have unaddressed issues in their pasts that they decided to move past without doing the necessary work to heal. In order to move forward they must confront the issues they have been burying with the people that were involved. I believe that it is no one’s story, yet everyone’s story because we all can relate to operating in avoidance at one point of another. One thing about people of color is that we know how to survive things. Through oppression, depression, suppression, and trauma, we become to determined to make it to the other side. The problem becomes when we make it through to the other side, we often have been changed and lost some things along the way that are necessities to moving forward in life and in wholeness. At the point that we realize that we have made but we are broken, we are wounded, we are leaking out what we have been through, we must decide whether we are going to try to keep it moving or if we are brave enough to confront the past to not just survive, but to thrive. At the same time the book was released, I released a song inspired by the book called “You’re Real” that was released on all digital platforms. The song is so vitally important to the stories in the book because I believe hard conversations are real conversations, and real conversations are God conversations.
We can’t talk about being healed from our past or moving forward without including God in the equation; He is the only one that can give us the strength and the courage to address the deep heartbreaking things that can happen and life and then come out unscathed and able to thrive in life. Both the music and the book is available on all digital platforms. You can keep up with me on all social media platforms @bjcommunicates and you can visit my website http://www.bjcommunicates.com.
3) What projects are you currently working on?
I have a new communications improvement workbook coming out during the first quarter to give people new perspective on the power of effective communication and processes to become a better interpersonal communicator. Shortly, I will start working on Hard Conversations Book 2 to continue the journey of the individuals in Book 1. There is a song inspired by each book that will be released simultaneously with the project like “You’re Real” was for Hard Conversations: Book 1. I will continue to cohost The Rhythm and Review Podcast monthly podcast on the Transformed City Radio podcast station and I will be launching another communication podcast as well. As well as writing for my blog, a couple of editorial pieces for publications, and new songs for other artists.
4) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
My most significant achievement as a writer would probably be writing a song called “Don’t Let Go” a few years ago that made it all the way to #29 on the Independent Digital Radio Charts. A close second would be writing the song “You’re Real” that has been streamed on Spotify over 227,000 times since its release two months ago. I think for me the ability to continue to write and release music is a blessing within itself. As long as I am able to continue to write and release material that I fully own and control, whether a song or a book, is a continual significant achievements.
5) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
Not rejection in the traditional sense from a publisher because I always wanted to own what I was graced to create; the rejection I saw was in the realm of book PR from people who didn’t know what to do with an urban fiction author that didn’t produce raunchy content yet also didn’t fall into the other spectrum of crafting stories that seemed like everyday was fairy dust and unicorns. I was shocked that there was not a lot of people who catered and assisted writers who wrote fictional stories about wholistic characters that may have had bad experiences with an undertone of faith.
6) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel?
I do set aside time to write each day when I am working on a project, usually for no more than a couple of hours in my day. I honestly don’t outline my fiction books, I usually sit down and ask God use me to tell someone’s story and then begin to type. It just flows out of me like a water facet; it’s amazing. Hard Conversations took me about a month because I kept writing until I felt like the facet had turned off.
7) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
I don’t think that there is a expiration date on creativity. The great thing about writing is that the product is the work not the person. There are authors like Stephen King and Danielle Steel who are senior citizens now, but they are still cranking out New York Times bestsellers. With writing it not about the tightness of the body; its about the sharpness of the mind. Most of us may have no idea what our favorite author looks like, besides if their picture is in the book jacket, but we know their work. As long as the work is good, the age doesn’t matter.
The only way that a late start can stop an author is if their worth is defined by what a major publisher or agent thinks. We live in an age where no one can stop anyone from releasing content. If you have can be given creative content, all it takes is a quick Google search to find a production partner to help you get it to the masses. The two things that will hinder an author at any age is the opinion of people and the lack of financial resources. If you eliminate the need for the first, and plan for the second, you can write and release material at any age with great success in your demographic and sphere of influence.
8 Are you an avid reader and have you always been? What’s the first book you ever read that really touched you emotionally and moved you? Who is your favorite author? What book are you currently reading?
I read Marvel comic books as a kid, but I really got interested in books in 7th grade when my literature teacher assigned us the novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. The book changed my life. The story was so vivid that I could see everything that was happening; more importantly it was the first book that I read in school that was completely centered on the story of black people. It was so good that I read the sequel Let the Circle Be Unbroken on my own. It was the first example to me that our stories mattered and needed to be told in an inspiring and uplifting way. My grandmother was a local librarian so she was able to get books for me that I couldn’t find other places. I remember at 13 being so inspired by Iyanla Vanzant who I, by chance, stumbled upon on the Oprah Winfrey Show while flipping through channels. My grandmother made sure to get me every book that she released from like 1998 to 2003. I had them all.
My favorite author is the late Dr. Myles Monroe who wrote books about practical life application of Biblical principles in various areas of life. I am currently reading It’s Happening by William McDowell; it’s a book about the power and need for revival.
9) The Pandemic was a challenging time for some writers and creative individuals but also for others it was time that they needed to focus on their creative passions. Which side of that spectrum do you fall on? Are there any lessons or nuggets of wisdom that you gained during the Pandemic that help you within your writing career? Did the quarantine stifle your creativity or did it make you even more driven to get things done?
The current state of the world has caused me to write more. So many people are in emotional, relational, and mental breakdown because of this pandemic, racial injustices, and life situations; and they don’t know how to come out of it. There are too many of us who are suffering in silence and seeing the physical manifestations of what is going on inside of us through our behaviors and responses. There is a need for our stories to be told with applicable solutions to how we can come out of it. My creativity has grown because I know that it is needed. I know that God speaks to me and through me, so the state of the world fuels me and increases the download of things to release into the world. I’m just the keyboard; God is the writer.
10) What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry as it is being represented today? Do you lean more towards traditional publishing or self-publishing as a preference? Does being a hybrid author interest you?
I’m not familiar with what a hybrid model looks like, but I think that traditional publishing is ok for what it is; it allows you to use someone else’s money and resources to get your content out, but it comes with a price of creativity control and ownership. I always partner with a self-publishing partner because I can’t be a part of something that I can’t own. I am open to feedback and suggestions but I normally know what God wants me to do and I can’t allow anyone to dilute the message or the content to fit into a box or go after an audience that the content may not be for. I have studied the industries that I am part of, so I try to make decisions inline with the vision God has given me and chose partners who will enhance, and not change, that vision. I have been blessed with to many gifts and talents that have given me the ability to fund my own content and strategically and prayerfully choose partnerships that make sense and give me the opportunity to earn the biggest percentage for what I created.
11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
I write as a form of therapy that helps me to get out all my emotions, all my thoughts, and all of the things I need clarity about. Whether in a song, a book, or an editorial article; they all help me to get it out. I have realized that sometimes the writings aren’t even about me, but the need for someone else’s story to be told. Hard Conversations contains stories that are nowhere close to being reflective of my life, but I know that someone on the other side of the country who can’t pinpoint why they are stuck can read it and begin the process of move forward by my writings. I’m just grateful.