An Interview with T.J. Johnson

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T.J. Johnson

T.J. Johnson is an English writer prominent in philosophical debates and thinking. He is currently on his way to publish his essays. You can find him here.

Where did you grow up and how has that impacted your writing and beliefs?

I grew up in a small town in the centre of England home to the county of Leicestershire. It’s a small Christian town and that impacted/sparked my philosophical flame. As a young boy, I’d go to church with my mother and listen to the vicar talk on for hours. When I reached the age of fourteen I started having doubts about the book and went in and out of the religion for the next year before rejecting it completely and studying theology and then philosophy to help better understand the world we live in. My ethics came mostly from the bible – rejecting Deuteronomy though – and this has stayed with me to this day. 

When did you know that you loved philosophy and literature?

I knew I loved philosophy when I found a quote from Camus when I was in college. I always said that a good quote/thought was one you couldn’t get out of your head. And for the next week, I kept referring back to the quote and thinking about it without thinking about it. I then delved into Camus’ books and to this day he is still my favorite philosopher.

When did you start writing and what prompted it?

I started writing as an escape from school in year seven: so I must have been 11 or 12. I can remember it clear as day. I went to a brass band concert with my dad and in the vicarage, where they were playing, that had a book stand. At the time I was still a Christian and the money went towards the church so I picked up all three Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and a lovely leather-bound bible. I read the hobbit and loved it. I finished it in a month. Which doesn’t sound great, but this was the first book I had read in years. I devoured it. And then moved on to the Lord of the Rings. And when seeing the worlds Tolkien had created, I said: “I want to be just like him.” And so I started writing. I began writing fiction. I finished the book but never published it as it was my first and it wasn’t very good: but I loved every page and every letter. 

what has been the most fulfilling part of your journey?

A little while ago I was offered to write a short story. It was a small thing about the philosophical premise of death and completion. Well, it got published by a small university press called The Woodcrest. When I got that email it was a new beginning for my career. As this was the first piece I had ever had professionally published and seen. It was wonderful and will always carry it in my heart and mind.

What are some things people do not know about you?

Some people may not know, even my closest friends, that I have a model railway and work at a heritage railway as an engineer. Ever since I was young, trains – especially steam – fascinated me. Complex machines running on no electricity and just water and fire. 

Who is an author/Public figure that you look up to and why?

I look up to a few people and so I’ll start with a public figure. Fran Lebowitz was always an inspiration in publishing for me as she commands the stage she talks on and has a great sense of humor: something I’m told I have without even realizing it. 

An author who I look up to would have to be Albert Camus as he began my philosophy career and he was a great guy with many ideas that put a U-turn on Western philosophy. I consider him to be more of an author than most as his books were novels, but I believe this made a new species of philosophical authors.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

In the future, if I’m still alive that is, I see myself as a successful writer with a few novels and essays under my belt while being able to quit my day job and go full time. (Without sounding too pretentious.) But it poses a great philosophical question on the future as my future is determined by the construct of the world around me. And heaven knows where that will be in ten years from now.