Kaylene Johnson had a modest freelance-writing career, penning two small books and publishing articles in newspapers and magazines while enjoying life in the snowy wilds of her farm outside Wasilla, Alaska.
But her comfortable, folksy world changed overnight in August when Gov. Sarah Palin was tapped by Republican presidential contender Sen. John McCain as his running mate.
Suddenly, her 160-page biography, “Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska’s Political Establishment Upside Down,” became the definitive primer on the relatively unknown Alaska governor, with reporters from around the world contacting Mrs. Johnson as expert on all things Palin. Today, less, than two months later, both Mrs. Johnson and the vice-presidential candidate are basking in the national attention.
“The political realm is not something I’m an avid consumer of in any respect, so it’s just been amazing, and unlikely, too,” Mrs. Johnson said of the book’s runaway success, which, through a partnership with Tyndale House, includes more than 350,000 copies in print.
Although freelance writing was a fun sideline, never did the Alaska author, 47, expect to see her name on the New York Times best-seller list, where her book on Mrs. Palin’s early life and Alaska political career now stands at No. 3 for paperback nonfiction.
“Most of the folks I’d written about previously were historical figures, and now here I was writing about someone making history,” Mrs. Johnson said of the literary serendipity. Writing about Mrs. Palin, she said, has forced her to take deeper stock of the national political landscape.
“A year ago, I may not have been very plugged in politically,” she said. “But you can bet I am now.”
Mrs. Johnson just returned to Alaska from a book tour last week in New York City, where she was chauffeured around the Big Apple as she made the rounds of television talk shows. It was a little like Cinderella at the ball, she said, noting that her close gal pals went shopping for her press-tour wardrobe to make sure she was camera-ready. There have been offers from an agent, but she has no concrete plans for other books and is waiting to see what comes her way while she marvels in her rising profile.
Mrs. Johnson, a graduate of Vermont College who earned a master of fine arts degree in writing from Spaulding University, said she came away impressed with Mrs. Palin, even if some suggested that her book did not give a critical look at the candidate.
“It was a positive book because she has made such a positive impact here in Alaska,” Mrs. Johnson said. “I only had a short amount of time to finish it. If I’d had a year, it might have been a different book.”
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