"I'm fascinated by the human experience and I love asking questions," says Kimberly Johnson. Those two factors led Johnson, who's 43, to her third and most satisfying career. Ark Stories, the publishing company she founded with her mother, collects people's experiences in some of the most intimate corners of our lives.
When Johnson was in her twenties, she lived in Los Angeles in order to act. "I played a police officer on Days of Our Lives for seven years. My mom was on the show too." Johnson says. When she decided she didn't want to perform anymore, she took a major career turn, working for a Chevron distributor selling gas.
"There was a quick decline when the economy fell apart in 2009. I thought, 'I'll move up to northern California where my mother lives."
Third Career's The Charm
When she pulled up stakes and left L.A., Johnson was already well under way to creating her first book. "I had the idea for The Virgin Diaries, and I started collecting stories in 2004. At first it was just women. I never envisioned writing a best-seller; I just wanted to get enough stories to make a book." As more people told her about their first time having sex, she had stories from both women and men, straights and gays. "I created The Virgin Diaries for virgins," Johnson says. I was curious before I had sex."
Her mom was already writing thrillers, and they teamed up to organize and design the books they created. When they pitched The Virgin Diaries to publishers, "They'd hold it for a while, then let it go," Johnson says. Eventually, mother and daughter decided to create their own publishing company, Ark Stories, to publish Johnson's nonfiction books and her mother's novels. In April 2010, The Virgin Diaries debuted. "The reviews were good, and social media afforded us a platform to promote the book." That fall, a friend gave Johnson her next idea: "She suggested I interview men on heartbreak." Johnson talked to 38 men for Ain't No Sunshine, which incorporates commentary from therapists, psychics and bartenders.
Johnson was beginning to realize her dream of publishing reality books.
Two other projects are front-burnered right now. The first is a body and self image blog. "Anybody can do a blog post: What's it like to be in the skin we're in; Whether you love or hate your body; Whether you have overcome issues. Eventually the blogs will become a book," Johnson says.
Her other new venture is more risque. "I'm going solo because it's a more scandalous book and I don't want to appear on talk shows with my mom!" Johnson says. Here She Comes will feature women talking about orgasm. "They'll tell men what makes them climax. I've already got interest from a traditional publisher on this one."
"We're making money. Not crazy money, but sales are decent," Johnson says. More important, "I have finally found my calling. This is what I love. I was acting for the wrong reasons – I was good at it, but I didn't have the burning desire in my gut. I love asking questions. People are interesting."