Author of Palin biography now in demand

Posted: Monday, September 01, 2008

DICKINSON, N.D. - Kaylene Johnson remembers coming to The Dickinson Press newspaper looking for work when she was about 14.

"I knocked on the door and I asked for a job and they sort of sent me packing. I was just a kid," Johnson recalled.

Now Johnson is an author in demand, thanks to Republican presidential candidate John McCain's surprise choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Johnson's 159-page biography of Palin - "Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down"- was published in April by Epicenter Press, Inc., based in Kenmore, Wash., which specializes in books about Alaska. The first printing totaled about 7,000.

After McCain's choice of Palin on Friday, sales of the book took off. Now a paperback is being rushed out and Johnson is suddenly in demand for interviews about her subject.

"It's been a wild ride the last couple days," Johnson said.

Johnson, who had written two other books on Alaska, said she was approached by Epicenter Press to write a book about Palin and thought it would be a chance to learn more about the governor.

She said she met with Palin, whom she grew to admire and respect, twice while writing the book and corresponded with her through e-mail.

"It was more a matter of how I was going to fit it all in," Johnson said. "I was given a really short deadline. I had basically 10 weeks to write the book."

After the book was published, Johnson said, she contacted Palin for her reaction, but Palin told her she had not read the book and felt it was too strange to read about herself.

Johnson was reassured by Palin's family that she had done a good job.

"The thing that made me feel good about the book was that her husband and her parents felt it was a good reflection of who she is," Johnson said.

Johnson's first chapter includes details about Palin's life as a youngster, describing her as a voracious reader and as an active, stubborn girl who swam, played basketball and hunted often. Palin shot her first rabbit at age 10, Johnson wrote. After Palin began to make her mark in politics, "time after time over the years, underestimating Sarah always proved to be a big mistake," Johnson wrote.

Four years after she was rebuffed at The Dickinson Press, Johnson asked again for a job at the newspaper. This time she was 18, in 1979, and had graduated from Dickinson High School. This time, she was hired.

"It was like the best job ever," Johnson said. "It was one of the reasons I went into journalism."

She moved around the country with her husband, Todd, who was in the Air Force, and they ended up in Alaska, where Todd was assigned in 1986. They now live in Wasilla, where Palin grew up and was the town's mayor.

On Amazon.com, where Johnson's book ranked Sunday among the top 20 sellers, even some positive reviews said the book lacked depth. One reviewer said that for those seeking details of Sarah Palin's life, Johnson's book is a "first step."



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