The Winner

Maureen Johnson Q & A

Which of your characters do you most identify with?

While I am a bit like Rory from The Name of the Star, I am probably most like Scarlett from Suite Scarlett and Scarlett Fever. She and I have a lot in common in terms of personality.

Do you give yourself time off when you’ve finished a book?

Kind of. I seem to live on a perpetual deadline. When I turn something in, I kind of wander around for a few hours, deeply confused, picking things up and putting them down again. It's like anything where you've done a LOT OF WORK and you've stared at the computer for about NINE HUNDRED HOURS and when you actually finish, you're so stunned you don't actually know what people DO. I usually just kind of move on to the next thing.

Are you a New Yorker or can you imagine living elsewhere?

Well, I spend about a quarter of my time here in England. I can't say I'm English. I'm not. But I am very familiar with England, and it is my part-time home. I'm your weird local American, wandering the high street.

What are the best and worst bits of being a writer?

The best bit is the writing bit. I've always written. The fact that someone is paying me to sit and basically MAKE UP LIES is a miracle. And meeting readers is great. And a lot of my friends are writers as well, so I have books and writing everywhere in my life. The bad bit, if there is one, is that you work on your own a lot. That can be good and bad.

Did you always want to be a writer?

Being a writer was all I ever wanted to do from when I was very little. I think a lot of writers are like that, the kind of “indoors kid”, the sort of kid in the playground who has the ball bounced off their head. We’re the weirdo kids who like sitting in their bedrooms writing stuff.

Who has been the most influential person in your writing career?

It’s hard to say as I didn’t really know anyone who did anything like this. I didn’t come from an artsy family, my mum is a nurse and my dad is an engineer. My parents were always really supportive and they never seemed to doubt that I could do it. They always believed that if I said it was possible, then it was possible.

Which books did you love when you were young?

I was a big, big fan of mystery novels. The first book I remember reading was The Hound of the Baskervilles (by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) which I read when I was four (it was a version adapted for children). I read every single Agatha Christie book ever written, sometimes two a day. Then as I got older I got very obsessed by the Great Gatsby. I went to an all girls’ school and the curriculum seemed to focus exclusively on male writers, I think we read one poem by one woman and that was all in my whole school career.

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