Author Interview: Varian Johnson

TGIF!!!  After a week of standardized testing, I’m ready for the weekend! A chance to step away from the workplace and chillax. I’ve got quite a pile of books to get to that I just can’t find the stamina to read during the work week. It looks like we might have a few storms going through and that using provides a nice atmosphere for reading.
I can’t think of a better way to start this weekend than an interview with Varian Johnson. I haven’t done a lot of author interviews here, so you have to know this a special event! Varian’s new book, Saving Maddie (my recent review) was just released on Tuesday. Varian’s first YA book was My Life as a Rhombus, an enjoyable book about Rhonda, a high school student who is a math genius trying to solve the problems in her own life. And, she’s rhombus! Not only does Varian live virtually in 2.0, but he’s an engineer, educator and family man. Living proof of that to whom much is given, much is expected. He has so many talents!

I have a short interview with Varian today, but do also take the opportunity to visit one of the other blogs on his recent tour and learn more about the man behind these wonderful books. Varian also maintains his own blog. AND!! I’ve got a little giveaway! Any and everyone who shares a little comment on this blog will be entered for a chance to win a copy of “Saving Maddie”. I have two copies. You will have until midnight on Saturday 13 March to be entered into the drawing.

Monday, March 8thAuthor’s Tent, Melodye

Tuesday, March 9thReading In Color, Ari

Wednesday, March 10th – Gwenda at Shaken & Stirred

Thursday, March 11th – Melissa at Book Nut

Do you see Saving Maddie as appealing to boys, girls or both? Both! I actually have a slight problem with the “boy book / girl book” label—while it works in general, I worry that when one says a novel is a “boy book,” someone may automatically think that ALL boys should like it, or that NO girl would want to read it. That being said, it’s very true that some books will appeal to girls more than boys, and vice versa. Cover art aside, I think Saving Maddie is a novel both genders can enjoy and relate to. 

I don’t know how easy it will be to answer this, but your books have really deep issues in them. How difficult is it to let your characters work through these issues without becoming preachy? How do you stray away from letting your author’s voice bleed through? Maybe what I’m really trying to ask his how do you perfect your skill? 

 I work really, really hard at trying to keep the authorial voice separate from each specific character’s voice. Most of my secondary characters tend to start off as quite didactic and two-dimensional—it takes multiple revisions to transform them into real characters.  

Also, my characters feel like my children at times—I don’t want all of these bad things to happen to them. I want someone to swoop in set them on the right path (I especially felt this way about Rhonda in My Life as a Rhombus, and Madeline is practically breaking my heart right now as I work through the companion novel). But at the end of the day, my job as an author is to make it hard for my characters. There’s no such thing as an easy answer in my books.

 I found Maddie to be a very intriguing character! I am really looking forward to finding out more about her in your next book. In your writing process, how far do you develop your characters? Does Maddie have a theme song? Birthday? Favorite TV show? Or does she just kind of come to your imagination?   Maddie has a full life outside of the pages of Saving Maddie. While she doesn’t necessarily have a theme song or favorite show (yet), she has a birthday, and she most certainly feels like a real person to me.  

What are some of the books you remember reading as a child? I was a Judy Blume disciple—I loved all her books. I was also a huge fan of Virginia Hamilton and Walter Dean Myers. 

Twitter or Facebook? OhI love them both. But if I had to choose, I’d pick Facebook. Sometimes it’s tough to get things down to 140 characters. 

American football or soccer?  Football! (Go Sooners!) 

Mountains or oceans?  Oceans. I grew up an hour from Myrtle Beach, SC. 

Meat or vegetables As my Dad used to say—it’s not a real meal if it doesn’t have meat! 

Rain or snow?   Um…neither? 

Where is the furthest away from home you’ve ever traveled?  India. I travelled there for 10 days with my wife while she was in graduate school. We saw everything from the beaches of Goa to the Taj Mahal.  

What’s the last thing that made you smile?   That question about meat! I really, really love my meats!

Thanks, Varian for the great interview! Your passion for writing is as obvious as your concern for your readers. I wish you much success!

Thanks, Jessica for the promotional materials!

8 thoughts on “Author Interview: Varian Johnson

  1. Haha that was a cute interview. I loved Saving Maddie (on my second re-read right now!) and once again, am counting down the days until Varian’s next book.


  2. LOL about the love of meas. Now I want a steak but today is mealtess Friday due to Lent *sigh* thanks for tempting me Varian. haha

    No need to enter me in the contest I really just wanted to express my excitement that there will be a SEQUEL to Saving Maddie! Yes. I knew it could not end like that *breathes easier* Joshua needs to stop being a gentleman and tell and I want to learn more about Maddie 🙂

    And I hear you about Twitter *grumbles about 140 characters* At least it helps you really get to the gist of your thoughts


    1. Yes, I’m glad to hear there’s a sequel. I need to know what happens to Mattie. I’m hoping I can keep liking her. She can test you, can’t she?!


  3. great interview, Edi! I like that Varian admits his characters start out flat and evolve over time to have more dimension…that’s hard to do when you’re writing about tough topics. I hope I win this book!


  4. As a starting out YA writer (in Austin too!), it was really great to hear a little bit about the process you go through in writing. I especially like the insight into potentially didactic characters. That’s something I’m going to watch out for. I’d love a copy of Saving Maddie; please enter me!


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