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suite scarlett
girl at sea
13 little blue envelopes
the bermudez triangle
the key to the golden firebird
vacations from hell
let it snow

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Whew, doggie! It’s done, friends. Suite Scarlett is currently with Emma. It will be coming back to me in a few days for some final edits.

“So, what are you doing now, Johnson?” you ask saucily. (In my mind—a lot of things happen in my mind.)

Well, I’ll tell you.

The very first thing I had to do was take my beloved computer, Gilda, to get repaired. She has technically been broken since I accidentally stepped on her at the Westeralestier Compound in April. I simply do not know my own strength. One little toe landed on her, and I managed to just slightly bend the opening of the disk drive. So she is getting an entire new outside shell.

The computer I am working on today is former Gilda, and former Gilda is very cranky from being wiped clean and left unused for nine months. She has responded by eating my e-mail, crashing, and refusing to run Scrivener. Also, I think her battery is dead. Otherwise, she is fine.

So I moseyed on over to Tekserve, which is a kind of mecca in New York for Mac users, where a very nice guy took Gilda from me. I am not ashamed to admit that I stroked her before she went back.

“Okay,” you say. “So you got your computer fixed. But what are you WORKING on?”

You have foxed it out of me! I will tell you.


I may or may not have mentioned this before . . . (Apparently, I tell people the same things over and over—like John Green was saying the other day, when I asked him for what had to have been the fifty-seventh time if he had ever seen Dead Like Me, and he said, “You ask me that ALL THE TIME.”)

Anyway . . . I may or may not have mentioned that I am working on a book with John Green and Lauren Myracle. I know what you are thinking. You are wondering how I got mixed up with two classy people like that. (Well, one classy person. John Green has appeared on camera drinking a blenderized happy meal, so he is really fooling no one.)

How? I hardly know myself. I only know that it happened, and we are writing a book called Let It Snow, which will be out late next year.

“Finally,” you say, twirling a cigarette holder between your dexterous fingers (again, in my mind). “You seem to have some actual news. Can you tell us more?”

Oh, fine. Force it out of me, why don’t you? You know I can’t resist when you ask!

Let It Snow is (and by is I mean will be) a collection of three interconnected stories that take place over the course of one Christmas snowstorm in the same town . . . kind of like a YA Pulp Fiction, with less murder and more hijinx. So, I’ve been busy with John and Lauren building and populating our town.

“I like it,” you say, setting the cigarette holder in your alabaster ashtray and sitting down at the piano to play a little song. (In my mind, you not only smoke in an exceedingly pretentious way, but you are musically inclined. I can’t help it. It is just the way you are.) “Do you have anything else to mention, book-wise?”

It’s so weird how you do that! You totally know what’s going on in my head.

There is a lot of Scarlett-related activity, the majority of which I can’t talk about until it’s all finalized . . . but I am looking at the cover right now and talking with Emma a lot, basically doing all the cool stuff you get to do when the book is actually done and is being prepared. It is no exaggeration when I say that I am more excited for Scarlett than I have ever been for a book. Now that the story is essentially done, I can finally give you a little synopsis of what it’s about!


Suite Scarlett is the first book in my very first series. Yes! SERIES!

The story centers around fifteen year-old Scarlett Martin, the middle sibling in a large family. Her nineteen year-old brother (and best friend) Spencer is an out of work actor who charms the ladies by convincingly doing pratfalls down entire flights of stairs. Eighteen year-old Lola has the delicate looks of a model, the practical nature of a nurse, and a wealthy boyfriend from the ranks of society. Eleven year-old Marlene is the family terror with a tragic past.

The Martins live in the family-owned Hopewell Hotel on New York’s Upper East Side. Back when it was first opened in 1929, it was an Art Deco gem, crafted by a design genius. Now, it’s a money pit with non-functional toilets, constantly on the verge of an invasion by the pigeon army that roosts in the attic. Though people often assume they are wealthy, the Martins are broke. Unlike her friends, Scarlett cannot afford to escape the city for the summer to go to learn French in Paris or teach tennis camp. She’s stuck working at home, trying to help Spencer fulfill a family pledge to get an acting job. He has just four days left to do this, or he will have to go to culinary school.

When a former Broadway diva named Mrs. Amberson moves in for the summer, everything changes. Mrs. Amberson soon assumes control of Scarlett’s life. What follows is a whirlwind of thievery, Broadway glamour, theatrical deception, and an impossible romance with the most beautiful guy that Scarlett has ever seen—a guy who is, quite literally, smoking hot.

But life with Mrs. Amberson is not easy, and it takes everything Scarlett has to keep a handle on her love life, Spencer’s career, her relationship with her family, and the fate of the hotel itself.

Also, you get to see Hamlet performed with unicycles.

Now you can see why it took me so long. That’s a lot to get in one book. And now that the first one is done, two is already in the pipeline! Suite Scarlett will be coming out in May, which seems so, so far . . . but it will happen sooner than you, or I, think.

“That is a long time,” you say, as you finish your song and reach for your drink (which is in a coconut shell and has at least nine little paper umbrellas—what is with you?). “Do you have anything else coming out before that?”

Um, actually yes. Two things.

First, in December, you will be able to get “The World of the Golden Compass,” which is a book of essays that will be released concurrent with the film. I’m in it, and it was edited by Scott Westerfeld, so . . . there’s that.

Also, in January, there will be a new edition of The Key to the Golden Firebird, with this shiny new cover:

This cover is in keeping with my other covers, all of which illustrate my love of fantastic abs. That's mainly what I write about. Great abs. The rest is window dressing.

(Also, I love the new pinkness. That is the exact shade of pink I want for my stun gun! It's FATE!)

Okay . . . on a purely non-book related note. There is something else I’ve done in the last few days. Yesterday, my friend Peggy came up from Philadelphia, and we went to a taping of the Daily Show.

I was an unabashed fan of Jon Stewart before . . . but now, my respect has climbed to new heights. I’ve seen some shows taped before, and quite a number of them were disappointing—fussing, flubbing, hair-fixing. (I saw one in which the host took out a mirror and fixed his hair every five minutes. Really.)

Jon Stewart did none of this. Before the taping, he talks to the audience, and is exactly as funny and personable as he is on the show. Then he sat down and did the show in ONE TAKE. He didn’t mess up a single line.

The guest yesterday was kind of unusual . . . it was the President of Bolivia. Jon explained in advance that he was going to be working with a translator for the first time, and that it might be “even more awkward than usual,” since all his jokes had to be translated on the fly. There was nothing awkward about it. He conducted a riveting interview, during which we were all hushed.

After that, through an incredibly random set of circumstances . . . I met the Superman who gave me a knowing nod of fellow-Justice-League-ness at Dragoncon! He even knew that other Wonder Woman, the one with the costume . . . with the butt. That one.

The world is officially much too small.

In any case, to make up for my long pauses and quietness, I will be posting again very soon, and am taking an open call for questions. Put a question in the comments, and I will answer it honestly. (As I can without incriminating myself or others.) (And not that I ever lie to you.)

Go on! I DARE you!

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Anonymous Liz said...

Series? Very cool. Let It Snow sounds awesome, too!

1:08 AM  
Anonymous Book Chic said...

Wow, Maureen. It's like you can see into my world!! I was astonished at how well you captured my daily life in your post.

Anyway, I LOVE all the book news! Congrats on the series!

Question- Can you show us the cover for Suite Scarlett?

Yeah, I know, not exactly the best question, but it's all I can think of at the moment...

OH! I have one. Are there any plans to make any of your books into a movie?

Have a good rest of the week!

Book Chic

1:12 AM  
Blogger Kati said...

I spy an eye! Hooray! No more eyeless teenage girls on the covers of your books!

Although I am worried about the possibility that you are running a one-eyed pirate camp now that there are two one-eyed girls on your covers. Do you (or your publisher/cover designer) have a secret eye patch fetish? Will we not be allowed into pirate dance camp if we have two eyes?

(Slightly more seriously, I am very excited for Let It Snow. You and John Green together may well be an unstoppable force of awesome.)

1:31 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Just so I can know how to dress to match your mental image of your audience: are you picturing the men in your audience along the lines of Richard E. Grant doing a turn as Miss Marple's novelist nephew -- blazers, cravats, pomaded hair with a razor-sharp part, that sort of thing? Because I think I can do that. I have blazers. And I can fake the piano parts. (I'd just as soon leave off the coconut drinks, but I'm flexible . . .)

1:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The book sounds awesome! Is there any more news on Bartlesville?

2:28 AM  
Anonymous nuwon wearspants said...

What's your favorite color?

And do you read a lot in your free time?

I can't wait for Let It Snow!!!!

congratulations on suite scarlett!

2:52 AM  
Anonymous Danica said...

Maureeeeeeeeen! So glad to hear you're not dead (or something). Your fans were getting worried.

Okay, here's a question: How many books will there be in the series?

Can't wait.

2:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let It Snow is going to be AMAZING!!
Can't wait for Suite Scarlett!

Question - If you could be a form of precipitation or weather, what would it be? (ex. rain, snow, lightning, stormy, sunny, etc...)

3:30 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

Super important question! So, I live in Northern California (the Bay Area, Mountain View, specifically - aka the spectacularly suburban home of Google(!).) and this weekend (Thursday night) my family's leaving for Philadelphia - my cousin's getting married. We have some extra time and I would love to know if, as a Philly native (as well as a generally totally awesome person), you have any suggestions for what to see - in the DON'T-LEAVE-THE-CITY-WITHOUT-SEEING -THIS!!! way, 'cause we have about two days.

Then, other (more interesting?) questions: When you started writing Suite Scarlett did you already know it was going to be a series? How does that change the way you approach your books? Or does it? With series... it seems like the biggest difference would be the ending. One thing I love about novels is that by their nature they have bittersweet endings (and sometimes just bitterbitter), because no matter how happy everything may turn out, you're still saying goodbye to these characters you fell in love with. (hopefully fell in love with.)

And, finally (sorry I'm so long winded. It's a gift (a curse?). I guess you can relate...), the new cover for The Key to the Golden Firebird. I definitley appreciate that shade of stun gun pink / fuschia (It's almost more of a fuschia, I have to say.), but I have to say I think I might prefer the older version. I really am a big fan of silhouettes.

Er... in summation... a reminder that you're awesome! And I am also super looking forward to Let It Snow, even if it's lame here and doesn't snow.

3:37 AM  
Anonymous Jill said...

So, if your books are ever packaged as a box set, will they market it as a Maureen Johnson 6-Pack?


3:41 AM  
Blogger Alysa said...

Questions: 1. The "large family" that Scarlett is in has four kids? pff. I mean, I guess that's probably large to some people... but there are seven kids in my family. Not that I think you should write the next "Cheaper by the Dozen," but I don't know if 4 is large.

2. How many siblings do you have?
3. Are you doing any touring with so many great books and things coming out?

4:05 AM  
Anonymous tess said...

Here is my question: how come you never get leaves on the stems of apples anymore? Is it some sort of conspiracy?

This has nothing to do with you or your books. But then, you didn't say they *had* to be....

5:48 AM  
Anonymous Jas said...

No way! I just finished watching that interview! It was the first episode of the Daily Show I've seen in months, and I thought it was awsome. Now I wish I'd recorded it, so I could scan it for signs of you. Did you actually get to say hi to Jon and ask him questions? Was he honored to meet you?
On the subject of books--I can't wait for Suite Scarlett. When you first said it was about a girl who lives in a hotel, I had flashbacks to being forced by my little sister to watch The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. But my fears have been assuaged and I'm not so worried about PTSD anymore. It sounds really good, and now I can't even wait for the sequel.
And I'm majorly excited about Let it Snow. I like snow, and I like all three of you who are contributing, so I'm thinking I'll like the book, too.
Oh, and one more question: What song were we playing? I can get about halfway through Moonlight Sonata, and I don't smoke or drink, so I was just curious.

7:12 AM  
Blogger JohnC said...

Let It Snow sounds like a lot of fun. I'll like it a lot if your part involves a contract with the devil written out in 13 envelopes placed on a boat. Also, you have to open the envelopes in order.

Oh, yeah. Here's a question. If you were to write in another category (other than Y.A., that is), what would it be?

4:10 PM  
Blogger Miss Hannah said...

Here's a question for you: When you first got your new laptop, did you call her "New Gilda" in the same way that you now call the old one "Former Gilda," or did you just call the new one "Gilda" as if it were the same laptop? Perhaps if you called the new one "Gilda," the former Gilda is now treating you like a jealous lover because she feels slighted and forgettable (in my head, computers treat people like crap because they are scary monsters with feelings). On a (somewhat stretching) related note, I once knew a woman who had a dog named Taffy, and when it died, she got another dog that looked exactly like the first one and also named it Taffy. Not Taffy II or Taffy, Jr. but Taffy, as if the old dog had never even existed. This seems mildly unfair and very sad to me. Your thoughts?

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Your characters have suddenly and magically sprung to life, and at first you are, understandably, a bit shaken, but this eventually winds down into a more stable feeling of love and affection for these beings from your imagination.

A few months later and you're on vacation with all of your Main Male Characters (You call them your 'M&Ms', for kicks) in some very romantic setting, be it a beach or a European discotheque, and they all suddenly (they are very big with the doing of things suddenly) proposition you.

You can only choose one.

Which will it be?

9:11 PM  
Anonymous icanhaswurdz? said...

I would also like to know the answers to Kat's excellently-phrased questions about writing a series. :)

Also, once you realize you have a series, how do you keep from being overwhelmed by the thought of writing an entire series worth of words? Writing a series just seems so...HUGE. And maybe scary. Is it?

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooo melissa's question is rilly gd! way better than mine which was: how comes 5 cheese pizza smells so gross but wen u eat it, its exactly like an excellent margherita?????

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Bridget said...

Hi Maureen! Can't wait to read Suite Scarlett and Let it Snow! Hmm…question… so many possibilities, but I think I shall unleash my feminist-self for my question. Does the new cover of "Keys to the Golden Firebird" bother you at all? I mean the pink is awesome and everything but why the stick-thin model girl on the cover? It has nothing to do with your amazing novel and it perpetrates an unattainable body image for most YA female readers doesn't it?

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yayyy! You're back! Can honestly say I'm thrilled about Suite Scarlett. V. exciting.

Still wondering who Oscar is? Don't need incriminating details or his address, just want to know why you mention him so often, yet he is the only one with no "tag". Daphne comes with a story, friends come with a "from college" or some obvious, telling, description, like "is editing my manuscript". Yet Oscar is not clearly anything but "Oscar", without any stand-out descriptors. No need to share if there is some particular reason you've decided not to, just wanted you to know that the natural, harmless, mystery-novel-fan in me/others makes one stop and try to connect the dots whenever his name appears, although admittedly, I didn't really give it a second thought until I saw his name the xth time and wondered what I'd missed while reading your blog. Colleague? Relative? Former boss? Live-in handy man? For those of us curious about him, if you hold steadfast to "not sharing", which is fine, perhaps you could make up an elaborate lie instead. I.e. Oscar is the Wild Welsch llama you've been feeding ever since Philip Pullman came down with temporary blindness and therefore could not carry on his llama-duties (like Miss America title duties, except with llamas) and the most obvious London-based caregiver was you. Even a fake identity would put a salve on that natural, clue-seeking curiosity.

Why do you go to London so often, other than the fact that it's completely cool?

Just mild curiousities developed over time!

What was your favorite YA book growing up? One that you've read over and over again? And as you're now a published writer with some insight, can you figure out why it "worked" so well for you, craft-wise?

What author (that you haven't met) have you learned the most from?

Are you a seat-of-the-pants writer, or an outline/structured writer?

Congrats on finishing SS! And looking forward to however few or however many answers you provide to anyone/everyone. :)

11:47 PM  
Blogger Stacy Michelle said...

okay. you said that may will come sooner than we think. sooner than i think. please don't say that. my son's first birthday is in june, and i just can't imagine him being a year old. and i don't want his first year to go any faster than it already is!!!

and now on to other things.

when you were a little girl did you write plays for your friends and/or stuffed animals to act out? i did. :) basically i'm really asking if you always wanted to write, if you always had stories to tell. if you did write stories when you were a kid, can you remember any to share with us? when i was in first grade i wrote a story about a unicorn who lived in pig land. justine would cringe, i know... anyway, i just wonder about what you might have written about as a child.

and now i've rambled on enough. have a lovely day!!

12:29 AM  
Blogger Stacy Michelle said...

holy creepy. the daily show just came on.

it's a different episode, though.

still. creepy.

12:31 AM  
Anonymous hillary! said...

COOL! that is creepy that you met Superman. On another note, can you show us the cover for *Suite Scarlett*? PLEASE!

12:45 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

From other blog entries, and the summary of Suite Scarlett (woo!) you seem to be into theatre. Do you have any favorite shows/musicals?

12:54 AM  
Anonymous operagirl said...

theatre??? This sounds awesome!!!

1:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the craziest thing that you have ever done to procrastinate when you were supposed to be writng a book?

1:10 AM  
Blogger Jez said...

Wow, a girl with an actual face on a Maureen Johnson novel!

I have to say, I'm really really excited over all of your book projects. Scarlett most of all, but Let it Snow and World of the Golden Compass sound amazing as well.

My questions:
As a fellow ABBA fan, I have to ask, what's your favorite song?

Can you tell us more about The World of the Golden Compass project? What's it about?

Which is your favorite character out of all your books? Which was your favorite character to write?

3:43 AM  
Anonymous Ally said...


Umm.. Whats your favorite things to do with your friends when your not writing?


5:43 AM  
Blogger marrije said...

I don't mean to be difficult, but how can one be the middle child in a family of four children?

7:15 PM  
Blogger KB said...

Where is your favorite place to write and why is it your favorite?

12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ahhh yes. hamlett and unicycles. two of my favorite things. well, mainly unicycles, not really hamlet. anyway, i will so have to read Suite Scarlett...when is it supposed to come out?

ps-i love the voices in your head1 especailly the musically-influenced part. considering i couldn't play a piano for my life.


1:00 AM  
Blogger tigress said...

somehow my first comment didnt post...
it went something like this... I am inlove with The Golden Compass. I have been for over half my life now. I would marry it. When I read that an essay by you will be featured in a book about my fav series in the world, and that it would be edited by my second fav. author (scott westerfeld's raving about you, is what got me to pick up your books) I literally started to cry.

So I would like to know how you got involved in this project, and what your essay is about :D

2:00 AM  
Anonymous alliebeckalicious said...

Maureen!!! you're back! i've missed your crazy posts =)

so do you have to have inspiration for books or do you just write? i mean, how do your ideas form?

thanks =) and i love you. teehee.

Allie (beckalicious)

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1:01 AM  
Anonymous Kiersten said...

We've heard about your love for Mo Willem's pigeon, but have you seen Knuffle Bunny?!? They even have Knuffle Bunny stuffed animals. I must get one.

11:40 PM  
Blogger Joanna said...

Would you rather be an elbow or a knee? Why?

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Ashley said...

series!!! yay!!!

and I'm glad you're making a subtle nod at the dangers of birds in our lives.

1:48 AM  
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