about bulletins books Maureen Johnson dot com blog f.a.q. contact community
suite scarlett
girl at sea
13 little blue envelopes
the bermudez triangle
the key to the golden firebird
vacations from hell
let it snow

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Friends! As promised, this post is all about answering YOUR questions. Your questions were quite numerous, and very good. In fact, they were so numerous and good that I could only answer some of them. This batch of answers includes questions about YOU, my general lifestyle, Suite Scarlett, and what would happen if my characters got loose.

I enjoyed answering questions so much that I think I kind of want to do it again. In fact, maybe I will designate October as ASK MJ month.


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?

That is precisely right! In fact, I will accept any Richard E. Grant, including insane, lighter fluid-drinking Richard E. Grant from Withnail and I, fancy Richard E. Grant from Gosford Park, and even Spiceworld Richard E. Grant. I don’t want you to feel limited.

This could be YOU!

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.

It sounds like “Anything Goes” by Cole Porter to me. But it could also be this.


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

Um . . . I would have to say it was probably this. I had all this pink plastic wrap, a boat, and a deadline. I managed to get Christo to say he did it, so it sort of worked out.

It just kind of happened.

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

You are killing me. This is like Sophie’s Choice. But I will try to answer.

When I was a tiny mj, it was “What about Livingston?” from Waterloo. I went to find a videovideo of it, because there seems to be no end to the depths of bizarre Abba footage on Youtube. I couldn’t find a real video, but I did manage to find this montage, which might just be the most wonderful thing I’ve ever discovered. Part interview, part history channel episode, part scrapbook, part documentary on fishing, part just disturbing thing . . . I have no idea who put this together. Whoever you are, you are a genius, and never, ever, ever come near me.

But I really don’t have a favorite. It’s impossible. I’ll tell you what’s not my favorite: Mamma Mia. I am so over Mamma Mia.

What’s your favorite things to do with your friends when you’re not writing?

I am so glad you asked this! Some people think writers lives are boring and we do nothing but sit at our desks. I have even said things to this effect. But I was lying.

For example, I typically go hot air ballooning with Jay-Z and Microsoft founder Bill Gates on Thursdays. We float over Manhattan together and talk computers, books, and hip hop. (You’d be surprised by who’s talking about what!) Of course, our balloon is made by Microsoft, so we tend to crash a lot. Bill has been promising us a new balloon for months, but it still hasn’t arrived. It usually falls to Jay-Z to keep us aloft on his sweet rhymes.

My hot air ballooning friends, Bill and Jay. I took this picture right after we “landed” on the top of the Woolworth Building.


Can you show us the cover for Suite Scarlett?

Hopefully soon. It’s being finalized now. I can tell you that the model was chosen to look like Scarlett, is dressed in an outfit from the book, and has TWO eyes. What’s even cooler—the art director did some research and found an Art Deco hotel just like the Hopewell! (Except, successful and not falling apart.) That’s where the shoot was done. For now, I will use this as the stand-in cover.

Suite Scarlett

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?

To me, four kids might as well be a million. I’m an only child. (Except, of course, for my brothers John, Hank, and Tom, but Tom and I left home to join the circus so young, I often forget what sibling interaction is like.) (If you don’t watch Brotherhood2.0, then this will make no sense, and you should just revert to my previous answer about being an only child.)

Also, in New York, being one of four is kind of rare. People in Manhattan often keep their families small—space is a problem. Unless you are talking about mice families, which I don't think we were.

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

Scarlett is the third of four, putting her in the general area of “middle.” At 15, she is also the middle point, agewise, between the oldest (Spencer, at 19) and the youngest (Marlene, at 11). It’s possible that I should have said she is the “median” child, but that just sounds weird.

i will so have to read Suite Scarlett...when is it supposed to come out?

May. The exact date has not been announced. You should really just block off the whole month to be ready.

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.)

I knew pretty soon after starting, actually. The characters arrived with a lot of information, carrying long stories. It was clearly much more than one book’s worth. As I was writing and the characters were developing, their future stories started to grow right along with them. So I have plot maps and files on all of them.

The major change I made in terms of my normal procedure was that I planted information in Suite Scarlett that I knew I wouldn’t need for at least a book or two. Then, like a sleeper cell, it will burst to life! The nice part is your can resolve certain parts of the story, while others are still active.

So far, I am very much loving it. I mean, you go to a lot of trouble to make a world and the characters . . . I often miss them when I’m done.


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?

Okay, so this means that I am trapped on an island with Pete (from They Key to the Golden Firebird), Parker (from The Bermudez Triangle), Keith (from 13 Little Blue Envelopes), Owen (from Devilish), Aidan (from Girl At Sea), and possibly with Spencer and Eric from Suite Scarlett. You don’t know Spencer or Eric yet, so let’s just say that they are “back at the hotel.”

I guess the first thing I need to get over is whether I should be dating any of them at all. I’m not sure that it’s smart to date anyone you made and whose destiny you completely control. I mean, when I say jump, they really say “How high?” Actually, they say whatever I want them to say and jump however high I want them to jump. All their action belong to ME.

But, okay . . . let’s take this scenario and see where it goes. First, I’m not sure how they’re all going to get along. Pete and Parker would be fine together. Keith would try to be everyone’s friend, but this would probably make Aidan ill at ease. Owen would keep his distance and scan the area for demonic activity. (If Spencer did proposition me—which he might—it would probably involve knocking himself backwards off a pier or something. And truth be told, I am most likely to end up with him, as he and I are kindred spirits.)

I think Keith is most likely to make a direct approach. Or he might write a play for me. Or really, he would write a play for himself but claim it was for me. It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if Keith and Aidan didn’t end up in some kind of snark-off. Pete would probably do something to rig the lights as a “joke.” Parker’s car would die on the other side of the island. And Owen would just wait it out, because Owen can wait a really, really, really long time.

The more I think about it, the more I think I might just step back and see what they do to each other.

Got any more? Let's hear them!

Labels: , ,


Anonymous Jessica-ca-ca said...

While reading, do you listen to any music? If so, what?

My choice of writing/homework music is retro Backstreet Boys, but maybe that's just me. :D

3:10 AM  
Anonymous Jas said...

Oh, I completely get Scarlett's position in the family (although I'm two years older than her, my older brother--and oldest sibling--is 19, my youngest sister is 11, and I have another sister who's a year older than me.) I don't live in a hotel, and am several thousand miles away from New York, so I'm guessing that's where our similarities end.
But, I am surprised by how many of my family members show up in Scott Westerfeld's books. Peeps was the worst--I think, aside from the main two, more than half of the characters had the same names as people related to me. I've yet to appear as a person, but the plant I'm named after was mentioned profusely throughout.
Right, so I should probably ask you a question now. How's about this:
Do you base any of your characters on real people, or are they more conglomerations of realistic elements (save for the supernaturalness and whatnot that appeared in Devilish)?
And, if you do, has anyone come up to you and said "Hey, that's me!"?

4:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want more Mamma Mia type videos! NOW please! *grins* That was hilarious...

Also- any funny stories, from anytime, with anyone in them!

4:39 AM  
Anonymous Marie said...

There has been a zombie invasion. Hordes of the undead roam the land in search of delicious brains. You have sought refuge on a small island, but the zombies could arrive at any moment, necessitating some major defensive action on your part. You can only have three of your characters by your side during this battle royale. Who would they be and why?

5:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ask again:

Nothing has been posted on his blog for a loooong time.

6:22 AM  
Blogger Alysa said...

Good answers! This was just too fun! And Brotherhood 2.0 is awesome! As are you.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Bugsy said...

Are you planning on writing other non Suite Scarlett books while working on the series or are you just going to focus on Scarlett for a while?

7:35 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

My to-do list for today:

1. Comb closet for anything Richard E. Grant-ish, in the Miss Marple / Gosford Park end of the spectrum.

2. Explain to my wife that I'll be dressing like this for the next little while . . .

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you so much for ansering my question! i was reading it, and was like "hey, that sounds familiar, omg! that's my question!!" i really like the idea of October being ASK MJ month. very cool!!


ps- i will block off the whole month of may for suite scarlett...

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

forgot to add, i loved your answer to the question on whoi would you chose from your "M&M"s...i would sit back and watch them do something to eachother too. hehe, my favorite is Keith, i think...hehe.


11:04 PM  
Anonymous Iris said...

I saw this guy at barnes and noble wearing a kilt. It made me think of keith. He was kind of keith-ish too. It was pretty funny. I know someone like Aidan. He's very snarky.

11:38 PM  
Anonymous jas said...

I forgot to say so earlier, but thanks for clearing up the song confusion.
The orange slayed the rake and all that jazz.

12:27 AM  
Blogger Allie Beckaliciousness =) said...

so do you have a time limit on all of your books? what if you can't finish one by a certain time and it comes out crap? (not that yours ever would..)

1:32 AM  
Anonymous Ally said...

haha Microsoft, crashing lol


1:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just watching Meg Cabot on The Today Show recently and she mentioned that she uses gossip sites as a reward for writing (she also mentions TV shows, etc.) I was wondering if you have a "reward system" for sitting down and writing? If so, what types of things do you use for rewards when working on something?

1:46 AM  
Anonymous sockmonster sarai said...

My word first word verificationeythingiemabobbery was "eadrqmau". My second is "gyvutbzd". I'm turning them over and over in my mind to figure out what they mean.

Um, lessee...

I posted an episode of "Red VS Blue" in the comments section a few months ago. It's a PSA (public service announcement) about Zombie Plans. Just in case you missed it, here it is again on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkaxjymbfS0

So I want to know, do you have a zombie plan? 37 zombie plans? Will you share it with us? I'm still working on mine.

And what was your favorite halloween costume ever? I mean, one that you wore, not one of the ones someone else wore.

And do you collect anything cool? Aside from books, that is. I collect socks. The weirder and wilder the better.

2:40 AM  
Anonymous Phases of the Moon said...

As is my duty as the leader of the newly formed (think yesterday) Lobby For More Awesome YA Werewolf Novels, I ask you, would you ever be interested in writing a werewolf book?

I have no doubt any result would be hilarious. Please ponder the possiblities. Werewolves with pink stun guns? Dead body werewolves on Law and Order?

The world needs you and your fellow awesome authors. We cannot survive on solely Blood + Chocolate and the Wereling Trilogy for long. The YA werewolf humor subclass is sorely lacking.

Also, werewolves are awesome. They deserve a chance to compete with the recent vampire flood.

4:22 AM  
Anonymous Book Chic said...

I shall ask again. Have any of your books been optioned to be movies yet, or has there been any interest at all? I would love to see a movie of one of your books.

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Book Chic said...

Also, thanks for answering my Suite Scarlett cover question! Great stand-in cover, btw.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous Ashley said...

what kinds of things would be said in this...'snark-off'...and since you control their destinies and actions, who would win?

1:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maureen,

I love your blog, and I especially loved your blogs about writing a book and revising. I did have a question about writing and revising, though. I was wondering when you write a book, do you - before you send it to your editor - rewrite it until you are satisfied with it? As a whole I mean, rather than rewriting each chapter everytime you write one (which I understand some writers do).

Thank-you and thanks so much for writing your blog and sharing your wisdom with us who dream of one day being as good a writer as you!


4:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it a bit creepy that you--a woman in your thirties--even considered the idea of dating your considerably younger male characters? Have you wanted a boy toy for a long time? Or is this a recent development?

I'm shocked!

8:33 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home