5 Questions for Maureen Johnson - Uncharted

5 Questions for Maureen Johnson

By Racquel Henry

Maureen Johnson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than a dozen young adult novels, including the Truly Devious series, the Shades of London series, Suite Scarlett, and 13 Little Blue Envelopes. Her collaborative books include Ghosts of the Shadow Market (with Cassandra Clare), as well as Let It Snow (with John Green and Lauren Myracle), which was also a hit feature film on Netflix.

Her books have sold more than three million copies worldwide and have been published in more than thirty countries. 

The bestselling author is also active in social justice issues and politics both online and IRL. She initiated and organized an open letter in support of trans and nonbinary communities that was signed by more than 2000 North American writers, including Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Roxane Gay, and Neil Gaiman, as well as publishers and other members of the literary world. She co-hosts the podcast, Says Who? with Punk Planet creator Dan Sinker and edited the collection How I Resist, the entire advance of which was donated to the ACLU.

She has written for publications such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, The Guardian and CrimeReads. Her CrimeReads essay, “Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village” has garnered upwards of 450,000 views since its publication.  Maureen Johnson grew up in Philadelphia, graduated from the University of Delaware and has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University.  She lives in New York City with her husband and dog.


Voyage: What was the inspiration behind your novel, The Box in the Woods? What made you want to tell this story?

Maureen Johnson: I love a detective. I love the moment when the new case comes along. So I wanted to make a detective who could go on with her mystery career. I planned for it. While I was immersed in Truly Devious, I wasn’t sure where I would send her next, but I set up conditions for her to move on. When I was done with the last book in the Truly Devious trilogy, The Hand on the Wall, I hit the reset button on my brain and looked around for the next location. The new mystery was to be a stand-alone, a totally new case. The camp idea came to me pretty much immediately.


V: When you write your stories, what is the one thing you hope readers will take away?

MJ: Anything a reader takes away is valid! I always hope for something positive and/or useful, but what that thing is belongs entirely to them.


V: What was the hardest scene of The Box in the Woods to write?

MJ: Fitting all of the end pieces together took a lot of time and care. I checked everything over and over again. With mysteries, you have to be very precise.


V: If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?

MJ: Honestly? Nothing, because I think you have to discover things along the way to find out what kind of writer you are. And I’m still finding out. We never stop finding out.


V: What are your writing must-haves?

MJ: No must-haves! I mean, something to write with or on, but aside from that, no must-haves. I’ve written in all kinds of situations and locations, on all kinds of surfaces and materials, under all kinds of conditions. I think it’s important to be flexible!


Find Maureen’s latest novel on our Bookshop account here!


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