Last week, we got the opportunity to meet with the incredible Maureen Johnson, the UK’s very own Queen of Teen. We asked you for your questions and then we asked her for her answers, the results of which are below: (some answers may be slightly paraphrased)
1 – What was it like when you released your first book? And did it make you instantly famous?
My first book was published in 2004, before twitter and social media really got big. Nothing changed really for a while. I remember going to my editor’s office on the day of publication and being stopped by security, who wouldn’t let me leave a present for her. So, I called her, got her out of a meeting and almost got arrested. It may have been because I turned up at this corporate office in flip flops. What else do I remember about the day? Eating ice cream and sitting on my sofa. Nothing else really happened on that day. No instant fame! I remember feeling excited but it was a strange sensation as I had just released my first book, but everything else in the world stayed the same. It took several years until things felt like they had changed. More people know me now, but it’s gradual. It takes time.
2 - When and where do you write best? After midnight (like me) or in full daylight?
I always work during the day. I used to work all night but no more. I write wherever I have to be, which is usually at my home office, but if I’m touring or away, I just take my laptop, open it and write from there.
3 – What/who was your inspiration?
I’ve always liked writers and writing, but no-one inspired me in particular. I’ve just always been someone that wanted to write.
4 - What do you think is going to be the future of fan fiction as a genre in literature?
Well, there’s definitely more awareness of it. For a long time, not many people knew what it was. It’s only recently being spoken about 'out loud'. In terms of a genre, there are still lots of questions legally about the ramifications of taking worlds and characters that someone else has created. But its growing all the time and there is a much larger participation in it, which I like.
5 – How well do you know your readers? How do you go about it? And how important is this for you as an author?
I’m online a lot and I talk directly to readers and people very day. I think knowing your reader varies in importance though. Some authors are dead, but people are still reading their books. Some authors never really thought about who would read their stories, they just wanted to write. You’re never going to know everybody.
6 – How important do you think covers are when it comes to getting noticed and to selling books?
Covers are important but often have nothing to do with what’s inside the book. As e-readers become more popular, covers become less important. Covers only exist as we need to wrap something around the paper. Covers have the least to do with the author in terms of the publishing process. Clever marketing people at publishers decide on the covers.
7 - It'd be great if Maureen could share some of her writing tips/secrets with us...
My advice is to just keep writing and expect to be terrible when you start. It’s the same as playing the piano. It takes practise. You can’t expect to be accomplished straight away. It takes a good 7/8 years. Be patient with yourself and realise that it’s ok to be terrible. Just don’t stop. Continue with every possible moment you have.
Maureen’s first book The Key to the Golden Firebird has just been published in the UK for the first time and the first in the Suite Scarlett series is published in November by Hot Key Books.