Interviews hurt my brain. Being asked to talk about my work in the abstract feels weird. Especially when I’m asked about what message I wished to convey, what I want to teach people, how I want to change the world, and why did I have this bit of my book symbolise x, y, or z.
The truth is I don’t think about any of that stuff when I’m writing a first draft. Nothing in any of my books is meant to symbolise anything. As far as I’m concerned my zombies are just zombies. I don’t set out to teach anyone anything and I have no overt messages to convey.
(The secret message of my books is that mangosteens are the best food in the universe, quokkas the cutest animal, and anyone who lives somewhere cold should have their head examined.)
If other people see my zombies as representing the corruption of Western capitalism or the horrors of commodification or whatever. That’s cool. If they learn something that’s fabulous, too. One of my favourite things is hearing what readers take out of my work. Mostly it’s not anything I intended. My readers teach me stuff.1
But I didn’t do that on purpose. Truly. I don’t write like that.
I know writers who do, though. A friend of my carefully plans all sorts of symbols and always talks about the message of their book. Not me, though.
I just had to answer a set of questions from the members of the Teen Advisory Group of the Kingsbridge Branch Library in the Bronx via their Young Adult Librarian, Andrea Lipinski. Their questions were awesome. There was nothing about metaphors or meanings or messages. Bless you all! They wanted to know if I believe in magic, whether I like Sydney or NYC better, who I think is the better writer me or Scott, whether my trilogy’s going to have a fourth book, and which of my characters is most like me.
So much more fun answering those kinds of questions! Especially as the answer to all of them is “Maureen Johnson.”
- Except for the loony readers. You know who you are! [↩]