I don’t think about it like that, honest . . .

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.”

  1. Except for the loony readers. You know who you are! []


  1. molly on #

    Perhaps you might educate us unenlightened folks on how one eats a mangosteen? That looks … complicated!

    (I got a bag of mangosteen green tea the other day and immediately thought of your blog. For the record, it was delicious, and I wish I could find more.)

  2. Tim Keating on #

    . . . anyone who lives somewhere cold should have their head examined.

    I completely concur. Mmm, Austin.

    Hey, wait a second. Don’t you live in NYC?

  3. Justine on #

    Molly: They’re very easy to eat. The husk is much softer than it looks. I just push through to the flesh with my thumbs and then peel it off and stuff it in my mouth. Is easier than getting the skin off an orange.

    Tim: I only live here in summer except for when circumstances beyond my control keep me here. But this particular circumstance is a one off and will never happen again. I.e. this is my LAST New York City winter.

  4. _iris_ on #

    what is the texture of a mangosteen?

  5. Winchester Grey on #

    We curses you for the taunting with the mangosteens, evil one. We has arranged the the weather for next weekend in revenge.

  6. Justine on #

    Well, I have foiled you, Mr Grey, for I am escaping to Detroit!

    Oh. Wait . . .

  7. Winchester Grey on #

    My reach is far, and my vengeance endless. I have to live with hours of the vivid ghost taste of mangosteen haunting my fevered gob, provoking unwanted drooling, sobbing and moaning. I’m getting stranger than usual looks.

  8. Kadie-Wa on #

    Wow, that looks extremely delish.

  9. Patrick on #

    i find that the magic door between the us and aus has dual meanings, being that of mankind’s need to explore space as well as reconciliation between england’s outcast criminals of aus and england’s elite who colonized the us.

    that’s pretty much the theme of your books, right?

  10. Justine on #

    Ya know, Patrick, the Blog Overlord is a vengeful god. Vastly vengeful. I’m just saying . . .

  11. Patrick on #

    yes, but ya authors are loving, giving, caring, and tolerant people.

    and look, i’m smiling. 😀

    see? smiles make everything ok.

  12. Justine on #

    Patrick: The Blog Overlord is not a YA author.

  13. Patrick on #

    Blog Overlords like smiles? 😀

  14. capt. cockatiel on #

    My English teacher likes to tell us all the time that the only good authors out there put symbolism in their books. Which I never really thought was true. (I also found it kind of insulting to my own writing…)I kind of always wanted to raise my hand and argue with him about it. But he’s the sort of person who always thinks he’s right. So I didn’t go there. XD

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