Varian Johnson is the author of nine novels, including the Jackson Greene middle-grade series. The first novel in the series, The Great Greene Heist, received two starred reviews and was named an ALA Notable Children’s Book Selection, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, and a Texas Library Association Lonestar List selection among other accolades. His latest caper, To Catch A Cheat, was released in 2016. Kirkus praised the novel in a starred review, calling it, “A satisfying stand-alone sequel; new readers and old friends will be hoping for further adventures.” Varian has also written for the Spirit Animals middle-grade fantasy series as well as novels and short stories for YA audiences. His newest novel, The Parker Inheritance, is forthcoming in 2018.
Varian was born in Florence, South Carolina, and attended the University of Oklahoma, where he received a BS in Civil Engineering. He later received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Varian now lives outside of Austin, TX with his family.
Varian was born in 1977, and grew up in the thriving metropolis of Florence, SC (population 30,248—2000 Census). He has a twin brother and a younger sister, and his parents, unlike many of his characters, were actually pretty good in the parenting department.
Varian excelled in many subjects while growing up, specifically math and science. He was the typical high school “geek”—he played the baritone in marching band, was a member of the Wilson High School Academic Challenge Team, and he counted his Hewlett-Packard 48G calculator as one of his most prized possessions. However, Varian also enjoyed English—especially creative writing.
In 1995, after graduating from high school (as co-valedictorian, along with his twin brother), he packed up his Mercury Topaz and traveled halfway across the country to the University of Oklahoma, where he majored in Civil Engineering. While at OU, Varian joined a fraternity, met a very wonderful woman whom would become his wife, and most importantly (at least in the context of writing), finished the first draft of A Red Polka Dot in a World Full of Plaid. (For more about Red Polka Dot, check out the blog post, “2944 Days and Counting“).
For being a little-bitty book by a little-bitty publisher, A Red Polka Dot in a World Full of Plaid has done pretty well. It made the Essence Magazine Bestselller list in March 2006 (#6 for Paperback Fiction). Later that year, it was published as an audiobook by Recorded Books.
Varian’s second novel, My Life as a Rhombus, is about a math tutor named Rhonda Lee. In 2009, the book was named to the Texas Library Association’s Tayshas High School Reading List and the New York Public Library’s “Stuff For The Teen Age” List. His third novel, Saving Maddie, was named a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book.
His caper novel, The Great Greene Heist, is his first work for younger readers. It was recently named a Publishers Weekly Best Summer Book of 2014. Kirkus praised the novel in a starred review, stating, “The elaborate bait and switch of this fast-paced, funny caper novel will surprise its readers as much as the victims. They’ll want to reread immediately so they can admire the setup.”