Varian Johnson is the author of nine novels, including The Parker Inheritance, which was named a 2019 Coretta Scott King Honor Book and a 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book among other accolades. His middle grade caper novel, The Great Greene Heist, has been named to over twenty-five state reading and best-of lists. In addition, Varian has written for the Spirit Animals: Fall of the Beasts middle-grade fantasy series as well as novels and short stories for YA audiences.
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 Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is honored to now be a member of the faculty. Varian 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, made life-long friends, and most importantly (at least in the context of writing), finished the first draft of his first novel, A Red Polka Dot in a World Full of Plaid.
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.”
Varian’s newest novel, The Parker Inheritance, has been called The Westing Game meets The Watsons Go To Birmingham—1963. The Parker Inheritance, released in 2018, reviewed starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Horn Book, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and was named a 2019 Coretta Scott King Honor Book and a 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book among other accolades.
Varian loves traveling around the world (seriously, the world!) talking about writing and books. Please contact him if you’re interesting in having him speak at your school or event.