“Dude, you’re the ugliest looking woman I’ve ever seen.”
Well, an editor at an SCBWI conference a few years ago didn’t quite put it like that, but it was close. What she said was more along the lines of, “You’re Varian Johnson? I expected an overweight, African-American woman to walk into the door.” Hmm, at least she got the African-American part right.
All jokes aside, that is probably the best compliment I’ve gotten about my writing. Both Red Polka Dot and my current work-in-progress feature female main characters, and most folks that read my work without knowing me are surprised to find that I’m not a woman. While most of that is do to the outstanding job I do of creating female characters (yes, that’s a shameless plug) , a lot is probably do to my name.
Varian isn’t really a macho name. Hell, most people have never even met a Varian before. It’s a name that was once the bane of my existence. I HATED my name. You don’t know how many times I’ve been called “Ms. Varian Johnson” while waiting at the doctor’s office. Most of my family and close friends call me by my middle name.
There are some good perks to using the name Varian, though. There are a lot of Johnsons out there, but not a lot of Varian Johnsons. Plus, it’s a name that’s hard to forget. Pair it with a title that’s equally as hard to forget (like Red Polka Dot In A World Full of Plaid) and you at least have something that will make people pause while browsing at the bookstores.
But more than anything, there is one thing I can’t argue with: Varian Johnson looks great on a book cover.