The Saving Maddie Blog Tour, Day 5

For the final stop on the Saving Maddie Blog Tour, I’m hanging with Edi at Crazy Quilts. A few excerpts:

“Also, my characters feel like my children at times—I don’t want all of these bad things to happen to them. I want someone to swoop in set them on the right path (I especially felt this way about Rhonda in My Life as a Rhombus, and Madeline is practically breaking my heart right now as I work through the companion novel).”

And perhaps my favorite excerpt from the entire tour:

“As my Dad used to say—it’s not a real meal if it doesn’t have meat!”

Check out the full interview!

In general, thanks everyone for all the support for Saving Maddie. This book is special to me for a lot of reasons–my first hardcover, my first post-VCFA book, my first book from a male perspective. Honestly, the entire week has been a little overwhelming; I’m kinda looking forward to things dying down a bit next week.

But before I sign off, if y0u live in Austin, or if you live close to Austin, or if you’re looking for a reason to visit Austin, please join me and my friend April Lurie for our joint book signing at the end of the month. The event will be set-up interview style–April and I will be asking each other thought-provoking / embarrassing / incriminating questions. Here are the event details:

Varian Johnson (Saving Maddie) and April Lurie (The Less-Dead) Dual Release Party
Saturday, March 27th at 2:00
Austin, TX

Thanks so much guys! Next week, I promise to talk about something other than Saving Maddie…that is, if I get around to posting to the blog.

The Saving Maddie Blog Tour, Day 4

For today’s stop on the Saving Maddie Blog Tour, I’m hanging with Melissa at Book Nut, where I say things such as:

“And while Saving Maddie isn’t an autobiographical story, I very much felt like Joshua when I was a teenager—I felt like everyone was trying to force me to be this two-dimensional person. I was the smart one. The good one. I felt like few people saw the real me. But looking back on it, I’d bet that a lot of my classmates felt the same way, and perhaps I was just as guilty of seeing them in very confined ways as they were of seeing me.”

Check out the full interview.

And lastly, yesterday I neglected to mention my friend Michelle Knudsen has a short story out in an anthology released this week. The collection is titled I Fooled You: Ten Stories of Tricks, Jokes, and Switcheroos. Be sure to check it out.

The Saving Maddie Blog Tour, Day 3

Today, I’m at Gwenda Bond’s Shaken and Stirred, where I’m talking about the writing process for Saving Maddie. A few excerpts:

“There was only one thing I knew when I started working on this book—that it would be from a male’s POV.”


“There were some things I did right in the manuscript, but there were a whole bunch of things I did wrong—I interrupted the dialogue with huge chunks of description, Joshua’s parents were two-dimensional, and I apparently had an overabundant zeal for the word “breasts”…”

Check out the full interview.

FYI – my birthday / book release day was great! Thanks for all the kind thoughts and words of encouragement. And thank you so much to the people that went out and picked up a copy of Saving Maddie. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

And for those of you that haven’t gone out book shopping yet, here are a few other new releases to keep in mind:

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Front Page Face-Off by Jo Whittemore

It’s Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder

Happy Hump-Day, everyone!

The Saving Maddie Blog Tour, Day 2

For today’s stop on the Saving Maddie Blog Tour, I’m at Reading in Color, where I’m talking about the Saving Maddie Playlist. Here’s an excerpt:

“As this book is all about love (and lust), many of the songs on my playlist are love songs—though I wouldn’t consider them happy love songs. Like Joshua and Maddie’s relationship, my playlist is a mix of seduction and despair, love and loss.”

Check out the full playlist!

The Saving Maddie Blog Tour, Day 1

For my first stop on the Saving Maddie Blog Tour, I’m hanging with Melodye Shore in The Authors’ Tent. Here are a few snippets of the interview:

“At the beginning of the novel, both Joshua and Madeline’s actions encourage others to see them in very confined, two-dimensional ways. It isn’t until we see Joshua and Madeline truly begin to interact that we start to see more of their real selves.”


“I certainly don’t think the ethnicity of the characters is important in THIS story—the characters are Southern and religious, and that’s what I was most intent on getting across. Also, I didn’t want to manufacture a scene where the characters were commenting on their “blackness”—that just seemed silly.”

Be sure to check out the full interview! And tomorrow aka release day aka my birthday, check out Reading in Color, where I’ll be discussing the Saving Maddie Playlist.

The Saving Maddie Blog Tour

In just a few days, my third novel, SAVING MADDIE hits stores. To celebrate, I’ll be at five great blogs next week:

Monday: I’ll be discussing religion, stereotypes and cover art with Melodye Shore in The Author’s Tent.

Tuesday: I’ll be debuting the Saving Maddie Playlist at Reading in Color with Ari. (This is also Release Day. And my birthday.)

Wednesday: I’ll be at Gwenda Bond’s Shaken and Stirred, where I’ll be talking about my writing process for Saving Maddie. (FYI–Gwenda is also a graduate of Vermont College, and is AWESOME.)

Thursday: I’ll be at Book Nut with Melissa, where I’ll be answering questions like, “What’s my favorite scene?”

Friday: I’ll be talking to a student interviewer at Crazy Quilts.

I’ll be updating my blog with direct links throughout the week. Be sure to check out all the stops! There may even be some giveaways involved.

Kirkus, Covers, and Giveaways

So last Saturday, I saw that Saving Maddie had been reviewed by Kirkus. I waited patiently–waited for my editor to send me a copy, waited for the review to be posted on B&N (PW and SLJ are already there), waited for the issue to be available via the online journal database at my university.

On the third day, I caved and bought a one-month subscription.

But I’m so glad I did. This is arguably the best journal review I’ve ever received–and here’s a snippet:

“Johnson avoids heavy-handed messages with nuanced characters and a realistic treatment of Joshua and Maddie’s complex relationship.”

In fact, here’s the only “negative” thing the reviewer says:

“Unfortunately, the cover condemns this book to Girls Only.”

I’d actually been thinking about this before seeing this review, after recent online discussions with Collen Mondor about After the Moment and after seeing the comments in Edi’s wonderful review. I realized that during the cover design process, I was so preoccupied with the skin/lip-tone of the cover model, I didn’t think about if the cover was “anti-boy”. And I’m NOT saying that the cover is or isn’t boy-friendly–but I am admitting that I didn’t put as much thought into this as I should have, and will hopefully do better in the future.

(Although I think it was due to unusual circumstances–i.e. the Liar Controversy–that I was even consulted on this cover. And yes, for those that are interested, I have seen all the comments about “is she or isn’t she black” and will respond at some point…probably after I see the final cover.)

All that being said, this is still a great review. And how am I celebrating? Well, by giving away my last ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of Saving Maddie.

Looking at my office floor–I mean, bookshelf, I realized that I don’t own ARCs of any of my previous books, which in a way is fitting. The ARC isn’t for me. It’s for librarians and reviewers and booklovers and people like YOU.

So if you want an advanced reader’s copy of the book before the real thing hits stores on March 9th, just make a comment on this post before 12:00 Midnight CST on Tuesday, Feb 23rd (if you’re reading this on Facebook, Livejournal, MySpace, etc–you’ll need to go to my webpage blog to officially enter). Don’t put your email or snail mail address in the comments–just your name–and check back on Wednesday evening to see if you won.

Good luck!

Playing Catch-up

It’s been a busy month.

In addition to the usual (including, among other things, writing a new book) I’m also teaching a course on children’s literature at a small liberal arts university here in Austin. So far, the class has been great—I love my students, I love talking about books, I love it all, period (well, except for grading papers).

(I’m like Dumbledore. Except I’m black. And I’m not a wizard. And I’m not gay. And I’m not dead. But otherwise, we’re just alike.)

I was also at ALA a few weeks ago, where I signed copied of My Life as a Rhombus and participated in the ALA Kid / YA Lit Tweetup (organized by the sensational Mitali Perkins and Deborah Sloan). I had the chance to see a lot of old friends on both the author and editorial side, plus I had lunch with my agent.

This is my favorite picture from ALA, taken by author Jeannine Atkins. I’m signing copies of Rhombus while author and friend Ellen Wittlinger looks on. Those that have read the blog enough times know how much Ellen’s work has affected my career, so it’s always great to see her.

ALA was the first of many Spring events that I have scheduled (see the full list here). Check back often, as I hope to fit in a few more events between March and July.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the unsung books of 2009 (started by Kelly at YAnnabe). I didn’t read a whole lot of books in 2009, but many of the ones I really, really, really, really loved and wanted to win awards (Once Was Lost, Liar, Going Bovine, How To Say Goodbye in Robot, Jumped, and Marcelo in the Real World) are books that I wouldn’t exactly call unsung. But there is one novel that I wish had received a little more attention: After the Moment by Garret Freymann-Weyr.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this novel since I finished it last summer. I also have a postcard for this book, which has the tagline “…about a boy who discovers what happens when love fails us–or we fail love,” which I think is a perfect way to describe the novel. Sometimes, as much as you want to do the right thing, you just…can’t. Sometimes, despite wanting to be a good, upstanding, honorable person, you fail the ones you love; the ones that need you most. And, it’s just so damn hard to save someone when you have no idea HOW to save one.

Perhaps one of the reasons I enjoy this novel so much is because of how similar some of the themes are to Saving Maddie…which I plan to talk about…eventually. But for now, you can check out this review by Melissa at Book Nut.