Getting to know Maureen Johnson and Robin Wasserman


Maureen Johnson and Robin Wasserman

Most of those attending LeakyCon would give their right arm to have breakfast with either Maureen Johnson, author of “ Name of the Star,” “Suite Scarlett,” and “13 Little Blue Envelopes,” or Robin Wasserman, author of “The Cold Awakening” trilogy, “Hatching Harvard,” and her most recent, “The Book of Blood and Shadow.” Watch the video here.

Breakfast with both ladies was a treat. The community of authors, especially young adult authors, is a small one and Maureen and Robin have been friends for years. They were both in Chicago for the LeakyConconference. Both are on the staff of LeakyCon.

Good friends they may be, but Maureen and Robin are very different in many ways. While Maureen loves to read on her Kindle and iPad, Robin prefers a real book in her hand when she reads. Both love to read young adult, and they both read a lot of nonfiction when researching for their books.

Both Robin and Maureen have a lot to say about why YA books are so great (and this reviewer is not arguing!). Robin pointed out that while adult books are categorized into tight genres like romance, fantasy, mystery, and the like, YA books span the genres. Realistic fiction titles rub shoulders with fantasy on the shelves of bookstores and libraries. Mystery might be next to horror on one side and scifi on the other in the YA section.

According to these prolific YA authors, there is very little that can’t be considered for publishing as YA literature. While in the “old” days, YA was aimed at kids in middle school (think Sweet Valley High), now the boundaries have expanded.

Robin said, “Books being sold reflect their (the readers’) lives. The neat thing about writing in the YA market is that it’s flexible, inclusive and expansive. It isn’t one narrow genre.” Two examples of books they loved that are out of the ordinary are “Code Name Verity,” which opens with a torture scene during World War II, and “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing,” written in its formal, old-style English.

Another great thing about YA literature is that, as Robin said, “… it allows for things to flourish that don’t get a voice in adult literature. For example, books written in poetry-like prose.” While there are many popular books featuring that kind of free-wheeling and free-flowing language use on the YA shelves, there are very few, if any, on the adult bestseller lists.

They both summed up their love of YA when talking about what they might plan to write about next. One mused, “It’s exciting to think I can do anything.” And that just about sums up the variety and range that both these talented (and personable) authors have shown in their work.

Of course, an interview is never complete without at least some talk about pets and such. Maureen may have a boyfriend, but her true love is Sherlock, a lovely Siamese cat. (Please don’t tell the boyfriend!) She carries pictures of him on her phone and can wax poetic about him for hours (not really). She visits “cat rescue places” for fun, and occasionally has gone home with a few kittens needing temporary fostering.

Robin, on the other hand, admits to a few dysfunctional pets (which had to live in tanks) when she was a child. An unfriendly gerbil and a sluggish guinea pig (who had disgusting toilet habits) were her only pets. She admits to wanting a dog but wisely is waiting for a house and yard to get one.

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