Most writers have a day job. Varian Johnson is no exception. He writes in the early morning and then works a full day as a civil engineer. But Varian is exceptional when it comes to his writing. All three of his novels have won awards and met with both critical and commercial success. Now hard at work on a sequel to his latest novel, Saving Maddie, Varian found a few minutes to visit about his busy work day, his inspirations and his advice for new writers.
Where did you grow-up and where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Florence, SC, but now live in Austin, TX with my wife and two cocker spaniels. We’ve been here for almost seven years, and I don’t see myself moving anytime soon.
What is a normal “writing” workday like for you?
I like to get my writing done early in the morning, when I’m freshest. On a good day, I’m up and out of the house by a quarter after six, which allows me to get about an hour and a half of writing done before I go to the day job. There are days when it’s really hard to get up in the morning, but I love the feeling of knowing that I got my writing in—I don’t have to stress about trying to find time later in the day or at night to write.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I don’t know if I get my inspiration from any one place. I’m usually inspired by stray phrases from the news or a novel or a friend or an old memory—anything that catches my interest and makes me want to question things.
Who are your favorite writers and why?
My favorite writer at the moment in Melina Marchetta. I loved her novel Jellicoe Road (2009 ALA Michael L. Printz Winner), and I’ve made it my mission to read all of her books—I’m reading her latest, The Piper’s Son, now. As a writer, I love the way she uses language, especially in dialogue. As a reader, I love the way her characters make me think. I know they aren’t real people, but I find myself rooting for then, nevertheless.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
To read as much as you can. Then read more. Then more. And then, write as much as you can. Then more. Then more. Then revise as much as you can…and you get the drift. It’s a never ending cycle, but if you do it enough times, you begin to figure out what does and doesn’t work for you.
What are you working on now?
I’m slowly but surely working on a companion novel to Saving Maddie. And in order not to jinx myself, that’s all I’ll say about that.
If you want to learn more about Varian, check out his website www.varianjohnson.com. All of Varian’s books are available for sale online or at your local, independent bookstore.