Meet The BBS: Varian Johnson


Vital Statistics

Structural Engineer / Grad Student at the Vermont College of Fine Arts /YA Author


Saving Maddie (Delacorte, 2010)

My Life As a Rhombus (Flux, 2008)

A Red Polka Dot in a World Full of Plaid (Genesis Press, 2005)

Three Words That Describe Varian




Varian’s Writing Style

rhombusHmm…I’m still trying to figure it out. It seems every book brings its own set of unique challenges. The only consistent thing about my writing style is that I usually don’t figure out who my characters are and what they want until halfway through the first draft. Once I figure this out, I start all over again.

Brown Bookshelf Role

Papa Techie. The Brown Bookshelf is a great example of a group of folks who know just enough about technology to be dangerous. I do my best to keep us and the site tethered to the new millennium. I try to keeps our pages clean and links functional, and can figure out some of the kinks in WordPress when necessary.

Paula says I’m like the head of our little family, providing the last word on best practices when it comes to the many moving parts it takes to keep our machine running. But really, I just do what she tells me to do!

What You Don’t Know About Varian…

savingmaddiejktMy next novel, Saving Maddie (Delacorte, 2010), is the first novel that I’ve written that features a male as the main character.

During my second semester at Vermont College, my advisor, Rita Williams-Garcia, forced me to write a picture book. How the edge YA writer wrote a picture book, I don’t know, but I’m actually pretty proud of it. Maybe I’ll try to get it published one day.

When I first moved to Austin, other writers would mistake me for Don Tate.

The only English class I took in college was Technical Writing.

I have a twin brother. Although he’s not a writer, I hope he gives it a try one day. I think he’d be pretty good at it.

I hate, hate, hate text messaging. My thumbs just aren’t made for it.

Praise for Varian’s Work

“Realistic and nuanced.” — KLIATT on My Life As a Rhombus

“A sensitive and powerful friendship story. Realistic and heartfelt.” -Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Tantalize on Rhombus

A Red Polka Dot in World Full of Plaid was a March 2006 Essence Magazine Best Seller

8 thoughts on “Meet The BBS: Varian Johnson

  1. Read cloudscome’s review at a wrung sponge and knew we had to have your book in our library. I’ve requested my public library branch buy and I’ve added it to our wish list. By donor or collecting cans, we’ll have your book on our shelf.

    Wish you continued success with your writing career.

  2. I have a new crush, it’s Varian’s book cover for Saving Maddie. I love this cover! Both it and the cover for Rhombus are what I wish for our books – that the model be African American sure, because it reps the character inside, but that the focus not scream “Hey I’m black, read me black reader, read me.” Our covers should say more than that and his does. These covers would appeal to anyone and that’s a step in the right direction. When I grow up, I want covers like this. 🙂

    On another note – V may very well do what I tell him, but only if he thinks it’s good for the group. He’s the most level headed person I know and we’ve come to rely on his practical point of view when we move forward.

  3. V, until I got my BB, I hated text messaging too, but since I got my BB, I can text and e-mail with the best of them.

    I was hoping he would share his research for My Life as a Rhombus.

    I love the Saving Maddie book cover as well!

  4. More books to add to my “to read” pile…and can I just say, this is one of the best-looking websites I visit (and I visit a lot!)

  5. WOW. To have Rita Williams-Garcia as your advisor. What a challenge!

    Varian is a man blessed with great book covers. My Life as a Rhombus is gorgeous as well.

  6. Thanks guys. Most of the ins and out of the BBS wouldn’t happen without Paula, Don, Carla and Kelly. I’m just happy to be a part of the group.

    And yes, I love, love, love me some Rita Williams-Garcia. I was fortunate to work on SAVING MADDIE with both her and Sharon Darrow during my first two semesters at Vermont College.

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