The following conversation is part of our Beyond The Bio series, featuring conversations with authors we love. If you're a teen who'd like to interview an author, please click here to find out how we can connect you with your favorite YA authors. Today's guests include StoryTimeTeen creator James Tilton and bestselling author Maureen Johnson. Maureen's newest book, Nine Liars, comes out next week.
James: Alright, I’ve loved Stevie Bell from the beginning, and seeing her take her sleuthing skills overseas made my heart so happy. What was your favorite thing about setting this murder mystery in London?
Maureen: Not just London! Also a mansion in the countryside! I grew up as a hardcore murder mystery reader, and so many of those books are English. I dreamed of being in a place like that. I was desperate to go there when I was a teenager. I made it part of my life’s goal to be in England as much as possible. I like the place so much that I married an English person. And this is the murder mystery in the manor that I’ve always wanted to write. The cast of suspects. The private setting, full of places for people to hide.
James: This isn’t your first time setting a book in London. It’s obvious you’ve got a soft spot for the city, and I can't blame you. What are your favorite places to visit when you travel to London? Have you visited any of the spots mentioned in the book?
Maureen: I’ve been everywhere in the book. Whenever I can, I walk every walk. London is a magical place. I love its weirdness—how it’s old and new and twisted and compressed. There are so many lanes and nooks, so much under your feet. There’s tunnels and graveyards and Roman ruins. It’s social and busy, as well as private and mysterious. I love walking there and letting myself go on any path that feels right.
James: Alright, let’s talk about the murder. It’s a grisly double murder that occurs when a group of college friends are playing an epic game of nighttime hide-and-seek around a historic estate. I’m a sucker for a good party game, so this was right up my alley, up until the murder part, of course. What are some of your favorite party games?
Maureen: I love and collect tabletop games. We have maybe a hundred? Too many, at any rate. But I am a sucker for a game of Werewolf.
James: Stevie’s detective work is impressive, as always, but she seems to struggle with self-doubt a bit more in this novel. It’s almost like she feels like there’s no way she can live up to the almost-impossible expectations generated by her earlier success. She’s a lot like Nate that way. Is this impostor syndrome something you’ve ever felt? And, if so, how do you deal with it?
Maureen: I think everyone has it. Or, at the very least, it’s common. I think it’s especially true now, as social media has a very performative aspect. There’s a huge emphasis on looking perfect, projecting the image that you’ve got everything together from your eyebrows to your perfect shelves and your dance moves and your entire life. Nobody has it fully together. Me, I just enjoy flowing from moment to moment. It’s really not a competition, any of it.
James: I don’t want to spoil anything, but one of Stevie’s friends comes out toward the end of your book. It’s a touching moment. What would you tell a teen today who was nervous about coming out to their friends?
Maureen: I would hope that your friends treat you with love and respect. Every situation is different. But know there is an ocean of love in the world for you.
Nine Liars, out next week