Message From The Author

Maureen Johnson

Book Title: SCARLETT FEVER
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult, Young Adult

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Author's Message

Catch Scarlett Fever

MAUREEN JOHNSON TALKS FAME AND WRITING

Maureen Johnson describes her super-popular Scarlett Martin series as "based in reality, but there's hyper weirdness.

"I'm fascinated with this need
to be famous when you're young," she says. "I know kids like that. Kids like that aren't very happy." Since Scarlett is so often the eye of her friends' and family's hurricanes, Johnson thought it would be interesting to play her heroine off "someone her age who has a huge resume."

"Scarlett is the voice that says you don't need to be famous when you're 15."

In Scarlett Fever. (Point), the follow-up to last year's Suite Scarlett, the Martin family continues to live in and run a once-grand, currently down-at-the-heels hotel in New York City, and Scarlett is still part-time assistant to eccentric Amy Amberson. Mrs. Amberson declares herself a theatrical agent, takes on Scarlett's brother Spencer as her first client and snags him a small role on a New York-set crime drama.

When the actor playing the beloved lead detective shows up to rehearsal drunk and quits in a fit of pique, the writers rise to the occasion by having Spencer's character kill him -- turning the boy into New York's most hated screen villain and the focus of local gossip columns. In the meantime, Mrs. Amberson has gained another client, a 15-year-old Broadway star whose brother Max just happens to be Scarlett's lab partner at Frances Perkins, a prestigious high school housed in a former mental institution.

The series, says the author, is a way of looking at "the nature of fame" and whether it is "something worth going after." While the fame-seeking teens in her novels are in
the performing arts, Johnson counts a lot of teen aspiring authors among her fan base and says that she often fields questions about getting an agent from young writers who should be more focused on learning the craft than on how to deal with fame and fortune.

Her advice to writers of all ages is simple: "Read a lot. Write a lot. Spend a ridiculous amount of time doing it. That's the only way to learn."

Johnson promises that there will be a third Scarlett book -- "it's already started" -- but the publication date is up in the air, since writing it has to share time with her work on a thriller trilogy to be published by Hyperion. In the first, as-yet-unnamed book, which will be out in fall 2011, an American girl goes to London, as part of her high school's study abroad program, where she learns that she can see ghosts. She becomes mixed up with someone recreating the Jack the Ripper murders and a "recently restarted police force that deals with ghosts."

-- Stephanie Klose


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