Maureen Johnson: “I wanted to make a proper game that readers could play along with.”

5 Questions With...

Maureen Johnson

Note From Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora Dominguez got the opportunity to interview author Maureen Johnson and ask her five(ish) questions. Maureen’s novel The Hand on the Wall is out now!]

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Maureen: The story comes out of my love of mystery and out of some classic crime cases. I wanted to take some of the things I love and have loved about many mystery novels—like the remote mansion as both setting and character, the amateur detective, the analogue clues that you can touch and see. I wanted to make a proper game that readers could play along with.

What character do you most relate to and why?

Possibly Nate, the writer who is haunted by the fact that everyone wants him to finish his second book. For reasons. But definitely also Stevie, the true-crime obsessed student who wants to be a detective.

Why do you feel books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

I think this is always true. We look to stories to explain and expand our world, to open up possibilities to places and people we don’t know, and those we think we do.

Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.

The Hand on the Wall is the final book in the Truly Devious trilogy. Truly Devious is about Stevie Bell, a true-crime aficionado who wants to be a detective. She’s come to Ellingham Academy, which is one of America’s most prestigious and unusual schools, with the hopes of solving the 1936 kidnapping of the founder’s wife and daughter. The kidnappers sent a mocking riddle signed Truly, Devious. This is an extremely famous case, considered the crime of the century, so the idea that a high school student is going to solve it eighty years later seems absurd to many. While Stevie is at her new school, some strange things happen, including an updated version of the Truly Devious letter being projected on to her wall at night. When a fellow student dies in a freak accident, Stevie is convinced it is murder and sets out on her own investigation that combines past and present. As this investigation continues over the books, Stevie will uncover things that have been buried for many decades, and others will die. In The Hand on the Wall, Stevie discovers how past and present are intertwined, and everything will come to an explosive conclusion up on the mountain.

What’s next for you in the book world?

I’m not sure I can give the specifics yet, but it is definitely a mystery and may have quite a bit in common with Truly Devious!

Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

There is absolutely no way to pick one person!

What makes for a good YA mystery?

The same things that make any mystery great! A good, solid puzzle that allows readers to play along. Mysteries are a game, and readers should be given the opportunity to spot the clues and catch the killer. That’s what I hope I’ve done in Truly Devious! This is a game. I hope you enjoy it!

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About the Author:

Maureen Johnson is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen YA novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Suite Scarlett, and the Shades of London series. Her collaborative books include The Bane Chronicles and Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy (with Cassandra Clare) and Let It Snow (with John Green and Lauren Myracle), now a hit feature film on Netflix. She has been a finalist for both an Edgar Award and the Andre Norton Award, and her books appear frequently on YALSA and state awards lists. She lives in New York City with her husband and online on Twitter with everyone else (@maureenjohnson). Visit her website at


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