Philadelphia, PA, US
New York, NY
Maureen Johnson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An only child, she grew up playing Candy Land by herself and doing a lot of writing. The Candy Land had no benefit at all and just makes people sad when she tells them about it, but the writing part worked out well.
Although she is not Catholic, Maureen attended an all-girl Catholic preparatory high school in Philadelphia (a school that later provided the setting of Devilish). On the cold January night that she was admitted, she was greeted by a large oil painting of a row of nuns being mowed down by Nazis with machine guns and falling into a mass grave. This would set the tone for the next four years of her life. Locked inside gulag-a place where having slouched kneesocks was considered a crime and the only man in sight was the unfortunately named Father Hickey-Maureen had ample opportunity to fantasize about escape. She also learned how to make stuff up on the fly, as she spent at least two of those years hiding the fact that she was not Catholic. The fantasies and deceptions of her youth would later become the basis of several books.
Bits and pieces of real life have always found their way in. The Key to the Golden Firebird is based in her hometown and populated with familiar figures. Girl At Sea came out of two childhood obsessions (Pompeii and the Titanic, both of which she read embarrassing amounts about from a tender age). 13 Little Blue Envelopes was kick-started during a February stay at a castle in Scotland, part of an international writing fellowship program-during which she got lost in a Scottish roadside in the dark, got locked in a dungeon, and fended off badgers with song.
Suite Scarlett is both her biggest fantasy and the book most directly drawn from life. After graduating from the University of Delaware, Maureen went on to do two MFA programs at Columbia University-one in writing and one in theatrical dramaturgy. (She has only one MFA, in writing, because she though getting both of them would just make people laugh.) She worked in professional theater in New York and Philadelphia. Some highlights of her career include: running 15 blocks in the freezing cold to catch a deserting playwright, getting stuck with three unchained live tigers in a room with a malfunctioning fog machine, and having to tell a director (five minutes before a performance) that his orchestra was being conducted by an eight year-old child. She spent many hours watching actors like Spencer and Eric learn how to throw themselves against walls and over tables under the guise of learning Meyerhold's system of theatrical biomechanics. Maureen has worked with the real-life Billy Whitehouse, rehearsed in places much worse than a hotel basement, and put out multiple (literal) fires during performances. Though she has never seen anyone do Hamlet on unicycles, she is 100% certain it has happened somewhere. And anyway, she's seen worse.
Maureen lives in New York City, but travels to the UK on a regular basis. She does not live in a hotel, but she would like to. For more information, please visit http://www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com/.