Today we are very excited to share an interview with author Maureen Johnson (NINE LIARS)!
Read on to learn more about her, her book, and a giveaway!
Meet the Author: Maureen Johnson
Maureen Johnson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than a dozen young adult novels, including the Truly Devious series, the Shades of London series, Suite Scarlett, and 13 Little Blue Envelopes. Her collaborative books include Ghosts of the Shadow Market (with Cassandra Clare), as well as Let It Snow (with John Green and Lauren Myracle), which was also a hit feature film on Netflix.
Her books have sold more than three million copies worldwide and have been published in more than thirty countries.
The bestselling author is also active in social justice issues and politics both online and IRL. She initiated and organized an open letter in support of trans and nonbinary communities that was signed by more than 2000 North American writers, including Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Roxane Gay, and Neil Gaiman, as well as publishers and other members of the literary world. She co-hosts the podcast, Says Who? with Punk Planet creator Dan Sinker and edited the collection How I Resist, the entire advance of which was donated to the ACLU.
She has written for publications such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, The Guardian and CrimeReads. Her CrimeReads essay, “Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village” has garnered upwards of 450,000 views since its publication.
Maureen Johnson grew up in Philadelphia, graduated from the University of Delaware and has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University. She lives in New York City with her husband and dog.
About the Book: Nine Liars
Stevie Bell solved the case of Truly Devious, and now she’s taking her detecting skills abroad when she becomes embroiled in a mystery from 1990s England. Another pulse-pounding and laugh-out-loud stand-alone mystery from New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson.
Senior year at Ellingham Academy for Stevie Bell isn’t going well. Her boyfriend, David, is studying in London. Her friends are obsessed with college applications. With the cold case of the century solved, Stevie is adrift. There is nothing to distract her from the questions pinging around her brain—questions about college, love, and life in general.
Relief comes when David invites Stevie and her friends to join him for study abroad, and his new friend Izzy introduces her to a double-murder cold case. In 1995, nine friends from Cambridge University went to a country house and played a drunken game of hide-and-seek. Two were found in the woodshed the next day, murdered with an ax.
The case was assumed to be a burglary gone wrong, but one of the remaining seven saw something she can’t explain. This was no break-in. Someone’s lying about what happened in the woodshed.
Seven suspects. Two murders. One killer still playing a deadly game.
Dear Miss Bell,
I have been reading about your recent success in solving cold cases, like the ones at Ellingham Academy and at Camp Sunny Pines. There is something going on in my town and I need your help getting to the bottom of it. My neighbor has been killing people in an industrial dryer and putting their remains in our community garden. I have tried to dig up the garden myself but I am not permitted inside due to a legal matter, and it is very hard to do with a small shovel. Can you come here and help me to…
Stevie Bell stopped reading.
It was a quiet October night in Minerva House. At the farmhouse table in its cozy common room, she sat with her friends. Janelle Franklin and Vi Harper-Tomo were side by side working on their laptops.
“You finished your Stanford essay, right?” Janelle asked Vi.
“Almost,” Vi replied.
“Are you using that same one for Tufts?
Vi looked up. They had gotten a new pair of white glasses over the summer and had cropped their hair and bleached it to almost the same shade, with a fade of blue down the back of their head. They were wearing a massive blue-and-silver fuzzy sweater that sort of matched their hair. Janelle had embraced the fall palate in an orange sweater and a vibrant kente cloth head wrap in gold, red, and green.
“No,” Vi said. “I’m writing one in Japanese for Tufts, and I’m not done with that one either.”
“Let me know when you’re finished so I can input it into the spreadsheet.”
Janelle and Vi had become a couple from the moment they’d met at the start of last year. They had decided that they didn’t want to go to the same school, probably, but they wanted to go to schools that were close to each other. In true crime talk, they had done a geographical profile of the unsub—worked out exactly what they wanted from their schools, and targeted the regions, then the programs. Every night, Janelle updated the spreadsheet that tracked where they were in their mutual application process.
Next to this, Nate Fisher was also typing away furiously, his face a scowl of concentration. Nate was one of Stevie’s closest friends—lanky, the kind of pale the Victorians would have classified as consumptive, with his never cool T-shirts and his wrong-sized pants hiding an athletic build. A fringe of overgrown brown hair half-shaded his eyes as he bent over his computer. He was usually her companion in avoiding things, but tonight he was letting her down. His fingers hadn’t stopped moving all night.
Stevie was supposed to be working. She had six articles to read tonight for Modern American Political History. When your class only had five people in it, you couldn’t get away with not doing the reading. You can only vamp so long about the media in general until your teacher raises a practiced eyebrow and puts the imaginary cone of shame on your head.
She looked at the article on her screen: “Defining Bias: How We Interpret What We Read.”
The sound of Nate’s typing echoed in her ears. He had headphones on and his fingers were flying. She had never seen him work this hard. Nate was a writer—he had gotten into Ellingham on the strength of a novel he wrote and published in his early teens. Since that time, he had been running from deadlines and the concept of writing in general like it was an angry bear on an electric bike. Where had he found all this focus?
Maybe from the fact that it was October. Senior year. How had she gotten here?
Well, time does that. The clock ticks steadily on.
Time was ticking right now. She had to read. This was the shortest of the six articles. She knew that because for the last hour, she had scrolled through all six, looking at how long they were and figuring out what to read first. Then she would go to the little kitchen off to the side of the common room and get some more water, or a hot chocolate, or she went to pee, or she walked to her room to get a hoodie, or she walked to her room to get her slippers, or she just stared at the moose head with the holiday lights on it that was mounted above the fireplace.
The rest of her time she looked at her phone, which was how she’d found this new message about the shovel and the industrial dryer.
Time to work. Okay. She would do it this time. She would read. Her sightless gaze dribbled down the first paragraph….
She tapped Nate under the table with her foot.
“What?” Nate said, pulling off his headphones.
“Do you want to go for a walk?” Stevie said. “Go over to the dining hall and get some cake?”
Nate glanced at his screen, looked back at his friend, and sighed.
“Fine,” he said. “But only because I love cake.”
Stevie sagged with relief when he agreed. She had been dangerously close to almost reading three entire sentences.
© 2022 Maureen Johnson
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
As a kid, I was a lover of detective mysteries. When I say lover, I mean an obsessive fan. I set out to make a detective—one that could then appear in various mysteries, working on different cases. I have dreamed of fictional detectives all my life! That’s how Stevie Bell was born. In Nine Liars, I’m taking her to England, to solve a murder in an English manor house.
The manor house murder is a classic puzzle from the golden age of mystery for a reason—you have a set cast of suspects and a contained staging area for the puzzle to play out. Country houses are small enough in the grand scope of things to give the problem limits, but big enough and weird enough to have lots of hidey-holes and passages and things like that. There’s also an air of unreality to them. It feels like a backdrop, not a place people would really live. That’s part of the appeal of this kind of mystery novel; it’s not meant to feel like a real crime, like people are being hurt. It’s Clue. It’s a revolving cast of professors and butlers and strange relatives who want to know about the will. In Nine Liars, I wanted to play with that a little—it’s a group of actors, it’s a game, it’s a murder in the woodshed. But then the story continues to the present. The clues are still scattered around. The events in the woodshed had a real impact. And to solve it, Stevie must go back to the stage where this all went down.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
I love them all. And there are two casts of friends in this book—the present day cast with Stevie, and the group of friends from Cambridge in 1995. This is a full-on murder mystery, but so much of this book is about friendship, about being in a group.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel, but the title is organic. The story is about a theater group of nine people who called themselves The Nine. It also signifies the closed cast, the suspects. And they’re all faking, putting on a front in some way—they’re acting, they’re covering up secrets. They’re all lying. But why? And what about? That’s for you to find out!
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I worked very hard to get everything that happened at Merryweather right. I plotted out the house and the grounds—I spent a week or so sketching out the floorplan of the house, right down to the location of every door—and laid out the grounds carefully. This meant I did a lot of research into manors and gardens. So much work on gardens. So all of those scenes in 1995—I did a lot of fine embroidery to build the place, present a group of people, and build a puzzle.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I think the design is amazing. I’ve loved all of the Stevie Bell covers, but this one is particularly gorgeous. It has a lot of details. The more you look at it, the more you can see the twisted banister in the falling leaves.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
Without spoiling anything—there is a character who comes out in this book. It’s been a long time coming, with the seeds planted in all the other Stevie books. I spent a lot of time thinking about when and how they wanted to do that.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
David is always a bit hard to handle.
YABC: What do you do when you procrastinate?
Cook. Or clean. If I suddenly make four types of soup and a cake and I’ve decided to bleach a ceiling, it means I need to write.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
Right now, I am working on a separate mystery called Death at Morning House. But I am also working on Stevie Bell mysteries six and seven!
Title: NINE LIARS
Author: MAUREEN JOHNSON
Release Date: December 27, 2022
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Young Adult
Age Range: 14-17; grades 9-12
~ Giveaway Details ~
One (1) winner will receive a copy of Nine Liars (Maureen Johnson) ~US ONLY
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*