Maureen Johnson is the author of the new young adult novel The Vanishing Stair, the second in her Truly Devious trilogy. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times and Buzzfeed. She lives in New York.
Q: Do you think your character Stevie has changed from the first book to the second?
A: She’s been through a lot, and she knows she is on the right track, so her determination has increased! She has more confidence. This will help, as her problems are only going to deepen.
Q: Your Truly Devious series has been compared to Agatha Christie and Harry Potter. What do you think of those comparisons?
A: They are pretty exciting. I mean. Yes. I kind of stammered, “Thank you?”
Q: How did you decide on the structure of the three novels when it comes to revealing various clues?
A: Mystery novels are puzzles—contraptions that have careful mechanics. So you have to place things with a lot of care. And you have to track everything. The object put down in book one may come up again in book three.
So it’s sort of like you’re doing a three card monty or the trick with the ball under the cup where you shuffle the cup around—you have always be aware of where your ace or your ball is.
That being said, the actual process involves a lot of post-its and notes and a dry erase board and pacing around.
Q: How was this novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: The title has to do with a riddle discovered in book one: Where do you look for someone who’s never really there, always on a staircase but never on a stair. The book reveals the answer to that riddle.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Book three! It’s the document right under this one on the screen!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Agatha Christie was a surfer. Did you know that? She also faked her own death. HERO.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Maureen Johnson.