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Lilian Jackson Braun's The  Cat Who (Qwilleran) series reading order and synopsis

Susan Johnson

answers the Usual Questions

Australia's Susan Johnson is the author of eight books: six novels; a memoir, A Better Woman; and a recent non-fiction book, an essay, On Beauty, published by Melbourne University Press

Before becoming a full-time writer of fiction, Ms Johnson was a journalist writing for a number of newspapers and periodicals.

Has your interaction with fans, for example, at conventions, affected your work?

photograph, Australian writer Susan Johnson; 220x290

Susan Johnson

This is a tricky one. If you mean has it affected the way I write or what I write I suppose the answer is yes, in the most general sense. What I mean by this is that meeting your readers is a powerful thing and reminds you that a book isn't about you sitting in a room with a cast of imaginary characters. A book is a living thing, in the EL Doctorow sense of a book acting as a circuitry through which a reader's life runs. Meeting readers tells you that there is always another person at the end of a book.

Meeting readers has resulted in me wanting to write books that I hope have a real capacity for connection, for emotional engagement as well as intellectual engagement.

Is there any particular incident (a letter, a meeting, a comment that stands out?

Once a reader wrote to me when I was at my wit's end with a new book. I just couldn't see any way forward. And this one person wrote to tell me how much one of my books had meant to her: I pinned her letter to my notice board and every time I felt that despair of never being able to write again, I looked at it.

I keep every single letter or email that anyone has written to me. My papers have been archived by the State Library of New South Wales (don't worry; they are embargoed in case anyone is worried about personal information being read by scholars). They mean everything to me, these letters.

Do you have a favourite author or book (or writer or film or series) that has influenced you or that you return to?

I love F Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby stands for me as a perfect novel. Everything fits in it like an egg- the plot, the characters, the word all form a beautiful whole.

I love Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road for its language and its forensic and pitch-perfect examination of a bad marriage. (Fitzgerald was his literary hero).

I love Helen Garner's work because there is always something exquisite. Always. I love Saul Bellow. Herzog is a miracle.

And I've just discovered a wonderful new Australian writer: Brenda Walker's Reading By Moonlight has it all - life, art, love. It's an intellectual work of the most profound emotional depth. Glorious.

I loved Christos Tsolkias's The Slap too.

Who is the person you would most like to be trapped in a lift with? or a spaceship?

He's dead but Saul Bellow. I reckon you would never run out of things to talk about.

Who is the person you would most DISlike to be trapped in a lift with? Or a spaceship?

I can't say because she's still alive.

What would you pack for space? (Is there a food, beverage, book, teddy bear, etc that you couldn't do without?)

I'd have to take my boys, Caspar and Elliot. They could fight all the way to Mars.

What is the most important thing you would like to get/achieve from your work?

All writers when they start out secretly want money, success, prizes, glory.

Now I reckon I've already got everything: if one single reader 'gets' a book, I think that's an achievement.

What is the special satisfaction of your work?

See above. (Although a good day's work, when everything goes in the direction you want it to go, is pretty hard to beat to - it beats the actual publication, the good reviews, everything. In the end, it's only the work that matters).

submitted by Susan Johnson

July, 2010

For other answers to The Usual Questions Click here

Just the facts:
Born/Resides: Brisbane, Australia, where I am now living, having returned three months ago after 10 years in London. It's heaven.
Bibliography/Awards: (see her website)

Web site:


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