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Varian Johnson

Varian, you’re a dad of a very young child. How much sleep did you get last night?
V: It’s funny that you’re asking this, as last night was the first night that I’ve been on my own all night with the baby. I ended up getting about six hours—one more than usual.
And did you have time to shower this morning?
V: A helpful tidbit for writer-dads-to-be: babies don’t seem to care about little things like showers or lunch or book deadlines. I wasn’t able to get a shower in this morning, but I was able to fit a quick one in when the baby went down for a nap.
As a parent of young children myself, I’m green with envy over your time management skills. You’re a civil engineer, you write award-winning books, and you’re a father. That’s an overflowing plate. Do you have any advice for writers in similar circumstances?
V: I wish I had some good advice, but to be honest, my mantra right now is just to make it from day to day. I’m content with writing as much as I can when I can (usually late at night after everyone’s asleep). I try my best not to get too upset during the stretches of time where meaningful writing doesn’t happen (though I can get pretty surly if the drought stretches for too long).
Also, there’s a lot that you can do on a manuscript in 15 minutes. Okay…maybe not “a lot,” but you can make progress. And fifteen minutes a day on my really, really busy days is enough to sustain me until I’m able to find bigger blocks of time for writing.
How has becoming a father influenced you as a writer?
V: You know, it hasn’t affected me too much. If anything, it makes me wish I wrote for a younger audience, so I didn’t have to wait so long to expose my daughter to my books.
Before you were a dad, you said you’d never attempt to write a picture book. Is this still true?
V: I’ve got one completed picture book sitting in a file on my computer. Maybe I’ll try to get it published one day. Knowing my luck, by the time I get it published, the baby will be an adult.

What currently is your daughter’s favorite book? And what is your favorite book to read to her?
V: She alternates between The Very Hungry Caterpillar, written and illustrated by Eric Carle, and Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, written and illustrated by Eileen Christelow. They are both fine books, but daddy-fatigue starts to set in anytime you read a story three times in a row (like tonight).
My current favorite is I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. The baby loves the book as well, except when she’s trying to eat the pages.