Name: Maureen Johnson
Location: New York City
Where and how did you get the idea for Devilish?
Devilish is the story of a girl named Jane Jarvis, who is a senior at a Catholic girls high school. Before the story begins, Jane has a few problems. She’s way too smart for her own good, and she is still recovering from a bad breakup. But those things are swept aside when a strange new girl named Lanalee arrives at the school, her best friend Allison starts acting strangely, and strangers start following her around.
She soon finds out that Lanalee is a sort of head girl demon, out to score one last soul in order to be promoted. The soul she is going after is Allison’s (or so it seems). Jane jumps into the fray, switching places with Allison. She ends up battling for herself, for Allison, and for her entire school.
The idea of a devil’s bargain isn’t new. It’s one of those great, classic story premises. This one is set in a location I am well familiar with⎯I went to a similar school, and I was a little Jane-like. But not as smart.
What is the role of the cupcake in Devilish? What is the connection between cupcakes, Lanalee and the dark side?
Lanalee uses a cupcake to lure Allison in at the start of the story. With the first bite, her troubles begin. Lanalee exists almost entirely on a diet of cupcakes. There are massive plates of them in her house, and she wolfs them down while making her demonic deals. She’s a pretty happy demon.
All of the demons in this book are real foodies and their menus are often discussed. But the cupcake reigns supreme.
Why cupcakes versus some other kind of dessert for such a major role in the novel?
Because cupcakes are, in my opinion, the very finest of all baked goods. If any single baked good could pull me to the dark side, it would be a cupcake. It’s like the apple in the Garden of Eden. So beautiful. So compact. Begging to be eaten.
Did you come up with the idea for the cover and what do you think it's trying to say?
No, I had nothing to do with that. I got a call from my editor telling me that there would be a big cupcake on the cover, and I was delighted. It’s displayed so beautifully. Cupcakes make such good food porn.
Do you think Jane will ever be able to look at cupcakes the same way again? Will she still eat them or will she have to forgo them?
I think there are a lot of things Jane is never going to be able to do again. Eating cupcakes may be one of these things.
In real life, is there something sinister about cupcakes? Is there a certain kind of cupcake that's more "innocent" than others?
There’s nothing sinister about a cupcake. All cupcakes are our friends. The word I would use is decadent.
The innocence question is interesting, though. You would think the red velvet would be the devilish cupcake, because they’re red. Not so. Red velvet cupcakes are sweet southern goodness. If a red velvet cupcake could talk, it would sound like some character from Gone with the Wind, dispensing words of encouragement and wisdom.
No. The cupcake to watch out for is the pastel-frosted tease, possibly a little pink or blue one. Something that looks like it could have been in the background in the new Marie Antoinette movie. The Dita Von Teese of cupcakes. That is the siren cupcake.
How often do you eat cupcakes?
Not that often. They really are at the very top of the baked good chain, as far as I am concerned. The trouble is, I have issues in stopping at one. I can eat three and not even know it. I save them for really special occasions.
What's your favorite type of cupcake?
Red velvet. After that, I think those golden vanilla ones with chocolate icing. Also, lemon. And then chocolate. But I am always open to new choices. I just saw a green tea cupcake on your site. I need one of those. Seriously.
I have a real weakness for pastel icings (and funny colored desserts in general). Pinks, blues, greens, yellows . . . those are for me. You can’t make a cupcake too cute for me. Or too funny colored.
How do cupcakes compare/contrast to other baked goods for you?
I am a friend to many baked goods, but the cupcake really is a standout. Maybe because it’s such a wonderful idea⎯a whole, tiny cake for yourself! And cupcakes just dress better. I’ve never seen a bad-looking cupcake.
Is there any innovation you'd like to see made to the cupcake that
would improve it for you?
I’d like to see fewer paper wrappers. I always feel like I am ripping the poor cupcake to shreds when I peel it off. I vote for the naked cupcake.
Also, I’d love to see tiny, sushi-sized cupcakes. Wouldn’t that be great? You’d get a little plate of them. And maybe you would get something delicious to dip them in.
Do you bake your own cupcakes? Or (even better) have someone who bakes them for you?
I buy them. I’d be happy to make them⎯I can bake. But again, they would never see the light of day.
What's your first cupcake-related memory?
A birthday in kindergarten. Maybe mine. I’m not sure. The cupcakes arrived in a department store clothes box. (With some wrapping paper still on the lid. I love it when people just wrap the lid so that you can remove the top without tearing the paper. Do people still do that? I hope that’s not a lost art.) The arrival of the birthday cupcakes was pretty much the most exciting thing, ever. It still is, really.