Novelist Mat Johnson has only been in Houston for the last five years. Originally from Philadelphia, Johnson moved around quite a bit before earning his BA in English in Indiana. He spent some time just living and writing in London, then Alaska. Later he moved to New York, where he earned his MFA in creative writing at Columbia University. Then he taught in upstate New York for a while, up until five years ago when the creative writing program in Houston caught his eye.
What he does? He is a writer. In addition to his novels, Hunting in Harlem, Drop and his newest novel, PYM, which came out just last year, Johnson has also written a nonfiction novella, The Great Negro Plot, as well as four graphic novels, including Incognegro, which was published by Vertigo Comics.
Besides being a writer, Johnson is a faculty member of the University of Houston's creative writing program. He says he originally came to Houston because he wanted to be part of the creative writing program, and calls it "one of the best in the country."
"My job to me is one of my best blessings and I really enjoy my students, and when you look around Houston and you see the impact of the literary community, it shows you that your work is actually doing something."
He also travels across the country to different universities, speaking a couple times a month...discussing his work and talking about the creative writing program in Houston.
He also admits that he is a huge fan of Twitter and is on there a lot.
"I goof around on Twitter. I have a lot of followers on there. When I go on Twitter, I just think of something that is really bouncing in my head right then and I put it and I get an immediate response."
What inspires him? "The idea that I'm going to die and I'd like to have my story told before I run out of time. Every day I get up and I just want to capture the way I'm looking at the world, and that's enough of an inspiration to keep going."
He says he wants to have a conversation with the world and that his writing allows him to do that.
If not this, then what? "I'd want to be a truck driver. My whole life is about producing stories and helping other people produce stories, and I'm so jealous of people who just get to read. So sometimes when things get hard, I just fantasize about driving a truck and listening to books on tape and just consuming art instead of producing it. "
If not here, then where? Maybe New Orleans, Austin, but doesn't see himself going far from Houston.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"I don't think I could ever really leave Houston, but if I did, I think maybe I would end up someplace out West...San Francisco or Los Angeles or some place further west, but the quality of life I have in Houston, I could never have in any of those places, so I doubt that will ever happen."
What's next? He has a new graphic novel coming out next month called Right State with DC comics. And he has a softcover coming out for PYM. He is also working on his next novel, which he hopes to have out by 2013.
More Creatives for 2012 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page). Orna Feinstein, printmaker and installation artist Adriana Soto, jewelry designer Domokos Benczédi, Noise and Collage Artist Robert Boswell, Book Author, UH Prof Patrick Turk, visual artist Elizabeth Keel, playwright Bob Martin, designer Mary Lampe, short film promoter and developer Nisha Gosar, Indian classical dancer Jeremy Wells, painter George Brock, theater teacher Radu Runcanu, painter Ariane Roesch, Mixed-Media Sandie Zilker, art jewelry maker Philip Hayes, actor Patrick Palmer, painter Ana Mae Holmes, Jewelry Designer John Tyson, actor Jerry Ochoa, violinist and filmmaker Raul Gonzalez, painter, sculptor, photographer Roy Williams, DJ of medieval music Laura Burlton, photographer David Peck, fashion designer Rebecca Udden, theater director Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer Paul Fredric, author John Sparagana, photographer Damon Smith, musician and visual artist Geoff Winningham, photographer Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor Katya Horner, photographer Johnathan Felton, artist Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer Carol Simmons, hair stylist Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet Greg Carter, director Kenn McLaughlin, theater director Justin Whitney, musician Antone Pham, tattoo artist Susie Silbert, crafts Lauralee Capelo, hair designer Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director J.J. Johnston, theater director Mary Margaret Hansen, artist Richard Tallent, photographer Viswa Subbaraman, opera director Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist Sonja Roesch, gallery owner Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor Sandy Ewen, musician Camella Clements, puppeteer Wade Wilson, gallery owner Magid Salmi, photographer Carl Williams, playwright