Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Author Feature: David Levithan

When he's not writing his own books, David Levithan is a Scholastic editor in New York City. He lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

How would you describe yourself as a teenager?

The kid who listened to Carly Simon and was about to discover the Smiths.

Could you tell us about your path to publication--any sprints or stumbles along the way?

No, I got lucky. I accidentally wrote my first novel.

I'd like to focus on your new releases, but first let's highlight your backlist. Your books include: Boy Meets Boy (Knopf, 2003); The Realm of Possibility (Knopf, 2004); Are We There Yet? (Knopf, 2005); and Marley's Ghost (Dial, 2005). Could you briefly tell us what each is about and what drew you to those stories?

Boy Meets Boy is a dippy happy gay romantic comedy, meant to counterbalance all the grim, sad, gloomy gay teen books of the past.

Realm of Possibility is the story of twenty kids who go to the same high school, and how their lives intersect.

Are We There Yet? is about two brothers who can't stand each other whose parents trick them into taking a trip to Italy together.

And Marly's Ghost is a remix of Dickens's A Christmas Carol.

One of your new titles, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (Knopf, 2006) is co-authored by Rachel Cohn. How did this working relationship evolve? What are the particular challenges and benefits to working with a co-author?

It was Rachel's idea to write a back-and-forth novel...and I'm glad she had it. We started with two names and a few facts, and then wrote the novel by exchanging chapters, without talking about it along the way.

We really wrote it for each other, and it's been really amazing that other people have liked it, too. If our storytelling hadn't clicked, the book would've never happened; so once it did, it was pretty smooth sailing.

Congratulations, too, on Wide Awake (Knopf, 2006)! What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

The election results of 2004 inspired me to write it--I wanted to write a novelist's version of a protest song. I wanted to talk about what's going on in America today, and how it could get better.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

It's very strange to set a novel in a place you've never visited, but luckily I had friends to tell me about Kansas. More importantly, I wanted to make sure that it was clear that "religious" is not synonymous with "conservative" or "anti-gay" or "anti-Jewish"--instead, most religious people believe in kindness and love and tolerance.

You've also edited a number of anthologies, most recently The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities, co-edited by Billy Merrell (Knopf, 2006). How did you find your authors? What questions did you weigh in balancing the collection?

We set up a website (www.queerthology.com) and spread the word via email and the Internet. We were amazed by the responses--we didn't have the room to include all the essays we liked. We wanted it to be as representative a collection as possible, and were happy that we got such a wide range of responses.

In particular, the number of transgender essays really impressed us, and I think they give the collection its heart, because it shows how our culture is still evolving in terms of gender and sexuality.

Other than your own, what would you say are the three must-read YA novels of the year and why?

It's hard to narrow it down! I'll just say that Markus Zusak's The Book Thief (Knopf, 2006) was the book that astonished and inspired me the most this year.

What do you love about your writing life and why?

I love seeing how the stories unfold. It's as simple as that.

What advice do you have for beginning YA novelists?

Write what you want to.

What can your fans look forward to next?

My next book with Rachel, Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List (Knopf), comes out in August. And I have two anthologies out this spring -- This is PUSH (www.thisispush.com) and 21 Proms, which I co-edited with Daniel Ehrenhaft. It's a whole lot of fun.

Cynsational Notes

Author Profile: David Levithan from teenreads.com.

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