I was incredibly lucky enough to interview the wonderfully talented David Levithan! David is an amazing writer whose books include How They Met, a short story collection, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, a collaboration with the equally fantastic Rachel Cohn, Wide Awake, a fascinating political novel, and various other wonderful things! He is also an editor at Scholastic, and his PUSH imprint has published such fantastic books as Siobhan Vivian’s A Little Friendly Advice. Thanks to David for giving such great answers, and thanks to you all for reading. Without further ado, the interview!
You’ve written two wonderful books with Rachel Cohn, and I see from your website that you’re working on another collaboration with two other authors. How is that experience different from writing your solo books?
Every collaboration is different — and usually each one has its own rules. But there’s nothing better. I love it because of the energy that bounces between me and the other author or authors. Also, I love not haviing to figure out the story by myself — it’s a very different thing to sit down and write when you’re only responsible for one chapter at a time, rather than a whole novel. I’m still going to write solo, too, but I’m going to try to do many collaborations in the next few years.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which you co-wrote with Rachel Cohn, is being turned into a movie! How is that going? How much are you kept up-to-date on what’s going on? Have you had any input into it?
It’s fantastic. Rachel and I are like godparents to the whole endeavor. We genuinely love everyone involved — so we were happy to put it all in their hands and watch what happened.
Are you and Rachel planning to write any more books together?
All I’ll say is “you never know.”
One of my consistent thoughts while reading HOW THEY MET was, “This should be a novel!” So many of the stories–Starbucks Boy and Princes, to name a couple–really just made me want more. Do you think you’ll ever expand any of them?
Right now, they all exist as stories in my mind. But there are definitely a couple — Starbucks Boy and Miss Lucy Had a Steamboat, in particular — that I might revist someday.
Besides being a writer, you are also an editor at Scholastic. You’ve edited lots of anthologies as well as novels. So, you see two sides of publishing–that of a writer, of course, and that of an editor. How has each one affected how you do the other job?
It’s hard to say. I’m just more plugged in to both sides of the equation, so to speak. I certainly understand what my writers are going through when I’m editing them — and I also understand what my editor is going through when she edits me. I hope that makes me a better writer and editor… but you’d have to ask them.
Could you share a little about your road to publication?
Really, I just wrote stories for my friends, and one of them, Boy Meets Boy, happened to turn into a novel, and that novel happened to be passed to an amazing editor. I didn’t really have to do anything other than write the thing. It’s not a very representative publishing story.
Where and how do you write best? How many drafts do you go through?
I mostly write at home, and just…well…sit down and write. I rarely outline, although I usually have a sense in my head of where things are going to go eventually. Partially because I have a good internal editor, I don’t usually have to do many full drafts — I just to a lot of editing along the way.
Why do you write for young adults?
Because the ideas that come to me are for YA books. And it’s very, very rewarding to see what happens when these books go out into the world.
Politics factor heavily into your novel WIDE AWAKE. Are you active in politics? How do you feel about the upcoming elections?
I’m an active follower of politics and causes, but my activism is largely literary in nature. And I think the upcoming elections will be a watershed…assuming the good guys win.
You are obviously very in touch with the experiences of being a teenager today, seeing as you write such fantastic books about it. What do you think has changed about being a teen since your own teen years?
The emotions have largely stayed the same, but the technology and means of communication have changed. But that’s true for all of us, not just teens.
Your website says you are “evangelical” about music. What are some of your favorite bands or singers?
This is always a hard one to answer. Off the top of my head, favorites include Death Cab for Cutie, Aimee Mann, Beth Orton, Regina Spektor, Crowded House, Editors, Tegan and Sara, Dar Williams, Damien Rice — oh, honestly, I could go on and on. I’ll leave it there.
I’ve heard it’s like trying to choose a favorite child, but do you have a favorite of your books?
Well, the whole experience of Boy Meets Boy — seeing what one book can do — has been incredible. But I do genuinely love ’em all. Even that bastard Marly’s Ghost.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Only the usual advice. Which is to write and write and read and write.
What are some of your current projects (as a writer or as an editor) that you’re especially excited about?
As an editor, I have a few teen books coming out this spring that I’m excited about, including Siobhan Vivian’s A LITTLE FRIENDLY ADVICE (about a group of friends that has a falling out after one of the friend’s long-lost father shows up on her 16th birthday) and Brian Malloy’s TWELVE LONG MONTHS (about a straight girl who follows her crush to New York City… only to find out he’s not really into girls.) As for myself, I’m obviously excited about HOW THEY MET — and then in May, one of my collaborations, LIKELY STORY, is hitting stores. It’s a completely fun book, written with two of my friends under the name David Van Etten, and it’s the start of a series about a girl who runs her own soap opera. Complications (funny ones) ensue.
Is there anything else that you wish I had asked or that you’d like to add?
I’d just like everyone to read Eireann Corrigan’s ORDINARY GHOSTS. Because not enough people have yet.
Thank you so much, David!