In February, I read twenty-four books. That’s five short of the twenty-nine required to average one a day for the month, and my total in 2008 for January and February is only thirty-nine of sixty books. I am going to have to do a lot of catching up on school breaks!

Anyway, that said, last month, I read some awesome books.

Only two were non-fiction: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and Not Quite What I Was Planning. The other twenty-two were fiction.

One was read for English class (The Great Gatsby) and one was research for a school project (Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera).

I was a contributor to one of them (Not Quite What I Was Planning).

One was an anthology of short stories (Shining On) and part of its profits go to charity.

A few that particularly stood out were A Little Friendly Advice; Audrey, Wait; Good Enough; Lock and Key; Song of the Sparrow; What Happens Here; Shining On; and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.


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!

Siobhan Vivian is the author of the fabulous A Little Friendly Advice, an impressive debut about a sixteen-year-old girl named Ruby, her friends, her family, her possible love interest, and, well, life. It’s one that I highly recommend you all read as soon as possible! Anyway, without further ado, the interview. Thanks, Siobhan, for doing this!

Can you tell me a little about your road to publication?

It was a pretty straight shot that began and ended with my acceptance into the New School Univeristy MFA program in Writing for Children. I felt that hard-core training in this very specific genre was the best way for me to approach completing a YA novel. I wrote my butt off for two years whenever I could find a spare moment from my day job as an editor.

During my last semester at school, I started working on A Little Friendly Advice. David Levithan was my thesis advisor, and he helped me massage a very rough idea into a full-fledged novel. He was vital in helping me tell Ruby’s story in the best, most engaging way. I adored working with him!

After graduation, David said that he was interested in publishing ALFA. I got an agent and sold the book, unfinished, to Scholastic a few weeks later.

What authors are some of your biggest writing influences?

Rachel Cohn is a master of voice, Blake Nelson writes the most crisp, clean prose, David Levithan makes me fall in love with words, and Cecil Castellucci oozes creativity and inspiration.

One of the book’s characters, Beth, celebrates her birthday every year with a big Halloween party. What was your best Halloween ever?

I’m going to say sophomore year of college, when my two friends and I went as the PowerPuff Girls. Our costumes were dead on! Everyone knew who we were and wanted to take pictures with us. It was so awesome.

Are you a lot like Ruby, or one of the other characters?

Of all the characters, I think I’m the most like Ruby. We’re both thoughtful and optimistic (to a fault), a little bit weird, not too girly-girly, and we both love our Polaroid cameras.

Do you have a favorite character in the novel?

Hmm. Good question. I’ll say that Katherine was the most fun character to write. Whenever she showed up in a chapter, she brought so much tension with her. And I loved thinking up sharp, snappy things for her to say.

And Charlie was awesome too. I wished he was real, so he could be my boyfriend.

Do you outline before writing?

Yes! I am a firm believer in outlining. I like to know where I’m going before I get there. But I try not to put in too much detail when I’m writing an outline, so I can still let happy accidents and discoveries happen along the way.

How did A Little Friendly Advice change from first draft to final published book?

At the very, very beginning, ALFA was about four girls who came from divorced families. That circumstance was what united them as friends, and they all took care of each other. Ruby’s dad came back the same way he does in ALFA, but in the old version, he wanted to patch things up with her Mom. Ruby worried about how that would affect her friendships, so she actively tried to keep her parents from getting back together.

I still really like elements from that original concept, but it’s a lot stronger now.

A Little Friendly Advice is written for teenagers. Why did you choose to write for this audience, and do you or would you like to write for other audiences?

I have absolutely no interest in writing books for any other audience but YA. I’m a little like Peter Pan, in that I have very much resisted the idea that I had to grow up. I feel way more comfortable in a room full of teenagers than I do with adults. And the story ideas and characters floating around in my brain are always of that genre. I think it’s just how I’m programmed.

A Little Friendly Advice is realistic fiction. Do you or would you like to write other genres?

I’d like to try and write YA magical realism. I took a class on magical realism in college and loved every single book we read.

Ruby begins to take an interest in photography in this book, when her mother gives her an old Polaroid camera. Are you a photographer?
Not officially, but I love snapping photographs. I own a few cameras, including my beloved Polaroid, and took a few photography classes back in high school, when you actually had to load the film by hand in a dark room.

What are you writing now?

I’m working on my second young adult novel for Scholastic. It’ll be out in Spring 2009 and it’s called SAME DIFFERENCE. I don’t want to say too much about it, but it’s about a girl named Emily who struggles with having two different identities—depending on whether she’s at home with the popular, suburban friends she grew up with, or hanging out in a city with a super cool, wild new girl she befriends in a summer art class.

What are some of your favorite books or authors?

I am really, really into graphic novels. My favorite of all time is BLANKETS by Craig Thompson. I tell every single person I know to read it and be ready to fall in love.
Is there a question you wish I’d asked, or anything else you’d like to add?
I wish you had asked me how awesome you are on a scale from one to ten.
I’d have said an eleven.

Aw, thank you so much!