Q: How do I get published?
A: Because I’m both an editor and an author, I get this question a lot. The best thing you can do is find a good agent and have him or her guide you through the publishing process. There are many books that can point you in the direction of good agents, and checking to see who your favorite authors’ agents are can’t hurt. (Before you ask – I don’t have one, but that’s because I’m already in the publishing business.) If you are a middle-school or high-school student, I urge you to submit your writing to the PUSH Novel Contest, in the WritePUSH area of www.thisispush.com, which runs from November to the middle of March every year.
Q: Can I send you some of my writing?
A: I wish I had time to read everything that people sent to me. But I’m afraid that there simply isn’t enough time in the day for me to work on the books I edit, work on my own books, AND read submissions that people send to me. If you’re in middle school of high school, I again point you to the PUSH writing contest (see answer above).
Q: What’s your writing process?
A: I’m always the worst person to answer this question, because really, I just sit down and write. I have to be in the mood for it, and usually I’ve thought at least a little about what I’m going to write before I sit down to do it. I almost never outline – but I know plenty of authors who do. The best thing is to experiment with different methods, and find the one that works the best for you.
Q: Where did you come up with the idea for Boy Meets Boy?
A: The idea for Boy Meets Boy came to me after talking to one of my best friend’s friends, who had grown up in a very conservative household in the Midwest. He’d had to hide his gay identity away until he moved out and was able to make his own life. It had been very hard for him, and my response was to want to write a story for his teenage self, who’d gone through such a hard time. I sat down and started writing Paul’s “autobiography” – what’s now the second chapter in the book – and followed the voice from there. Whenever I felt bogged down, I would think about this friend, or would play Patty Griffin’s song “Tony”, which is the source of the book’s dedication. Every time I hear that song, it breaks my heart; you could say I wrote a whole novel to change one song’s ending.
Q: Are you gay?
Q: Who are your favorite writers?
A: This is a really hard question to answer. I think everybody should read Virginia Euwer Wolff, M. T. Anderson, Alice Hoffman, Billy Merrell, Rachel Cohn, Anne Tyler, James Howe, Margaret Atwood, Markus Zusak, John Green, David Leavitt… the list could go on and on.
Q: What’s this I hear about you taking a photo a day?
A: My new year’s resolution for 2001 was to take at least one photograph a day for a year. And I’m still doing it now. I carry my (somewhat heavy, film-filled) camera with me everywhere, and take photos of friends, street art, cemeteries, sunlight reflected on skyscrapers, and other quirky things my eyes take in. I don’t keep a written journal, but my photo albums have become my day-to-day diary. I must have over twenty albums so far.
Q: There aren’t a lot of facts about you on this website that I can use for a report I’m writing. Help!
A: One of the best thing about being named David Levithan is that there are only two other David Levithans in the world, and neither of them are writers. So if you want to find more interviews with me, I suggest you type in “David Levithan” and “interview” into the search engine of your choice, and you should find plenty of material.
Q: Why haven’t you emailed me back?
A: I must warn you, I am usually very swamped, both by my editorial work and by my writing (as well as my life), so my response time can sometimes be measured in months, not days or weeks. It’s not that your email doesn’t mean anything to me; believe me, every email does. I just want to write thoughtful responses instead of form responses, and that, alas, takes time.
Q: Are you on Facebook?
A: Yes. My personal page can no longer accept new friend requests, but my author page most definitely can accept your liking. So if you want to keep up to date on what’s going on in my author life, please go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/David-Levithan/139042149485971.
Q: Is your writing autobiographical?
A: I am going to cheat here and quote another author, who ends up quoting another author. In an interview in Bullet magazine, Michael Cunningham answer this question as follows: “Every work of fiction is to some degree autobiographical because your life, what the world has shown you, is your material. I’m more comfortable writing about people who are not based around people I know. I feel more free and reckless about pushing them around. There’s a great thing Eudora Welty said about working autobiographically. She said, as far as she can see, writers are free to write about any place or event, regardless of whether it’s based on direct experience. Go ahead, write a novel about a logging camp, even if you’ve never been to a logging camp. But she doesn’t think a writer can write convincingly about any emotion which he or she hasn’t felt.” One of the reasons I love this answer so much is that he takes pains to define life as what the world has shown you – making it about observation as much as experience. And I love Welty’s answer because it makes the distinction between emotional truth and situational truth.
Check out my answers to Infrequently Asked Questions!