Sunday, September 30, 2012

Spotlight/Interview with MG author Joanne Levy!

A few weeks ago I posted a review for the amazing middle grade title, SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE (I trust that you have since read and enjoyed it).

Today, I'd like to shine a little spotlight on the author of Small Medium at Large. Joanne Levy was kind enough to humour me and answer a few questions for my readers. Enjoy!

1. In relation to Small Medium at Large and writing the story...I'm just curious how the CAUSE came about for Lilah's new ability. Was there a struggle for you to discover a way to give Lilah her new ability to communicate with ghosts? Or is this something that came to you right away...the lightning idea?

I first wrote the book many years ago and I honestly can’t remember if I struggled with the how of Lilah getting her new ability. But I can tell you that when I first wrote it, the book was intended for an older, YA audience. So in the first scene, Lilah was at her mom’s wedding and had stolen away with her new step-brother and was about to kiss him when she gets hit by the lightning. I thought that was a really funny scene and set the stage for a lot of almost-but-not-really incest jokes for the rest of the book. Obviously, that all had to go when I aged the book down a bit. I hated having to cut some of my ‘for a more mature audience’ jokes that were in the book, but still managed to come up with lots of opportunities for humour throughout.

2. I really like what you did with Dolly. Bully stories very seldom turn out the way this one does. I know bullying is not the major theme of this story, but it does play an excellent role in it. I would just like to hear your thoughts on how this whole thread in the story came about. I found it so fascinating that Lilah was able to be compassionate towards a person who's go-to action was repeatedly to be mean to Lilah and her friends. Was it hard for you to construct this aspect of your story...the heroine reaching out and rescuing her bully? Was it liberating? Any thoughts you would like to share would be awesome. I think you did an amazing job with this's a lesson your target audience could really benefit from. And yet you pulled it off in the least preachy way I've ever seen.
Thank you! Bullying is so prevalent these days in so many forms and although I didn’t want to get into really deep issues with this light book, I did want to accurately portray what it’s like for kids of this age. I remember when I was in middle school, there were some girls who seemed to go out of their way to chip at my self-esteem and try to make me feel inferior. I had been very okay with who I was and truly never had self-esteem issues until other people pointed out my failings. One girl, in particular, was relentless in making me feel not cool. I distinctly remember a moment in sixth grade when she said, “I bet you don’t even like Rick James (sadly, it was the 80s)!” Truly, I didn’t even know who he was, but I went out and bought his album (which I hate to admit, I kind of liked, even though the lyrics probably weren’t appropriate for me at that age). And even though there was no physical threat, it was still very hurtful in a different way.
As for making Lilah compassionate towards her tormentor. Well, she does have a few thoughts about revenge, which is natural, but in the end, she does the right thing. And I kind of modeled her on Elle Woods from Legally Blonde. Her character faces discrimination and vitriol at every turn, but she is only ever positive and helpful, even to those who try to trip her up and ruin her. I loved that about her—in the end she is loved because she never lets anyone really change her from a good person, even though it would be very easy for her to retaliate. That’s what I wanted for Lilah.  I wanted her to be human and have thoughts about revenge, but in the end, do the right thing and show that you can be a good person and turn things around.


3. You appear to be very busy with events to promote your book Small Medium at Large. Do you want to share a bit about how that feels? Are you getting fan feedback at events from those who have already read the book? Tell us a bit about your experiences on the circuit. (-:
It feels exhausting! I’ve been doing a lot of local signings and also participate in local networking events, which, on top of the day job, has presented challenges as far as finding time for new writing and you know, sleeping. For a debut, it’s hard to drum up big crowds at events, but I have had some Twitter friends show up at my signings and that has been amazing! I made a commitment to myself very early on that I wanted to do whatever I could to help get the word out about my book; the long term goal is to write full-time, so any investment into this first book is a big stepping stone towards that. I’ve learned a lot and am getting more comfortable in my own skin when standing at a table in a bookstore (a tough, tough thing to do for an introvert) but it’s necessary to get out there and talk to people if I want to sell books to more than just my family.
One of the funniest things has been the running joke about helping people find the bathroom in bookstores. My husband and I were joking about it, but then at my last event, I actually did have to help 3 separate people find the bathroom. Hey, at least I’m useful in the down times. ;-)

4. What are you reading? Want to share some awesome reads you found over the summer?
I wish I had more reading time, but over the summer I read and adored Jennifer Nielsen’s THE FALSE PRINCE, (fellow Canadian) Jocelyn Shipley’s HOW TO TEND A GRAVE and Lynne Kelly’s CHAINED. I highly recommend all of these books. And I’m just about to get into Lisa McMann’s ISLAND OF SILENCE, the second book in THE UNWANTEDS series and am eager to start (also Canadian) Vikki VanSickle’s WORDS THAT START WITH B.

5. What are you writing now? Can your readers expect to see another book coming soon? If so, could you share a little bit about your next book--or the one you are working on now?
I have a lot of balls up in the air right now, but nothing concrete just yet. I’m hoping to continue Lilah’s adventures in a sequel to SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE and I’ve written another MG about a boy who gets lost in the woods when his family’s camping trip goes very wrong. Also, I’ve been tinkering with some other ideas, but with the first book coming out over the summer and all the marketing/events I’ve been doing, I haven’t been actively writing for a while. Things should calm down after November and then I plan to really hunker down and will hopefully have a clear idea of what I want to work on by then. Keep an eye on my website and Twitter @joannelevy as I’ll post any news there.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Joanne! I’m sure your readers will appreciate your thoughtful responses. So interesting to hear how Small Medium at Large began, now that we can see the finished version. And I’m sure those who read Small Medium will be thrilled to learn that Lilah’s adventures will continue. Lilah is a great character for middle grade kids to sink their teeth into—thoughtful, intelligent and humourous. We’ll be sure to keep our eye on your website and twitter feed! Thank you so much!


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