Interview with Joanne Levy, author of SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE
I met Joanne Levy through the Toronto Area Middle Grade & Young Adult Author Group (Torkidlit), and was excited to hear about her upcoming book, Small Medium At Large, published by Bloomsbury. If you’re in the Hamilton area on July 14th, do check out Joanne’s book launch party. (Note: there will be CUPCAKES!)
About SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE: After she’s hit by lightning at a wedding, twelve-year-old Lilah Bloom develops a new talent: she can hear dead people. Among them, there’s her overopinionated Bubby Dora; a prissy fashion designer; and an approval-seeking clown who livens up a séance. With Bubby Dora leading the way, these and other sweetly imperfect ghosts haunt Lilah through seventh grade, and help her face her one big fear: talking to—and possibly going to the seventh-grade dance with—her crush, Andrew Finkel.
SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE comes out June 26 in Canada and July 3 in the U.S.
Could you please tell me a little bit about your book? What inspired you to write it? What it’s about?
The story of what inspired SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE isn’t all that exciting—it began as a title. Normally, I get about halfway through a book before I come up with something to call it, but this title came to me fully formed one morning when I woke up. I was working on other projects at the time, so I tucked it away, but it nagged at me for about a year until I figured I’d better just sit down and write it. The title pretty much dictated what it would be about.
Wow, it began as a title? That’s great! Has this happened to you before or since? Do you keep a notebook of title ideas?
Thanks, Debbie! I actually have another really great title that popped into my head one day, but I have yet to write the book, so I’m going to keep that one under wraps for now. That said, it’s usually through writing the book that I come up with a title. I try to come up with something that’s catchy but has a lot of meaning at the same time—stuff with multiple layers/meanings are always good. But I will say that it’s nice when my subconscious does the heavy lifting for me and gives me something great to work with!
How much outlining do you do? What is your typical work process or work day?
I do zero outlining. I usually start with about four or five plot points in my head and just sit down and start writing. I’ve tried to force myself to become an outliner (which would save me a lot of trouble down the road) but my brain just doesn’t work that way. As for my work day? Well, I do have a full-time job to work around, so much of my writing is done in big chunks on the weekend and sometimes in the evenings, if I have time after Tweeting and Facebooking. 😉
Do you do much revision? What’s your revision/editing process?
I’ll be honest: I don’t love editing. For me, the love is in the drafting and discovery of the plot and the characters, so the editing is the really hard work. I edit a lot as I go, so generally my first completed drafts are pretty clean.
BUT, when you don’t outline, editing for content beyond the first draft is really necessary to get everything in order and layer in details. That means several drafts. I do try to put my first drafts away for a bit (and send them off to beta readers) so I can look at them with fresh eyes after some percolate time.
Then I pull them out and start with big picture stuff, much of which will have come from beta readers. Does the story work? Any big inconsistencies or holes? Are the characters’ motivations realistic? That’s usually two or three passes, especially if I’m adding/deleting scenes.
Then I start in a little closer with the detail work—names, events, timelines – does everything line up? After that, I do a final ‘find and replace’ to get rid of my overused words like ‘that’ and ‘just’ and my many physical tics – head shaking, nodding, winking.
You originally began SMALL MEDIUM as a YA. What was your reaction when your editor suggested it would work well for a younger audience?
The first time she came to me to ask if I would consider rewriting it, (and just to be clear, this wasn’t the editor who ended up buying the book) I was flattered that she loved it so much, but I thought someone else would like it as it was, so I respectfully declined.
The second time she came back and asked, nearly a year later, after we hadn’t sold the book, I figured why not? I really had no idea what I was doing, but she suggested some reading and had faith that I could do it. She was obviously right, and although she didn’t end up being the editor who bought the book, I’m grateful for her vision.
Do you have any advice for writers who aren’t sure whether their work-in-progress is MG or YA?
Read a lot of both and get a good ear for the voice. I wasn’t familiar with MG, (other than what I read as a kid) until I started reading it for research, but it made a lot of sense once I got a good really good taste of it. Here’s an excellent list of differences – I particularly like #3 about the focus.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Read a lot. Write a lot. And prepare to toughen up your skin—this is a tough industry where heartache, rejection and bad news are pretty much guarantees. BUT if you are passionate, willing to put in the time and effort, and can stick it out, the rewards can be amazing!
What books are you reading right now?
My tastes are very eclectic—as much as I love books for kids, I also enjoy grown up escape reads, too! I just finished an ARC of IN A FIX by Linda Grimes – a book for grownups, but filled with lots of laughs and was great fun. As for MG, I recently read THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate and loved it a lot. Up next is the YA, THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT by Jennifer E. Smith – I’ve really been looking forward to reading this one for a while and I’ve been hearing lots of great things about it.
What are you working on now? Anything else you’d like people to know?
I’m working on several different projects: more middle grade and a funny YA that I’m hoping will be a great follow up to SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE as my readers get a bit older. Nothing I can talk about specifically just yet, but I can tell you, all the stuff I’m working on will make you laugh!
Where can people find you online?
I’m all over the place!
Also see other Inkygirl Interviews.For more insights from book creators, see my Inkygirl Interview Archives and Advice For Young Writers And Illustrators From Book Creators.