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September 8, 2009

Q & A with David Levithan

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LinkToday's guest blogger is David Levithan, author and co-author of YA faves like BOY MEETS BOY, ARE WE THERE YET, and NICK & NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST. Below, he interviews... well... himself... about his latest solo effort, LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW, which revolves around three teens in the wake of 9/11.

We're offering a copy of LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW in this month's Word of Mouth Drawing, which you can enter here. For more info on David and another chance to win a copy of the new book, visit Random House's Random Buzz, and the Book Divas Blog.


Even though this isn’t really an interview, I’ve decided to write this in Q&A format --– based on some questions I’ve been hearing lately, and some that I guess I’m ready to ask myself.

Q: So, your new book is about 9/11 and being in New York at that time.


A: Yes.

Q: That sounds depressing.

A: You would think so, but one of the reasons I wrote the book was to explore the fact that the time around 9/11 was both deeply upsetting and also remarkably inspirational.

Q: Inspirational?

A: Because millions of people came together in a way that was almost magical –-- after such a tragic event, we could have spiraled into chaos, both as a country and as individuals. But the opposite happened. Even though we were in shock, and even though we were in uncharted territory, we managed to maintain our better selves. In LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW, the three main characters are all struggling both to get to the core of their reactions and then to figure out how life can go on.

Q: Was it hard to write?

A: It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever written, mostly because it was such a personal story to me. And I really didn’t want to screw it up. It’s one thing to write about small, personal events, and it’s quite another to write about an event that everyone in our society shares. There’s much more responsibility.

Q: Where did the title come from?

A: It’s from the U2 song “One” –-- sometimes I have titles from the start of writing a book, and other times I just wait for one to come to me out of the ether. I knew that a U2 concert would play a part in the book, but it wasn’t until I was listening to the Mary J. Blige version of this song that the lyric hit me over the head and demanded to be the book’s title. Because I do truly believe that love is the highest law, and that even when hate interferes (as it did on 9/11), love ultimately reinstates itself (as it did on 9/11).

Q: LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW sounds like it’s very different from NICK & NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST. Is that true?

A: Yes and no. Certainly, the stakes are higher, the depression deeper, the feelings of confusion much more existential in LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW. But it does share a lot of things with NICK & NORAH. Like N&N, it’s a love story on two levels. The first is a love story between the characters --- both in terms of romance and friendship. The second is a love story between the characters and New York City. When Rachel and I wrote NICK & NORAH, 9/11 was still very real to us and to all New Yorkers, and I think we wanted to represent the unthreatened magic of the city within our book. In the new book, the characters need to rediscover that joy in the city . . . and that’s part of how they know they’re healing.

(Incidentally, for another book that was written shortly after 9/11 which captures New York City in all of its glory, check out Tanuja Desai Hidier’s BORN CONFUSED. It, too, is a love story for the city, and a great love story for its characters, too.)

Q: When you and Rachel aren’t writing a book together, do you read each other’s work?


A: Yes. Rachel was one of the first readers of LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW. And I was lucky to read an early version of her new book, VERY LE FREAK, which comes out next spring. I know you’ll think I’m biased, but it’s a total blast.

Q: Any other book recommendations?

A: By all means, read Blake Nelson’s DESTROY ALL CARS. And, come October 1st, Natalie Standiford’s HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT will be in stores. Both books are funny, moving, and wonderful. I can’t urge you enough to read them.

Q: I’m a teen, and I’m an aspiring writer. I know you’re an editor as well as an author. How do I get published?

A: Check out the PUSH Novel Contest at www.thisispush.com, which will start up again in November. We read every single entry that comes in. And some of the best books we’ve published in PUSH have come from winners of that contest.

-- David Levithan