Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wednesday Debut Interview: NOT AFTER EVERYTHING by Michelle Levy

This Wednesday, we're welcoming Michelle Levy with her new YA contemporary novel, NOT AFTER EVERYTHING!

Hi, Michelle! First off, tell us a bit about yourself!
I grew up in Littleton, Colorado but moved to Los Angeles as soon as I graduated from high school to pursue a career in entertainment. I’ve been a casting director for the past fifteen years and have been lucky enough to work on projects such as Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Bruce Almighty, My Name Is Earl, Mr. Poppers Penguins, Vampire Academy, and much more. I didn’t start writing until I was thirty-two because I stupidly let a few people telling me I wasn’t a writer stop me from writing. Now I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

Tell us about your book. How would you describe NOT AFTER EVERYTHING in one sentence?
It’s a gritty but hopeful love story about a seventeen-year-old boy coping with his mother’s suicide and his father’s abuse with the unexpected help of an old friend turned loner goth girl.

*takes a big breath*

This book touches on some really serious issues — suicide and abuse. Can you tell us a bit about how you came to write on these topics?
I didn’t really know I was going to write about such heavy issues, it just sort of happened. I’m one of those crazy writers who “hears” her characters. I remember out of nowhere one day having this angry seventeen-year-old guy in my head. He was so pissed at his mom for killing herself and I absolutely had to know more of his story.

Let's talk a bit about your publishing journey. How long has this process taken for you, from the first draft until publication date?
This book’s journey was a little less than three years from draft to publication. My journey as an author was much longer. Not After Everything was my fifth completed manuscript and the third I queried agents with. I probably racked up over 150 rejections over all my years of querying. But my book sold really fast—my agent pitched it on Wednesday, on Friday she got a call from the editor at Dial that she was going to be making an offer on Monday after the acquisitions meeting, and then the offer came in on Monday as expected—so I guess that makes up for all the previous rejection. Okay it totally makes up for all the previous rejection.

Wow! Sure does!
So now that you've told us about some of your rejection and setbacks along the way. How did you learn to cope with them and move on?

I got very lucky and found an amazing writing group very early on. If I didn’t have such a great support system of friends and fellow writers cheering me on, I don’t know how I would’ve made it through 150+ rejections.

Was NOT AFTER EVERYTHING the original title you'd had in mind for this story?

Far from it. My agent, my editors, and I ended up with a list of 245 titles before we finally settled on Not After Everything, which was a line in the book and my editor’s brilliant idea.

How does it feel to finally have your book out in the hands of readers? Do you have any events planned you want people to know about?
It feels awesome and scary! I hope they fall in love with Tyler and Jordyn as much as I did. I’m doing a book launch in Littleton, Colorado at the Tattered Cover Bookstore at Aspen Grove on August 15th at 2:00pm. I’m particularly excited about doing a signing in Denver because the book is set in a fictionalized version of Highlands Ranch (a suburb of Denver near Littleton). It’s also where I’m from.

Is there any other advice you'd like to pass on to others pursuing publication? Anything you would have done differently?
You have to put yourself and your work out there. I highly recommend joining a critique group and/or finding a few trusted critique partners. You have to get used to taking the ego out of the work and seeing the things that you can make better without taking it personally. I know I’m usually way too close to see the problem areas in my own work and I depend heavily on my honest critique partners. I admit it was hard to take the criticism at first, but it only made me stronger for when I faced any professional rejection. If I knew then what I know now, I would have waited to query my first manuscript until after I had done a few rounds of revisions with critique partners.

And, just for fun, what recent movie would your two main characters Tyler and Jordyn have gone to see together this summer?
Ooh, I love this question! I’m going to say Jordyn would’ve probably dragged Tyler to San Andreas to scare him before he moved to California. Also for a good laugh.

Awesome! Thanks for joining us, and congrats on your debut!


If you are an author looking forward to your debut sometime between December 2015 and June 2016 and are interested in being part of our Wednesday Debut Interview feature, please contact me at wendynikel at gmail dot com with your book title, category, genre, publisher, and release date.


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