Author Interview: Gail Carson Levine of... a Lot of Great Books!
How long have you been writing? I wrote as a child, but I stopped after high school, and only started again in 1987 when I was thirty-nine. Then it took me nine years to become published.
Why did you start writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer? I never thought of becoming a writer. I was interested in acting and painting. But I always read, and one day I had an idea for an art appreciation book for children, which never was published, but it got me started.
Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer? My teacher Margaret Gabel, who taught a workshop for adults at The New School in New York City. I still hear her voice in my head.
How much research do you usually put into your books? Depends on the book, but I always do a little. For the novel I just finished I read about earthquakes. For my historical novel, Dave at Night, I did a lot, read books, visited museums, conducted interviews.
Do you base events or people in your books off of your life, or your friends' and family's lives? Sometimes. Dave at Night again is loosely based on my father’s childhood.
What do you do when you're not writing? I love to walk, read, watch TV. I lift weights, as you can see on my website. I’m very strong for a tiny old lady.
What was your favorite book or author as a teen? What's your favorite now? As a teen I was reading a lot of plays, like J.B. by Archibald MacLeish or The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux. My all-time favorite book is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
What was the biggest obstacle to getting published for the first time, and how did you overcome it? Getting the right manuscript into the right hands. I educated myself about editors and I also got an agent.
What is your writing process? Do you write regularly at certain times or just when inspiration hits? I write regularly. I don’t depend on inspiration, which is notoriously fickle.
What keeps you motivated? Writing is my job, and I love stories.
Are there any books you wish you'd written? The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M. T. Anderson.
What inspired this book? My father’s childhood, his silence about it, and my curiosity.
Do you have any advice for aspiring teen authors like myself - or any age, for that matter? Patience and stubbornness are the two qualities a writer needs most. Patience because both publishing and writing are slow, and stubbornness because stories are sometimes recalcitrant, and it takes a stubborn writer to tug them through to completion.
Thanks for coming by, Ms. Levine!
Gail Carson Levine is an award-winning author of children's and young adult fantasy, magic, and fairy tale novels. She wrote Ella Enchanted, which later became the movie of the same name starring Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy. You can see her books, read her blog, and more at http://gailcarsonlevine.com/.