Interview with David Levithan, Author of Wide Awake Now

By: Michele Kirichanskaya
May 31, 2024

David Levithan is the author of several books for young adults, including Lambda Literary Award winner Two Boys Kissing; Every Day; Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (co-authored with Rachel Cohn); Will Grayson, Will Grayson (co-authored with John Green); and Boy Meets Boy. In 2016, David received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for his significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.

I had the opportunity to interview David, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi, my name is David Levithan and I write books about queer kids and teens.

What can you tell us about your latest book, Wide Awake Now? What was the inspiration for this project?

Wide Awake Now is about two boyfriends who must travel with friends to Kansas in order to protest after the election of the first gay Jewish president of the United States is threatened.  It started as a book I wrote in 2005, worried about the 2000 election.  I set it twenty years in the future – basically, 2024.  So with this year’s election very much on my mind, I decided to set it in real 2024, not the one I imagined twenty years ago.

As a writer, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically young adult fiction?

I’ve always been compelled to create a queer space within teen literature, in no small part because it was a practically non-existent space when I was growing up. 

How would you describe your writing process?

I make it up as I go along.  I start with a premise and see where it takes me.

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

I loved stories of mischievous, somewhat sarcastic kids, whether it was Alexander in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day or Claudia and Jamie in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  In terms of YA, it was Francesco Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat that really inspired me with its queerness.  As for now – I’m pretty sure I would’ve figured out my identity more quickly with the wide range of queer YA that’s now in the world.

As a writer, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration in general? 

I mean, everything makes an impact in one way or another.  But I will single out music here, because I can’t write without something blasting.  For this book, there was a whole lot of Maggie Rogers being played as I wrote it.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or difficult? 

I love seeing the story come together, because I don’t plan it out ahead of time.  The risk of that being the moments when I’m like, I have no idea what’s supposed to happen next.  But usually it appears eventually.

Many authors would say one of the most challenging parts of writing a book is finishing one. What strategies would you say helped you accomplish this?

Just keep going.  Talk it out with someone if you’re stuck writing it alone.

Aside from your work, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

I don’t particularly want anyone to know anything about me.  That’s the joy of writing fiction instead of memoir. 

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but that you wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

I have yet to get a marriage proposal during an interview.  Hard to say what my answer would be.  Depends on the interviewer.

What advice might you have for aspiring writers?

Keep going and learn from your mistakes.

Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?

I’m currently working with my friend Gabriel Duckels on a YA nonfiction book about AIDS and its impact.

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT? 

There are so, so many, but I’ll take this as a chance to highlight Lewis Hancox’s fantastic graphic memoirs Welcome to St. Hell and Escape from St. Hell

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