Welcome to YA Q&A, today featuring Joanne Levy. Joanne's debut novel, SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE, was published by Bloomsbury in July 2012. It's the story of twelve-year-old Lilah Bloom, who is struck by lightening and develops a new talent: she can hear dead people. Among them, there’s her over-opinionated 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.
Joanne has kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her writing and publishing experiences. So I'll jump right in!
Q: SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE is one of my favorite book titles ever. So clever and descriptive. I find titles to be one of the most challenging aspects of writing. Did yours come to you easily? In a dream? After many months of "meh" titles? Or in collaboration with your publisher? Tell us your title story!
A: Thank you! I actually woke up with this title in my head one day. I was working on other projects at the time, so I put it aside for a while, but it nagged at me for about a year until I figured I’d better write the book. I wish all other titles have been so easy, but typically, they come to me through writing the story.
Q: Now that your "baby" has been out there in the world for a few months, can you tell us what your debut author experience has been like?
A: It has been a whirlwind! But an awesome whirlwind. My launch was like a second wedding, but without the expensive dress! I had a great time and for only the second time, I enjoyed being the center of attention (as a somewhat shy introvert, I try to hug the walls at most parties, if I can bring myself to attend at all). So far, the feedback on my book has been wonderful—it got good reviews from the trades and most recently was named as a Sydney Taylor Notable Book by the Association of Jewish Libraries. That was quite an honor which my mother was VERY happy about. But even more amazing is the feedback from kids. I actually just received a package of artwork from a class, each piece depicting the student’s favourite scene in the book. How cool is that? And I especially love that their favorite scenes are mine, too. That tells me I’m doing something right. And on a different level, this past year has been amazing for me because it’s made me stretch and grow as a human. I’ve done things I never would have dreamed of doing before, like public speaking, making videos of myself singing (I am NOT a good singer) and doing other ridiculous things. In my efforts to get the word out about me and my book, I say yes to just about everything I’m asked to do, and in the end, I’m a better person for all the scary things I’ve done. Also, I’ve met a ton of amazing people along the way that I now count as friends, so I have to say the experience of being published has been so much more than having a book on bookstore shelves. It really has been a dream come true in more ways than I could have imagined (with some nightmarish moments—not every part of it has been a bowl of cherries, but the good has far outweighed the bad).
Q: What's your writing process like, and what are you working on now?
Thank you, Joanne (for answering my questions and for all that you do!). Keep us posted on the new book!