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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Interview with Dana Alison Levy, author of The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher

Dana Alison Levy, author of The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, is here at The Hiding Spot today! Not only is the Fletcher family one of my favorite literary families, I'm quite sure they will quickly become one of your favorites too! Read on for to learn more about Dana, including a look at her writing process and her favorite word (well, words)!

About the Author

Dana Alison Levy was raised by pirates but escaped at a young age and went on to earn a degree in aeronautics and puppetry. Actually, that’s not true—she just likes to make things up. That’s why she always wanted to write books. She was born and raised in New England and studied English literature before going to graduate school for business. While there is value in all learning, had she known she would end up writing for a living, she might not have struggled through all those statistics and finance classes. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher is her first published novel, but she has a trunk full of other attempts, which vary in degrees of awfulness.

With The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, you’ve successfully given young readers a literary example of a modern, loving family – a family that might not have been so easily accepted even a few short years ago. Can you speak a bit about the need for diverse literature that accurately portrays the modern child, parent, and family?

I don’t have an official reason for writing this book. The family Fletcher is not a mirror of my family, nor any one specific family I know. Rather, it was a desire to write the kind of book I loved reading as a kid, but that reflected our modern world a little more accurately. I started writing this book in 2011, and even in the few years since then the issue of gay marriage has exploded, becoming ever more common. The goal with this book was never to write an issue book that addressed the challenges and realities of being a biracial (tri-racial?!) family, or of having same-sex parents. Those books can and should be written, but the goal with this book was to write a story that was full of universal challenges: growing apart from an old friend, starting a new school, and figuring out what matters to you as you grow up. Hopefully it will allow kids with non-traditional families to find themselves in some silly, everyday stories, and will show kids with conventional families how many elements of our lives are all the same.

Your novel features four brothers with very different interests and personalities. Did these boys all have clear voices from the start or did you struggle with one or two?

You know, they were pretty clear from the start! I didn’t even necessarily WANT four boys; they just showed up. And they were pretty distinctly themselves from day one.
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 

I am an outliner and a linear writer. I’m always amazing and impressed by my writer friends who say “Oh, I skipped the first 100 pages or so because I really want to write this scene.” Or, “I’m around halfway through this draft but I’m not really sure what’s going to happen next.” How scary! I write a chapter-by-chapter outline with a series of different pieces of information included (and a huge shout-out to Janice Hardy and her blog for writing advice. That was a great resource on how to draft). Then of course I change it as I go along if the characters demand it.
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration? 

I have had a bunch of jobs, from the random (housecleaner in Paris, waitress in Santorini), to the corporate (corporate social responsibility writer for the Timberland Company, executive recruiter for nonprofits). I have always loved to write and always written, but being a writer never seemed like a reasonable option.

The work experience that most shaped my career was somewhat bizarre: I was laid off in the recession of 2009, and suddenly I had time on my hands, young children, and unemployment insurance while I was job-hunting in a terrible economy. I began to write fiction, and also started looking for ways to earn some faster money as a writer, which led me to the freelance work I still do today.
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why? 

Oooooooh! That is a great question, but an almost impossible one to answer. How do I even narrow it down? I love the word shenanigans, of course, and use it as often as possible. But I also love the word crepuscular. And akimbo is a really great one. Gloaming...that’s another. Fetid is fabulous. Argh!! I give up!
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality? 

Books are now and have always been my escape from reality. I’m not a huge movie-goer, and I watch almost no television, but I read well over a hundred books a year. I reread books constantly, and my sister and I have our own category of books that we call “Cheerios books” because we would reread them again and again as children and teenagers, usually while nomming Cheerios right out of the box. Even now, at forty-one, I’ll pick up Little Women or Half Magic or other childhood favorites and escape right back into their pages.

What can readers look forward to next?

Well, I’m disgustingly thrilled to be writing the sequel to The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher. It is tentatively titled A Fletcher Family Summer, and it should come out in spring 2016. I’m also working on another middle grade novel (that’s actually about Anna Bean —- the girl on the farm that the Fletchers go visit —) and a contemporary young adult novel.


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