Saturday, March 4, 2017

Q&A with Marianne Levy

Marianne Levy is the author of the new novel for kids Katie Cox Goes Viral. She also has written the Ellie May series. Levy has worked as an actress, and she contributes to The Independent on Sunday. She lives in London.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Katie Cox Goes Viral?

A: I'd been thinking a lot about how today's teens are always so connected with the world, through their phones and computers, whether they want to be or not.

When I was young, I had a landline phone, but when I went home, I was basically on my own - and often lonely. I'd have done anything to reach out and make myself heard, even stuff that, now, I would advise my younger self against.

So the Internet is both brilliant and also, an uncontrollable force, especially in the hands of impulsive teens. And that makes for some terrific stories.

Q: Music plays a big role in the characters' lives. Why did you choose to focus on music in this novel?

A: I love young people's creativity, there's such an enthusiasm about the world, and its possibilities. Music is a great way to express big emotions, and to reach out others.

I was never hugely into music when I was at school, but most of my friends were, and so I've always wanted to explore that. Now that I have, I see that I was missing out on so much.

Q: Can you tell us more about what you think the book says about the importance of social media and viral videos, especially for teenagers and kids?

A: When I speak to young people at book events, I always ask them to explain the role of social media in their lives, and they tend to shrug and respond that it is their lives. So I don't think there's anything I can say about its importance that my readers don't already know.

For Katie, my heroine, social media is a bridge between her and her impending adulthood. It gives her fame, excitement and choices, but at the same time, she's realising that decisions have consequences.

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: That's a great question. The idea went through a fair few incarnations before it turned into this particular book. Originally, I think the story was about a girl band, which tells you just how much it has changed.

But once I'd decided on the idea of Katie being an ordinary schoolgirl who goes viral, the rest fell into place quite quickly. 

I tend to spend a long time developing my ideas, sometimes months, occasionally (as in this book) even a couple of years. I find development frustrating, sometimes, because I'm so keen to get the book written; I much prefer writing to plotting and scheming.

But I can't seem to shortcut the process. When I try to write the book before the idea is ready I always end up having to start again. And again. 

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I'm just finishing off the sequel, Face The Music (although it may have a different title when it comes out in the U.S.). This picks up Katie's story from about two weeks after the first book finishes.

I won't say too much about it, but there's a boy band, a very public argument and a live concert in front of twelve and a half thousand people. 

And after that... in between these books I've been working on something completely new, and unlike anything I've ever written before. It's been a lot of fun, and I'm very excited about it! I find it useful, switching between two completely different ideas. It helps keep everything fresh.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Just that, as a Brit, I'm thrilled to have a book out in the U.S.! I'd love to go back and tell my lonely teenage self. It's exhilarating to think how far stories can travel, how we can send pieces of ourselves across oceans, whether that's on screens or between covers.

I really hope your readers enjoy it, and I'd love to hear from them. I'm on Twitter, so come say hi. I'm @MarianneLevy.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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