posted by guest blogger Marilyn Levinson
I’ve started writing a new book – a Y A horror. Once again I’m a boy. I’m fifteen years old and I’ve just lost my family. What’s more, I’ve yet to discover I’m in the clutches of an uncle with evil intentions, not the least of which is to take over my body. Quite a switch from writing cozy mysteries for adults.
Adults? Kids? What’s the difference these days? How many adults have their noses in the latest Harry Potter, a series that started out as children’s literature and the last few might be considered YA?
The first novel I ever wrote was a romantic suspense. The second was a children’s book about a chubby girl who moves to Upstate New York and befriends two ghost children. Neither book ever sold. "You’re good at writing books for children," Roberta Gellis told me. I’d taken a few courses with Roberta in her local Long Island library, and we became very close friends. Though Roberta wrote in practically every genre but children’s books, I took her word as gospel and began AND DON’T BRING JEREMY, about two brothers, one of whom is neurologically impaired. Holt published it in 1985. Publishers Weekly praised it and printed one of its illustrations. The book was a nominee for six state awards. I was elated! I was on my way!
Only I wasn’t. My next book, A PLACE TO START (Atheneum) – a Y A with another boy protagonist (I had two sons, after all) got lukewarm reviews, though I thought it was a good read. Then Holt published THE FOURTH-GRADE FOUR. This was not my original title and raised some reviewers’ eyebrows as Matt, the protagonist (again a boy) is part of a trio of friends that calls itself Los Tres Amigos (my Spanish teacher background), and another boy helps him understand that 1) wearing glasses isn’t the worst thing in the world and 2) kids who are bullies and who make fun of others often have insecurities and issues they’re ashamed of.
I suppose my biggest success as a children’s book author is NO BOYS ALLOWED. BridgeWater Books, a division of the now defunct Troll Books, brought out the book in hardcover in 1993. It’s about eleven-year-old Cassie, whose world falls apart when her father leaves her, her mother, and her older sister to marry a young lawyer who worked in his office. Cassie decides to have nothing to do with males, including her best friend, Bobby. Then her great-uncle moves into their house to recover from an illness, and Cassie’s forced to review her ban against the opposite sex. The book came out in paperback, in a book club edition, and in Swedish and Dutch. When Scholastic bought Troll, they issued an updated edition with an adorable, upbeat cover, and sold 61,000 plus paperback copies in one year.
I’ve always been intrigued by witches and ghosts, and they appear from time to time in my novels. I wrote RUFUS AND MAGIC RUN AMOK (Marshall Cavendish) before the first Harry Potter appeared on the scene, though it was first published in 2001. Rufus prides himself on being an average American boy – as he tells you on the first page of Chapter One. But Rufus comes from a long line of witches and he hates to admit that he’s one, too, because 1) he doesn’t want to be different from the other kids and 2) because he knows he’s in for lesson upon lesson of how to control his powers and to use them for good services. He tells no one of his growing powers, but they have a way of taking off and leading him on a merry chase.
For the last few years I’ve been writing cozies for adults. Frankly, I don’t find it difficult to move from one genre to another. I think that most of us writers write different types of books. We seem to need this leeway to express ourselves. To have some say over the many demands and strictures of novel writing.
And now I must return to my work in progress. Simon’s uncle is about to hypnotize him in order to start the process of taking over his body. I cringe at the prospect of putting my protagonist through more pain and suffering, but he will triumph in the end. How Simon triumphs is the story I’ve yet to tell.
Marilyn's book, RUFUS AND MAGIC RUN AMOK, is an IRA- Children's Book Council Children's Choice for 2002. Visit Marilyn's website at www.MarilynLevinson.com