1: Hi, and thanks for joining today. In your own words tell us about yourself, not you the author, but just you!
A: I’m a guy who was born and raised in the Phoenix area who has been writing and telling stories since second grade, either on paper or on stage. I’ve got a wonderful wife of 10 years, a five year old son and a new daughter on her way this summer. I’ve finished a marathon once upon a time, and sometimes re-read chapter books from middle school.
2: Why did you decide to become an author and what’s the best part? Yeah, it’s a double-whammy of a question. So unexpected!
A: I decided to become an author while working a sh*t job. (I think a lot of people make life-changing choices while working sh*t jobs, as well they should.) Of course, deciding something doesn’t always make it so, but I my goal initially was to get one book published an available on a bookstore shelf. That was it. That was seven novels ago. The best part for me getting to teach writing classes to younger students, before the big bad world gets ahold of them. High school visits are one of my favorite things to do.
3: So, tell us about your work. Sell us on it! Why should we read it and why it will capture us?
A: HELLWORLD in particular is a great horror novel for fans of the genre, with a unique interweaving of past and present timelines showing how hell is unleashed on earth; some cool Lovecraftian beasties (I hope), maybe a smattering of zombie-esque baddies…lots of fun to be had there. BUT, thematically, this is a novel for anyone who is at the end of their rope, who don’t see a silver lining or a light at the end of the tunnel. This is a novel inspired by a family member’s Alzheimer’s disease–a worse fate I cannot imagine for any family. It’s a horror novel about monsters and hell and science and religion, yes. But thematically it is asking the question, What do we do when we know tomorrow is only going to be worse? So on that front, I think it will speak to a variety of readers who maybe wouldn’t make horror their first choice.
4: Why did you choose the genre you write in over others to start your publishing career? Did others appeal to you more and you chose this? Was there a bit of choice weighing or was it rather simple?
A: It chose me! I happened to land an agent just as the genre now called “contemporary young adult” was starting to land, and I happened to be writing about teens and the issues they are facing (sans vampires or death matches), so that’s where my book landed. I have an affinity for the genre, but I am also looking forward to getting into some urban fantasy and horror, and I’ve been using some of my YA novels (SICK; SHACKLED; and now HELLWORLD) to do that.
5: So far, what would you say has been the hardest part of being an author?
A: Realizing that you’ve never “arrived.” It’s never over. There is no destination. There is no metric for success, because it’s always shifting. Whether that’s creatively or financially, there’s always something new to go after.
6: Now for the ever-so-shocking follow-up question. What’s the best/easiest part, if there is one?
A: For me the easiest part is writing the new stuff. A brand new Word doc, a blinking cursor, and very hot coconut milk mocha, and I’m about as Zen as I can be.
7: Tell us about what your experiences in the author life have been like. I don’t mean the writing aspects. I mean the daily human life. Tell us what it’s like to live the day life you do and be an author at the same time. What’s it like when people in your life and, the people you come across, find out you’re an author?
A: If they are a reader, it’s great. There’s an element of respect there that is always nice, and you can tell when it’s authentic. Readers are Readers because they love books, period. So even if it’s not a genre they read, they respect it. Non-readers don’t really get it. The only books they know about are the ones that became big movies like Hunger Games. Which is fine, we need those big hits to keep the little guys like me gainfully employed. Day to day, author lives are the same as everyone else’s. Our kids don’t care if we’re bestsellers or not, they want us to play Legos. The IRS just wants you to make sure you account for any royalties and don’t care how many reviews you got on Amazon. The car still breaks down, the dog still gets sick. Writing is the best job I’ve ever had, but it is still a job just like everyone else’s.
8: Writing is a hard craft and a harder career. What are the things that keep you going, both in improving the craft and enduring the downs/lows of the career?
A: I like to keep attending classes whenever I can at conferences or conventions or bookstores. It is good to keep learning craft in this businesses, or I think I’d risk getting stale. Even just recently I took an online class from a friend of mine and it totally changed how I outline books and test ideas. And then other times, honestly, it just comes down to this: Yeah, it was a bad day for Reason X, but hey, were you in a cubicle today? No? Then it was a good day.
9: What do you love about the genre/s you write and what others appeal to you?
A: I love YA because I love origin stories, and all of young adulthood is exactly that. That high school/early college age is where Peter gets his spider powers, where Clark starts to understand how much power he has, it’s when Bruce is focused on his training. There’s a reason for that. In the American high school, we are learning our powers. Our skills and talents. And starting to decide how or if we’re going to use those powers to influence the course of history. It’s heady stuff. No one wants to read about a forty-year-old guy who pays his mortgage on the dot. As for other genres, I grew up reading and writing horror and I’m anxious to get back to it because it has such thematic value. There are stories you can tell in horror that are more impactful because of the genre they are couched in. Telling them in contemporary terms just sounds preachy, but horror and thrillers can teach us things on a gut level sometimes. (Pun not intended, but, we’ll leave it in.)
10: Tell us about the plans for your series and body of work.
A: It’s not so much a plan as a hope: To keep working in contemporary YA because I still have some novels written and in process that I want to share with that readership, but also hopefully to land at some nice adult publisher with my adult genre stuff. I’m also starting to learn screenwriting because I know I don’t know anything about it, so there’s a shiny, glossiness to learning something totally new that really appeals to me, and I’m also tired of sitting around waiting for a filmmaker to call me. They won’t. I have a history of doing storytelling myself, so, the hell with it, I’m gonna return to that model again.
11: The writing and publishing world has changed a lot. Self-publishing, small to medium presses popping up, and things like becoming a hybrid between indie pubbing and traditional. What are your thoughts on that? Any predictions on what the future might hold? What would you like to see, both as an author yourself, and, as a consumer/reader?
A: Zero predictions. I have no idea. I was on the anti-Amazon train there when it first started happening, but now I am a believer in the potential of hybrid and self-pub. I’ve tiptoed around it a bit, but haven’t really committed to it. I think that will be changing this year. I like that there’s something out there for everyone. One thing I do fear – and other authors might feel the opposite – is now that we are SO close to our fans, that our work could suffer Death By Committee. It’d be one thing to get a legit great idea from a fan; it’d be another for 100 or 1000 of them to gang up on you and demand that X ends up married to Y, or whatever. That would be scary. But overall, I think the market has stabilized between traditional, indie, and hybrid, and there’s room for everyone.
12: The always done and asked question. Who are your favorite authors? What are you favorite books? What are you reading now? Tell us. Tell us!
A: Currently reading NOS4A2 for my book club, SciFridays, which I joined specifically to get exposure to stuff I hadn’t read before. Also reading Brat Pack America, which is a lot of fun. Recently started Guns, Germs, and Steel. I usually keep three to five books going at any one time because who knows what mood I’ll be in at any given time? I still love older Stephen King stuff, like The Long Walk, which is damn near genius. I highly recommend the novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson which is more than 10 years old now but which helped launch contemporary YA as we know it today. Also Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, although for that one, I love the audiobook more. John Ritter was the narrator, and he was such an influence on me back in the Three’s Company days that it’s sort of bittersweet to hear him narrate such a great, tender YA novel that is itself also bittersweet. I’m also listening to a book on the history of Delta Force, and also Blubber by Judy Blume. Because that’s how I roll.
13: I’ve got to know…what’s your favorite word to use. Every author has one. What’s the word you catch yourself using a lot? We’ve all got those as well. What’s your favorite word just to say? Something where you like the way it sounds. What’s your favorite curse worse, if you’ve got one and or use them?
A: Colossal. My characters use that a lot, usually sarcastically, like, “colossal chub.” For cursing, virtually any combo is good. I’m always on the lookout for new incarnations of “fuck.” Privately, I pretty much still talk the same way I did in high school. Honestly, I can’t even bring myself to share the shit I say in the car. I’m going to hell.
14: Tell us about your latest release. Or, when can we expect your next one? What are we in store for?!
A: Hellworld comes out March 21, and my next one, Mercy Rule, lands January 2018. Hellworld has this great pacing even though it is in many ways a slow burn; it veers more toward dread than terror, but when the terror pops up, man, it’s nasty. It’s not so much “Don’t open that door!” as “You went and opened the goddamn door, didn’t you? Shit, here we go…”
15: Lastly, where can we find you? Facebook? Twitter? Website? Links to your material. Go on, don’t be shy. Share!
In an effort to put her family back together, a teen struggles to discover what happened to her mother who disappeared during a ghost hunt in this haunting new novel from the author of Party, Sick, and Shackled.
Five years ago, Abby Booth’s mom, cohost of a ghost hunting reality show, went missing while filming in a ‘haunted’ cave in Arizona.
Since then, Abby’s life has all but fallen to pieces, most notably because of her dad’s deep depression and how they’ve drifted further and further apart.
But now, at seventeen, Abby has decided that things will change. She plans to go to the same cave where her mom and the crew went missing and to find out, once and for all, what happened there.
With the help of the cohost’s son Charlie, and two of his friends, Abby sets off on a quest for answers…but when the group ends up finding, what they stumble across in that dark, primordial cave in Arizona, is nothing they could have ever imaged.
Abby was investigating a possible haunting…she never expected that there could be something worse.
Bio: Tom Leveen is the author of eight novels with imprints of Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Abrams. He has also teamed up with Todd McFarlane writing Spawn, the comic book series, and released two independent books: A how-to guide for writers on the subject of dialogue, and a horror novella based on real events.
Currently an early literacy specialist with Phoenix Public Library, Tom has six years of previous library work experience. He also has 22 years of theatre experience as an actor and director, and has been the Artistic Director for two different theatre companies.
Tom wrote his first story in second grade and has been writing and telling stories ever since. His first horror novel, Sick, won the Westchester Fiction Award and the Grand Canyon Reader Award. His novel ZERO was a Best Book of 2013 (American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association).
A frequent guest speaker and teacher, Tom has taught, paneled, and/or keynoted for SCBWI, RWA, Desert Nights Rising Stars, Phoenix ComiCon, AzLA, NCTE, TEDx, People of Color Network, Western New Mexico University, Arizona State University, Arizona Reading Association, Kennesaw State University, multiple schools and conferences throughout Germany, AETA, the Los Angeles Teen Book Fest, and many others.
In addition, apropos of absolutely nothing, Tom:
Finished a marathon (in six and half hours), earned a blue belt in Tae Kwon Do, co-hosted a public access comedy show, directed 30 plays and acted in 30 more, ran a theatre company out of his backyard, met almost all of his literary heroes except for Stephen King, played in a punk band live in front of actual people (once), prefers the Hero System but nevertheless runs a warlock minotaur and storm cleric elf when time permits, trained at the Utah Shakespeare Festival Actor Training program for five sessions, was Best Masque & Gavel Member in high school, lettered in Speech, has a rock in one finger from a pretty bad bail on his (now stolen) Tony Hawk, was the safari train driver for the Phoenix Zoo for a short time, worked in the stock room for Forever 21 for an even shorter time, completed a Spartan Sprint with three friends, and spent twenty years earning his Bachelor of Science degree.
So if there’s something you want to do, go do it.
Thank you all for checking this out. If you’re interested by Tom’s work, the links are provided to it. Take a look. And thank you for supporting this as always. Please leave a comment.