John Green is the author of "Looking for Alaska" and "Paper Towns," and he's also a vlogging sensation.
Together they've written "Will Grayson, Will Grayson," the
"story of two boys with the same name whose lives intertwine. Featuring Tiny Cooper, whose life needs to be a musical."
I'm very excited to interview David Levithan as the kick-off to our featuring his and John Green’s amazing book as the official launch of the Trevor Project book club!
Here’s how this works:
The kick off interview with David is here at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?"
it will be going up on Advocate.com
and will be live at TrevorSpace today!
For the next 21 days we’ll have daily discussion threads over at TrevorSpace.
Each day we’ll choose at random one participant in the conversation to win a signed copy of “Will Grayson, Will Grayson!” (And hey, if you win and already own a copy, keep the signed one and share the other one!)
And as our finale, we’ll have a live webchat hosted by Advocate.com on Thursday May 26, 2011 at 6pm Eastern, 3pm Pacific, where I’ll moderate a real-time Q&A between David and the book’s readers - you guys!
My thanks to these Trevor Project Youth Advisory Council (YAC) members for their awesome interview questions and discussion thread topics; Megan (21) from California, Blair (21) from Illinois, Shannon (21) from Florida, and Nathaniel (19) from Nevada.
Now let’s jump into our interview!
Lee: Hi David. Thanks so much for being part of this! Here’s the first question: “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” was the first teen book with a gay main character to hit the New York Times bestseller list. What was that experience like?
David: Well, it was about time, wasn’t it? I was thrilled that we could bust that particular barrier, and I know John was thrilled as well. But equally thrilling is that nobody really cared. Ten years ago, someone might have used that as Exhibit #1 of the world falling apart. Now people just see it as a story.
Lee: You’ve spoken in other interviews about how you and John Green each wrote one of the Will Graysons in alternating chapters – John the straight Will Grayson, and you the gay “other will grayson.” Can you share a bit about how you and John orchestrated the two plotlines and characters converging?
David: I came up with the general idea, based on the fact that one of my best friends is named David Leventhal, and I have thus been interested in the things you can learn about yourself by having a twin (or near twin) name-wise. John and I figured out the name together (I chose “Will”; he chose “Grayson”) and where and when the two Wills would meet. Then we wrote our first chapters independent of each other – because our Wills were in separate places, it made sense to write them separately. When we were finished, we came together and read the chapters out loud. This became our ritual – writing separate chapters, then reading them out loud to each other. Obviously, when we got to the part where both Wills were in the same place at the same time, we had to coordinate more … but that was it.
Lee: Wow, that's fascinating. Okay, a perfect character is boring, but a flawed queer character opens you up to criticism that you’ve created a character that reflects poorly on gay people or feeds into stereotypes. How do you deal with that as an author?
David: There’s no such thing as a perfect person, so it makes no sense to write a perfect person. I don’t know any author who’d try. And we write characters, not representations of groups. I can honestly say I’ve never thought for a second about whether a character reflects poorly on any group. All that matters to me is that the character is true to my belief in who he or she is.
Lee: Case in point, here’s a question from the Trevor Project YAC readers: “I was drawn more to the romance of Will Grayson and Jane than anything Tiny Cooper or the other will grayson had going on, and I very much enjoyed reading as their relationship developed. Why choose to display a very functioning hetero-relationship and very dysfunctional gay relationships in a novel mainly geared towards LGBTQ youth?
David: I’d say that this says more about you as a reader than it does about the characters – we all gravitate towards different things, and that’s one of the coolest things about reading. And the novel was never meant to be mainly geared towards LGBTQ youth – it’s geared towards everyone. (Personally, I think Will and Jane’s relationship is just as messed up as anyone else’s – but, again, that’s in the eye of the beholder. I don’t think any of the relationships in the book is perfect … which is the point. They never are perfect, straight or queer. But that doesn’t make them any less meaningful. If anything, it makes them more so.)
Lee: And now for some additional questions from the Trevor Project Youth Advisory Council readers:
Trevor Project YAC: You make many references in the book to will grayson being suicidal and/or homicidal as well as depressed. Though it is flippant, what was the purpose of highlighting his depression?
David: That’s just will talking – everything is exaggerated to him when it comes to articulating his thoughts and feelings. But the underlying depression is very real. I wanted to show someone who is dealing with depression on an everyday basis. It’s not the main story of his life, but it’s always there. I feel that most novels that grapple with depression make it the main story, and focus on the discovery phase. I wanted to show someone who lives with it, and is fine.
Trevor Project YAC: Did you draw inspiration for the characters and storyline from your own personality or life experience? Which character is most like you?
David: I’d never even thought about it, but the character I’m probably most like is … Jane. How weird is that? Because, of course, I didn’t write her character at all. But I guess that answers your question – while there are pieces of me in all of my characters, rarely are any of them close in personality and/or experience to me. There are rare exceptions to this … but none in this book. (I probably aspire to be most like Gideon.)
Trevor Project YAC: In the book, will grayson meets Gideon, who becomes a pretty great support system and voice of reason for him. Who was your Gideon growing up?
David: Great question. I was lucky to have the support of a large group of friends – most of them girls. So I’ve never really relied on just one person – I think life is better that way. As for a voice of reason – well, I don’t think anyone was too consistently a voice of reason. If anything, that’s my role. But I think even the best voice of reason has to be ridiculous every now and then.
Trevor Project YAC: What advice would you give LGBTQ youth struggling in today’s society?
David: Who was it who said “Don’t let the bastards get you down?” Shaw? Anyway – that’s good advice for most things.
Lee: Thanks, David. That is great advice. We're all so delighted to have you be part of this!
And remember, if you’re 13 to 24 years old, sign up over at TrevorSpace to be part of their safe and moderated social network and jump into the conversation! And for everyone – no matter what your age – know that we’ll also have a discussion day all about the book here at this blog.
You can even win a signed copy by commenting here! Today's discussion thread:
What would you tell a friend about "Will Grayson, Will Grayson?" Would you recommend it? If so, what would you tell them to convince them to read it?
I'll pick one commenter at random Sunday night at 6pm Pacific time.
So go get yourself a copy of David Levithan and John Green’s “Will Grayson, Will Grayson,” read it, and join in the fun!