David Levithan stole our hearts and opened our eyes in his romantic and thought-provoking novel, Every Day, which tells the story of A, a genderless, raceless person who wakes up each day in a new body–trying not to interfere in anyone’s life–until the day A meets and falls in love with Rhiannon. David retells their story from Rhiannon’s point of view in companion book Another Day. And we were thrilled to catch up with David to talk about both books!
Hi David! There are so many things we love about these books. But what is it about A and Rhiannon that made you want to reprise their tangled love story from Rhiannon’s perspective in Another Day?
When I wrote Every Day, it was to answer two questions–what would it be like to not be defined by your body, and what would be it like to be in love with someone who changed every day? By telling the story from A’s point of view, I naturally answered the first question more than the second. So I wanted to flip things and really look into the second question more, and to do that, I had to tell the story from Rhiannon’s perspective.
If there is one word that comes to mind when reading your books, it’s empathy–the empathy you have for your characters, their lives, their diversity, and in turn the enhanced empathy you gift to your readers (while still telling a great story!). Is this shared experience intentional or is it organic to your storytelling?
Well, thank you–if any word is going to be associated with my writing, that’s certainly a fine word to be gifted. I think it’s organic–partly because of how I was raised, and partly because it’s part of writing for me–I don’t think I’d be any good as a writer if I didn’t empathize with the characters I was writing. So that empathy comes out on the page (I hope). It also means I’d be really, really bad at writing about sociopaths or serial killers.
So true! Talking about empathy and characters, what quality do you love most in A? And Rhiannon?
I love A’s moral code–A could play the situation many different ways, and chooses kindness (while, of course, making mistakes along the way). And I love Rhiannon because she is not fearless–she’s very human, and that includes a lot of hesitation and second guessing, as well as a core of strength to get you through.
Part of what we love most is A’s self-sacrificing kindness and Rhiannon’s bravery and honesty. So why was it important for A to be genderless?
It’s so interesting to me–A is also raceless and parentless and religionless and varies in height and weight and physical ability…but 95% of the comments I get about A involve gender. When writing A, gender was just one of many changing factors to me, but for readers it’s the dominant one. Part of that is due to the times we’re in–I think that, rightly, the whole notion of having a born gender is being questioned, and A can offer an interesting lens into that, because A is genderqueer, for sure. But also, I’ve come to appreciate, it’s also because of language, and the fact that our stupid gendered pronouns create a constant divisiveness that no other physical quality has.
That was one of the most thought-provoking conversations in the book. Before we read Every Day, that concept of pronouns and divisiveness had never occurred to us. You take on a lot of different characters in this book with a wide array of issues. Out of all the characters A wakes up in, did you have a favorite? Which one was hardest to write?
I don’t want to get too far into it, because it would be a spoiler for people who haven’t read the books. But I will say that Kelsea is the most meaningful to me, and has certainly been the one to garner the most meaningful reactions from readers. Both times, she was the most challenging and therefore the most rewarding to write.
Reading Rhiannon’s relationship with Justin tore us up because it was so honest, unhealthy and aware–the neediness, the savior excuse, the defensiveness, the selling on fresh starts. How do you get into the mind of a teenage girl, and why was it important to write this relationship into the story?
The story is as much about Rhiannon and Justin as it is about Rhiannon and A. What was interesting was that their relationship felt very real to me while I was writing Every Day–but you don’t see very much of it there. In Another Day, you get to see more of it–and hopefully see how complicated it is. It was very important to me that Justin wasn’t a two-dimensional Bad Boyfriend–he has his moments, both good and bad, as we all do. As for how I get into the mind of a teenage girl–as a gay man, I have so say, I have no idea whatsoever what it’s like to be in love with the wrong guy….
Yes, that totally makes sense! And being in love with the wrong person is unfortunately, a relatable experience for most of us.
As book lovers, we inhaled the scene in the library, when A recommends Feed, The Book Thief, Destroy all Cars and First Day on Earth. Why does A recommend these books? Are these your recommendations, A’s, or a little of each?
They are totally my recommendations–but they’re also books that fit A’s character deeply. Think of it as the center of the Venn Diagram where A’s tastes and my tastes most overlap.
At one point Rhiannon tells herself, “This will only work if you love the person inside.” Does everything in this book ultimately come down to that?
I think the book is about the whole notion of what “the person inside” is–we throw that term around a lot, but very rarely do we confront what it means. Both Rhiannon and A have to confront what it means.
You’ve collaborated with Andrea Cremer, Rachel Cohn, Jonathan Farmer and John Green. Do your collaborations begin with a defined plot plan or are they more spontaneous?
The fun of a collaboration is the spontaneity–it’s like going on a road trip without an itinerary. You go someplace different each time one of you takes the wheel–and you learn a lot about each other along the way. Each of my collaborations have been different–both from each other, and also from what I would have written solo. I love that.
We love that too! So let’s close with some quick questions….
One word to describe John Green? Talented
Your favorite word? Wonder
The best thing about YA is… The collaborative community
Your next collaboration should be with…. I already know the answer to this one, but can’t say who it is until we finish a draft
Theme song for Every Day/Another Day? I listened to a lot of Ingrid Michaelson while writing each . . . maybe I’ll go with “Are We There Yet”
Your favorite Lovers Dictionary word is….. Today, I’ll go with “contiguous”
Person (alive or dead) you would love to have dinner with? Judy Blume, of course
Love her! Thanks so much for taking time to chat with us David!
Photo Credit: David Levithan (c) Jake Hamilton