Dana Alison Levy: THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER

Today we’re talking to Dana Alison Levy. Unlike her characters, she does not have an invisible cheetah, or an endless desire to make cat barf jokes. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some true facts buried in her funny Middle Grade debut, THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER, which will be out in July from Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House. She’s just not telling what they are.

Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen?
The old-fashioned way. I wrote a book, then I wrote another book, then I queried literary agents, then I wrote another book, and so on. THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER was, I think, my fourth book, and when superagent Marietta Zacker called to offer representation I was downright giddy.

In all honesty, it seems I spent my career writing but pretending I wasn’t writing. By that I mean I worked in marketing, small business management, executive recruiting, and more, and in each job, what I was best at and enjoyed the most was…wait for it…writing. I lost my job in the 2009 recession. While I looked for work and hung out with my young children, I decided that what I really wanted to do next was the same thing I had wanted to do on Career Day in third grade: I wanted to write. Now I freelance for for a bunch of clients, writing on a variety of random and weird topics. And I write books for kids and young adults (also, honesty compels me to state, on a variety of random and weird topics).

What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?
It’s a story about the new school year for a wacky and shenanigan-filled modern family with four adopted boys, two dads, and an ever-changing number of pets. Someone called it THE PENDERWICKS meet Modern Family, and that’s probably about right.

As for a cool detail…well, originally, the dog’s name was Walter, and someone pointed out the folly of another boy’s name in a family that already had six of them. So I asked a group of writers — I was at a writing retreat — for advice. And one of my writer friends, who has an awesome southern drawl, said, “Well, growing up our dog was Sir Puggleton!” Boom. A new dog name was born.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?
Well, one very cool fact is that I actually come from a distinguished line of writers! Both my aunt, Elizabeth Levy, and my cousin, Robie Harris, are children’s book authors, with well over a hundred books between them. So I’ve been lucky in that I have sympathetic mentors and cheerleaders throughout the grueling process. In case anyone’s wondering though? Nepotism doesn’t really get you anywhere in publishing. I was pulled from the slush pile, like everyone else. (But my collection of signed books is pretty impressive)!

Also, I can wiggle my ears.

What are your desert island books?
I can’t even…DON’T ASK ME THAT. I wish for an unlimited number of wishes!! Oh wait, that wasn’t the question. Well, it feels like it. I don’t believe it favorite books (or movies, or kids…it always leads to heartbreak), but here are a few I love:

Picture book:
TIME OF WONDER by Robert McCloskey: Oh, the evocative images and language used to convey coastal Maine in all its glory!

Classic Middle Grade:
ALL OF A KIND FAMILY series, by Sydney Taylor: Loved these stories of a Jewish family in New York in the first half of the twentieth century. (Hmmm…four girls in the their family, four boys in the Fletchers. Never thought of that).

Newer Middle Grade:
MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool: This one did everything right. Complex, beautiful, and redemptive historical fiction. Puts the “literature” in the term “children’s literature.”

Humorous Young Adult:
ANGUS, THONGS, AND FULL-FRONTAL SNOGGING by Louise Rennison: Writing the funny is hard, and this author nails it again and again. Laugh out loud silliness.

Lyrical Young Adult:
JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta: Beautifully written, incredible characters, and a plot that pulls together so perfectly I want to weep.

Dana Alison Levy was raised by pirates but escaped at a young age and went on to earn a degree in aeronautics and puppetry. Actually, that’s not true-—she just likes to make things up, which is why she writes books. Her middle grade debut, THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER, is due out in July 22, 2014, from Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House. She really hopes it’s funny.
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