Sweet Sixteener Michelle Andreani recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Michelle Levy about her contemporary YA novel, NOT AFTER EVERYTHING (August 4, 2015, Dial/Penguin).
Michelle Levy was born and raised in Littleton, Colorado, where she memorized books before she was able to read, tricking her parents into thinking she was a genius. At eighteen she moved to Los Angeles, to pursue a career in casting for film and television. In her many years of casting she has been privileged to work on projects such as Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Bruce Almighty, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Vampire Academy, and many more. Michelle always secretly harbored a desire to write. She spent many insomnia-filled nights dreaming up stories that she never thought to write down. When she finally set out to get something on the page, the words flew out of her until she had her first completed manuscript and she never looked back. She still lives in Los Angeles, but desperately misses thunderstorms, and even the occasional snowstorm, so she visits Colorado quite often.
A gritty but hopeful love story about two struggling teens—
great for fans of The Spectacular Now, Willow, and Eleanor and Park.
Tyler has a football scholarship to Stanford, a hot girlfriend, and a reliable army of friends to party with. Then his mom kills herself. And Tyler lets it all go. Now he needs to dodge what his dad is offering (verbal tirades and abuse) and earn what his dad isn’t (money). Tyler finds a job that crashes him into Jordyn, his former childhood friend turned angry-loner goth-girl. She brings Tyler an unexpected reprieve from the never-ending pity party his life has become. How could he not fall for her? But with his dad more brutally unpredictable than ever, Tyler knows he can’t risk bringing Jordyn too deeply into the chaos. So when violence rocks his world again, will it be Jordyn who shows him the way to a hopeful future? Or after everything, will Tyler have to find it in himself?
Michelle A: NOT AFTER EVERYTHING is such a tense story with characters I was rooting for from the start. What inspired you to write it?
Michelle L: Thank you!
Well, Tyler’s voice just popped into my head one day; this borderline-brilliant seventeen-year-old football player who had it all but was just so angry and disillusioned. I absolutely had to figure out what could have possibly happened to make him this way.
Michelle A: There are some heart-wrenching scenes in your book, and it can be so difficult putting characters through such pain. How did you approach writing those tougher scenes?
Michelle L: At the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this year, David Arnold talked about method writing. I didn’t realize until I heard him say it that that’s exactly what I do. The scenes with Tyler and his dad were the most difficult to write because Tyler’s dad was by far the hardest character for me get into. He wasn’t nearly as clear in my first drafts. I think I was afraid to let myself go there emotionally. But during revisions, when I finally managed to allow myself to become him, I learned there was so much going on beneath the surface than he would ever let on. His actions didn’t come from anger, but from a place of love and deep emotional pain. And that’s when he came to life.
Michelle A: As a debut author, what’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned leading up to publication?
Michelle L: Keep your eyes on your own page! Basically meaning you can’t compare your book’s journey to anyone else’s or it will make you crazy.
Michelle A: You have maybe the coolest job in the world (second to YA Author, of course): You’re a casting director! And you mentioned casting NOT AFTER EVERYTHING for fun, so could you share your picks!?
Michelle L: Absolutely! If Not After Everything were being made into a movie today and I had anything to say about the casting, it would look something like this:
Tyler: Dylan O’Brien (Maze Runner, Teen Wolf)
Jordyn: Malese Jow (Vampire Diaries)
Tyler’s Dad: Sam Rockwell
Henry: Jim Beaver (Supernatural)
Dr. Dave: David Krumholtz
Lightning Round Questions
What were you reading at sixteen? I was very involved in theatre in high school, so I was primarily reading plays.
You were born and raised in Colorado, but now live in Los Angeles. So, I have to ask: the beach or the mountains? Definitely the beach. The mountains get too cold.
Favorite writing snack? Jelly Belly jellybeans. Except for the buttered popcorn ones! I don’t even understand those. They’re like torture for my taste buds. The only thing worse would be if there were cilantro-flavored jellybeans. Don’t go getting any ideas, Jelly Belly.
What’s Tyler doing right now? I like to think he’s having a much easier life. Maybe even enjoying football again.
Does NOT AFTER EVERYTHING have a theme song? Probably “Fix You” by Coldplay.
Are you working on anything new at the moment? I’m working on another contemporary that has something to do with psychological disorders. I can’t say much more.
Michelle Andreani was born and raised in New York City and has never lived anywhere else. (But she would like to try at some point.) She loves staying in, going out dancing, the word “whimsy”, and Luna Lovegood. Her favorite stories have big hearts and swooning.