Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and books for children. Learn more about her and her books at her website. – AP
My Writing History, and Why I Still Write Novels For Kids
Like most writers I know, I read voraciously as a child. Once I mastered my letters, I was off and writing short stories. In my senior year of high school I took a creative writing class. Almost every week I wrote a short story, which I then rewrote after receiving the teacher’s comments. I’m sure he didn’t mean his criticisms to be unkind, but they cut me to the bone. “Vague characters” was one, certainly not what I wanted to hear. And so I worked diligently to correct my errors, writing then rewriting, and earning a poor grade for my efforts. Is it any wonder that when I got to Syracuse University, I decided to major in Spanish?
Years later when my two sons were young, I took a few writing classes. I wrote short stories and poems, then tried my hand at writing a novel, a romantic suspense. The opening scene came to me in a dream, which I still remember: a young woman is pursued by a gangster (so she thinks) who tells her that her husband owes his boss a gambling debt. I finished the book with the help of Roberta Gellis, my friend and mentor, then went on to write a novel about a girl who moves to upstate New York and befriends two ghost children. I never sold either book, but I remembered Roberta telling me I had the knack of writing for children.
My next project was And Don’t Bring Jeremy, a young YA novel about two brothers. The older, a seventh grader named Jeremy, has disabilities. I’m happy to say this book sold, received a great review in PW, was a nominee for six state awards, and is currently available through my publisher, Untreed Reads, in all e-forms.
I went on to write more books for kids, each with a different theme. I love writing as a boy (Adam in And Don’t Bring Jeremy), a girl (No Boys Allowed), having magical powers (Rufus and Magic Run Amok), and coping with a parent’s death (Getting Back to Normal.) Could be I write about kids because I’m still one at heart. Or maybe it’s because I can call up childhood memories and remember how I felt when I was young. Many changes have come about since I was a girl--electronic devices, for one, the evolution of language for another, but the basics--family, school, friends, dreams and disappointments--remain the elements of life.
These past years I’ve been writing mysteries and romantic suspense. I enjoy the challenge of creating an engaging sleuth, an interesting cast of suspects and victims, and weaving a homicidal plot that leaves a trail of clues without revealing the murderer until the very end. And always a romance to heighten one’s senses. Recently I surprised myself by writing a sequel to my award-winning “Children’s Choice” Rufus and Magic Run Amok. Rufus and the Witch’s Slave takes place in the South of France where Rufus, his best friend Billy, and their new friend Danielle save a young girl from the clutches of a mean old witch. I had fun writing about Rufus’s adventures as he masters the Invisible Spell, falls for his first girlfriend, and rescues a kidnap victim.
I love writing books for kids because the protagonist is always a kid. A boy or a girl faces a problem, a situation, or a new adventure. He or she makes decisions and takes action instead of turning to adults for all the answers. An adult instructs and gives advice, but children learn by doing. Readers identify with fictional characters. They watch them make mistakes, change course, and set things right. It gives them hope and inspiration that they, too, can deal with aspects of their lives.
While my kids’ books often deal with serious issues—getting past a parent’s death in Getting Back to Normal, Cassie’s parents’ divorce in No Boys Allowed, and accepting a brother’s disability in And Don’t Bring Jeremy—I make sure to include lighter touches and moments of humor because they, too, are part of our human condition. Writing about kids for kids keeps me young in spirit and offers me the promise of hope for the human race.
Getting Back to Normal
Sixth-grader Vannie Taylor’s world turns upside down after her mother dies. Her father moves Vannie and her brother to an old cottage on the estate where he runs special events. Here Vannie meets a ghost with a secret, tames a feral Maine Coon cat, and witnesses an unexpected romance. Things finally get back to normal, but in a most unexpected way.