1. How does Imperfect Spiral differ from anything else you’ve written?
It has a non-Platonic kiss.
It has more words than any other book I’ve written.
It has a fictional main character who dies. In my book before this one, The Year of Goodbyes, people die—the difference being that those were real people, as that was nonfiction, and Imperfect Spiral is fiction. And writing about their deaths was devastating. In Imperfect Spiral, Humphrey dies—we are not giving anything away here; this occurs right at the beginning. Humphrey is fictional, but writing of his death was upsetting in its own way. I loved Humphrey and he, like my other characters, felt so real to me. I thought about having him survive his injuries, but rejected this possibly early on in the writing process. I think I didn’t want all those who are affected by what happened to him let off the emotional hook in that way.
2. What inspired you to write Imperfect Spiral?
Thinking about my own adolescence. Thinking about the adolescence of anyone who feels not quite up to the wonderfulness of her peers, who fears that she is not-in-a-good-way quirky, who feels left behind, and not in a big dramatic End Times sort of way, but just in a schleppy sort of way. So that’s Danielle.
Thinking about my own boys when they were five or six, and how great they made me feel just by bringing out the uncensored girl in me. What magic did they exert to get me laughing, singing, dancing, in ways that I was too shy to reveal to my (grown-up) peers? I gave that magic to Humphrey, and he sprinkles it on Danielle.
3. If you could sit down and chat with Danielle, what advice would you give her?
I try not to give unsolicited advice. I’d be more likely to want to hear from her about how everything that happened in the story is going to shift her relationships with her friends Becca and Marissa. And I’d like to visit with her some years from now. Does she pursue a law career? Have family of her own?
4. What projects are you working on next?
I’m working on a new novel for young adults. What I can tell you about it at this point is (a) it has no five-year-old characters, (b) it has some elements of a book-within-a-book, (c) one main character is not having nearly enough fun for someone in his situation, and (d) the other main character is having way too much fun for someone in her situation.
And I’m working on a nonfiction picture book about an historical event that I think will be of interest to young readers. I also have a picture book coming out in December, We Shall Overcome: The Story of A Song, about—yes, the song “We Shall Overcome,” illustrated by the talented Vanessa Brantley-Newton. It’s all finished and I have the uncorrected proofs in hand (the F&Gs).
5. If you could be any fictional character, who would you be?
Nancy Drew. If she’s taken, then Ratty, from The Wind in the Willows.
6. What’s the last book or movie that made you cry?
Book: To End All Wars, by Adam Hochschild, about World War I. Such folly and tragedy, presented in an engaging, absorbing work of nonfiction. I know, this may not be the bread-and-butter of The Irish Banana Review, but I cried, and you asked.
Also, much crying was involved while reading the wonderful Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.
7. If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?
Deborah “Debbie” Levy: Not To Be Confused With Acclaimed British Writer Deborah Levy Who Was Shortlisted For The Booker Prize in 2012 (Yet They Are Both Published By Bloomsbury) But She Still Did A Few Good Things
Danielle Snyder's summer job as a babysitter takes a tragic turn when Humphrey, the five-year-old boy she's watching, runs in front of oncoming traffic to chase down his football. Immediately Danielle is caught up in the machinery of tragedy: police investigations, neighborhood squabbling, and, when the driver of the car that struck Humphrey turns out to be an undocumented alien, outsiders use the accident to further a politically charged immigration debate. Wanting only to mourn Humphrey, the sweet kid she had a surprisingly strong friendship with, Danielle tries to avoid the world around her. Through a new relationship with Justin, a boy she meets at the park, she begins to work through her grief, but as details of the accident emerge, much is not as it seems. It's time for Danielle to face reality, but when the truth brings so much pain, can she find a way to do right by Humphrey's memory and forgive herself for his death?