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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Q&A with the Author of The Leveller, Julia Durango!

Julia Durango is the author of picture books, novels, and poetry for kids of all ages, including her most recent titles, The Second Guard (Disney-Hyperion) and The Leveller (HarperTeen). Her books have received numerous awards and honors, including the Golden Kite Fiction Award, Sydney Taylor Notable Book, the Parent's Choice Award Silver Medal, and the Prairie State Award for Excellence in Writing for Children. A former school librarian, Julia received degrees in Latin American Studies and Political Science from the University of Illinois. She lives with her sons in Ottawa, Illinois.

Links: Website | Twitter | Goodreads |

Q: Your bio listed on the back of The Leveller talks about you playing video games with your two sons. If I’m not mistaken, your story of how your son Kyle used to beg you to beat the bosses in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (one of my personal favorite games of all time, by the way) is in The Leveller as a memory of Nixy’s playing video games with her dad. Would you say that memories of playing video games with your kids played a huge part of your inspiration of The Leveller?

A: Good observation about the Zelda reference! Yes, playing video games with my sons certainly informed the story, as did their ongoing interest in gaming as teens. Though reading will always be my first love, I enjoy good storytelling of any kind: movies, television, and video game narratives included.

Q: If you could create your own world in the MEEP like Wyn, what would you create and why?

A: Actually, I would create the same world Wyn did: Havana, Cuba in the 1950s. I’ve always been interested in Latin American history, and I would love to step back in time to experience Havana when it was the playground of the rich and famous. All the glamour! All the great music! Not to mention the architecture, the arts, the food…I could go on and on. Researching that part of the book was a true pleasure.

Q: What are some of your favorite video games? What type of video games do you like?

A: I don’t play as many video games now as I did when my boys were younger, so my choices are pretty old school: Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Kingdom Hearts would probably be my top three franchises. Fantasy-based RPGs are my favorites, and the last fun game I played was Telltale's Game of Thrones.

Q: Are any of your characters based on people that you know?

A: Yes, probably more than any other book I’ve written so far. Nixy, Chang, Moose, and Wyn, as well as Nixy’s parents, are all composites of people I know and love. And Nixy’s small Illinois town is very much based on the town where I live.

Q: Do you personally identify with Nixy?

A: It’s funny, I identify more with Jill Bauer, Nixy’s mom, but when my own mother read The Leveller in manuscript, she said: “Nixy reminds me a lot of the teenage Julia.” I don’t see it, but maybe she was referring to Nixy’s mouthiness? Ha. Or maybe her impatience? But Nixy is a lot gutsier than I ever was, and a bit more goal-driven.

Q: What was your favorite and least favorite scene to write?

A: I loved writing the Tropicana dance floor scene; it was nice to let Nixy and Wyn kick back (literally!) for a little while in between all the fight scenes. I don't want to get too spoilery here, but let me just say I have a terrible shark phobia, so writing a certain scene was a real test for me.

Q: What is your writing process like?

A: I spend the majority of my time staring into space, which from the outside looks a lot like loafing around...but I promise, that's when all my best work happens! I create little movies in my head, rewind and revise them again and again, until I'm satisfied with the final product. Then comes the hard part: translating the movies into words on the page. Maybe someday there will be a MEEP device like the one in the book that will allow readers to directly download the movie from my head and save me the trouble?

Q: What’s next for you? Can we expect a sequel to The Leveller? Or any other projects?

A: Yes, I'm working on a sequel to The Leveller right now, as well as finishing the sequel to The Second Guard, an alternate world fantasy novel I co-wrote with Tracie Vaughn under the pen name J.D. Vaughn. Both novels should be out next year, so stay tuned!

Thank you, Julia for visiting my blog! I hope all of you enjoyed this interview. Be sure to check out my review of The Leveller here

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