Book Nerd Interview
She is a coauthor of the screenplay for Stepmom and has written for Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Glamour, and other publications. Levangie lives in Los Angeles with her two children and one miniature dachsund.
Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
I was always a huge reader. I had allergies, specifically an allergy to smog, that kept me indoors a lot – books were my escape. Writing was a natural offshoot of that quality that defined my childhood. It’s a dream come true that I’m able to write for a living.
Defining moment? There were many. I received a lot of attention from my grade school teacher, Mrs. Bucholtz, for an essay I did about being a test tube baby. In middle school, I had a notoriously mean, snarky English teacher who nevertheless gave me “As” on my essay writing – I received a “D” in the class because I didn’t hand in one assignment.
Then, when I learned how much television writer/producers were making!
I must have been about 19. Talk about defining moments for someone who hadn’t grown up with money...
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
Childhood favorite: So many, but Charlie and The Chocolate Factory takes the prize. I must have read Roald Dahl’s classic a dozen times as a child. I think I identified with Charlie way too much – I really believed that I deserved to find that gold foil flashing inside a candy barwrapper. After all, I was a really good kid.
As an adult – again, I’ve read so many good novels. My favorite novelists include Philip Roth and Cormac McCarthy. I’d have to say “No Country For Old Men”. So spare and evocative. His description of one of the scariest (yet realistic) killer in modern literature sends chills up my spine.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Best piece of advice from another author: Indirectly, from Steven King, who in his very helpful book, “On Writing”, said to write 1,000 words a day.
In your book; Seven Deadlies: A Cautionary Tale, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
Seven Deadlies is about a bright, observant scholarship student Perry Gonzalez, who finds herself tutoring high school kids who embody the Seven Deadly Sins. It’s my warped version of a Grimm’s fairy tale.
For those who are unfamiliar with Perry, how would you introduce her?
Perry Gonzalez is the girl you’d be proud to have as a daughter – she’s smart, introspective, ambitious, practical and directed. Plus, she has a pretty good sense of humor. I wish I knew her as a real person – if she’s out there, I’d like her to marry one of my boys in ten years...
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Voice and style. This is a tough one. And there’s probably a lot of people out there who have better advice than I. I would say this: Write how you speak. And become a very good listener, so you can write how others speak.
Also – know the rules of grammar, the rules of writing – know them enough to throw them away if they don’t fit the emotion of what you’re writing.
And never quit. If you really want it – and this doesn’t mean you want to talk about wanting it – then you are obligated to sit and write. For a long time. Even though people may hate what you write or, worse, hate you for writing. Write.
What did you list after at Perry's age? What do you lust after now?
At Perry's age, I lusted after a completely inappropriate blond-haired surfer/skater boy with ice blue eyes, which was, of course, unrequited. I've never been attracted to blond men since...
I lust after peace. I guess my needs have changed a bit.
Where can readers stalk you?
Readers can stalk me on Twitter @gigilevangie, Instagram @gigilevangie, Facebook at Gigi Levangie Grazer, or any coffee shop or yoga studio on the Westside of Los Angeles.
Perry Gonzalez is not like the other kids in her Beverly Hills high school—a full-blooded Latina on a scholarship, living in a tiny apartment with her mother, she doesn’t have much in common with the spoiled, privileged kids who are chauffeured to school every morning. But Perry is a budding young writer with her sights set on Bennington—and her seven deadly stories are her ticket to the Ivory Tower. To pay her way, Perry’s been babysitting (correction: teenage-sitting) and tutoring the neighborhood kids, and she has seen the dark side of adolescence: lust for the “Judas Brothers” that leads to electrocution at a private birthday party concert; wrath that inspires new and perverse family bonds; and greed, in a young Bernie Madoff acolyte who conceives of a copycat Ponzi scheme involving his own grandmother.
The stories that Perry cleverly observed provided an interesting, yet unusual insight of life. Each story is filled with her own unique observation and administers a meticulous ending. She uses these stories as a way to form a better understanding of life and most importantly, herself. It also extends to her mother Yelena, which helps strengthen their relationship.
Readers will appreciate the point of view of this very young teenager. At fourteen years old, it’s almost expected that she is full of agony and uneasiness. However, Grazer firmly stays away from this and delivers a goal-oriented teenager. I thought this approach added more depth to the story. The way Perry has examined the seven deadly sins through her peers, and how she uses these observations to apply it towards her own life was absolutely fascinating.
The expectations that are developed at first are quickly diminished as the story progresses. Grazer amazingly delivers a story that is totally unexpected. There’s plenty of wit and cleverness that will keep readers at full attention. The cultivation of all the stories not only gives Perry a sense of who she is, but it provided a real-life scenario of struggles of a single-parent family.