Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tom Leveen Author of Hellworld!!

Author Spotlight!

This week I was able to interview the awesome Tom Leveen author of Hellworld which will be released on March 21st! 

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Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born, raised, and still live in Scottsdale, Arizona. It took me 20 years to earn my Bachelor's Degree. I've finished a marathon (in under 7 hours!), finished a Spartan Sprint, and studied fencing, Aikido, Tae Kwon Do, and Kenpo. I'm a Buffy fan, I read mostly non-fiction these days, and as of February will have spent a total of seven years working for various libraries in various capacities. Certainly not least, I've been happily married for more than 10 years and am expecting my second kid this summer!

In your own words, please describe the book.

A girl goes in search of what happened to her mother, the co-host of a ghost-debunking TV show, after she went missing five years ago. What she finds is far worse than any supernatural encounter the world has ever seen. 

Now, that's the plot. Thematically the book is about what we can do when our world feels like it has "gone to hell." It's about Alzheimer's disease and cancer and divorce and anything in life we cannot control and that we are powerless to change. It's very much a scary horror novel, to be sure, but there's more happening underneath the monsters and dark caves.

Have you written a book that you love, but you have not been able to publish?

Oh, sure. There's a middle-grade or two out there that I still hope will find a home. One in particular I've been coming back to for more than 10 years now, trying to fix the biggest problem: The main character doesn't struggle for anything! It's a sweet story but not intriguing because there's no conflict. It's the kiss of death.

Is there any author or book that influenced you in anyway either growing up or as an adult?

I was stealing Stephen King story ideas at a very early age. (I don't do that anymore.) Judy Blume, too, was a big influence, because she used BAD WORDS sometimes! Whoa. Later on, three books really impacted me and made me realize that stories about teenagers were not only legitimate stories, but could be more powerful than any adult novel. They were STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli, CUT by Patricia McCormick, and SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. Since become an author I've gotten to meet and thank Laurie and Patty but not yet Jerry Spinelli. Here's hoping!

When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

I began writing stories in 2nd grade and never stopped. My first full-length story was a novella called DERRO THE WARRIOR in 8th grade, and I finished my first science fiction novel in high school. I wrote ZERO my first year of college, and that ended up being the second novel I published.

How did you come up with this title?

"Hellworld" is meant to be both literal and metaphorical in this particular novel. The characters really do open a doorway that leads to what we'd think of as "hell," but the monsters and creatures that come out of it are only part of the "hell on earth" the story is really about.

Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Yes: I'd like to say that no matter how dark it might get out there, we have to find our tribe and stick together to get through it.
So far, what has been the greatest moment in your writing career?

A high school student won a writing award; I happened to be one of the guest speakers for the ceremony. During her acceptance speech, she told a story about how a year before, she'd been to one of my writing classes at a local library and that was what motivated her to write this story she'd just been given an award for. That was .... humbling. I had her sign one of my books. It was an unreal feeling of like, "So I did make a difference? Even if only this once?" That's not something that's easy to replicate.

How long does it take you to finish a novel?

That depends on the definition of "finish." I can write a rough draft in two to three months, but with revision and editing that's about six to nine months, depending on all sorts of things. When you include the publishing part, it's usually no less than three years from writing the first sentence to it showing up on bookstore shelves.

What are you working on at the moment?

Many things, many things...a lot of non-YA stuff, although I did just submit a YA fantasy sample chapter to my agent. I've wanted to work in some new genres lately, like horror and other speculative genres, but as always, that is dictated by the publishers. I've also had the opportunity to write for the SPAWN series of comic books under Todd McFarlane which has been a lot of fun.

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead characters from your book?

I am old and out of touch, so I'm open to suggestions! Having said that, by the time the filming was being done, I'd take the entire cast of STRANGER THINGS to make HELLWORLD. That would be cool!

Fun questions:

If you could be a character in any novel you’ve ever read, who would you be and why?

The first one that comes to mind is Tom Fitzgerald in THE GREAT BRAIN series. Total smart-aleck boy genius. I was only half of that, and you're free to guess which half. On that note, Encyclopedia Brown would be pretty cool.

If you were written about in the newspaper, on the front page, what would the headline say?

"Some Random Guy Found Weeping in Gutter Clutching Worn Copy of Kirkus."

What mythical creature would you want to be? 

I've always thought minotaurs were pretty cool. Big and scary!

If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be and why?

Very possibly Shakespeare. Which may sound cliche, but he was a total nut, he'd be fun to hang with for, like, a day. Or, closer to home, Carl Sagan.


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