Danielle Dugan: Do you prefer writing in any one particular genre–be it fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or something else?
Jonathan Levy: For now, I write only fiction, though some of my favorite books are narrative nonfictions. I guess for me, narrative is the key.
DD: Do you find yourself drawn to particular themes or characters in your reading or writing?
JL: I think it’s really hard to categorize what I like and don’t like. But generally speaking, I’m more drawn to complex, realistic characters–a mix of good and bad. To me, what makes Sherlock Holmes so fun to read, for example, is not his intelligence, but that he’s an arrogant, misogynistic coke addict. And a sense of humor is always a plus.
DD: When and why did you begin writing?
JL: I’ve always been envious of novelists and stand-up comedians. I wish I could snap my finger and be great at both. I’m not funny enough to be a comic, or enough of a night owl–but a novelist? Maybe some day with enough hard work and patience. I started writing in late 2013 because I got tired of thinking about doing it, and just started doing it.
DD: Do you have a specific writing style?
JL: I’m still discovering it. As a reader, I gravitate more toward straightforward than flowery.
I’m also a lawyer, and that probably informs my writing style. It’s important for me to write clearly and succinctly in my job, and that’s what I tend to shoot for in my stories.
DD: Is there anything you find particularly difficult about writing?
JL: Everything? I suppose if one thing sticks out, it’s the challenge of making writing a habit. It’s so easy to make a habit of not doing something.
DD: Do you prefer to outline your stories or just see where an idea takes you?
JL: Still discovering that, too. I’ve always been an outliner when writing for school or work, so I guess that’s probably what I’ll head toward in fiction as well. The challenge then is making sure I don’t become a servant of the outline and manipulate characters or plot in a false way. I should probably write without an outline every now and then as an exercise–maybe I would feel more comfortable doing that than I imagine.
I’m also not sure yet whether, if I outline at all, I will tend to do it on paper or in my head. Everything sounds good in my head. Translating that to the page, well…maybe that’s the one thing I find particularly difficult about writing.
I’m actually using a somewhat different approach for a story I’m working on now. I’m outlining one of my favorite stories–“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”–and planning on using that outline as a model for my own work. I guess there’s a thin line between “was influenced by” and “copied.” I hope the final product falls more in the former category.
DD: Was your story “The Youngest Boy to Ever Fly to Space” inspired by any events or people in your life?
JL: In a word, no. From what I recall, I think I wrote the story based on a submission prompt from another journal, before I even knew about r.kv.r.y. I was fortunate that when I found out about this journal and the Caregivers issue, I already had something that felt like a good fit.
DD: Is there a message in your piece you want your readers to grasp?
JL: I didn’t write it with any message in mind, but looking back, I hope readers come away with the feeling that it’s difficult to overestimate the value of supportive friends and family in the recovery process. My wife is a physical therapist who often works with people with brain or spinal injuries, and she tells me this all the time. In her line of work, probably the most important thing is a good attitude, which is much easier to have with support. And even better when others take a real interest in the patient’s recovery and learn about what he or she is going through. Then mix in a little bit of luck.