There are times when you get thrown some major curve-balls in life and when everything you’ve ever known is suddenly gone, you have to decide what you’re going to do next. In NOT AFTER EVERYTHING by Michelle Levy, a tragedy forever changes Tyler’s life and with the help of an old friend, he learns the true meaning of what it means to be alive, happy and loved.
Not After Everything deals with some pretty intense issues. Why did you feel compelled to write this story and focus on these topics that aren’t as common to find in YA novels?
Honestly, I didn’t set out to write a book about coping with suicide, it just sort of happened. You should probably know I’m one of those crazy writers who “hears” her characters. One day there was this seventeen-year-old boy who was very angry about his mom having committed suicide in my head demanding that I tell his story. I had no choice but to acquiesce. Mostly because I wanted to know more myself.
Which character is your favorite in the book? Are any of them similar to you?
I can’t choose between Tyler and Jordyn so I’ll go with Henry. I just love him. I wish I had a Henry in my life. And I’m probably the most similar to Dr. Dave. If I didn’t already have two careers, and I had about seven years to dedicate to school, I’d probably be a psychologist.
There is a love story in this book, but the central storyline focuses on Tyler and his personal journey with himself, and coping with the loss of his mom. How was it maintaining that balance?
I felt that Tyler couldn’t truly cope with his mom’s suicide without help. And since he’s not the kind of guy who’s open with his feelings, I knew there was only so much a psychiatrist could get out of him. Plus I felt like in order to move on, he had to learn how to completely let go of his anger and open his heart.
Tyler goes through a lot, living with an abusive father, blaming himself for his mother’s death and having his whole world turn upside down. Was it ever difficult writing certain scenes?
The scenes with his father were incredibly hard. You know how there are method actors? Well, I’m a method writer. I basically have to put myself in each character’s shoes in order to be true to them. Tyler’s dad was the last character I fleshed out because he scared me. But when I finally did it, I understood his actions a little better. I hope it shows on the page.
What are some of your favorite YA books?
The Catcher in the Rye, Looking For Alaska, I’ll Give You the Sun, Going Bovine, The Book Thief, Before I Fall, The Fault in our Stars, the Red Rising series, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, the City of Angels and Infernal Devices series, the Vampire Academy series, and so many more!
Can you describe Not After Everything in only 5 words?
Suicide. Guilt. Love. Liberation. Dog.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Things beyond our control, that deeply affect us, happen, but we don’t have to feel guilty about moving on with our lives. We won’t forget those things, they’ll always be a part of us, they’re part of what makes us who we are, but they aren’t the only things that make us who we are and we should embrace what’s to come.