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Q&A: 'Will Grayson, Will Grayson' authors John Green and David Levithan

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Will Grayson, Will Grayson is about two teens who share the same name, but not much else. Written by John Green (Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines) and David Levithan (Boy Meets Boy, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist), this YA novel had serious buzz before being published earlier this month. The authors recently spoke with EW about everything from how to co-write a book to what it’s like to be a trending topic on Twitter (say that five times fast!).

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me a little about the book. What is it about, and how did you come up with the idea?

JOHN GREENWill Grayson, Will Grayson is about two guys named Will Grayson who live in different Chicago suburbs who eventually meet each other. David writes from the perspective of one Will, and I write from the perspective of the other.

DAVID LEVITHAN:  One of my best friends is named David Leventhal, and it has always been a constant source of amusement to see how the similarity and differences play out in our lives.  So I’ve been fascinated with the idea of characters with the same or similar names — especially now, when it’s so easy to find people who share the same name as you.  I remember traveling to cities and looking in the phone book to see if there were other D. Levithans.  Now all you need is Google.

Why did you decide to collaborate and write a book together? How does that work logistically?

DL:  I read an advanced reader’s copy of John’s first book, Looking for Alaska, and really loved it.  So I e-mailed him, we hit it off, and when the idea came for a book about two boys with the same name, I floated the idea to him.

JG: And I liked the idea. I was also really excited to work with David. As for the logistics: I wrote the first chapter while he wrote the second, and then we got together in New York and read our chapters out loud to each other and my wife. Then I went and wrote the third chapter while David wrote the fourth. During most of the initial draft, we never saw each other’s text. We were fortunate to have a lot of time — years, really — to work together in revision.

One of the Will Grayson characters is gay — how important do you think it is to have gay characters in young adult novels?

DL:  It’s essential.  And certainly not just for gay character and gay voices.  We need to be detailing all kinds of identities and experiences.  And it’s also important to give our characters complexity — happily, we’re a long, long way from the ‘gay = misery’ school of literature.  It’s about exploring the humanity of the characters, and being gay is a part (sometimes a big part) of that.

Will Grayson was recently a trending topic on Twitter. How does that make you feel?

DL:  John had to explain to me what that meant.

JG: Yeah, I was really excited about it, so I wrote David and he was like, ‘Is Trending Topic a store?’ A lot of people seem to believe that the Internet is killing the book, but I couldn’t disagree more, and so I was delighted to see ‘Will Grayson’ there on Twitter among the Biebers, the Gagas, and the #YoureSoUglys.

Do you see yourselves writing a book together again someday?

DL:   It took us five years to write this one, and we each have a lot of individual books we want to write.  So I’d guess we’ll start writing another one in five years

JG:  …and it will come out ten years from now.

What are some upcoming projects each of you are working on?

JG: I’m writing a desert island book.

DL:  My third book with Rachel Cohn (with whom I wrote Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) is coming out in October.  It’s called Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, and it’s about a life-changing flirtation that occurs through the passing of a mysterious red notebook.

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