Readers, we cannot describe how excited we are for Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan’s follow-up to Every Day. Let’s just say it involves many exclamation points and maybe even a little fangirl squealing. Alas, Two Boys Kissing, which centers around two teenage boys who attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest kiss, is still months away from publication, but fortunately we’ve got an exclusive peak at the beautiful cover, which surprisingly features… two boys kissing! Check it out below, then read our interview with Levithan.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me about the cover.
DAVID LEVITHAN: It’s actually a great story. We were looking for a photo that captured the spirit of the book and just had two boys kissing. I felt quite adamantly that if you have a book titled Two Boys Kissing, you should show two boys kissing on the cover. [Laughs]. When we couldn’t find a good stock photo, I actually asked a fan of mine named Evan Walsh who I knew was a great photographer. He’s a senior in high school in Pennsylvania. He got two friends who are boyfriends to kiss for him and did a photo shoot and that’s how we got the cover. It is very much the audience generating the cover image.
How did you meet Evan?
We met through Facebook and he came to one of my signings. I had a look at his Facebook page and clicked on some of his photos. I was really amazed at how great they were.
What was his reaction when you told him you wanted him to shoot the cover?
There were certainly a lot of capital letters. [Laughs]. He was floored. He definitely took it very seriously. Schoolwork had to come first, but he got the photo shoot set up. He couldn’t believe it when I told him that Random House loved it and we were going to use it for the cover. He still doesn’t believe it.
What’s the idea behind Two Boys Kissing?
The idea behind it really — I mean there are many ideas — I knew the tenth anniversary of Boy Meets Boy was coming up and that put me in a very reflective mood. Boy Meets Boy is very much a book of its time, [so I wondered] what a gay teen novel [would look like] now. Things have changed so much in 10 years. I’m fascinated with the generation after me. Looking at the kids who are in high school now… I was also very curious about seeing it through the lens of the generation that went before me, which was the generation that really had to grapple and many of whom died of AIDS. I thought putting those two things together would be interesting. The lightning bolt that ignited everything was, again, another reader/fan who contacted me on Facebook. He sent me this really sweet message saying, “Hey, my friend and I just did this thing that you may have heard of, but I wanted to tell you that while I was doing it, I was thinking about Boy Meets Boy.”
What had they done?
He and his friend had, as a way of protesting marriage inequality and promoting equality in general, done this feat where they had broken the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous kiss. They kissed for over 33 hours on the campus of their college. I was like, wow, that sounds incredible. I immediately said to him, “You have to come up, I want to hear this story.” He was interesting to meet because it was both very sweet about the kissing, but also it was an endurance test — standing and putting your lips on someone else’s for 33 hours, it’s a lot. [Laughs]. So that was really interesting to me, the mix of the romantic and the endurance seemed to very much capture the time. Finally, there was the irony that they had been kissing and breaking this world record on the campus of one New Jersey college, and then five days later on the campus of another New Jersey college, Tyler Clementi killed himself. And so, it was the position of these two boys kissing to prove a point and try to attain equality, and this other boy who didn’t have that spirit to tap into who went to a much darker end. I thought that was a really interesting thing to explore.
You mentioned that Two Boys Kissing is partly a celebration of the tenth anniversary of your first book, Boy Meets Boy. Does this mean you’ll have to write a book in this vein every 10 years?
[Laughs] Maybe. I have no doubt in my mind that things will continue to change in leaps and bounds every 10 years, so I’m sure that in 10 years, it will be a very different book to write. Some of the things, the emotions involved, are absolutely the same, but certainly the world of a gay teenager now is a very different world than that of a gay teenager in 2003, not to mention when I was a gay teenager in 1993.
Two Boys Kissing seems to be such a product of your fans — from the cover to the story — are you getting lots of pitches from the Levithan fandom?
I have to be careful because then suddenly everybody’s like, “Wait I have a story, I have a story.” [Laughs]. It was really interesting with Matty, who’s one of the boys in the record-breaking kiss, I really had to say from the get-go — well, first I had to ask permission as to whether I could write about this — but then very much had to explain to him. Because of course this is the first time a novel had been based on something he’d done, I had to make sure the delineation was there. This is based on what you did, but the characters who are doing it are not you. I’m not writing about you, I’m actually writing about what you did. I have to make it my own. Your story is yours to tell. I’m just using your event as the stepping-off point. I don’t want to steal anybody’s story. I very much want to use the stories that I hear to get lost in my mind, to tell a larger story.
Two Boys Kissing hits shelves August 27.