Guest Post: Tom Leveen, Author of Manicpixiedreamgirl and Zero, on Inspiration

Today, Sarcasm&Lemons is hosting Tom Leveen, author of the young adult novels Zero and Party...and don't forget Manicpixiedreamgirl, which comes out April 23rd!  Come back that day to check out my review, but first, check out the author behind the books.  

Tom Leveen 
                 on inspiration

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“What’s your inspiration?”

This is one of the top five questions I’m asked at school visits and panels. And it’s such a great question! I’ve got probably a dozen authors I’d like to ask, myself.

Usually a story begins with an author thinking, “What if…” Writers are insatiably curious. When we see something a little strange, odd, or eye-catching, and we don’t know how or why the thing happened or exists, we make up a story to satisfy our curiosity.

That’s not the case with manicpixiedreamgirl.

See, I know what really happened. I was there. It was me.

That’s not to say that MPDG is nonfiction. Far from it. But it is a fictionalized version of feelings, emotions, and thoughts. If that makes any sense.

Suffice it to say I had a pretty big crush on a girl in high school. That, along with millions of other people, situations, dramas, traumas, and truly singular experiences make up a pool of memories my friends and I still share (my best friends from then are still my best friends today). But rather than writing about this “dream girl” (I’m married to my real dream girl now), I started writing about what I must have looked like to other people watching me. And man, was that not a flattering portrait!

I feel for our protagonist, Tyler. After all, he’s got the same passions—and stupidities—that I did. But as the story grew and took shape, I found my attention shifting to the object of his affection, Becky. By the time I was done, I wanted to go back and tell my teenage self, “Hey! Dream girls are people too!” I wish I’d known that back then, but, what can you do. (Write a book about it, I guess.)

Now I feel more for Becky. She’s got a lot on her plate, and doesn’t make the best choices in dealing with it. A lot of us don’t, at least at first.

So my writing process for this novel had a lot to do with looking back on my high school experience through a different lens; trying to suss out what others might have seen in me that I wasn’t seeing in myself at the time. I coupled that with the true-to-life responses I have seen adolescents have in the face of utter dismissal by parents and other adults, in the form of Becky. This isn’t, I hope, just a story about boy-likes-girl. This is a story about a boy liking a girl who needs a whole lot more than just someone yearning for her from afar.

I had an interesting time trying to keep track of the one night the story actually takes place, and keeping the flashbacks in order throughout the night. It was a tricky way to organize the story, but I think it worked out for the best.

In any event, I hope you enjoy it!


  1. As you know Tom, I absolutely loved manicpixiedreamgirl. I saw myself and quite a few of my friends from high school in the various characters.

    You did an amazing job juggling the timelines and flashbacks. Probably the best I've ever read.

    I can't wait to see what you come up with next.

    1. So true. My review won't be up until Tuesday, but I can safely say that it was a lovely well-done book and it felt SO authentically high school.