100 Creatives

55: Tom Leveen

Tom Leveen was born, raised, and lives in south Scottsdale, where he co-founded and was artistic director of both Is What It Is Theatre (1995-2006) and Chyro Arts Venue (2007-2010). His first young adult novel, PARTY, was published in April by Random House Children's Books as their lead Spring title (check out our Book Week review of PARTY). 

He recently graduated from Scottsdale Community College on the 18-year plan, and currently attends ASU as an English major.

1. Name five things on your inspiration wall (real or imaginary):
- The sound of my wife laughing -- "at" or "with" me, either one.
- Every Social D. album.
- My library of YA books.
- Videotapes of my friends and me in high school. - And reminders that a lot of people never gave up on me when they really probably should have -- not just as a writer, but as a person.

2. What was your last big project?
My most recent big project was my second young adult novel, ZERO, which is set here in the Phoenix metro area. I wrote the first draft while in my first year at SCC, and just sold it to Random House after about six full rewrites. We start the revision process on that book this summer, so technically that would also be my next big project...

3. What's your next big project?
...but that would make for a boring answer to this question. My next big project is probably my first middle-grade novel, which is uncharted territory for me as a writer, plus several other YA and MG manuscripts I'm trying to whip into shape. Also: bricking in my backyard. That's a big
project. The dogs bring in way too much dirt.

4. What's the easiest thing about writing a YA novel?

The easiest thing about writing a YA novel is the nostalgia and escape of writing them. I use my own experiences as fodder to get stories started or to flesh out some characters. It's such a great time to be alive! Or should be, anyway. I think teens are constructed of nothing but potential (for better or worse). I personally had a great time in high school, even when I said I was miserable, and it's so much fun to go back to that time and make different (fictional) decisions than the ones I made, and see how things might've turned out. A lot of my stories begin that way: "Remember when X happened? Well, what if you'd said *this* instead?" It all changes and grows into its own story eventually, but the roots are generally buried in my experiences and relationships I had as a teen. Plus, I get to dress my characters much better than I dressed; there's no such thing as cystic acne; there's always a snappy comeback; and every so often, talking to the cute girl works out.

5. What do you want Phoenix to know about you?
I want Phoenix to know that I didn't "know someone" to get published. I got here by working my ass off and having awesome friends, family, and teachers supporting me. Something I try to say at all of my appearances, particularly when there are young adults present, is to never let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Find that thing you're passionate about, and go get it.

I wonder what the world would be like if more of us did that. Also: support the arts. Local theatre, local music, local visual arts...all of it. There's a lot out there, and there's something for

(And if you're game, what do you not want Phoenix to know about you?)
What I'd rather people in Phoenix didn't know about me is that I once fell asleep with the TV on (not unusual in and of itself), and ended up facing away from the set; I woke up late that night and heard a news broadcaster saying something like, "People who have recently died are returning to life and committing acts of murder! The dead have been returning to life and
seeking human victims!" And my first thought was, 'I knew it! It was just a matter of time! Okay, stay calm, think. Gotta get food, weapons...grab the keys to Mom's suburban...get out of town....' It took about three minutes before I faced the TV and pieced together that the newscaster was, of course, an actor in Night of the Living Dead. But there was that moment I
was positive the zombie apocalypse had finally arrived. (Which, in fairness, was kinda cool. Embarrassing, but cool.)

The Creatives, so far:

100. Fausto Fernandez
99. Brian Boner
98. Carol Panaro-Smith
97. Jane Reddin
96. Adam Dumper
95. Mayme Kratz
94. Daniel Tantalean
93. Yuri Artibise
92. Lisa Starry
91. Paul Hoeprich
90. Betsy Schneider
89. Mary Shindell
88: Gabriel Utasi
87: Tiffany Egbert
86. Angela Cazel Jahn
85. Dayvid LeMmon
84. Beatrice Moore
83. Michelle J. Martinez
82. Carrie Bloomston
81. Paul Porter
80. Rachel Bess
79. Karolina Sussland
78. Aaron Abbott
77. Mary Lucking
76. Erin Sotak
75. Greg Esser
74. Matthew Mosher
73. Mark Klett
72. Tony Carrillo
71. Paul Morris
70. Joe Pagac
69. Alison King
68. JJ Horner
67. Kim Porter
66. Marco Rosichelli
65. Heather Hales
64. Amy Lamp
63. Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker
62. Lindy Drew

61. Robbie Pfeffer
60. Neil Borowicz

59. Lynn Fisher

58. Tanner Woodford

57. David Tinapple
58. Casebeer

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Claire Lawton
Contact: Claire Lawton