Interview with writer Laurie B. Levine

Author Laurie
B. Levine is kicking off a new week with me. We’re talking about her debut YA
coming-of-age novel,
Now I Know
It’s Not My Fault
.
Bio:
Laurie B. Levine has a Ph.D. in Marriage and
Family Therapy from Syracuse University, and is Clinical Fellow in the American
Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She has been in private practice,
helping people understand their trauma stories, for more than twenty years. Now I Know It’s Not My Fault is her
first novel.
Welcome, Laurie. Please tell us about
your current release.
Alexandra Geller is a bright, 14-year-old from an
accomplished, well-educated family, coming of age in the big hair 1980’s. The
sudden death of her mother five years ago, and her relationship with her
well-meaning but emotionally unavailable father, leaves her vulnerable as she
tries to figure out who she is. Early in her freshman year, she’s befriended by
Paula Hanover, a young, attractive science teacher at her high school. Alex is
thrilled to be chosen by this woman and relishes the feeling of finally
“belonging” to a mother figure. Paula’s intentions aren’t so benevolent, as she
slowly and carefully draws Alex into a relationship designed to meet her own
needs, not Alex’s. Desperate for maternal attention, Alex finds ways to ignore
the vague sense that something is wrong. Her compelling story sheds light on a
common, but rarely talked about kind of trauma which is subtle, and occurs
under the radar.
What inspired you to write this book?
I started writing this story
several years ago but then put it down. I was inspired to pick it back up after
a female teacher in our town was accused of sexually abusing several male
students. There were two objectives for me in writing this book: the first, to
shed some light on the fact that women can be abusers too. There’s a lot
written in abuse and trauma literature addressing men as abusers, but very
little about women. I wanted to write a story that depicts an attractive,
charming woman in that role. The second objective was to draw attention to a
more subtle form of abuse. When most people think about child sexual abuse,
they think about an adult engaging in direct sexual contact with a child. Now I Know It’s Not My Fault highlights
a kind of abuse that occurs under the radar, but can be just as damaging.
Amber
and I sit, sideways, in the first two seats closest to the door and lean
against the blackboard. My knee begins to bounce as Mrs. Hanover finishes up
with another student at her desk. 
She
walks over with a huge smile and says, “Alexandra Geller. Who did you bring
with you?” She always calls me Alexandra and I hate it. Everyone calls me Alex
except Mrs. Hanover and my grandmother. 
Nervously,
I stand to introduce them. “This is Amber.” Paula shakes Amber’s hand as I drop
back into my seat. I’ve seen my father offer a handshake, but never my mother,
or any of her friends. I decide women shaking hands is commanding and resolve
to start doing it. 
Standing
over us wearing black jeans, tall black leather boots, and a long, clingy
v-neck gray sweater, Paula asks, “What can I do for you two?” 
With
my hands dug into my jacket pockets I answer, “I don’t understand the parts of
a cell.” 
She
smiles. “What they are or what they do? 
“Both.” 
“Plant
cells or animal cells?” 
“Both.” 
She
smiles. “Let’s start with a plant cell. Can you name the parts?” 
“Nucleus,
golgi bodies, endoplasmic reticulum…those cleaning thingies,” I say using my
fingers to count off the properties I can remember. 
She
looks amused. “First off, the ‘cleaning thingies’ are the vacuoles. And the
endoplasmic reticulum is part of an animal cell, not a plant cell.” 
“See.
I don’t understand,” I say with a grin. 
“Where’s
your book?” She repositions a chair from the second row and sits facing me. 
“At
home. I use hers for class,” I say gesturing toward Amber with my thumb. 
Paula
laughs. “It’s probably going to be easier for you to learn Biology if you actually
put the time in to memorize the material.” I bristle. I must look discouraged
because she says, “Look, it’s okay if science isn’t your best thing.” 
In
that moment, something inside me quiets. I feel understood by an adult for the
first time in a very long time. 
She
continues, “Plant cells have a cell wall, animal cells don’t. And those
cleaning thingies, the vacuoles, are in plant cells but usually not animal
cells.” 
I sit
up straighter. “Okay,” I say slowly, not really absorbing what she’s saying. 
“Let
me draw them for you…Where’s your notebook?” 
“In my
locker,” I say without any hesitation. 
“Really?”
she says with one raised eyebrow. “Take off your jacket and give me your hand.” 
I
offer her my right hand, palm up. 
She
pushes up the sleeve of my shirt, to the middle of my forearm. Her fingers feel
cool against my warm skin. She cradles my hand in hers, across the desks. Her
thumb rests along the inside of my wrist keeping me still. I hold 
my
breath and think, Holy shit! She’s touching me. Paula begins drawing a plant
cell and its structures on my palm. The sensation of the ball point on my skin
tickles but I resist the urge to pull away. I look up at her. Smiling, she
holds my gaze until I drop my eyes. I blush. Mesmerized by her touch, I don’t
hear anything she’s saying as I stare at the diagram written in her loopy
handwriting and blue ink. 
Luckily,
Amber is paying attention and asks, “Why do plant cells have cell walls and
animal cells don’t?” 
Paula
says, “That’s an excellent question. Good for you.” Amber beams. I’m instantly
jealous. 
Paula
answers, but looks directly at me when she does. “That’s just one of the
mysteries of the biological world you have to memorize. Now, let me draw you an
animal cell.” 
I fish
through the pockets of my jeans and pull out a Kit Kat wrapper. “Finish on
this,” I say. She smiles again but this time her brown eyes seemed to sparkle
at me. 
She
says, “I knew you were cute, Alexandra, but I didn’t realize, until today,
you’re also really funny. You’re so shy and quiet in class.” My cheeks redden
again. I laugh nervously as I tuck my hair behind my ear. 
What exciting story are you working on
next?
I’m not
actually writing anything now, but I am percolating on a story that picks up
with Alex, the main character in Now I
know It’s Not My Fault
, ten years down the line. I really like the
character, and it would be interesting to see where she is after college and
how her experiences with Paula affect her life into adulthood.
When did you first consider yourself a
writer?
I published my
first article when I was a 23-year-old graduate student, so I guess I’ve
technically been a writer since then. I’ve been a therapist for more twenty
years and it’s hard to think of myself as anything other than that,
professionally. But I think publishing my debut novel probably means I’m now a
writer also.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
I’m a Marriage
and Family Therapist and I have a private practice in the town where I live, so
most days I see clients. Although, I almost never work all day, which often
leaves me large blocks of time to write. I enjoy the balance of doing therapy
and writing. I have to admit, I always use the open blocks in my schedule for
writing. I have three kids and a giant dog who need my attention.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
I almost
always write the music of the Fleetwood Mac station on Pandora.
As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?
As a young
child, I wanted to be a jockey. I was small and loved horses so it seemed like
an obvious choice.
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
I’m a bit
shy, and both love and hate all the attention my book is getting.

Links:

Thanks for being here today, Laurie. All the best with your ‘percolating’!

2 thoughts on “Interview with writer Laurie B. Levine

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