That brief window of time between morning alarm and first school bell are saturated with decisions, insecurity, anxiety and anticipation. What to wear? Is there time for breakfast? Who should I sit by? Will there be a pre-calculus pop quiz? For A, who’s at the heart of David Levithan’s latest novel Every Day, there’s one more significant layer of inquiry: Whose skin am I in, and how can I walk a day in his or her shoes without mucking anything up? That’s because A begins each day in a different body. Sometimes boy, sometimes girl, sometimes thin, fat, gorgeous, awkward, Asian, black or white. Always new.
In Every Day, A’s accustomed role of reluctant puppeteer comes to a halt when Rhiannon is introduced. A quickly falls in love with her and decides to trade formulaic submissiveness for active pursuit of a relationship with Rhiannon despite the peculiar circumstances. In the prequel, e-original Six Earlier Days, the six days preceding the star-crossed meeting with Rhiannon give a deeper insight into A’s inner workings. The melancholy and incomprehensible invisibility that might be glossed over in Every Day while A focuses on a relationship with Rhiannon are closely examined here, giving greater depth to A’s unusual quotidian experience. David Levithan recalls his process here, reveals why six is the magic number and remembers a gender-bending film classic.
Did you have a checklist of certain archetypes you wanted A to “wear” when you began writing this prequel, or did the cast of characters just evolve organically?
As with the novel, I just made it up as I went along. It was important to me with Every Day to experience A’s life as much as possible like A experienced it—that is, without knowing ahead of time where it was going to go. Even though Six Earlier Days is a flashback, I still wanted to keep that unknowingness. (And, at the end of the day, the truth is that I’m just not that big a planner when it comes to my fiction.)
Why six days? Why not eight or 10?
I could easily have written more, but this seemed like the right number. I was writing the stories to appear in different places before the novel came out, so that was an inherent deadline. Once Every Day came out I didn’t want to be still within A’s story.
A doesn't want to sabotage anyone’s day. The enormity of that responsibility is enough to eventually drive someone crazy, so how does A avoid a dark dead-end?
It’s just A’s life. A doesn’t really think about it too much, and that’s how it doesn’t become overwhelming. We all have the potential to sabotage ourselves (from within) and other people (from outside) all the time, and we don’t think about it most of the time—A’s doing that, from a different vantage point.
At one point A says, “What I want is for what I want to actually matter.” Isn't this what everyone wants?
A is just the same as everyone else in making that statement. I don’t even think it’s a hyper-realization—it’s actually a rather ordinary discovery.
Is it accurate to say there's a tangible fatigue in Six that isn't there in Every Day? It feels like A is ready to give up any sense of participation.
I’m going to leave that up to the reader’s interpretation.
Say you're like A. If you could chose a six-day path of people you’d want to inhabit, who would they be?
I would never, ever choose to inhabit anyone else. Writing from A’s point of view made me realize that quite clearly. I know that’s a cheat, but it’s the honest answer. If I had to go through what A goes through, I’d want it to be the same way A goes through it—with no control over it.
All of Me (1984) or Freaky Friday (1976)?