THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK
BY Kristen Levine
As twelve-year-old Marlee starts middle school in 1958 Little Rock, it feels like her whole world is falling apart. Until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is everything Marlee wishes she could be: she's brave, brash and always knows the right thing to say. But when Liz leaves school without even a good-bye, the rumor is that Liz was caught passing for white. Marlee decides that doesn't matter. She just wants her friend back. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are even willing to take on segregation and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.
A GUEST POST BY KRISTEN LEVINE
Where did you get the idea for The Lions of Little Rock?
My mother grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. I started asking her about her childhood, and in our very first conversation about Little Rock, my mother told me about listening to the lions roar at night. Something about that detail stuck with me. In addition, I attended very diverse public schools growing up, so the Little Rock Nine and school integration is something I've always been interested in.
What was the most difficult part of writing Lions?
It took me a long time to really understand the character of Marlee - which wasn't so great, since she was my main character! Once I did, the story finally started to flow. I also struggled with trying to figure out how to make my main characters, Marlee and Liz, as active as possible in the plot. I didn't want them to just observe the historical events going on around them; I wanted them to actively take part in making things change.
Did your process change at all from writing your first book?
Yes! My first book, The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, started as a screenplay. I did lots of outlining, note cards, and actually had a complete story by the time I sat down to turn in into a novel. This time, I decided to just "start writing" because I was a writer, right? I knew how to do this. Ah, no. Turns out, I am not a "seat-of-your pants" kind of a writer. (I totally admire those of you who are!) I guess it was a good thing to learn about myself, but it was painful to realize I needed to go back and plot things out when I was already 170+ pages into the story.
What do you do when writer's block hits?
I give myself permission to write something really, really bad. I have two small children, so I don't have a lot of time to write. Usually, I force myself to write something, even if it is terrible, and after a while of terrible writing, something okay starts to come out. But if after an hour nothing good is coming, I'll stop and try again another day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristin Levine, author of The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had and The Lions of Little Rock, received her BA in German from Swarthmore College and an MFA in film from American University. She spent a year in Vienna, Austria, working as an au pair and has taught screenwriting at American University. Currently, she lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her family. Her third novel, The Paper Cowboy, will be published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in fall 2014. Visit her at www.kristinlevine.com