YEM Author Interview: Alison Levy chats about Georgette and how she would describe the character

Alison Levy is the author of Magic by Any Other Name. Magic by Any Other Name follows Georgette who is determined to build a new identity and a new life. The novel explores magic, fantasy creatures. YEM was able to speak with Alison about the character of Georgette, the writing process, and her inspiration for the book.

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you first know that you wanted to be an author?

Alison Levy: When I was twelve, I was having a hard time in school.  I had undiagnosed mental health issues which made completing school work difficult and due to years of being bullied, I didn’t have many friends.  After turning in a creative writing assignment that I had enjoyed working on, my English teacher made it a point to pull me aside and tell me how good it was.  She told me I was a talented writer and should be proud of myself.  I never forgot that.  I started writing for fun and found that it helped with my anxiety and made me feel good about myself.  I’ve been writing ever since. Thank you Mrs. Webb!

YEM: How would you describe the character of Georgette?

Alison: Georgette is undergoing a major life change when this story takes place.  She’s been emotionally abused by her mother so she’s shouldering a lot of trauma, but she takes a big leap by running away from her family.  She’s recovering from abuse and wrestling with anxiety so in some ways she’s fragile but she has a good heart and lot of inner strength that she learns how to access over the course of the book.

YEM: Do you think that Georgette’s new friends that she meets in your book would describe her the same way?

Alison: Her best friend, Mei-Xing the Wood Nymph, certainly would.  Mei-Xing knows Georgette better than anyone and knows that while she’s struggling with trauma, she is capable of great things.  Ishak the Werehyena doesn’t think much of Georgette when they meet but as they get to know each other, his opinion changes.  Delia the Valkyrie and her raven Senji would probably not describe Georgette as having great inner strength but their interactions with her are limited and focused on achieving a certain objective.  I think they probably see her as a good person and unusually kind for a witch.  Nico the curandero definitely understands that she is in a fragile state but he gets some glimpses of the strength inside her and tries to help her nurture that part of herself.  As for her love interest Neil, he’s infatuated and thus sees her through rose tinted glasses.  I think he definitely sees her good heart but has some trouble understanding her trauma.

YEM: What was the writing process like?

Alison: When I first got started, I was just writing whatever popped into my head.  Gradually, I started to get a sense of what the overarching story would be and I created a rough outline to map it out.  From there, my love of mythology and folklore suddenly became key.  I kept putting mythical creatures that I found fun or interesting in the book and the story seemed to take shape around them.  

YEM: Did changing her name from Ivy to Georgette change her personality? In what way?

Alison: Definitely! Changing her name helps her put some emotional distance between herself and the family she’s escaping.  In a way, changing her name gives her permission to stop trying to be the person her mother wanted her to be and allows her to start growing into who she wants to be.  She was Ivy.  She is Georgette.

YEM: What was the inspiration for this book?

Alison: I started writing this book shortly after I cut contact with a toxic family member.  I was an emotional wreck and my anxiety was so out of control that my hair started falling out.  Putting my struggles in a fantasy form really helped me process the difficult feelings.  Creating the character of Georgette and writing her story was a direct result of me processing those feelings.  

YEM: What do you hope your readers will take away from Magic by Any Other Name?

Alison: I hope people will see how damaging emotional abuse is and that while breaking the cycle of generational trauma is hard work, it can be done and it is worth the effort.  

YEM: Do you have advice for someone who wants to be a writer or author one day?

Alison: Whether you want to be an author or just a writer, the most important advice I can give you is this: write!  So many people talk about writing a book but not many actually put in the time and energy to make it happen.  Seek out supportive people for constructive feedback and take their suggestions to heart.  If you want to publish, spend some time researching what type of publishing appeals to you. Traditional publishers have a lot of advantages but they only publish a handful of books a year and they rarely take a chance on an unknown author.  Hybrid publishers have a lot of the same advantages of a traditional publisher in terms of distribution, marketing, and other things but you have to pay to access those advantages.  Self-publishing gives you full creative control but you pay out of pocket and you have to handle every aspect of the process by yourself.  You can decide which type of publishing, if any, works best for you!

YEM: Do you have a genre that is your favorite to write?

Alison: I’m in love with urban fantasy!  I absolutely adore folklore and legends retold in a modern setting.  There’s something so enchanting about the notion that there’s myth and magic coexisting with us that we can’t quite see.

YEM: What is your favorite thing about writing for a young adult audience?

Alison: Young adults are eager to embrace fantasy worldbuilding and they bond strongly with the characters.  The older we get, the more jaded and critical we become, which can make reading fantasy less intense and less emotional. Young adults get deeply invested in the lives of fictional characters which, in a way, makes those characters more real.  The thought that young readers may find an emotional bond within the pages of my book warms my heart.

YEM: What was your favorite scene or quote within Magic by Any Other Name?

Alison: I really like the first interactions Georgette has with the employees of Club Nocturne.  This is the point when her employer, Kazimiera, has finally decided to let her see behind the curtain and learn what’s really going on in the building.  The conversations she has with a few employees not only reveal Kazimiera’s secret, they also show Georgette a side of the magic community that she’s never seen before.

YEM: What are you writing in the future? 

Alison: Right now, I’m working on Book Two of “The Witch’s Odyssey,” which is tentatively entitled “Wild Hunt.”  I was really hoping I’d be further along than I am right now but my critique group gave me some valid criticism that made me realize my draft needs a rewrite before it’s ready.  It’s a work in progress but it’s on its way!