Combine technology with adolescent romance and what do you get?
If you’re Lindsey Leavitt, fodder for a new novel.
In her latest book, “Going Vintage” (Bloomsbury, $16.99), the best-selling Las Vegas-based author explores the intersection of technology and adolescent angst, with a dollop of retro innocence thrown in.
The story involves teenager Mallory’s discovery that her boyfriend has cheated on her with an online girlfriend. Convinced that technology has ruined her life and inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in 1962 when she was in high school, Mallory resolves to “go vintage.”
“So, she sets out to accomplish these things that are a return to simpler time and that will finally simplify her life,” Leavitt explains. “And she finds out that isn’t true.”
“Going Vintage” is a stand-alone novel that, like Leavitt’s previous best-seller, “Sean Griswold’s Head,” isn’t related to Leavitt’s popular, and now pretty much concluded (more on that later) “Princess for Hire” series. But in “Going Vintage,” readers who already are familiar with Leavitt’s work will find her signature wit and well-drawn characters, set this time against an all-too-real social media-packed backdrop.
Even if Leavitt admits to not being a particularly wired-in person herself.
With texting and social media, “everything has become so immediate,” she says during a meeting at a Summerlin coffee shop. “If someone sends you a text and you don’t respond to that text in two hours, (it’s) ‘Where are you? What are you doing?’ So I’m kind of a Luddite in that sense.”
Also helping to inspire the plot of “Going Vintage” was the death of Leavitt’s grandfather.
“He lived a wonderful life,” she says. “But after he died, we were going through his stuff, and I found letters to his girlfriends and pictures of him as a bachelor, and I had known him only as a grandfather figure. I’m, like, ‘Oh, he was a person! He had all these different experiences I would never know about because I didn’t know him in that reality.’ ”
The notion that the adults teenagers know mostly by the roles they play once were like them is reflected in Mallory’s decision to complete her grandmother’s 1962 high school to-do list (run for pep club secretary, host a dinner party, sew a homecoming dress, find a steady, do something dangerous).
“Going Vintage” is Leavitt’s fifth novel, all of which fall into the publishing genre known as “young adult,” a category in which Leavitt says she can’t imagine not working. It is, she adds, as much a case of the genre choosing her as of she choosing it.
“Ultimately, the reason I write in the genre is I love that growth, I love that coming-of-age, I love that moment where you kind of see the world through this lens of whatever and you realize that lens is wider than you thought,” Leavitt says.
“I’ve tried writing chick-lit, but it didn’t fit me. I have a background as an elementary school teacher, I’ve been a children’s counselor, every job I’ve ever had relates to children.”
And, Leavitt says, “I love children’s literature,” even if some adults might not take it as seriously as kids do.
“I get that a lot,” Leavitt says. “People will say it like it’s a compliment: ‘You’re a really good writer. Why don’t you write for adults?’ There’s kind of a stigma in doing young adult sometimes.”
She laughs. “I think some of us have a chip on our shoulders about that.
“But what’s amazing about young adult is, you can write any genre you want,” she says, from romance to science fiction to paranormal, “and your reader is going to follow you. They’re very dedicated. Also, you get this new insurgence of readers every few years because they grow up, so you get newly discovered all the time.”
Leavitt recalls one “who wrote to me, ‘Your book is the best I ever read and I never read a book before reading your book, and, by the way, do you love Justin Bieber or One Direction?’ They’re just so adorable.”
(And? With three daughters of her own, Leavitt answers that One Direction probably would get the nod.)
Leavitt’s initial success in publishing came with her “Princess for Hire” series, about a girl who’s recruited to serve as a stand-in for actual princesses. It’s , perhaps, a curious story line given that Leavitt acknowledges she was a bit of a tomboy growing up in Las Vegas.
“But I think the character is like that, too,” she says. “She’s really awkward and she’s 15 and she’s not comfortable with herself. That was just me, a lot of it. My sister is eight years younger than me, but I had three brothers, so I played sports. I remember one time I tried putting on lipstick in junior high, and that was just catastrophic.”
Leavitt also was an avid reader and loved to write. But, she says, “I thought writers were, like, middle-aged men with tweed jackets and a pipe. I wrote for entertainment, for myself, and I was always writing humor and didn’t really know there was a niche where I could do that, so I never really pursued it.”
Then, as an elementary school teacher, she became more familiar with children’s literature and later started writing with an eye toward selling a book . Her husband, Curry, a Las Vegas periodontist — they were high school lab partners who married in college — was in school then.
“So, I thought, to make money, I’d make money writing,” Leavitt says.
She laughs. “If I knew how difficult it was, I never would have tried.
“I had all of my rejection notices laminated, so when I go to a school (to speak) I can show kids that this is what it takes. There are like a hundred of them. And I wrote one-and-a-half novels before ‘Princess.’ But once you get into it, it’s addicting.”
Finally, “Princess for Hire” was sold to Disney “in a three-book deal at auction,” Leavitt says. “My agent called me and told me, and I just couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘Wait, this much for one book or for all the books?’ So that was just amazing, and it was life-changing.”
Oh, and one cool thing about Disney publishing your book: “My check has Mickey Mouse on it and Disney fonts and everything.”
Leavitt says — although prefaced with an inscrutable “Hmm …” — that she’s “99 percent sure” that the “Princess for Hire” series has concluded.
“I left it open,” Leavitt adds, but, for now, “I’d like that story to go on in the heads of readers.”
Leavitt is working on a young adult novel that’s set in Las Vegas and inspired by her experiences growing up here.
“I grew up in The Lakes in the ’80s, when Rainbow was the last street,” she says. “I sound like an old-timer when I talk about Las Vegas because even in my lifetime it’s become a huge city that’s completely different from what I grew up in.”
It, too, will feature Leavitt’s humor and breezy wit. Surprisingly, though, Leavitt acknowledges there have been times when she’s wondered whether she should be writing about more serious subjects.
“I had this kind of, not even existential (question), but, does what I’m doing matter enough, because I do write lighter stuff,” she says. “And I talked to a writer friend who said: ‘Every story doesn’t have to punch you in the gut. Sometimes people need a story that gives them a break from reality.’ ”
Take an email Leavitt received from a fan who read one of her books while returning home from the funeral of a grandparent.
“She said she read it on the plane and said, ‘Your book made me really happy.’ It was such a simple thing from an 11-year-old, but it kind of showed me we need all kinds of books, and I always think of that now. I want people to feel some joy.”
Besides, Leavitt adds, “you have to figure out what your strengths are and play to your strengths, and I can’t write dark-and-gritty if I tried, and I have tried. I just don’t have that life experience, I don’t have that point of view. Everything I do is funny and light.
“Even ‘Sean Griswold’s Head,’ that deals with a girl who finds out her dad has multiple sclerosis, and that’s a heavy topic and I still try to infuse some humor in there, because I think in all points of your life you can find it.”
Leavitt enjoys writing for readers who are both loyal and voracious. For young adult readers, “a book is still this personal thing,” she says. “The really devoted readers, they’re reading a book a day. But it’s still that personal experience that you don’t get with any other form (of entertainment).”
It turns out young adult readers can be a pretty discerning group, too. Leavitt recalls the review she received from one who wrote, “This one isn’t as good as ‘Sean Griswold’s Head,’ but you probably didn’t have enough time to write it, so it’s OK, I forgive you. I just hope the next one is better.”
Leavitt laughs. “And … thank you?
“But it’s very charming that they even have an expectation — ‘Oh, I’m reading a Lindsey Leavitt book’ — or that they even know my name.”
BOOKS COMING FROM SOUTHERN NEVADA AUTHORS
Among the roster of other recently or soon-to-be-released books by Southern Nevada writers are new titles by some of the area’s best-known authors.
Robyn Carr’s latest, “The Wanderer” (Harlequin/Mira, $7.99) kicks off her new “Thunder Point” series of romance novels.
For her new series, Carr heads north from the California setting of her best-selling Virgin River series to the Oregon coast. The next two books in the series are scheduled to be released in July and September.
Vicki Pettersson’s “The Lost” (Harper Voyager, $14.99) is the second book in her “Celestial Blues” series.
Like its predecessor, “The Lost” revolves around the professional and romantic partnership of rockabilly reporter Katherine “Kit” Craig and Griffin Shaw, an angel of sorts who’s trying to solve his and his wife’s murders 50 years earlier.
Pettersson also wrote the now-concluded and best-selling “Signs of the Zodiac” series.
H. Lee Barnes, award-winning novelist, College of Southern Nevada faculty member, former Green Beret and Vietnam veteran, offers up a new novel, “Cold Deck” (University of Nevada Press, $26.95), a Las Vegas-based story about a casino dealer who, having barely survived the 1980 MGM fire, still deals with its aftermath and becomes entangled in a dangerous scheme to cheat a casino.
OTHER RECENT BOOKS BY LOCAL AUTHORS
Other recently published books written by local authors or which deal with local themes include:
“Anatomy of a Single Girl” (Delacorte, $16.99) is Daria Snadowsky’s young adult follow-up to “Anatomy of a Boyfriend” and follows protagonist Dominique Baylor to college.
“Bright Light City: Las Vegas in Popular Culture” (University Press of Kansas, $34.95), by Larry Gragg, looks at how movies, TV, novels and pop culture have depicted an ever-changing Las Vegas.
“Collateral Damage” (Harper, $9.99), by Dale Brown and Jim DeFelice, is the latest in the Dreamland military thriller series.
“Dangerous Refuge” (William Morrow, $26.99), by best-selling Nevada-based author Elizabeth Lowell, is a romantic suspense story set in a small ranching community on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada s.
“Disenchanted: One Woman’s Journey for Independence From the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” (LifeStories Books, $19.95), by Victoria Kilbury, is the true account of a woman’s journey from childhood in Saudi Arabia to a new life in the United States and, ultimately, Las Vegas.
“Eating Las Vegas 2013” (Huntington Press, $11.95), by John Curtas, Max Jacobson and Al Mancini, is the third edition of the trio’s guide to dining Las Vegas-style.
“Everyday Las Vegas: Local Life in a Tourist Town” (University of Nevada Press, $39.95), by Rex J. Rowley, explores daily life in a town that most Americans consider merely as a vacation destination.
“How to Survive When the Bottom Drops Out” (Inknbeans Press, $9.99), by J.T. Sather, offers common-sense lessons about how to get back up when life knocks you down.
“I Pledge Allegiance …” (Houdini Publishing, $14.95), by the Las Vegas Wednesday Warrior Writers, offers stories of American patriots and heroes. (Profits are to go to the USO center at McCarran International Airport.)
“The Key Is Love: My Mother’s Wisdom, a Daughter’s Gratitude” (New American Library, $25.95) offers entertainer Marie Osmond’s recollections of her mother, Olive Osmond, and the ways in which her wisdom helped Marie through some difficult times in her life.
“LeadWell: The Ten Competencies of Outstanding Leadership” (Soaring Eagle Enterprises Inc., $12.95), by Tim Schneider, discusses developing the skills necessary to be a successful leader.
“Liberace Extravaganza!” (Harper Design, $29.99), by Connie Furr Soloman and Jan Jewett, is a decade-by-decade recap of the Las Vegas favorite’s costumes through the years, via more than 260 photos and many interviews.
“Mastering the Life Plan” (Atria Books, $26), by Las Vegas physician and longevity specialist Dr. Jeffry S. Life — you’ve seen him on those Cenegenics billboards — outlines steps to better health and a better body.
“My Father’s Lost Diary: A Personal Account of the Jewish Holocaust in Europe (1937-1942)” (Xlibris, $15) is Simone Salen’s presentation of a diary kept by her father, Israel “Sol” Goldhirsch, describing life in Vienna during World War II.
“Portals” (Whiskey Creek Press, $17.95), by Barry Vass, is the futuristic tale of a group of would-be prospectors who crash-land on a distant planet.
Las Vegans will find “Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $26.95), by Ace Atkins, notable for its pitting Parker’s good-guy Boston P.I. Spenser against (and we quote), “a megalomaniacal Las Vegas kingpin.” Start guessing now …
“Rogue Town” (Houdini Publishing, $14.95), by Las Vegan Dennis N. Griffin and Vito Colucci Jr., examines Stamford, Conn., from 1965 to 1985, when the city was considered, the authors say, “one of the most corrupt cities in the country.”
“Sermons from St. Alban’s” (CreateSpace, $10) is a collection of sermons preached at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Hoover, Ala., by the Rev. J. Barry Vaughn, who in March became rector of Las Vegas’ Christ Church Episcopal.
“Sin City Indictment: Inside the Las Vegas Grand Jury” (Houdini Publishing, $14.95) recounts author Jack Miller’s term on a grand jury last year.
“Son of a Gambling Man: My Journey From a Casino Family to the Governor’s Mansion” (Thomas Dunne Books, $26) is former Gov. Bob Miller’s memoirs, in which he shares stories about politics, growing up in Nevada and meeting the odd celebrity.
“Sons of the Pope” (Blood Bound Books, $13.99) is a crime novel written by retired Suffolk County (N.Y.) police officer, and now Las Vegas resident, Daniel O’Connor (written with Peter Randazzo).
“Steadfast Sisters of the Silver State: One Hundred Biographical Profiles of Nevada Women in History” (Stephens Press, $24.95) by the Southern Nevada Women’s History Project, offers tidbits about notable women with a connection to Nevada, some of whom (adult film star Marilyn Chambers?) will surprise you.
“Strong Ministry: Strengthening Your Pastoral Leadership” (AFG Weavings LLC, $18) outlines Las Vegas minister Arthur Gafke’s model of ministry for pastors.
“What Really Killed Whitney Houston” (The Magic of Differences, $8.97), by Las Vegas husband-and-wife psychologists Judith Sherven and Jim Sniechowski, examines the psychological forces behind the troubled singer’s death.
Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280.