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David Levithan and Jonathan Farmer on “Every You, Every Me”

September 14, 2011

 Today, we are thrilled to welcome author David Levithan and photographer Jonathan Farmer, who have collaborated on a thrilling and unusual young adult novel, Every You, Every Me, on sale this week. The book tells of a young man’s psychological unraveling, as he attempts to figure out who is stalking him and leaving him the chilling photographs. David wrote the text, which is accompanied by Jonathan’s photos. Here, they discuss their collaboration with each other.

JF:  David, you take lots of photographs yourself – at least one a day for the past ten years.  Why didn’t you use your own photos for this book?

DL:  I’d always loved the idea of a photographic novel – if you can have a graphic novel, why not a photographic novel?  But the problem was that when I looked at my own photographs, I knew exactly who was in them, and where they were. There wasn’t any mystery.  Then one day I saw the photo of Ryan on your refrigerator door – the one that’s now on the cover or our book – and I was transfixed.  I had no idea who he was, why he had that expression, where he was, who or what he was looking at … and I found my answer right there.

Of course, the whole time I was writing, you were giving me photos one by one, without having any idea what the story was.  What was that like?  Did you construct a narrative in your head as you gave me the photos, or was it random?

JF:  Well, right in the beginning, that was the big decision.  Was I going to send you a series of random images (a telephone, a monkey, a flower, or whatever), or was I going to try to construct my own narrative?  I toyed with the idea of using completely random images, but I ended up being more intrigued by the idea of developing a story of my own and seeing what you would do with it.  I started, as you said, with the picture of the boy.  I knew he needed to be the main character, and I knew that I wanted the rest of my photographs to have that mysterious quality.  I actually took that photo for a completely different project–a vampire film my friend DJ was working on.  I was fascinated by the idea that a photo could tell multiple stories, so I asked DJ if he would mind if I used a few of those images for this project.  After that, though, I really let each new image be a discovery.  But, let me tell you, there were SO many times that I wanted to ask you what you were writing.  I was desperate to know. 

And now, I am still dying to know–what were the images that threw you for a loop?  (I know there must have been some!)

DL:  That’s so funny – I had no idea they were images for a vampire film!  I’m quite glad I didn’t write a vampire story.  It’s hard to say which images threw me for a loop without giving too much away.  Because … how to put this? … we know that my grasp of who was actually in the images wasn’t actually always on the mark.  And the crazy rag doll still freaks me out.  As crazy rag dolls tend to do.

Now, I’m a wizened veteran of the publishing process … but this is your first book.  And, even better, IT’S IN FULL COLOR (which is a first for even me.)  What was it like to get your first copy?

JF:  I confess—the rag doll was a deliberate prank!  Which, I might add, you dealt with superbly.  About the characters in the images—talk about a happy accident.  It couldn’t have worked out any better.  I thought it was especially apt because identity was such a central theme in Every You, Every Me.  The fact that there were only two “actors” only adds to the appeal for me. 

David, getting my first copy of the book, seeing my photographs printed on the page, and knowing that our work had come together so beautifully was—there’s no other way to describe it—breathtaking.  What a crazy thing!  A book!  A real live book!  I’m still reeling as I think about the weight of it in my hands.  Most of all, though, I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to work on this with you! 

DL:  Likewise!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Patty permalink
    September 14, 2011 8:27 am

    I happily just bought this…can’t wait to get into it…lovely post!!!

  2. September 14, 2011 2:58 pm

    I’ve seen some buzz for this one and had no idea it includes photographs. Sounds interesting!

  3. Brittany Lawrence permalink
    November 19, 2016 11:44 am

    Does Jonathan Farmer have a website? Is there anywhere that we can view the photos from the book in full size?

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