Interview: Stewart Lewis

Stewart Lewis is a multi-talented musician and author. His discography includes: Stumbling for Truth, In Formation, The Chemical, Clearer, and Fear of Falling, and his music has been featured on numerous television shows and films. He is the author of two adult books, Rockstarlet and Relative Stranger, as well as a YA novel, You Have Seven Messages.

YOU HAVE SEVEN MESSAGES is your third published book; in what ways do you think you have changed the most as a writer since publishing your first book?

When I sold my first book, I was resistant to working with editors. Now I cherish them. It’s not about shutting people out of the process; it’s about making the book the best it can be. I don’t implement all of my editor’s suggestions, but I’m way more open to it now. No one writes a book alone, really. There’s a team of people making it all happen. Sometimes an editor will suggest something I’m opposed to, but when I start to incorporate the note, other things blossom that I never would have thought of. That’s a beautiful thing. It’s about finding the right people to work with and allowing trust.

You write both music and novels. How do your writing processes for each compare? Do the songs and books you are working on influence each other?

Yes, they definitely inform each other. A line in a scene will inspire a lyric, and vice versa. I also love having two creative outlets, so when I’m over saturated with writing, I can switch to music for a while. But I will say this: writing songs is much harder for me. With lyrics, you only have a hundred words or so to tell a story or reach a listener, so it’s very challenging.

If YOU HAVE SEVEN MESSAGES came with a playlist, what are some of the songs you might include on it?

Luna listens to Imogen Heap and Jason Mraz. I think Imogen’s “Wait It Out” would be on it, as well as Jason Mraz’ “Remedy.” I would also add some Death Cab For Cutie and Broken Bells for an indie-pop moment.

Luna goes to Italy to spend time with her uncle, find out more about her family, and clear her head. Where is your favorite place to go when you need a change of scenery?

The ocean!! As long as I can hear it. I write a lot in Montauk, Miami, and Tulum, Mexico. It’s all about shacks on the beach and a good laptop. Nothing inspires me more than the sea, it’s one of those things that’s filled with such wonder that I never tire of it.

Given her parents’ connections, Luna gets to hang out with celebrities like Orlando Bloom and Drew Barrymore. What has been your most interesting celebrity encounter?

I met Annette Bening and I could barely speak. When I was in LA I waited tables in a posh restaurant and met TONS of stars. The best was Robin Williams. He was so friendly and humble.

Luna is an extremely precocious teenager with a lot of freedom. What were you like as a teenager? What was your relationship with your parents like?

I was given a lot of freedom, for sure. My parents were in a bluegrass band, so my experience was very Partridge Family. I was encouraged to be creative, to explore, to be myself. My parents weren’t “famous” but they entertained at a lot of dinner parties, so they were kind of local celebrities.

What were some of your favorite books growing up? Have you read anything recently that you wish you could give your teenage self?

The first book that really struck a chord in me was THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt. After that I read a lot of short stories, particularly Raymond Carver. I didn’t read much as a teenager, but I think it would’ve been cool to have read something by David Levithan.

Can you share anything about your upcoming music and writing projects?

My next book is another YA novel called THE SECRET INGREDIENT. It’s about a teenage cook in Los Angeles with two dads and a misfit brother. She meets a psychic in an elevator, finds a vintage cookbook with handwritten notes in the margins, and begins a summer that will change her life forever. I’m really excited about it (my editor is reading it as we speak).

As far as music, I’m working on a songwriter-in-the-round series that I used to produce in NYC but that I’m now thinking of doing in Washington DC where I now live. Also, a song I wrote with Hillary Johnson (as Hillary and Stewart) was recently featured on the ABC show BODY OF PROOF.

Thanks so much Stewart! I’m looking forward to your next book already.

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