Write This: Author Patricia Leavy on Setting, Inspiration, and Teaching in her New Novel, Film

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
One of my favorite authors, Patricia Leavy, has done it again. With her new novel, Film, she covers a lot of ground: following your dreams, the magic of serendipity, the importance of friends, and the importance of pop culture in life, as well as in teaching (!!).
I loved this book for so many reasons; let me just say: READ IT.
Write This: Author Patricia Leavy on Setting, Inspiration, and Teaching in her New Novel, Film
We were lucky enough to catch up with Leavy to talk about her book, writing, and more. Here’s what she had to say…
Please tell us about your new novel, Film...
Film follows three women who moved to Los Angeles to pursue their dreams. Tash Daniels aspires to be a filmmaker. Her short film was rejected from festivals, she has a stack of rejected grant proposals, and she lost her internship at a studio when her boss harassed her, forcing her to take a job as a personal shopper. Lu K is a hot deejay slowly working her way up the club scene, but no one is doing her any favors. Fiercely independent, she’s at a loss when she meets Paisley, a woman who captures her heart. Monroe Preston is the glamorous wife of a Hollywood studio head. As a teenager she moved to LA in search of a “big” life, but now she wonders if reality measures up to fantasy. When a man in their circle finds sudden fame, each of these women is catapulted on a journey of self-discovery. As the characters’ stories unfold, each is forced to confront how her past has shaped her fears and to choose how she wants to live in the present.
Film is a novel about the underside of dreams, the struggle to find internal strength, the power of art, and what it truly means to live a “big” life. Frequently shown bathed in the glow of the silver screen, the characters in Film show us how the arts can reignite the light within. With a tribute to popular culture, set against the backdrop of Tinseltown, Film celebrates how the art we make and experience can shape our stories, scene by scene. Film is a sequel to my novel Blue, although it can absolutely be read as a stand-alone book. Tonally, it’s meant to be a fun, light, uplifting read, with food for thought. Honestly, I love this book. It’s my personal favorite of my published novels.
What inspired you to write this book?
When I finished writing my novel Blue, I felt there was another story to tell about relationships, popular culture, and the pursuit of dreams. In Film, I wanted to explore and dismantle the idea that we can’t have passionate romantic lives and creative passion. We see this over and over again in pop culture, stories that show you can’t truly pursue your own passion and be in a fulfilling relationship. That idea is so limiting and I wanted to offer an alternative.
I also wanted to explore what the pursuit of happiness looks like for women. There’s a strong #MeToo subtext in the book. I decided to write Film before the recent iteration of the #MeToo movement. Themes of sexual harassment and assault were always going to be a part of the subtext of the narrative. The #MeToo movement is responding to what women have long been dealing with, so the issues aren’t new. That said, I definitely felt a timeliness to the novel I hadn’t originally anticipated which influenced the writing process. All three of the protagonists have experienced sexual harassment that has negatively impacted their professional lives, limited their career options, made them feel unsafe, and influenced their personality and mindset. These issues have profound effects on people’s lives and are shockingly common, as #MeToo suggests.
I hope Film highlights what it’s like for women and how far we have to go. Some scholars have called the novel a “feminist fist bump” or said that it made them feel their contribution to the women’s movement helped make the characters’ lives possible. I love that.
Like many of your novels, popular culture and art are part of the narrative. Tell us more!
Popular culture and art play an active role in the book, like they do in our lives. That includes films, music, television, and so on. So at some points characters see something in their lives or relationships mirrored back to them in a piece of pop culture, at other times pop culture is used to move the plot forward, and at other times, it’s a form of entertainment that characters rely on to unwind or regroup. But the role of pop culture goes even further. The novel has strong messages about how the pop culture/art we experience and that which we make, shapes our stories and can even save us.
This is your first novel set in Los Angeles. Can you talk about the importance of the setting?
The decision was really made when I wrote the ending to Blue, and the protagonist, Tash, was moving from New York City to LA to pursue filmmaking. Settings are an important part of novels both for their physical, material realities and also for how they represent ideas and mood. Film is very much about the pursuit of dreams, and LA is considered the city of dreams. This is no more true than for those in creative, artistic fields. The art of film itself is important in the book and LA is the center of cinema. The book could only take place in LA. There’s a mood or tone that LA provides, too. It’s bright, sunny, and sparkling on the surface, but the darker undersides of dreams lurk beneath. I had a lot of fun playing with the tension between dreams and their shadow side.
As with all your fiction, Film can be used in the classroom in a range of college courses? How can educators use this book to teach?
Film was written with two audiences in mind, both general readers and also college students.
The novel can be used to stimulate reflection and discussion on topics including relationships and relational communication, popular culture, sociology of gender, and general sociological themes.
As with my previous novels, Film can be used in courses in sociology, social work, communication, psychology, women’s studies, and perhaps other fields. I frequently Skype or Zoom into classes in which professors have adopted one of my novels as required reading to do Q&As.
What I’ve learned from these experiences is that students really enjoy reading these kinds of novels as a change of pace from their other reading, they are able to tease out all kinds of scholarly themes related to their course work, and they engage deeply with the books so hopefully the learning lasts. Some students email me years later, still remembering details from one of the novels. The impressions last.
At the end of Film there’s a section on suggested classroom use which includes discussion questions, creative writing activities, qualitative research activities, and art activities so professors can easily integrate it into a range of courses.
What does Film offer for the general reader?
It’s meant to be a light, fun novel that hopefully offers some inspiration. In the end, the message is: we are possibilities. 
What's up next for you?
I can’t share the details yet because I want it to be a surprise, but I have a very special collection coming out in a matter of months. Let’s just say it will cap off a decade of my work as a novelist. It’s meant to be something special for new and old readers. I have a few nonfiction projects in the hopper but I’ve been obsessed with fiction lately. I recently completed a first draft of a new novel that’s different from my others. It’s an epic love story. Really it’s about how love in different forms helps us overcome trauma and move from darkness to light. I loved writing it so much that when I was finished, I immediately wrote a sequel. I’ve never done that before! I’m sitting on them both for a little while before I do my next round revisions, but writing them was a completely immersive, cathartic experience. I hope readers enjoy them as much as I do. I’m also writing another novel that I plan to take my time with. It’s quite different tonally from the recent ones. It’s about relationships, betrayal, and America. It's dark. 
Write This: Author Patricia Leavy on Setting, Inspiration, and Teaching in her New Novel, Film
More information:
Patricia Leavy, Ph.D. is an independent sociologist and best-selling author. She has published more than 25 books, earning critical and commercial success in both nonfiction and fiction and her work has been translated into numerous languages. She is also the creator and editor for nine book series with Oxford University Press and Brill-Sense, the co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal, and a blogger for numerous outlets. She is most widely known for her work advancing arts-based research and pioneering the social fictions concept and book series. Patricia has received numerous book awards as well as career awards from New England Sociological Association, the American Creativity Association, the American Educational Research Association, the National Art Education Association, and the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry. In 2016 Mogul, a women’s empowerment network, named her an “Influencer.” In 2018, she was honored by the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the State University of New York-New Paltz established the “Patricia Leavy Award for Art and Social Justice.”
Find her online at:
Film is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/9004414010/
Film is available at Brill: https://brill.com/view/title/56116