Marc Levy

The author

The author
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Marc Levy was born in France on October 16th, 1961. When he turned eighteen, he joined the Red Cross, where he would go on to spend six years. Meanwhile, he studied management and computer programming at Paris-Dauphine University. In 1983, he created a computer graphics company based in France and the United States.

Six years later, he lost majority control of the group and resigned. Starting again from scratch, he returned to Paris and co-founded an interior design and planning company with two friends; the company soon became one of the leading architecture firms in France.

At thirty-seven, Marc Levy wrote a story for the man that his son would grow up to be. In early 1999, his sister, a screenwriter (now a film director), encouraged him to send the manuscript to the French publishing house Editions Robert Laffont, who immediately decided to publish If Only It Were True. Before it was even published, Steven Spielberg (Dreamworks) acquired film rights to the novel. The movie, Just like Heaven, starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo, was a #1 box office hit in America in 2005.

After If Only It Were True, Marc Levy began writing full-time. All of his novels have hit the top of the bestseller lists in France. They are also very successful internationally and are consistently on the bestseller lists in several countries including Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, and Taiwan.

The combined sales of Marc Levy’s twenty-five novels, translated into 50 languages, have surpassed the 50 million copy mark worldwide. Marc Levy is the most read French author in the world.

Marc Levy has also written short stories and directed a short film for Amnesty International, Nabila’s Letter, which screened in March 2004. In addition, he has written song lyrics for various artists including Johnny Hallyday.

(Sources for all rankings and figures: Ipsos/Livres Hebdo/Le Figaro)

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Interview

I was quite a shy and reserved child. Writing allows you to express in words the ideas that you feel unable to say aloud. My father was an art-book publisher and a great reader, and he passed on his love of reading, of great works and writers, to me. The idea of writing for myself only began to take form much later on, but it quickly became obvious it was my passion.

I’ve never thought about success, I never think about it as such. I was writing for my son, and I could never have imagined that my first novel would be destined for such success. Even today, I still find it hard to believe what happened with If Only It Were True. But there’s no miracle recipe, that would be too easy! I work a lot, without any certainty, because writing is a craft. What I try to do is to infuse my books, and the characters who make up my stories, with the values that have been passed on to me. Values that are shared by many people, but that we don’t always come across in everyday life.

I consider myself very lucky, touched and honored to be read in so many countries, and I thank my readers for their generosity and loyalty, but I remain lucid about the fact that nothing can ever be taken for granted. With each new book, I challenge myself. Believe me, I never know in advance, before each book is published, whether it will find its audience.

I’ll be honest, it’s dizzying and magical at the same time, it gives you the strength to stop counting the days and nights spent writing and rewriting over and over again; it’s also the greatest joy that can befall a novelist. But the real pressure you face isn’t about the number of readers, it’s about the standards you set for yourself, from book to book. This appetite for progress, common to all those who love their profession, whatever it may be, this desire to push one’s own limits.

Since I became a novelist, my friends never give me any credit when I tell them I’m working.

Actually, there aren’t many jobs where you spend your time on a single task for an entire year. I am a craftsman, I love my job, and I love to work. I am passionate about my job, which is fun and exciting. Each new novel is an opportunity for me to discover a new world and new characters who I’ll always think of as friends.

My ideas come from everyday life. I like to watch and listen to what’s going on around me. But the idea for a story is not the same as the story itself. I carry the characters around with me for a long time, whilst their personalities develop and the plot takes shape. When I’ve finished my research, when I can answer the question ‘What is this story really trying to say?’, that’s when I’m ready. Then I have my little ritual: I begin by looking for the cover, then I organize my office, keeping only the essentials. Finally, I get settled. I have several lucky objects, particularly a little photograph of my grandmother, Lili, who watches over me. And then I begin to write.

Sometimes yes, but never directly. I’m far too modest to talk about myself. Though, to be perfectly honest, after more than twenty novels, you start to let go a little.

No, I don’t write for a specific audience — I wouldn’t even know how to define who that would be. I know that for my first few novels, the readership was mainly women, but then it grew more diverse, especially with London Mon Amour and Children of Freedom. I am lucky to have a readership of all ages, cultures, and nationalities.

To this day, 25 novels. My latest novel, The Symphony of the Monsters, was published in France on October 17, 2023.
If Only It Were True was published in January 2000, Finding You in November 2001, Seven Days for an Eternity in 2003, In Another Life in 2004, If Only It Were True 2 in June 2005, London Mon Amour in July 2006, Children of Freedom in May 2007, All Those Things We Never Said in 2008, The First Day in June 2009, The First Night in December 2009, The Shadow Thief in June 2010, The Strange Journey of Alice Pendelbury in April 2011, Replay in March 2012, Stronger Than Fear in February 2013, Another Idea of Happiness in April 2014, PS from Paris in February 2015, Hope in February 2016, The Last of the Stanfields in April 2017, Ghost in Love in May 2019, It Happened At Night in September 2020, Twilight of the Beasts in March 2021, Noa in May 2022, and When Life Lights Up in November 2022.

I have also published several short stories, books for young people (the Little Shadow Thief series) and comic strips. Seven Days for an Eternity was adapted as a comic strip by Corbeyran and Espé. The first part was released on August 18, 2010, the second part on March 23, 2011. Children of Freedom has also been adapted as a comic strip by Alain Grand. The comic was published on September 25, 2013. In 2021 I co-wrote Prisoners of the Past with Sylvain Ruberg, illustrated by Espé.

My novels have been translated into 50 languages. Publication dates vary because of the necessary delays of the translations. In general, a novel published in France comes out a year later abroad, sometimes later because the foreign editors don’t necessarily publish my novels in chronological order.

I get butterflies and I’m always full of doubts – is the book really finished, have I missed anything or written a part badly, why publish it?

That a single sentence could touch a reader, or even better, that readers remember characters from my novels… I always miss them when I’m finished writing.

I like a variety of literary genres. I read an eclectic range of books; I’ve never wanted to confine my love of reading to a single genre.
And it’s the same with writing. From novel to novel, I’ve tried to vary and even, at times, to combine genres. Comedy, fantasy, adventure novel—writing is a realm of limitless freedom. I’m too frightened of boring my readers by always doing the same thing, and besides, I too would get bored by constantly re-writing the same style of book. So each time I find myself exploring new horizons, setting off in different directions, and there’s still a lot of uncharted territory to discover…

For me, reading and writing are synonymous with freedom. Those privileged moments in which you feel an intimate connection with a book afford a very personal kind of freedom. I read a wide range of works, I’ve never wanted to restrict the pleasure I derive from reading to a single genre or to conform to the opinions of literary critics who tell you what you should and shouldn’t read.
And it’s the same with writing – with each book I’ve made a concerted effort to never limit myself to one genre and to never tell the same story twice. I enjoy alternating the tone of my books: comedy, fantasy, thriller or adventure novel. I would be too afraid of getting bored, or boring those who are kind enough to read my work, to always write within a single genre. With each book, I am able to explore new horizons – and there are still many lands I have yet to discover… But all my books do have two things in common: none of them are inward-looking, they all tell a story and the sole purpose of that story is to showcase the characters involved. For me, each new novel is an opportunity to encounter new characters who, by the end, feel like friends.

In a way, I ‘sketch’ the outline of all my characters, preferring to leave it up to the reader to imagine them as he or she pleases. Books give you the freedom to visualise a character, and I think that the novelist’s job is to make things palpable rather than to show them. I’d like to think that if you were to ask different readers about how they see a certain character of my books, each would have their own description.

Probably Ethan Daldry. I don’t know why—I’d really like to have had him as a friend, to spend long hours talking with him, sitting on a bench overlooking the Bosphorus or the Thames. I often feel very close to the characters I have to reluctantly leave behind when I put the finishing touches to one of my novels. But for some time now, I’ve been realizing that I tend to hide myself most in my… female characters. But I won’t tell you which ones. 🙂

I don’t really have rituals, except for the fact that I work at night, as it is much quieter. My dog Alice is the only one allowed to stay with me as I write: she watches me gently and makes sure that I do not drink too much coffee. Other than that, I like to write on a tidy wooden desk, under the kind gaze of the portrait of my grandmother.

From my father, a generous, open-minded man with a wicked sense of humor matched only by his humility. He taught me to take an interest in others, to appreciate difference rather than fear it, to make sure that my center of gravity was turned towards others and not towards the end of my own nose. I wanted to share this experience of traveling and meeting other cultures with my eldest son. And all these experiences later served me well in my novels.

Whenever a book is adapted, the story is entrusted to other authors, screenwriters and directors, whose talent cannot be limited to filming the pages of a book. Structural changes are inevitable – a book can take hours to read, but a film has a time limit. Unlike in a film, there are no budget constraints on the story told in a book. For an adaptation to be faithful, what matters is not the cuts that are made, but whether the director wishes to stay true to the characters in the novel. This was the case in the adaptations of London Mon Amour, Finding You and All Those Things We Never Said, but not in the case of If Only It Were True.

Yes, out of respect for those who are generous enough to read my work and take the time to write to me. So I find it normal to take the time to write them back. I’m not saying that I always write back straight away! When I’m writing, for example, I’m very focused on my novel and I inevitably have less time to read letters or emails from my readers. Even if I’m a bit late, I always make up for it by sending a little note in the end. This connection is very important to me.

I like living abroad. Being in contact with people of a different culture and who speak another language is always very enriching. In addition, it’s a daily lesson in humility: nothing is ever a given. Every day you must forget your habits and reflexes, and adapt to the customs of the country where you live, even if they sometimes don’t make any sense. I’ve always felt drawn by New York and its energy, its cultural diversity, eclecticism, and dynamic feel… I’ve already lived there, and wrote several chapters of my books there. And it’s not that you love your own country less because you live abroad… On the contrary, often the things you miss have even more prominence in your life. French people living abroad are also ambassadors who help foreigners discover and love their country.

I spent six years in the Red Cross and I could never repay the Red Cross for all that it gave to me. I hear those who say that today’s world is individualistic, and it’s true that society isn’t the first to reach out to you, but this doesn’t stop you from reaching out to others. When I joined the Red Cross aged 18, I was immediately given a place in society. Nowadays when I support various charities, it’s also my way of participating somewhat in the society I live in. That said, I also dream of going back out to work on the field.

Marc Levy, photographie de David Ken

Many of you reach out to me every day through this website or social media. I’m very happy to hear from everyone. And even if it takes me a while sometimes, I do my very best to get back to everyone. Thanks for your support!