After laying low for a few years, local singer-songwriter and author Stewart Lewis is back with two new projects.
His three-song EP “When the Lights Go Down,” recorded with producer R. Walt Vincent in Los Angeles, is out now. “Stealing Candy,” a novel about the high school-aged daughter of a famous rock star who gets kidnapped from boarding school, will be released May 2. It’s Lewis’s fifth book, this third in the young adult genre.
Lewis and husband Steve Swenson (married three-and-a-half years; together 11) moved to Washington three years ago for Swenson’s job in radio. They’d been in New York five years. Lewis, who’s “40-something,” is a Boston native.
Lewis basically wears three hats. In addition to being a singer/songwriter and author, he also teaches narrative non-fiction at the University of Maryland.
“The three of them together kind of make a career,” he says.
It was mostly a coincidence that the book and EP, which features more of his signature melodic, acoustic guitar-heavy pop/rock, were finished about the same time.
“It was really just a natural progression,” he says. “I find as I’m getting older, I don’t release music as quickly. I sort of waited until I had just the right group of songs to release. I’m a little more judgmental than I was when I was younger.”
Lewis plays regularly at Mr. Henry’s Capitol Hill Pub & Restaurant for its Thursday night Americana nights. He also plays shows in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, cities that have more venues for singer/songwriters, he says. The EP is his first musical release since 2011.
Lewis found major success with his first YA book, “You Have Seven Messages” (2011), which was published by Delacorte Books. Barnes & Noble staff selected it for their “hot stuff” table for teens and it’s been a hit in France, having been reprinted six times so far, which means it’s sold between 60,000-70,000 copies.
“It’s kind of the gift that keeps on giving,” Lewis says. “I’m still getting massive royalty checks five years later. … The Barnes & Noble placement really helped. If you can get that kind of placement, your book just moves so fast.”
He says Random House, his publisher, didn’t get behind his second YA novel, “The Secret Ingredient” (2013) to the same degree so it sold more in the 5,000-10,000 range. He’s hopeful “Stealing Candy,” which is getting positive reviews, will sell more briskly.
“Romance and thrillers are really selling now in the young adult market and this is kind of a combination of the two,” Lewis says. “It’s basically a thriller but it’s also a love story. … I know that sounds cliche and like something that’s been done a million times … but there are a lot of twists and they become almost like a Bonnie and Clyde-kind of duo.”
Both the book and the EP have physical and digital releases. Lewis will have a book signing at Hooray for Books (1555 King St., Alexandria, Va.) on Thursday, June 1 at 7 p.m.
Lewis says his path into the YA genre came about naturally. A previous agent said he’d “really nailed” a teen girl character in his second book, “Relative Stranger” (2008). He says the inspiration to try a teen-centric novel was “the best advice I ever got.”
“I guess I can do a teenage girl pretty well,” Lewis says. “I guess inside every gay man is a teenage girl.”