The Return of Rufus: Author Marilyn Levinson Talks About Her Magical Middle Grade Series

Marilyn Levinson writes terrific mysteries and novels both for kids and adults, and it’s a pleasure to feature her on my blog today as her lovable fourth grade character Rufus returns. Below are her responses to my interview questions, followed by her bio and buy/newsletter links:

First off, congratulations on the reissue of your delightful, award-winning middle grade novel, RUFUS AND MAGIC RUN AMOK. Can you tell our readers about the novel and what inspired it?

Thank you, Lynn, and thank you for having me here as your guest. Rufus Breckenridge considers himself a normal fourth grader, though his mother, grandmother and aunt are “Enlightened Ones.” A euphemism his mother uses instead of “witches.” Rufus is thrilled when he discovers that he, too, has magical powers, but doesn’t tell his family because he knows they’ll insist that he take lessons to control his powers and learn how to use them to help people. Like any kid, he wants to enjoy doing magic. And so his powers grow and run amok.   

I wrote this book for the fun of it, and also to show how Rufus feels about being a person endowed with magical powers. There’s the fun part as well as the knowledge that he’s different from other kids, and he worries that he’ll become a pariah and that his best friend won’t want to be his friend any longer. Also, in this book Rufus develops his nonmagical strengths and learns how to deal with Big Douggie, his tormenter, without resorting to magic.       

You did such a terrific job of capturing Rufus’s ten-year-old voice. What enables you to put yourself in the heart and mind of a young person like Rufus?

Thanks, Lynn. I suppose I think back to the time when I was a ten-year-old. And I raised two sons, so I remember how they behaved at that age.

I understand that RUFUS AND MAGIC RUN AMOK is the first of four books in the series. Will the next titles also be reissues or are they new additions to Rufus’s adventures?      

The next three books are new additions. The second book takes place in the South of France where Rufus is spending part of the summer vacation with his friend Billy and Billy’s parents. The boys rescue a young girl from the clutches of an old witch. Though the girl has strong magical powers, she has been taught to be ashamed of them. The old witch has been siphoning them off for evil purposes of her own.

In addition to enjoying a highly entertaining story, what do you hope your young readers will take away from RUFUS AND MAGIC RUN AMOK?

I think everyone grows up thinking he or she is different from the average kid one way or another and often feels embarrassed or ashamed because of this difference. Rufus learns to own his new identity and to deal with it in the best way possible. Doing so, he develops confidence and loses much of his anxiety.

You’ve had a rich and varied writing career, both for adults and for young people. Does your writing process and approach to your work differ according to the age group you’re writing for?

Not really. In both cases, I get into the head of my protagonist and take it from there. Kind of like what an actor does, I suppose.

What’s a typical writing day like for you? 

I would love to tell you I wake up early, eat breakfast, then go to my office to start writing. I am a big procrastinator when it comes to settling down to write each day and so I usually begin in the late afternoon. Earlier in the day I deal with emails, doctor visits, household chores and the like. Somehow my books get written.

What for you is the most challenging aspect of penning a novel? The aspect that comes more easily to you?   

I’d say settling down to write each day. You would think that would have disappeared after all these years of writing. Once I’m in the writing zone, it usually moves quickly. I love writing dialogue and rarely change what I first set down. Also, I like being in touch with readers on Facebook and find writing my newsletter easy to do. To think I’d put off having a newsletter for years! It’s another way to connect with readers, friends and relatives.

I was saddened to learn that a high school English teacher discouraged you from writing your stories. Did that experience shape the care you took with your own students as a Spanish teacher, and has that negative experience inspired any of the plot lines or characters in your works?

I don’t think my unfortunate experience with my high school English teacher impacted my career as a Spanish teacher or has crept into any of my plots. It kept me from writing for many years and left me with my love of the Spanish language, which I still love to speak when I get the opportunity.

What’s next for you writing-wise?

I’m finishing the eighth book in my Haunted Library series. Then I’ll write a short story I’ve been asked to contribute to an anthology. After that, I’ll start writing my new mystery series. I know the main characters, the setting, and a rough outline of the first book. This series will have two paranormal elements. The next book in the Rufus series is already written, so I’m set with that series for now.

Anything else you’d like to add, or wish I’d asked that I didn’t?

I often include a paranormal element in my books. I think it adds a fun aspect to the story, be it for kids or adults.    



A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries and novels for kids. Her books have received many accolades. As Allison Brook she writes the Haunted Library series. Death Overdue, the first in the series, was an Agatha nominee for Best Contemporary Novel in 2018. Other mysteries include the Golden Age of Mystery Book Club series, the Twin Lakes series, and Giving Up The Ghost. Her first juvenile novel, And Don’t Bring Jeremy, was a nominee for six state awards. Rufus And Magic Run Amok was an International Reading Association-Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice and has been reissued by Level Best Books. It will be followed by three more books in the series. 

Marilyn lives on Long Island, where many of her books take place. She loves traveling, reading, doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku, and chatting on FaceTime with her grandkids.

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  1. Marilyn Levinson on June 22, 2023 at 9:48 am

    Thank you so much for interviewing me and giving me the chance to talk about Rufus.

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