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Summer Blog Blast Tour: E. Lockhart

May 22, 2008

E. Lockhart is a favorite of both teens and teen fiction reading adults. In just a couple of years, she’s written a number of fabulous books, books that are sometimes funny, sometimes painful, but always smart. With two books published this year, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and How to Be Bad (with Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski), and the How to Be Bad book tour going on right now, we’re grateful that she took the time to answer our questions.

Can you describe your writing process? Where do you get the ideas for your characters and plots?
I can describe it, but I fear I will describe it badly. I write most weekday mornings for several hours, and in the swing of a project aim for 1500 words a day. I revise as I go. I revise a lot. I make outlines but fail to follow them.

I don’t really know where my ideas come from. I suddenly think of something as I’m typing.

I do read a lot, and the reading influences my work. Recently I was influenced by a Betty Crocker book on cake decoration. For The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by books on college pranks and urban exploration.

The Publishers Weekly review of How to Be Bad says that Vicks “is less aloof than the author’s usual protagonist, and more congenial.” Do you consider your protagonists aloof? If so, do you consciously make them aloof? If not, how would you describe them?
I think most of my characters are spilling their guts out. Roo in The Boyfriend List etc. with her panic attacks and neurotic trains of thought. Sadye in Dramarama with her devastated ego and her unwanted opinions. But true, Frankie in Disreputable History is indeed aloof, because she’s keeping so many secrets. And Gretchen Kaufman Yee in Fly on the Wall is aloof with boys because she hasn’t figured out how to break through and connect with them — that’s her journey in the book.

Vicks in How to Be Bad is a gut-spiller — but she’s also less privileged than my usual protagonists. She works the griddle at Waffle House. She’s a 6th child with 5 older brothers. Her parents are electricians. Maybe the relative privilege of my other characters (such as Frankie Landau-Banks and Ruby Oliver, both of whom go to elite prep schools) makes them seem aloof to some readers?

Your characters seem to be trying to fit in or trying to figure out how to fit in. Do you think we ever learn how to fit in or that we just get old and stop caring about fitting in?

Really, really?

I suppose that’s true of Roo, but I don’t think of it as true for Frankie or Gretchen or Sadye or Demi or Vicks. I think of all of those characters as in serious conflict with authority over what constitutes good art, fair treatment, acceptable sexual behavior — and so on.

Myself, I’ve given up caring about fitting in. Most of the time.

You wrote How to Be Bad with Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski. Is this the first time you’ve co-written a book? What was the experience like? Intimidating? Liberating?
I actually co-wrote my first book, about 1000 years ago. But usually I am a lone ranger.

Writing How to Be Bad was pretty much sheer fun. Lauren and Sarah were adorable and funny and we never harshed on each other’s work until several drafts in — we started with praise, praise and more praise.

I also liked it because other people wrote a lot of my book for me. It would go away for two weeks and come back longer! Awesome.

Copies of The Boy Book have been stolen from each of our libraries. What makes this book so appealing that teens love to steal it?
It has lessons on the care and maintenance of boobs, what to wear when you’re going to be making out with someone, and things to say to men who shout cat-calls at you! People need to use that thing for some serious reference!

That said, I hope readers realize that the advice entries in The Boy Book are supposed to be written by inexperienced and possibly mentally unstable teenagers, not by any authoritative grown-up who knows about these things for real.

Jolene loved Fly on the Wall and thinks it would make a great teen movie. Are there plans to turn any of your books into a movie?
Thanks, Jolene. How would they do the fly so that we could all relate to it? This is my big question. Also, how to show gherkins without showing gherkins? A conundrum much more easily solved in print than in film, eh?

No film plans yet.

Trisha says that she wishes Fly on the Wall was around when she was a teen, and that she would have been smart enough to read it. What book do you wish you had read as a teen, whether or not it had actually been published back then? What kind of reader were you as a teen?
Thank you! I read all the YA classics as a younger teen — Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton, Paul Zindel, M.E. Kerr — and I’m very grateful for them. Later I read Piers Anthony and Tom Robbins and Douglas Adams. I think the book that would have helped me most as a teen, had it existed and had I been smart enough to read it, would be The Beauty Myth, by Naomi Wolfe.

In The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, Frankie infiltrates The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. Are you or were you ever in a secret club? And if you had to make up a secret club, what would it be like?
Like I’m going to post the answer to that first question on the internet! 🙂

To be honest, I’m not a joiner. If there are going to be group meetings of any kind, I don’t want to go. This is probably one of my weaknesses as a human, but there you are. So I wouldn’t have a club. I think probably the people in secret clubs aren’t novelists. They are presidents of things, maybe?

The panopticon is an important concept in The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. How did you first learn about the panopticon and is it something you always intended to explore in a novel?
I have a doctorate in English literature and I learned about it in grad school, reading Foucault. I never ever thought I would use it. I just put it into Disreputable History one day, without planning to do so — and it fit, and there it was, and then it became an important part of the book.

What is your favorite neglected positive?
Petuous. Meaning careful. Neglected positive of impetuous.

What projects are you working on now?
The third book about Ruby Oliver, follow-up to The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book. It’ll come out in Fall 09! Tentative title: The Treasure Map of Boys. I can tell you this much: There are pygmy goats. There are a lot of baked goods. Jackson is still up to stuff. There’s a lot of Noel. Birkenstocks figure seriously in the plot. Beyond that, my lips are sealed.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!
Thank you so much for having me!

And the rest of today’s SBBT interviews are:
Elisha Cooper at
Chasing Ray
Dar Williams at A Fuse #8 Production

Jennifer Bradbury at Bildungsroman
Mary Hooper at Miss Erin
Charles R. Smith at Writing and Ruminating
Mary Pearson at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy

10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 22, 2008 3:58 am

    I ADORE e. lockhart and I even more adore that she’s DR. e. lockhart. I always worry that I’m not as much of …I don’t know, a popular culture hip person as I need to be, that I’m really too much of a Big Book nerd. Yet here’s this woman who writes brilliantly, lives in the YA Mansion, as it were, and is just as booknerdy as I am. Cool.

    Also, I LOVE that she describes her writing process badly. I think I’ll try that.

    Thanks for asking good questions, Trisha.

  2. May 22, 2008 10:05 am

    Thanks for the interview. We posted at 7-Imp about Frankie’s story last week, and a handful of folks came and left wonderful comments and are continuing a great discussion — so much so that I want to re-read the book again, and my to-be-read pile is passionately protesting this.

  3. May 22, 2008 10:06 am

    “Re-read the book again”? Did I really say that?

    Welcome to the Department of Redundancy Department. May I help you?

  4. Gayle permalink*
    May 22, 2008 3:38 pm

    E. Lockhart is too cool for school. Maybe that’s why her books get stolen often!

  5. May 23, 2008 10:30 am

    Thanks, TadMack.

    Jules, I know! That was a great review and conversation about Frankie.

  6. May 26, 2008 5:49 am

    Great interview, great interview subject. E. = much fun, squared.

    After months and months of having The Boy Book checked out from my personal lending library, it was finally returned a few weeks ago by the apologetic, blushing patron, who had accidentally ripped the dust jacket. She had taped it up as best she could and kept apologizing.


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