Pensive discussions with a Young Adult author
Graphic artist Paulina Ortega on her inspirations, illustrations and more
E.Lockhart has refreshed the young adult fiction scene since she released her first novel, The Boyfriend List back in 2005. Her crackling wit and irreverence made her stories stand out from the ever deepening pool of YA novels that have proliferated bookshelves since the resurgence of YA fiction.
In 2008, E. Lockhart released The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, a firecracker of a book that showcased Lockhart’s style and dark sense of humor. The book’s protagonist has been cemented as a new wave feminist icon for the younger generation. At once beautiful and whip- smart, Frankie is at the crux of it all, deeply relatable. She may have a knockout figure, but like many, she’s navigating through life while bearing the weight of other people’s assumptions of her— something that Lockhart herself can relate to. “If you write for kids, you will not get respect from universities, and you will not get it at literary- type cocktail parties, either. For a long time, I wanted that kind of validation more than anything else, even after I began publishing my stories,” she admitted in an article she penned for the Los Angeles Times. Lockhart’s new novel, We Were Liars, promises to thrill and delight even the most jaded. Scout recently caught up with the author to find out how she feels about writing for young adults, this “post- feminist” world we live in, and how to deal with cranky people. Scout: In The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, the main character is a pretty awesome prankster. Are any of her pranks based on some real- life experiences? I researched the history of college pranks and read how- to books and read a lot of urban exploration blogs. Frankie’s pranks derive from those sources. I am not a prankster at all! Too timid. Scout: Frankie has to navigate people’s assumptions of her all throughout the book. Did you ever feel underestimated when you were growing up? How do you think young readers should cope with the feeling of being constantly sized up? People constantly underestimated me and sometimes they still do. I underestimated myself, some of the time. You can’t control people’s reactions to you. But you can control how you view yourself and the things of which you believe yourself capable. Scout: You’ve written nine young adult novels. Was writing for the YA category a conscious decision? How do you feel when people often dismiss the genre as “for kids” or assume it’s romantic fluff, like Twilight? Young adult is an age category, not a genre. There are many genres of fiction within that age category: mysteries, literary fiction, paranormal, thrillers, romances, comedies and so on. Judging YA fiction by Twilight is like judging adult fiction by The Notebook. Underinformed. I’d call We Were Liars a romantic literary thriller. Kind of. Scout: YA readers are usually at an age where they’re still impressionable, yet young people like to pretend they know everything. ( Didn’t we all?) What are the important life lessons that you try to impart in your books? Fiction is not a vehicle for life lessons. It is a vehicle for exploration of things that are impossible to summarize in another form— complex and sometimes contradictory elements of human emotional life.