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.

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