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Wouldn’t You Like to Know . . . e. lockhart

Born in NYC, but growing up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and then Seattle, Washington, e. lockhart is the only child raised by her loving playwright dad and preschool teacher mom.  Our current author has long had reason to see storytelling as a standard form of communication. Returning to New York to study English with a focus on picture books at Vassar and then earning her doctorate in 19th-century English at Columbia, this busy lady has the credentials and the awards to write well and to write often. Her fans are happy knowing more books are on the way.

SH: When I was a teenager, people would describe me as a: (jock, band geek, popular, goth, other, none?)

EL: I was voted worst driver in my senior class and best-looking.  I was insulted by both (I’d have liked to be Most Likely to Succeed) and I think neither was true.

SH: The best/worst thing that happened to you in high school?

EL: I fell in love with a boy who was iconoclastic and lived large. It was mutual.  That answers both questions.

SH: Favorite childhood book? Favorite food? Favorite band or album? Favorite television show?

EL: The Violent Femmes self-titled album changed my life because they were so raw and open and funny and angry. I felt that they spoke what was inside my soul.  I hadn’t realized music was a form of self-expression before that–it had seemed like entertainment. I still listen to that album when I am writing for young adults.

SH: Is there a story from your childhood that is told most often, either by you *or* about you?

EL: At my public middle school in Seattle, kids the teachers identified as worthy were invited to take a test that could get them into an enrichment program called (I kid you not) Alpha.

I was not invited. I asked the teachers about it.  They told me I had to be recommended, but still declined to recommend me.

I went to the principal and requested to take the test. I took it and got in.

That is my first memory of the combo experience of ambition and being under-estimated that has driven me for a good part of my life — and maybe still does.  It’s certainly the subject of Genuine Fraud.

SH: Was there any class in high school you regret paying too little, or too much, attention? If you could add one class to high schools across the country, what would be the topic?

EL: I never paid enough attention. Introduction to Women’s Studies.

SH: If you could be a character from any book ever written, including your own, who would you want to be?

EL: Spider-man.

SH: Is there a book, besides your own of course, that you think everyone should be reading?

EL:  I say, read whatever brings you great joy (for me, most recently, David Sedaris) and then go out and resist, vote, change laws, make a difference.

SH: Do you have any favorite family traditions that might need some explanation to outsiders looking in? Do you remember how they started?

EL:  We often yell, “A rooster can peck your head down to a nub!” and “Put that thing back where it came from or so help me.”  These are quotes from Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in Her Pocket (by Barbara Park) and the movie, Monsters Inc.  We say them because they always make us laugh. Laughing is a good tradition.

SH: Have you hidden friends or family in your stories? Has anyone ever asked to be included?

EL:  Never. My people prefer not to be fictionalized.

SH: What’s your biggest pet peeve?

EL:  I believe in gender-neutral pronouns, but I like zie/zir  or sie/hir instead of they/their.  After years of teaching freshman composition, I haven’t been able to retrain my ear.  I hear they/their as plural–so the other choices seem so much more elegant to me.    I wish we could all agree on zie/zir.

SH: What is one (or more!) of your favorite features about yourself? It can be anything from an impeccable sense of style to your sense of humor to crazy long toes that can pick up a variety of objects.

EL:  I am unafraid to be disliked but I can apologize when I’ve done wrong.

SH: If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?

EL:  Super strength.  In Genuine Fraud, I wrote: “You could go anywhere, do anything, if you were difficult to hurt.”  And that’s true.  If I knew I could fight off whatever came at me, that would equal freedom. No fear.

SH: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten, at any age?

EL:  If everybody likes you, you’re a liar.

SH: What three words would you use to describe yourself? What three words do you think other people would use to describe you?

EL:  Me:   verbal, reliable, maker.

Others: clever, uppity, lipsticky.

SH: You are sitting down to dinner with five people, living or dead, who you find fascinating. Who is at the table and what are you eating?

EL:  I made the dinner.  I love to cook and have people over.  I cook from Plenty and Jerusalem, both cookbooks by Yotam Ottolenghi, but I also invite him over. Yotam doesn’t mind bringing over some Georgian wine and helping in the kitchen–so I’m confident everything is coming out good.  (I don’t know him.  This is just fantasy.)  Also, I’m not that excited about Ottolenghi’s desserts, so I invite Martha Stewart and she brings a pie.  And a cake.  And cookies.  I’m very curious about Martha. She has an edge to her that I adore.  Then Yotam, Martha, and I, a little tipsy by the time people arrive, sit down with Chimanada Ngozi Adichie, Alison Bechdel, and Gene Luen Yang (whom I actually know!) and talk about art and food and making beauty in the world, both every day and long-lasting.

SH: What one thing makes you feel happiest? What makes you sad? What scares you? What makes you laugh?

EL:  Kitty. Child abuse. Incapacitation. Silly dancing.

SH: Do you have a phrase or motto that inspires you?

EL:  A phrase in Genuine Fraud is:  “The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.”  I’m a big one for practice.

SH: Who was the first person who told you should be a writer?

EL:  Me.  I didn’t get much encouragement from outside. Teachers never liked me. But the novelist Beverly Coyle was a professor of mine in college, and she pushed me to write creatively. I am very grateful.

SH: What did you buy with your first paycheck as an Author? Was it a planned or an impulse purchase?

EL:  I bleached my hair blonde.  I planned it for months, as a way of visualizing the book proposal selling.

SH: If someone wrote a book about your life: who would you want as the author, what kind of book would it be, and what title would you give it?

EL:  Please, no one write a book about my life.  It is not anyone else’s business.

SH: What’s the best, surprising question you’ve ever been asked so far?

EL:  Someone recently asked about how my doctorate, which is in 19th century English literature, affects my work as a novelist.  I usually say flippantly that I don’t use my degree.  But I realized that I do–I use it every day.  My books are threaded through with stories I absorbed in my education; my way of speaking is massively influenced by that training; my sense of both history and literary history is biased by academia and its concerns, and my understanding has a depth and many limitations consequent to my training.

SH: Is there a question you wish someone would finally think to ask?

EL:  I have read a lot about: the publication of Sherlock Holmes short stories in England and America, the history of Broadway musicals, theatrical adaptations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the history and politics of freak shows in America, the history of picture book illustration and cake recipes.  No one ever asks me about any of these things.

Genuine Fraud

SH: Would your friends say you were more like Jule or Imogen? Would you agree?

EL:  My friends would say I am like Imogen–a good cook, a fortunate life, a Vassar education.  And that’s true.  But both characters come from me.  Jule’s anger, ambition, self-loathing, and self-aggrandizement–those are all me, too. Genuine Fraud is the worse of myself laid bare.

SH: If you wanted to take on a new identity, what would your backstory be and how would you pull the new pieces together?

EL:  I have been planning what I’d do if I went on the lam for nearly thirty years. I would be a fool to tell you the details.  But I’ll buy a lot of excellent wigs.

We Were Liars

SH: How hard was it to keep the plot twist a secret? (And even now?)

EL:  Not so hard! People love being in on a secret.

SH: What’s the most common comment you get from readers about this book? (Besides mentioning the twist!)

EL:  They say: “You ruined my life, I am bleeding from my ears now, I’m a total wreck, and I love you very much.”

Fly on the Wall

SH: Is Spider-Man also your favorite comic book hero?

EL:  YES YES YES, but I also like The Hulk (who appears in Genuine Fraud) and Deadpool (likewise, but you have to look for him),  Jessica Jones, and lots of villains.  A good campy villain fascinates me.  Harley Quinn, the Penguin, Venom, Two-Face. Fly on the Wall had a ton of superhero fandom, but it also comes out in the new book quite a lot.

SH: What would be your way of not-fitting-in at art school look like? What’s the most unconventional look you’ve rocked at any age?

EL:  I went to an arts high school for two years and didn’t fit in.  I did it by being socially awkward.  I was wearing extremely cool pants from New York City. I had green mascara.  But clothes and makeup didn’t help.   As for unconventional looks: I shaved my head at twenty-eight.   That challenged people’s notions about my identity on many, many levels. It challenged mine, too.  But I did it for the challenge, so I was glad.  With my bald head, I rocked combat boots, cords, and thermal shirts, mostly, with an occasional Betsey Johnson dress.


SH: What’s your favorite musical? And your favorite song from a musical? (They don’t have to match.)

EL:  Chicago. Every song a winner.  Morally dark, angry, stylish women.  My kinda thing.  Song: I’ve been listening to “I’m Here” as sung by Cynthia Erivo from The Color Purple–there’s something about the huge freedom of her voice, so totally open.  I aspire to give myself to an audience that way.

SH: If you went to a summer drama camp, what would your first order of business be?

EL:  I went to three years of summer drama camp, are you kidding?  Dramarama comes directly from that experience.  If I was at a camp now with people my age, I’d be like, we’re all going to start by learning “Tom, Dick or Harry” from Kiss Me Kate, which is weird and hilarious and super raunchy.    I feel like it would set a very good mood of female sexuality, ridiculousness, fabulosity, and catchy-tunefulness. We’d have an excellent summer.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

SH: Which part of Frankie do you like the most? And the least?

EL:  Frankie is a master prankster.  She is limited in her definition of feminism, though.

SH: Frankie at sixteen is already a force to be reckoned with! (I was not.) What were you like at sixteen?

EL:  A dancer, a thrift-store shopper, a professional actor, a slob, a reader.  Not a force.  Yet.

The Ruby Oliver Quartet

The Boyfriend List

SH: I also like a list, but Ruby’s are so much more! What’s the best list you’ve ever been able to create?

EL:  Thank you.  My best lists are published in that series.  Probably my favorite is the clever comebacks to catcalls.   “Did your mama teach all her children to be sexists or did she single you out?”


The Boy Book

SH: What aspects of the school retreat would be the best and the worst of a school retreat for you?

EL:  The retreat in The Boy Book is based on one I really went to in high school. The best part: llamas.  The worst: everything else.




The Treasure Map of Boys

SH: Of the four boys most dedicated to spending time with Ruby, which would you want to use as the main character in his own story?
EL:  The boys are Hutch (a plant-loving, heavy-metal-loving social outcast), Gideon (a bland yet bohemian college boy), Noel (an emo artist with a good sense of humor and an open mind), and Jackson (a golden boy with a quick wit and an inconstant heart).   Noel is my favorite for a boyfriend, but Hutch would make the best protagonist. I like characters who contain contradictions.

Real Live Boyfriends

SH: I have long dreamed of having my own pygmy goat (with a miniature donkey) and so I’m fascinated with Robespierre. Is there anything more you can share about pygmy goats?

EL:  Yes.  Thank you for asking. I recently took a yoga class with baby pygmy goats the size of pug dogs.  You could pick them up and cuddle them. They would try to eat your shirt. One pooped on my yoga mat.  They sat in our laps.  Fact: goats love it when humans do yoga because it means there is an ever-shifting landscape of things to climb. They were all over us. I was completely happy for a whole hour.

Books by E. Lockhart

Genuine Fraud. Delacorte, 2017. 288p. $18.99. 978-0-38574-477-5. VOYA August 2017. 4Q 4P J S

We Were Liars. Delacorte, 2014. 227p. $17.99. 978-0-3857-4126-2.

Fly on the Wall. Delacorte, 2006. $8.99 Trade pb. 978-0-385-73282-6. VOYA August 2006. 3Q 4P J S

Dramarama. Disney, 2007. 311p. $15.99. 978-0-7868-3815-8.  VOYA June 2007. 5Q 4P J S

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Disney, 2007. 345p. $16.99. 978-0-7868-3818-9.  VOYA December 2007. 4Q 4P M J S

The Ruby Oliver Quartet

The Boyfriend List. Delacorte, 2005. 229p. $15.95. 978-0-3857-3206-2. VOYA April 2005. 3Q 2P M J S

The Boy Book. Delacorte, 2006. 183p. $15.95. 978-0-385-90239-7. VOYA April 2005. 5Q 4P S

The Treasure Map of Boys. Delacorte, 2009. 244p. $15.99. 978-0-3857-3426-4. VOYA October 2009. 4Q 4P S

Real Live Boyfriends. Delacorte, 2010. 224p. $16.99. 978-0-3857-3428-8.

e. lockhart Online

Website: http://emilylockhart.com [1]

Twitter: @elockhart on Twitter

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elockhartbooks/ [2]

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/elockhartbooks/ [3]

Tumblr: http://elockhartbooks.tumblr.com/ [4]

Stacey Hayman may not be a young adult (librarian) anymore but she loves to read (just about) all the books written for teens. Reading and reviewing teen and adult books for VOYALibrary Journal, and Booklist, Hayman has also been chair of VOYA‘s Nonfiction Honor List, a member of ALA’s Notable Book Council, and AAUP Book Selection Committee. She’s also co-authored a book, Better Serving Teens through School Library-Public Library Collaborations (Libraries Unlimited, 2013). When she’s not waiting for her next review book to arrive, you might catch her looking for trouble in all the wrong (or right?) places. (Suggestions on where to look next are always welcome!)

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