Ask the Author: E. Lockhart
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E. Lockhart Thank you. I started with the idea of the private island, and a family that summered there year after year. I wanted to write about that incredible bond the youngest generation would form, and what would happen when they got old enough to interrogate the values and people behind those idyllic summers.
I really liked the Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - but the ending made me so sad. Frankie is clearly brilliant and amazing, but never develops her own group of pals who understand and support her for who she fully is (although she does have a very sweet roommate). Will Frankie ever get a sequel (/close friends)?
E. Lockhart Thank you. I started out wanting to write about pranks that escalated in some interesting way on a boarding school campus. Pretty soon I realized there needed to be a driving reason for the pranks -- otherwise they wouldn't matter. I searched for a way to make them really important to my main character. I am a feminist, as is anyone who believes women are entitled to equal rights, and I was excited when I found a way to explore some feminist issues in a way that I hoped would be fun to read.
E. Lockhart I don't outline, but I often have a sense of what the biggest events in the book will be -- and the general place the characters will end up. Scene by scene, I am winging it, and there's a lot of discovery in that process. My books are always different than the book I thought I'd be writing when I started, but if the story is really not as good as I want it to be, I rewrite it. I rewrite a minimum of 12 times, I'd say.
Just finished We Were Liars. Half-way through the book I told my husband that this was the best book I have ever read (I read a lot). A friend was telling me 3 years ago about the psychological technique of telling your "story" through a fairy tale; I am curious as to if you and she read/studied the same source on this technique. To have read this technique in your book was incredible
E. Lockhart I think the only writers who have more trouble creating female characters than male ones are those who on some level do not believe women are all the way people. To an open minded person, both genders are equally hard. That said, it is very challenging to write well-rounded, believable characters, no matter what.
E. Lockhart Honestly, I don't know. I could spout a lot of stuff about wanting to write about family dynamics and real estate and fairy tales and first love, and wanting to challenge myself with a kind of plot I had never written before. But really, my own creative impulses are mysterious to me.
E. Lockhart Thank you. Dramarama is my most autobiographical novel, but always my characters become more and more distinct from me the more I work on a book. The things that happen to Sadye in Dramarama -- many of them happened to me, but she isn't me in many ways. I would most likely befriend Johnny in We Were Liars. He is an enthusiast, and that is something I really like in a friend.
Hello! I'm very curious about your writing career. How did you become a writer? Did you plan it from the start? Or you're born to be a writer? I mean, is it your passion? Another one, why did you choose We Were Liars as a title? Finally, what's the biggest lie you ever told someone? Thank you. By the way, hello from the Philippines.
E. Lockhart I was absolutely not born to be a writer. I always enjoyed writing and could always make pretty sentences, and I always loved books -- but I did not feel I could write fiction for a long time. The writing of scenes and plotting of stories -- all of that only came with hard work. I set out to learn it and it took a long time.
Near the end of Disreputable History, the narrator speaks in 1st person singular for the 1st time with "And so, another possibility..." (337). On the same page, the narrator switches from past to present tense with "Frankie Landau-Banks is an off-roader." After that, it's a mix of present and future, and the reader watches the last scene directly ("There's Frankie now..."). What was the intention behind these choices?
E. Lockhart Good question! The present-tense just brings the story to a close -- the past-tense things are over, and now we are in the present moment, looking forward to the future. The narrator has been opinionated throughout, and I am not entirely sure this is the first time first person singular is used, but using intrusive narration to reflect is a second way I brought closure to the ending of the story.
I finished We Were Liars yesterday and am still thinking about it and think I will for a long time..Have you thought at all about a film version? I think Edward Herrmann should play Grandad!I felt at times , it is written like poetry, as a diary and as just rambling but beauty throughout. What made you decide to format the book this way?
E. Lockhart I don't do any of those exercises writing books recommend -- figuring out characters' interests, backstory, and so on before actually writing. Mainly, I search for the voice. I do this by writing scenes and rewriting them. Eventually I can hear the characters talk and that helps me know how they think.
E. Lockhart I knew the ending and I figured out a five act structure for the novel using the word-processing program Scrivener. What wasn't clear was which scenes actually went in which acts, because of the juggling of the two different time periods, the fairy tales, etc.. Scrivener allowed me to move my parts around from act to act, and to try them out in different places within the acts.
E. Lockhart Tough question without more information -- but I have many projects that haven't found publishers, and most authors I know are in the same position. What do we do? Write a different book. That's tough to hear but it is true. Most working writers are embarking on the new book as the old one is out on submission anyway. If you are confident your book is strong, then work on your query letter. Write a new one. Follow the #askagent hashtag on Twitter to learn more. Read agents' blogs and follow submission guidelines on agency websites very carefully. I know from agent friends that most submissions they receive are unprofessional in some way! I wish you loads of luck.