Monday, June 15, 2009

Interview with E. Lockhart!

Welcome! Today, we have the amazing author, E. Lockhart, sharing a few things about her books, her writing process, and her road to publication. She has several books on the shelves, including THE BOYFRIEND LIST, THE BOY BOOK, DRAMARAMA, FLY ON THE WALL, HOW TO BE BAD, and, most recently, THE TREASURE MAP OF BOYS, which will be in stores July 25th.

This year, THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS was nominated for the National Book award. Now, let's get started!

A girl at an elite boarding school brings down her boyfriend's all-male secret society.

What was the inspiration behind your idea?
I wanted to write about pranks and urban exploration -- and I also wanted to write about the old boys' network, which still exists and is incredibly powerful, even in this supposedly post-feminist age.

What was your favorite part of writing this book? Least favorite?
I had great fun with the research. I read up on the history of college pranks, all different kinds of urban exploration, stuff like that. My least favorite part was before I wrote the first chapter. It was a very hard book to get going, because it was to be written in third person, and tackled some storytelling challenges I had never faced before.

How do you get to know your characters?
They just arrive in my head. I guess the best answer is by writing their dialog.

How many drafts did you go through?
I revise heavily as I go, and heavily before I turn a "first draft" into an editor. So that "first draft" is probably the eighth draft.

How many drafts did your editor go through with you?
Generally I revise two or three times for the editor -- but I'm going through the MS multiple times for each of those revisions.

Did you find your agent first, or your editor?
I have several editors at different publishing houses. And I'm on my third agent. It is a long and ugly story. But the editor on Disreputable History, Donna Bray, actually edited my very first published book, which came out in 1996 under a different name.

How long did it take to find each?
Well -- the agent took years, because I had to go through two agents who were bad fits before that! And I had a nonfiction book project with my first agent (found in a few weeks with help in the search from a friend who had written a bestseller) -- that didn't ever sell and was on the market for a year or so before I realized it never would. It was several books into my career before I found an editor with whom I was really compatible.

How did it feel to have your first book on the shelves? How do you feel now, with several books on the shelves?
My first book (that one back in 1996) was published very quietly. I was so proud of it and no one seemed to buy it or review it. So it was joyous and sad, both. Generally, the moment of publication is a bit of a letdown. I try to focus on the work itself, and on making stories I am proud of.

How did you get in to writing for kids?
I've written two books for adults but children's books were my real focus from the age of eight, when I wished I had written The Wolves of Willoughby CHase by Joan Aiken. In terms of writing for teens: people told me over and over that I should, but I didn't listen to them. Until, one day -- I did. And it felt very natural.

What are you working on now?
Finishing the first draft of the fourth book about Ruby Oliver, heroine of The Boyfriend List.

Do you work on one project at a time, or multiple?
One, pretty much. But sometimes I start something new before copyedits are done on the old thing.

Are you a planner, or do you write by the seat of your pants?
I plan, and then I ignore my plans. The planning is just to trick myself into thinking this one will be easy.

Are you a paper person, or the computer-only-type?
Computer all the way. I type fast. I don't write fast. Handwriting anything is thus completely infuriating.

What are your favorite reference books? And why?
Great question! I use Beyond Jennifer and Jason for naming my characters. It's a baby naming book that organizes names by contexts, trends, heritage, etc. And I have a bunch of slang dictionaries I use pretty often -- plus Urban Dictionary online.

This was great! Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us!

To see what E. Lockhart is up to, stop by her blog,, or her website, For a chance to win a copy of THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS, go here and leave a comment.


Summer said...

Great interview. I'm glad that she pushed through and kept writing and publishing even after the first go around.

PJ Hoover said...

Great interview! I love that the first draft is really the eighth draft!

Bish Denham said...

Great interview Tabitha and E. I can finally say, "I've read this book!."

I like knowing that I'm not the only one who edits as she goes. Gives me hope.

Unknown said...

FANTASTIC interview! Like PJ, my favorite part was how the first draft is really the 8th...sometimes I feel that way about mine, too.

Keri Mikulski said...

Love E. Lockhart and I've loved ALL her books. :)

Interesting story behind her writing and I love hearing the story behind the story. :)

Angela Ackerman said...

Great interview. I am so glad to hear a writer say they revise so heavily before turning stuff in. Some people give the impression they write like three drafts before it's perfect and I'm totally jealous.

3rd agent--another good thing to hear. So many writers get down when they land an agent only to discover they aren't a good fit. I hope this inspires others to keep trying.

Tabs, I got One Lonely Degree today! Thank you so much woman--you're awesome!!

Kelly Polark said...

Awesome interview!!

Jacqui said...

I like "The planning is just to trick myself into thinking this one will be easy."

Danyelle L. said...

Great questions, Tabitha! I really enjoyed the interview. :D

Mary Witzl said...

I love that line about planning too! And I adore the idea of a girl bringing down an all-male secret society.

Here's to the Urban Dictionary, which I have found very useful. But that name book sounds fantastic, and what a good idea.