Author Interview: E. Lockhart on Dramarama

E. Lockhart is the author of Dramarama (Hyperion, 2007), Fly on the Wall (Delacorte, 2006)(excerpt), The Boyfriend List (Delacorte, 2005)(excerpt) and The Boy Book (Delacorte, 2007)(excerpt), all novels for teenagers.

We last spoke in November 2005 about the release of The Boyfriend List (15 guys, 11 shrink appointments, 4 ceramic frogs and me, ruby oliver)(Delacorte, 2005)(author interview) and Fly on the Wall (Delacorte, 2006)(author interview). Do you have any updates for us on those titles?

The Boyfriend List is out in paperback with reading group questions and an interview in the back. Its sequel, The Boy Book, came out in hardcover last September. Fly on the Wall pubs in paperback in November, with a spanky new cover.

Could you fill us in on The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them (Delacorte, 2007)? How does it relate to your previous work?

The Boy Book is the sequel to The Boyfriend List, and it was most awesomely fun to revisit Ruby Oliver as a character–her neuroses, her footnotes, her overactive analysis of every situation.

In this book, Roo confronts secrets about her friend-boy not boy-friend Noel, mysterious notes from her ex-boyfriend Jackson, the villainy of her ex-friend Cricket, the horrors of the school retreat, and the exploitation of hooters everywhere. Oh, and there are penguins. Preview it here.

I am starting the third book in this series…um… tomorrow.

Congratulations on the release of Dramarama (Hyperion, 2007)! Could you tell us about this new title?

Dramarama is the most campy, the most glittery, the most theatrical of my books. I spent three summers at drama camp, and the novel is about two Ohio teenagers–one straight, one gay; one female, one male; one white, one black–who spend the summer at a prestigious musical theater camp. They’re best friends going in, and their friendship goes through a lot of changes and traumas as they encounter theatrical jealousies, mean directors, baby divas, hot guys and unitards.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I sold this book on the strength of some anecdotes about drama camp told to an editor at lunch. Donna Bray from Hyperion. She had amazing faith in me that I could make a book out of a few ridiculous stories. I hadn’t even known it was a book idea until she told me.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

Mainly, I had to put in more hormones and cute guys. The first draft was too focused on theater and ambition and competition. All that’s in there, still–but now there’s kissing, too.

More seriously, sometimes people ask me how it felt to write Demi–not my narrator (Sadye), but the other central character in the book. He’s a seventeen-year-old African American homosexual boy from an upper middle class background. I am none of those things except that I once was seventeen.

The answer is, I just wrote him. He is in me, somewhere. He is bits and pieces of people I know, or have known; he is, in many ways ME–the way he feels about certain things, the way he speaks, his passions, his sense of humor–just as all my characters are. He is also flamboyant and sometimes campy, so I pushed myself to make sure that although Demi flirts with stereotypes, and as a theatrical person, plays around with different aspects of his identity, he is not himself a stereotype but a complicated guy. But honestly, I do that with all my characters. Push myself that way. It was not really different because Demi is black and male–it’s just that people ask me about writing him.

Over the past two years, how have you grown as a writer?

I am just at the start of a new book, and I have forgotten entirely how to write anything.

But then, I always feel this way at the beginning.

I guess now I know not to panic when I feel this way.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

I would ask, What are you angry about? And tell myself to write about that.

What would you say specifically on the topic of writing young adult fiction?

Do not write down. Do not write lessons or morals. Write a story. You can figure out what it means afterward.

What recent books would you suggest for study and why?

For study of writing fiction? When I first started writing fiction I took apart the first thirds of these three novels: Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving; David Copperfield by Charles Dickens; and Geek Love by Katherine Dunn.

I broke down the way those authors created suspense and character–how they used flashbacks and forwards–how they established voice and atmosphere while moving the plot along. Those are three pretty perfect books in my opinion, but I’d say go do that with any few books you dearly love.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

I try to schedule blocks of writing time where I promote nothing in any time consuming way. For example, right now I’m writing and basically not promoting or speaking until January, when I have a pre-pub tour. Then I’ll have a working draft and can rewrite as I promote my next couple books in the spring.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I am so excited for spring:

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks comes out in March (Hyperion) and then How to Be Bad, co-written with Lauren Myracle (author interview) and Sarah Mlynowski in May (Harper Collins).

We are going on a big tour that month, all three of us, and I’m inordinately thrilled about traveling across the country with Sarah and Lauren, meeting readers.

How to Be Bad is a novel in three voices: each of us wrote a different character. It’s set in steamy hot Florida in August, and it’s about three girls who hit the road in search of love, redemption and adventure. And get more than they bargained for.

Here’s the promo copy for Disreputable History. And other than that, my lips are sealed. There is top secret stuff in this book, I tell you!

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Laundau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.