Hello. Are you doing a school report? I get a lot of emails asking for biographical information, interviews or insights on my books for school projects. While I’m always glad to hear from my readers, I can’t write back. The stuff on my website constitutes everything I’m prepared to share with the public.
If you need materials for a project, I recommend that you:
• read through the questions and answers on this page
• look at the material on the Teachers page
• glance at the About page (that’s also where you’ll find a photo)
• and click on all the links below!
You might also want to read the blog, follow the Twitter feed, or click on the other social media links, above.
P.S. All these questions were submitted by readers at one point or another. Thanks, you guys.
Frequently Asked Questions
• Where were you born?
New York City, 1967.
• Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Cambridge, MA and Seattle, WA. I went to college at Vassar and grad school at Columbia. I have a doctorate in English literature with a focus on 19th century British novel and the history of British book illustration.
• Where do you live?
In the New York City area.
•Will you come to my town on tour? And do you do author visits in schools?
I’m not in charge of where I go on tour. My publicists are. I tour for some books and not for others. When a new book is coming out I'll post tour dates on my blog. For school visits and lectures, I'm booked through the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau.
•What does E stand for? What’s your real name? And why do you go by E?
E. stands for Emily. My dad calls me E. and I always liked it.
• Are you married? Do you have kids? Tell me all about your family.
I’m sorry. I don’t share any information about my family.
•Where did you go to summer drama school?
I went to Northwestern and the Children’s Theatre Company program in Minneapolis. The CTC summer program no longer exists as I knew it. Neither of those camps were as focused on musical theater as the imaginary Wildewood is — and neither ran the same way. I interviewed people who had been to other camps when I was writing Dramarama.
• Do you have another job besides writing?
I am a full-time writer but I do teach in a low-residency MFA program in Writing for Children at Hamline University.
•Who was your first crush and why?
A boy named Colin Cox in Kindergarten. He was dashing.
•Do you have a favorite food?
•If you could be a writer and pursue another career of interest, what would it be?
•What’s your favorite comedy/action/romance movies of all time?
Very hard to pick just one. My inclination is to list, list, list. But here you go:
Comedy: Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Action: Fight Club
Romance: Truly Madly Deeply
•When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?
At age 8. I wrote two or three novels that year. But later, I got side-tracked by the theater and thought I wanted to be an actress – and then after that, a literature professor. I began writing creatively in a serious way when I was 22.
•What subject did you hate the most in high school?
• I heard you have another name.
• Can you come talk to my students, my group of librarians, my book club?
I don’t do Skype visits, but I do lectures and school visits. Inquiries should go to Christine Labov at the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau: clabov @ penguinrandomhouse.com.
About the Books
• Which Ruby book do I read first, The Boyfriend List or what?
The Boyfriend List
The Boy Book
The Treasure Map of Boys
Real Live Boyfriends.
• Will there be another Ruby Oliver novel, after Real Live Boyfriends?
•What are all your books in order of first US publication?
The Boyfriend List (2005)
Fly on the Wall (2006)
The Boy Book (2006)
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (2008)
How To Be Bad (2008)
The Treasure Map of Boys (2009)
Real Live Boyfriends (2010)
We Were Liars (2014)
• What awards have you won, if any?
We Were Liars: Nomineee, Magnolia Sate Award (Mississippi). Nominee, Children’s Choice Award. Nominee, Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award. Nominee, Louisiana Reader’s Chocie Award. Summer 2014 Indie Next list. Finalist, MSAL Gateway Award. International Literacy Association’s Young Adults Choices Reading list, #3. Winner, Redbridge Libraries Award. Time magazine’s top YA books for 2014. Time magazine’s Best Books of the Year (so far). Finalist, Global Read Aloud. NY Times Notable. Horn Book, Best of 2014. School Library Journal, Best Books of 2014. Publishers Weekly, Best Books of 2014. Amazon’s #1 YA book of the year, 2014. On Amazon’s top 20 books of the year, 2014. Winner, Goodreads Best Young Adult novel of2014. New York Times Bestseller (30 weeks).
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks: Finalist for the 2008 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Printz Honor, American Library Association. Cybils Award for best young adult novel. Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year list. Richie’s Picks Best of 2008 List. Tayshas List, 2009. NY Times Notable Children’s Book list, 2008. School Library Journal Best Books of the Year, 2008. Library Journal’s list of Seattle Public Library’s Fiction Favorites of 2008. Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best List. Washington Post Best Kids Books of the Year. Booklist Editors’ Choice. Morning News Tournament of Books, 2009. SLJ Tournament of Kids Books. Rhode Island Teen Book Awards Finalist. Teens Top Ten. Oregon Battle of the Books, 2010-2011. IRA YA Choices list. Connecticut Nutmeg Award finalist, 2011. Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award finalist, 2011. Georgia Peach nominee, 2011.
No awards for the other books, but these recognitions:
The Boyfriend List: Junior Library Guild selection. BBYA nomination. Quick Picks list 2006. Richie’s Picks, Best of 2005. NYPL Best Books for the Teenage.Trashionista‘s list of top 10 YA novels for 2006 (Britain): #1. South Dakota Library Association’s YARP list, 2007. YALSA list of Gossip-Girl readalikes. Georgia Peach nomination.
Fly on the Wall: Junior Library Guild Selection. NYPL Best Books for the Teenage.
The Boy Book: Junior Library Guild selection.
Dramarama: Booklist “Top Ten in the Arts” list. Kirkus Best Books for Young Adults, 2007. Reading Rants Top Ten for 2007; BBYA, 2008
How to be Bad: Ypulse Best of the Year list. NYPL Summmer Reading list, 2010.
The Treasure Map of Boys: BBYA nomination. Junior Library Guild Selection.
Real Live Boyfriends: Junior Library Guild Selection.
• Is there going to be a movie of We Were Liars? What about Ruby? And Frankie?
We Were Liars has been purchased by Imperative Entertainment. There are no plans for any other films.
•Can I write a screenplay? Be involved in any way?
I have no say in the filmmaking process. As for expressions of interest, I let my agents deal with everything so I can write books. Here’s a useful explanation of how film stuff works from an author’s perspective, from novelist Ally Carter.
• Where can I buy cool stuff related to your books? I am dying for a t-shirt full of neglected positives.
Thank you for asking! :) These items and more are available at the official E. Lockhart Zazzle shop. And We Were Liars merchandise is available from Litographs: full-text t-shirts for women and men in multiple colors (see right), posters and bags.
• What gave you the idea for The Boyfriend List?
I was sorting through a box of old high school yearbooks (I had a perm), and school papers (I wrote the humor column) and the senior class poll (I administered it – and was voted worst driver) – and I thought, “where’s that little notebook where I wrote down every boy I ever kissed?” And boom – I had a book idea.
I also wanted to depict what was, for me, the single most painful social situation of high school and college: seeing my ex-boyfriends with someone new. Every single school day, salt in the wound.
So many books end with love. And don’t get me wrong, I love a good romance. But in high school, especially, the glow is pretty much always short-lived. People behave shockingly. They’re young and thoughtless. So I wanted to write about that particular horror.
• Did the stuff that happens to Roo in The Boyfriend List really happen to you?
No. I made it up, based on my memories of how horrendous people sometimes are to each other in high school, how much fun and also how evil gossip can be — and how much first love can hurt.
I never lived on a houseboat; my parents are nothing like that; I didn’t see a therapist as a teenager; I never became a leper or a famous slut.
• Are the people based on real people?
• Were there books or writers that influenced you when writing The Boyfriend List?
Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity for its awesome use of lists; David Foster Wallace’s essays in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again for their wonderful use of footnotes; and novels by Louise Rennison, Helen Fielding, and Megan McCafferty , for their excellent jokes.
• Will there be a sequel to Dramarama? What about to The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks?
No, in both cases.
• What you said about boys in Fly on the Wall is weird/yucky/crazy/not nice.
Gretchen forms strong opinions in that book, and also learns a lot about the opposite sex. Her opinions are not necessarily my own. Her objectification of boys — it’s something she thinks about and analyzes even as she’s doing it. I think that’s a natural thing to do in looking at people to whom we are attracted — and I also think it’s important to question ourselves as we’re doing it. Just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s right.
Or, maybe you’re referring to the homosexuality in the book. And the homophobia. I wanted to portray the population of the locker room honestly, and to be true to the feelings boys would be having in there.
•Do you get to have any input on book covers?
I speak up if I think something looks wrong, and sometimes the publisher consults me, but overall I have very little say. Most covers are initiated and designed by the publishing house.
WRITING AND PEDAGOGY
• Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
Morning. Coffee. Silence.
•What do you do when you have writer’s block?
Often I jump ahead to a later scene in the book. I also go for walks or go to the gym. I find that continuous movement often gets my ideas flowing.
•How often do you write in a writing group? Do you like writing in a group better than on your own?
I write with other people about once a week, sometimes more. However, we are not a group, in that we don’t read each other’s work or do any kind of a critique. We just keep each other company and talk shop now and then.
I love it, but I couldn’t do it every day. I am a solitary animal.
•What is your opinion on third person vs. first person? In most of your books, you have written in first person, but you made a different choice when writing The Disreputable History of Frankie Laudau-Banks.
First person comes easily to me; I like experimenting with new voices. Switching to third person for Disreputable History was just a gut instinct, and I took some time at the beginning trying to find a voice for that omniscient narrator.
•Who is your favorite character you’ve written?
My favorite character by me is Lyle in Dramarama. I have a lot of love for Lyle.
•How did you meet your writer friends?
In 2004 (I think), author and editor David Levithan started up a “teen author drinks night” once a month in NYC. Sarah Mlynowski was helping him get people interested, and I think she’d read an advance copy of The Boyfriend List, so although she didn’t know me, she emailed and invited me. I met most of my writer friends there over the past couple years. Some others I’ve met at conferences.
•You have a doctorate in literature, and spent your time in graduate school reading the classics. How did your time in graduate school affect you as a writer?
I read a tremendous number of books — and read widely outside my comfort zone. Challenging books, boring books, books I loved but would never have known about. A lot of 20th-century South African writers, for example. And 18th-century French novels. Doing all that reading gave me a fluidity with language and an understanding of narrative structure that I think has served me well.
I also had to write a lot of papers — and a book-length dissertation. Once I had done that, I knew I could write a book.
•Where in the canon of English literature would you locate your books?
Popular literature and entertainment often become canonized over time. Hitchcock films are now shown in cinema history class. Shakespeare plays are taught in school. Dickens novels, likewise. All of these were light entertainment in their day. So to my eye, the line between highbrow and lowbrow entertainment is always a potentially fluid one.
I’m thrilled to be part of a huge surge in literature for young adults. This category of fiction — YA — didn’t even exist until the 1950s, and the recent boom of books only began in the early 2000′s. Teenagers have more to read now than they have ever had before — more books written about the teenage experience and with a teenage audience in mind. Now adults are reading these books, too. The YA novel is changing and developing before our eyes, and I think this time period will be an important one for later historians to look at.
•What’s your opinion on the new wave of schools swaying from the “canon” of books for English class?
With the caveat that I was trained to educate Ivy League college students, not to consider the issues involved in teaching high schoolers, not to consider literacy problems, not to teach to tests, etc. etc — here’s my opinion.
I do believe in teaching the literary canon. I think one of the many benefits of education is that we come out of our educations with a shared culture and sense of history. If we’ve read the same books and authors as other people, it gives us common ground and a jumping-off point for serious discussion and deeper understanding.
That said, I think the literary canon is and should be an evolving thing. More books by women, more books from cultures other than Western, more books by people of color — these are beginning to be included, and should be included more. And I also think the canon can be taught badly and taught too early. If you are a teacher with a room full of struggling 10th graders who hate to read, force-feeding them Virginia Woolf is not going to provide them a better education than selecting a thoughtful, well-written and literary book that is FUN and not obscenely challenging for readers whose skill levels are not ideal. Such a book can engage them quickly and powerfully. I am sure many smart and excellent classroom discussions have been had over MT Anderson’s Feed, Coe Booth‘sTyrell, or An Na's A Step from Heaven. Interspersing such books with canonical works seems like a wise strategy to me.
Also, even very high achieving students in today’s hyper-competetive environment are losing track of pleasure in reading. I think teachers educating those students should by all means teach the canon, but they should also briefly booktalk leisure reading possibilities for their classes. Just make the students aware of what’s out there that they might like. Give them a fun-read booklist. Or an extra credit assignment to read something purely for the love of it. Because too many of the high school students I know (and this high-achieving kind is the kind I largely know)– they have lost track of the joy in books. Books are just assignments to slog through so they can write the papers so they can get the As so they can apply to Yale.
And that is sad.
•Will you or could you ever write a book with a male protagonist. Why or why not?
I haven’t written a YA book with a male protagonist, but I have done so for younger readers.
•I’m in a transition. Right now, there are moments when teen books are wonderful, but moments when I feel I’m outgrowing some of the aspects of teen literature I used to like. What type of books would you recommend that aren’t too adult-oriented (like too much sex or raunchy scenes) but aren’t too predictably coming-of-age?
If you like comic and realistic teen literature but want to move beyond it without delving completely into adult territory, here are some books I’ve loved that fit the bill. All of them are FUN CITY, but in different ways.
John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
Ruth Ozeki, My Year of Meats
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club
Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of AJ Fickry
Michael Chabon, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
Jeff Eugenedies, The Virgin Suicides
Adriana Trigiani, Lucia Lucia
Christopher Moore, A Dirty Job
Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen
Alan Bradley, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Also: Do you know about the Alex Awards? They're given each year to best adult fiction for young adult readers. The Alex list is great place to find books.
• What did you read as a teenager?
Everything – until I started having boyfriends. I remember reading Go Ask Alice (diary of a drug-addicted teen), A Spell for Chameleon (comic fantasy by Piers Anthony) and Little Women (the classic, by Louisa May Alcott), all the same year.
After boys came on the scene, I went through a reading hiatus that lasted until summer after high school, when I discovered Charlotte Brontë.
•Who are your favorite authors, YA or otherwise?
Jaclyn Moriarty is my favorite. She wrote The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie, The Year of Secret Assignments, The Ghosts of Ashbury High and A Corner of White – go read these books, now!
Rock the Vote
INTERVIEWS (in chronological order)
- In March 2005 I did a dialog with novelist Megan Crane on the Beatrice weblog. We discuss our very similar educations, and the paths we took from academia to writing fiction.
- In November, 2005, I did two interviews with Cynthia Leitich Smith for her children’s literature weblog. Here’s the one about The Boyfriend List, and here’s the one about Fly on the Wall. Then in 2007 she interviewed me about Dramarama.
- I did interview about Disreputable History at Debbi Michiko Florence’s website.
- Lauren Myracle, Sarah Mlynowski and I did a Los Angeles Times interview for How to Be Bad.
- In May, 2008, an interview at the YAYAYAs about Disreputable History.
- An interview on BookBrowse about Disreputable History.
- In June, 2008, Lauren Myracle, Sarah Mlynowski and I were interviewed at The Five Randoms.
- In November, 2008, this interview with Rita Williams Garcia for the National Book Foundation, about Disreputable History.
- A 2009 interview with writer Tabitha Olson about Disreputable History.
- In 2011, I wrote this guest-blog post for novelist Cynthia Leitich Smith, about cats and how I come up with stories.
- Also in 2011, I wrote a blog post for Bookworm Readers about how I write my chapter titles in the Ruby Oliver novels.
- Here are links to all the spots in my blog tour for Real Live Boyfriends, 2011.
- Not an interview, but useful if you're doing academic work on Disreputable History: YA Subscription’s video analysis of the book, with Kristin Cashore. It’s stunning and long, but there’s comprehensive written summary.
- In 2013 I did an hour-long audio interview on writing techniques for Cheryl Klein’s podcast, The Narrative Breakdown.
- A 2014 interview with
- Debbi Michiko Florence about We Were Liars.2014 YALSA Hub interview.
- 2014 essay for the Los Angeles Times about leaving academia for young adult literature.
- 2014 interview with YA Interrobang about We Were Liars.
- Parade magazine interview with Sona Charaipotra about We Were Liars, from 2014.
- Podcast interview with novelist Sarah Zarr about the writing life, 2015.
- In the 2015 School Library Journal Battle of the Books, author Kelly Barnhill had to choose a winner between We Were Liars and West of the Moon. West of the Moon won, but then Liars came back into the competition as an Undead entry, and went on to the final round, which was judged by Newbery-winning novelist Claire Vanderpool.
JUST FOR FUN Q&As (also in chronological order)
- Laurie Stolarz, author of the Blue is for Nightmares series, had me confess all my guilty pleasures. Though none of them do I feel guilty about.
- Shanna Swendson, author of Enchanted Inc., asked me a string of fun questions and then confessed where SHE wanted to be a fly on the wall.
- Laura Bowers, who wrote Beauty Shop for Rent, quizzed me on my beauty routines and writing processes.
- In May, 2006, BookBurger interviewed me.
- In April, 2007, Little Willow interviewed me for Dramarama — all about musical theater and the future of the Ruby Oliver books.
- I was interviewed at Chicklish — talking about Dramarama and The Boy Book.
- Novelist Tara Altebrando let me participate in her wild author scavenger hunt interview, 2012.
- Not an interview, but The Bookish Manicurist did some great Ruby Oliver nails.
- Links to other fun Q&As and more serious interviews can by found by reading through the “links” category of my blog.