Monday, April 24, 2006

Uncovering the Gherkin~Welcome to E. Lockhart!

Today it is my pleasure to host the well-known YA author, E. Lockhart, here in Martha-Land. Lockhart is the author of the successful The Boyfriend List as well as the brand new novel, Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw EVERYTHING. Welcome, E! So glad you could be here.

I haven't read all the books whose authors I host, but E sent me a copy of this one. It was unputdownable. This is just the kind of book I'd have picked up as a teenager. Check out the advance praise!


Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything is about a girl called Gretchen Kaufman Yee who goes to a wacked-out art school in New York City. She's a collector of plastic Chinese food and odd figurines, a passionate comic-book artist, and a crazy Spider-man fanatic. She's also completely freaked out by the opposite sex -- in particular, the Art Rats, a group of guys in her drawing concentration. One day, she wishes she could be "a fly on the wall of the boys' locker room," just to find out what the heck guys really talk about.

And the next thing she knows... she is.

A fly.

On the wall of the locker room.

E. Lockhart is the author of The Boyfriend List and its forthcoming sequel, The Boy Book.

“A super-smart, super-sweet, and super-fantastic read.”
-- Sarah Mlynowski, author of Bras & Broomsticks and Milkrun

From The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books:
"The stylish text (rendered nearly multivocal by the periodic font changes) combined with Gretchen's frank fascination with the oddity and then the humanity of the male body and psyche are a rare treat."

From Publishers Weekly:
"Narrator Gretchen Yee will grab readers from the first page with her snappy commentary."

MO'C: How did you get this idea for this book? Please describe how the book grew from a glimmer of an idea into a whole novel.
EL: I had a few titles I was tossing around in my head. Sometimes I find it useful to begin with a title. I liked "fly on the wall" because it had some energy -- some action. It forces you to ask a question: Where?

Then I went to take a shower.

Naturally, I was naked.

I write mainly for and about teenage girls, so I thought -- where would a teenage girl want most to be a fly on the wall?

And the answer suddenly seemed clear: the boys' locker room.

I don't know if being naked affected the direction my imagination took. It was my first naked writing experience.

MO'C: Is Gretchen at all like you? How and why?
EL: Gretchen is half-Chinese-American, half-Jewish; she's also half-human, half-insect. I am half-WASP, half-Jewish, and I was interested in writing about split identities; I think we feel those splits especially strongly when we are teens, trying to figure out where we fit in the world. Like Gretchen, I also went to an arts high school (though not in New York and not for visual arts) where I felt painfully ordinary. But her anger, her pack rat behavior, her comic book obsession, her problems with boys -- all of those are rather different from who I am in real life.

MO'C: I have to ask about this whole gherkin thing. By the way, I think it's brave and brilliant to reveal the mysteries of the gherkin, as teenaged girls everywhere will attest. But I'm wondering, is this slang used a lot? We used the more... traditional terms in my high school. Heh.
EL: You know what I wanted the subtitle of this book to be? Fly on the Wall: or, How I Learned the Mysteries of the Gherkin.

But no one would let me call it that.

As for the word, I made it up! I thought it was funny.

Then I looked it up on and found that people did in fact employ the definition I was attributing to the word. I got the term "milkshake" off urban dictionary (it's from a song... "my milkshake is betta than yours...."), and for "biscuits" I downloaded this enormous list of boob slang (like way over 100 words; the boobs really do seem to fascinate people) and picked the one I found most amusing. I also made up the homophobic slang in the book. Mary Poppins, Bottom Feeder, etc.

MO'C: I love how you deal with the issue of homosexuality among teens. Seems to me a lot of books either ignore the issue entirely or turn it into a Movie of the Week kind of deal. Can you discuss this topic a bit?
EL: Thank you. I think more and more books are being published which find a way to portray gay teenage characters without any movie-of-the-week qualities. David Levithan's lighthearted gay romance, Boy Meets Boy, for example.

I do not think it would be accurate, interesting or responsible to write a book about a boys' locker room in high school without addressing homosexuality and the kinds of language people use to disassociate themselves from it. So the subject of Fly on the Wall naturally lends itself to some exploration of those issues, as well as Gretchen's heterosexuality.

I'm heterosexual, myself. But look, I just think it's all good. Whomever you love, you love. I have a lot of gay friends, male and female. I had even more back in college. I lived in Chelsea for 7 years. It's part of where I live, whom I know, what I care about.

MO'C: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
EL: Get an internship at a publishing house, if you can possibly manage it. This is a business based on connections and understanding how the industry works is extremely helpful, too.

MO'C: What's your writing day like? Any tips or tricks for getting organized?
EL: I write every day for about 5 hours in the morning. Real concrete writing time is probably 4 hours. Once a project is going along, I find it useful to set word-count goals -- 1000 or 2000 words a day. I push.

MO'C: What's been the most exciting thing about publishing? The most frustrating?
EL: I love to see the actual book. I want to kiss it! A real object that has my words in it! I love the Fly cover.

Most frustrating? I suppose when a publisher doesn't get behind a book. It comes out, but it's not in stores and it's not reviewed. That's happened to me more than once.

MO'C: Do you think you might write a sequel to this novel? If not, what else is in the works?
EL: No, no sequel to Fly on the Wall. What would Gretchen turn into next, a pteranodon? a kitten? blech.

But my fall book is the sequel to my book The Boyfriend List. It's called The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors plus Techniques for Taming Them, and it comes out in September. The book I'm currently working on, called Dramarama, is about theater-crazy teenagers and bad behavior at summer drama camp.

Thank you so much for visiting the blog, E! Check out her book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the best choice, an indy bookstore.