E Lockhart discusses The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Are you a prankster? Could you have pulled off Frankie's pranks?
I am not and have never been much of a prankster, though in college I was a big
sneaker-arounder. (That is not a word, I know, but The Disreputable History
is partly a book about making up words, so I'm using it anyway. It's my
prerogative as an author.)
Okay, back to college. My friends and I snuck into the chapel late at night, got
on the roof of the film center (for romance) and the dance studio (for
tanning)and yes, we had parties on the golf course. There was a fair amount of
streaking as well! But we weren't engaging in social or institutional critique
in any systematic way, the way Frankie is. To write Frankie's pranks I had to do
some significant research and really push my imagination.
Did you, like Frankie, struggle with other people's assumptions about your
skills or abilities?
I certainly did as a teenager and young adult. I think a big part of why I
got a doctorate in English literature was that I wanted concrete evidence of my
intellectual worth. I often felt that neither my boyfriends nor my professors
really saw me as serious, and that my boyfriends didn't see me as equal.
That's not to say I had a whole slew of sexist boyfriends who wanted me to stay
home and cook (which I quite enjoy doing, actually) rather than work or study.
Not at all: they were nice guys and all for equal opportunity and equal pay.
It's to say that they did not really rate me as a contender for the kinds of
aspirations they themselves had. They did not seek to learn anything from me,
but rather to have me learn from themto share in their interests.
And the professors?
One of my professors in grad school used to pat me on the head. That university
English department was definitely an Old Boys Club, and it was hard for the
women there to break through and succeed. This feeling of being
underestimated was really the start of The Disreputable History. I try to
begin a book by considering what I am angry about. And I am still angry about
thatand angry when it happens to me today. Although it happens much less often.
Now I am comfortable enough with my place in the world and my relationships to
write comedies instead of dissertations.
What's the best part of writing for young adults? What's the most
The best part of writing for young adults, in terms of my daily life, is the
community of fellow writers. When I have written for adults or very young
children, I haven't had a supportive community, but the YA writers in New York
convene together for writing days, talk shop, share advice (and horror stories)
and generally support one another. Sometimes, we even make dance videos. Much of
The Disreputable History was written in a coffee shop alongside the three
authors who have been my most regular writing companionsScott Westerfeld, John
Green, and Maureen Johnsonand I've learned so much from just seeing their
discipline, listening to their jokes, and watching them procrastinate.