Welcome to the Spotlight E. Lockhart and We Were Liars!


I’m jumping up and down with glee because I’m shining the spotlight on one of my favorite authors. Let’s give a warm welcome to E. Lockhart and her upcoming thrilling YA novel! Stay tuned below to win an advance copy. You’ll be able to read it before everyone else!

9780385741262_p0_v2_s260x420We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (Random House)

Pub date: May 13, 2014

This is one of those books you are going to want to read as soon as you can. In fact, I don’t want to risk sharing my personal summary of this book, for fear of giving anything away. So, I’ll share the one from from the publisher’s web site:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I won’t lie to you about this: We Were Liars was an incredible read! A story filled with suspense and love and friendship. I had to read it in one sitting.

Spotlight on E. Lockhart:

How did this story come about? How did the characters come to you?

It began with the adult characters. Three competetive sisters and a grieving patriarch.  I wanted to write a kind of King Lear Chekovian thing about sisters and property and difficult family dynamics.

I also had the idea for a setting — a private island off the coast of Massachusetts — partly because I love mysteries set in places like that, although I knew I wouldn’t be writing a mystery. You know, books like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, where all the suspects are trapped in one inaccessible place. I also love country house books, like Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim or I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith,Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. So I was thinking about that kind of setting and how it might affect my characters.

It took me much longer to think through what would be happening with the younger generation of people in the family, which of course was really going be my focus, since I write for young audiences. I knew that race would come into it. And a group of friends who had  a very intense connection that turns destructive. I read Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and took a lot of notes about how she structured her plot and build character and tension.

The Liars, as the three cousins and “adopted” cousin call themselves, spend every summer on an island where their parents and grandparents own homes. Sounds very posh, very ritzy. How did you spend your summers when you were a teen?

Drama camp. If you’re curious, read my book Dramarama. All the drama camp angst went into that book.  As for We Were Liars, my mother’s family does have a home on Martha’s Vineyard, a sweet little one-story place on two acres. Unbelievably nice but not crazy posh. Still, I have been going to the Vineyard since 1973, and as an adult I still go every summer, though as a teenager I found it boring. From those summers I got a lot of the details about the island setting, the moneyed WASP world there, and how beautiful it is and how also problematic.

The story is built around Cady’s lost memory of the summer she was 15. How much of a challenge was it to write this story? How did you figure out all the details for the plot?

I wrote We Were Liars in Scrivener, and it was the first book I wrote using that tool.

Scrivener allows you to rearrange chunks of your story and label them. So I had all these parts labeled Fifteen and Seventeen and Flashback, to indicate whether the event happened in the summer the characters were fifteen or the summer they were seventeen, or further back. I organized and re-organized the parts many times. I always had the five-act structure, but what was actually in those five acts changed on a scene-by-scene basis. A day by day basis!

I don’t really recommend this process. It was kind of a nightmare.

I also read a lot of amnesia books and tried to learn from the way the authors revealed bits of memory and pieced story pieces together. I read Rosebush by Michelle Jaffe, Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson, Burnout by Adrienne Vrettos, and a number of others.

Anything else you’d like to share about the journey of this novel?

Well, I am supposed to keep the plotline under wraps. Publishers orders! But:

I grew up reading loads of fairy tales — those collected by Andrew Lang (The Red Fairy Book etc) and Howard Pyle (The Wonder Clock etc.)  — but also many in picture book form, particularly those illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, who was my mother’s favorite contemporary illustrator. My mother also collected fairy tale books with illustrations by Arthur Rackham, Harry Clarke, and other late-19th and early 20th-century artists.

We Were Liars makes use of some of that early education. In it, I retell a number of well-known fairy tales and some lesser-known, in such a way that the fairy tales tell the story of the family I am writing about  — if that makes any sense. I had a whole part based on the fairy tale White Cat, and I ended up cutting it — but all the others stayed in, and I was pleased with how that part of the novel ended up working, as I wasn’t sure it would be any good at all when I began it.

E. Lockhart is the author of a number of novels, including The Boyfriend List and its sequels, DramaramaFly on the Wall and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. She teaches at Hamline University’s MFA program in Writing for Children. 

For more about E. Lockhart and her books, check out her web site, her Twitter feed, her Pinterest board, and Tumblr.

To win an Advance copy of this amazing book:

1. Comment on this post. For fun, tell me what comes to mind when you think about your childhood/teen summers. Because I grew up in West Los Angeles, my summers usually involved hanging out at the beach in Santa Monica with my friends. We usually took the bus, but sometimes we (insanely) walked. Getting there was always half the fun.

2. You must have a U.S. mailing address. (Apologies to everyone else – I’m paying for the book and the shipping.)

3. Comment by midnight EST, Friday, March 28th. The winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, April 1st.
Thanks for stopping by! Happy reading!

54 responses »

  1. My teen summers include working at a bird sanctuary for injured birds of prey and working at a dry cleaners where I got to inhale carcinogens in a 115-degree environment. Good stuff. I already have this book on order at my local independent bookstore, but if I win I will donate it to St. Anne’s Institute, an facility dedicated to housing, educating and giving therapy to at-risk girls. Their library is less than satisfactory.

  2. I’m so looking forward to reading We Were Liars and even more so now. I worked in a greenhouse during the day and a concession at a drive-in movie theater at night. Late nights were spent partying in the boonies and skinny dipping–and going to bed at dawn, getting up a couple hours later to do it again. I usually caught up on my sleep by going to the beach for a day.

  3. I spent my summers on an island off of South Carolina. Much like E. Lockhart’s experiences discussed in this interview, there was a great deal of money on the island. There were also many problems. I enjoyed the beauty of the island, as it wasn’t highly developed and I spent many a summer reading novel after novel on a hammock near the water.

  4. I can’t wait to read. I love E. Lockhart’s books, and am dying to get my hands on this one. I too love books about houses with history or secrets. Right now I’m also really excited about young adult fiction too! Can’t wait to read We Were Liars.

  5. I can’t wait to read this! E. Lockhart is one of my faves! I grew up in L.A. too (like totally a Valley girl). When I was 14, my mom took my three siblings and me on a six-week tent camping trip to Niagara Falls and back to L.A.

  6. I am so excited for this book! I spent my summers going to the community pool and the elementary school playground I live next to with a group of friends

  7. This looks excellent, thanks for the chance to win it. I worked in the summers starting when I was 15, sometimes as a carpenters helper or a truck-loader but my favorite job was landscaping because we got to be outside all day. In our free time my friends and I would pile into someone’s car and go camping, or out to a tavern, or some other fun thing. Once we each packed a bag and drove from Toronto to Florida for a couple of weeks. Those were fun times.

  8. We went to Maine every summer. Our cabin was right on a lake, so all we did was swim and row our 18 foot dory and paddle our plywood surfboard standing up and swim and paddle and go exploring in the woods. We had the first indoor toilet in the neighborhood of about 6 camps (what you call a single family summer place in New England) and ten plus kids. We were a herd of kids. I still go there today.
    The book sounds really interesting.

  9. Elementary school summers: reading indoors. Middle school summers: sunburning at the pool. High school summers: all theater. I love Dramarama, even though I never went to theater camp. Really looking forward to this one.

  10. My teen summers included working for the people who had summer cabins on the nearby lake. I did everything from mowing lawns and housecleaning to babysitting, frequently riding my bicycle the six or seven miles.

  11. I can’t wait to read this!

    We spent two weeks every summer on Nantucket where we had huge neighborhood barbeques and games of kick-the-can with our summer friends. Lots and lots of kids of all ages. Long bike rides, kite flying, and the beach. So many memories!

  12. Last summer, I backpacked around Germany and Austria with my high school history class! It was an incredible experience. I can’t wait to read We Were Liars–I’ve heard so much about it!

  13. Summertime for me meant going to my grams’ in Alabama and swimming at the Officer’s Club pool on the base near her. We’d always get hot dogs and sodas and try not to burn our feet on the brick pavilion.

  14. Oh wow! This sounds amazing! I have always had a special place in my heart for stories that take inspiration from the old fairy tales. My adolescent summers were in Spokane, Washington and bring to mind family camping trips, slab dances at the local high school’s outdoor basketball court and waterskiing with friends at Newman Lake. Thanks for the great interview you two!

  15. Summers were not about beaches, that’s for sure. Living in Michigan, we don’t much do beaches. We are more about the pools. Summer was always a chance to veg out and escape. It was a time to stay up late and hang out with friends until the sun came out again. It was about meeting new people. Love summer!

  16. Summers were always the best! We would go “up North” and spend time with friends and family at our grandparent’s place on the lake. We would also just run a bit wild at home – we were never a beach kind of family but definitely hung out at the local pool on super hot days. I kind of miss it!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  17. For me, summers were about overnight camp. I went for four years and had an amazing experience. I got to go white water rafting, mountain climbing, and so much more. Plus I’m still friends with someone I met back in the day.

  18. Growing up in Texas, when I think of summer I think of unbearably hot days where all you can do is lie as still as possible (preferably by a water source) and hot summer nights with friends driving around in the hill country with no where to go, but forward.

  19. I grew up in a little house on the beach, so my summers remind me of the smell of Coppertone, brownie pans full of water outside the door to dip our feet in (and not track sand through the house), collections of seaglass and shells, and salty blonde hair.

  20. When I think if summers I think of waitressing, sunburns and driving the Connecticut coast at night with a car full of friends.

  21. Summers on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. No television and no radio (except a weather radio). Just tons of books and blank paper. (and siblings!) I practiced handsprings and other gymnastics on the beach. We climbed the lighthouse every day, the only people we ever saw there (my, how that’s changed!). We rarely saw anyone else on the beach even though it was July and August. We fished and crabbed and clammed for dinner. When we got really bored, we walked to the Red Drum tackle shop or the pier to see if any of the old men had caught anything. Sometimes we would drive to Nags Head to climb Jockey’s Ridge, where the Wright Brothers flew their plane. In those days, we didn’t know about hurricanes until they were nearly there. We might wake up in the morning, look out the window, and realize the waves were MUCH closer to the house and all our clothes had blown off the line. It happened that fast. Once we had to drive off the island through several feet of water. The policeman stopped our car and told my dad to get the kids to lie in the floorboard of the van. The weight at the bottom would make us less likely to be washed out to sea. I remember lying there on the floor, feeling the waves on the other side of the floorboard, looking up at my dad who seemed to sweat gallons as he drove us to safety.

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