Q&A: E. Lockhart: On plotting, personality and digital postcards
We have loved basically every one of E. Lockhart's amazing novels — though her last book, We Were Liars, in particular wrecked us. So of course we were excited about E's newest book, Genuine Fraud, which is out next week. We caught up with the author to get the scoop …
Genuine Fraud has a fractured timeline, how did you write it? We're imagining lots of numbered post cards laid out on your floor …
Mostly Genuine Fraud has a straight-up backwards timeline. You start with the protagonist, Jule, on the run from a very deluxe hotel in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Why is she running? And from whom? The next chapter takes you back a little ways, so you learn more about the events leading up to this escape. Then you go back a little earlier, and a little earlier.
I wrote it and the outline of the major events in chronological order and then reversed it! There were numbered post cards, yes, but they were digital. I write in word-processing program called Scrivener.
Your protagonist in GF is fascinating, and the way that you reveal small truths in the midst of her story is very well done. It's very clear to the reader what those truths are -- how did you go about accomplishing that?
Thank you. I wanted to write about an unusual woman who represented some sides of myself that don’t very often come to light. There’s a scene in the middle of the novel where she tells a story about herself like it happened to someone else. And she tells a lot of stories about herself that may not be factual. I am interested in how slippery the idea of the self is. What are we to ourselves? What if we tell lies so much we believe them ourselves?
Genuine Fraud tackles identity, friendship and wealth. What do you hope your readers get out of this story?
I hope readers argue about the story — it’s got a lot of talking points and I expect people will disagree. Maybe they will think about their own identities, and what components go into them. Plus I hope they feel they’ve been on a wild ride.
We Were Liars was such a twisty success we're not sure we'll ever get over. How do you handle spoiler alerts for books like WWL and GF? Do you ever allow them at signings or is there is an acceptable amount of time that must pass? (Like we can all admit now that Bruce Willis was dead in The Sixth Sense.)
My events are spoiler-free! People can come up and ask me questions privately in the signing line if they want, to, though.
You've written both comedies and thrillers — which character of yours would you most like to hang out with?
We Were Liars and Genuine Fraud are psychological thrillers, but all my books before those were comedies with romantic elements — The Boyfriend List, Fly on the Wall, How to Be Bad, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. The comedy characters would be a lot more fun to pal around with than the thriller characters. But I’d like to hang with Paolo Vallarta-Bellstone from Genuine Fraud. He’s the main love interest for the heroine, Jule, and he’s backpacking around the world while escaping some big family drama back at home. He’s adventurous and funny and has a big sweet tooth — all qualities I really like in a guy.
What's the best book you've read in 2017?
Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. It’s an eye-opening story of love, fairy tales and the potential for evil in all of us.
What are you working on next?
I’m halfway through drafting a novel about a woman who meets the same guy, six times, and falls for him every time. Or is he the same guy? He doesn’t look the same …
Anything you'd like to add?
There’s a new edition of We Were Liars — and it has all kinds of cool extras in the back. It’s called the Deluxe Edition. There are book club questions and recipes, new love letters, a hand-drawn map and a lot of material for people interested in writing and in the process of creating that novel.
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