You’ve heard of the book. You’ve seen the reviews. You’ve probably got it on your pre-order list and are counting down the moments until you find out what happens. After all, that’s the only you’re going to learn what happens in E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars. The publishers have kept quiet. The reviewers have kept quiet.
And E. Lockhart herself is most definitely keeping quiet.
“I think people love having a secret. And then sharing a secret. And then inviting other people to share the secret. It is really fun. So I don’t worry too much. No one told me the end of Allegiant!,” said Lockhart.
We Were Liars takes place on a private island with a distinguished family, and there are plenty of lies – and that’s all anybody will tell you. Some reviewers compared it to classics; some proclaim it to be a game-changer in the young adult industry. But Lockhart doesn’t see it as brave to challenge the stereotypical format of the novel.
“I think teen readers adore structural and stylistic experimentation. Many adults remember vividly their first encounter with Kurt Vonnegut or Tom Robbins, for example – probably in high school or college – because the writers’ playful experimentation seemed to open up the universe. For me, this experience repeated reading A Clockwork Orange and The Color Purple – the voices were so strong, so aggressively stylized, it was thrilling. YA readers have a blast reading stylized voices and narratives that experiment beyond traditional structures, and young adult literature is reflecting that more and more. I don’t think We Were Liars is a game-changing book at all. I think it is part of a continuum of YA novels that play with perception and expectations while doing something structurally or narratively unusual,” said Lockhart.
Lockhart, who considers We Were Liars in the same vein as Justine Larbalestier’s Liar and Gene Yang’s Boxers & Saints, doesn’t understand why people stereotype and shame the young adult genre. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t ready for criticism.
“I was braced for people calling We Were Liars pretentious as all hell.”
A huge part of the promotion for We Were Liars that might have earned that sort of label was its Pinterest board: a beautiful collection of houses and quotes that later became a fully-fledged website in its own right.
“I don’t use images as inspirations in my writing process so much as I [use]them to communicate with my publishers,” said Lockhart. “I have little flirtations with PInterest and then abandon it for big periods. I am much more loyal to Twitter.”
When Lockhart isn’t writing, she takes her Twitter account, where she features her observations on New York City subway readers: detailed accounts of what they look like and what they’re reading. The project started when Ayun Halliday, author of the YA graphic novel Peanut, began thinking about a project where she found readers in public places and asked to see their home libraries. As only Halliday could get total strangers to invite her back to say hello to their libraries, it made her see the readers on train in a different light. With more and more people reading on the phone, “it’s a rarity when you spot an actual book.”
“No one ever catches me taking notes on what they’re reading on the train. I am stealthy!”
Between tweets and well-deserved rest, Lockhart will be touring around the United States to promote We Were Liars. Her events in New York City will feature other authors, including Susane Colasanti, Lauren Oliver, Sarah Mylnowski and Jennifer Smith.
“We promise to be lively and silly and to answer lots of questions. What else? I have cute Liars bookmarks. I will tell you secret truths about We Were Liars,” said Lockhart. “We Were Liars is the most romantic book I have ever written. “
After the tour is over, and We Were Liars is safely in the hands of all of her secret-keeping readers, Lockhart will sink her teeth into a new project.
“I am freaking out that I haven’t yet started my new, super-pretentious highly stylized and formally experimental project, because I have forgotten how to write books. Not kidding,” joked Lockhart.
For more on Lockhart, follow her on Twitter and visit her on her website.