BookTok, YA Fiction, Writing Prequels & More With NY Times Bestselling Author E Lockhart

E Lockhart
The thrilling prequel to the TikTok phenomenon and #1 New York Times bestseller We Were Liars takes readers back to the story of another summer, another generation, and the secrets that haunt.

TikTok still remains out of bounds for the Indian audiences so for the uninitiated BookTok is a subcommunity on the app. It focuses on books and literature and creators make videos reviewing, discussing and joking, sometimes even crying about the books they read. BookTok videos are influencing publishers and bestseller lists. Lockhart’s book We Are Lairs, which was released in 2014, found its way to the #BookTok last year. E Lockhart, who is also the author of Genuine Fraud, Again Again and Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero has now come out with a prequel to the book titled Family Of LairsYoung adult fiction books are full of twists and turns and keep you glued until the last page. The prequel to the book comes eight years after the first book, but fans are not complaining.

SheThePeople got a chance to speak to E Lockhart about the changing readership of YA fiction, her decision to pen a sequel to her bestseller after eight years and more.

Between the first book We are Liars and Family of Liars there is a gap of eight years, how do you think the readership and market for YA fiction have changed during this?

 TikTok creators began making short films with the hashtag #booktok. With We Were Liars, the most powerful videos were of people sobbing. They had snot and mascara running down their faces. The #booktok influence on YA fiction has been huge, bringing many books onto the bestseller lists.

Women reach out to their sisterhood for various things, but when it comes to grief, they bottle it up. You have touched upon this when you talk about Rosemary’s death in your book. Your comment.

Family of Liars is about a girl who is the eldest child in a self-mythologizing family. The family members believe in upholding the Sinclair family reputation, in living a joyful life, in keeping a stiff upper lip. When they’re confronted with a tragedy, the drowning of their youngest child, they mourn briefly. Then they try to overcome it and move on. Carrie, the heroine of the novel, is unable to do that. She needs to process her grief and that’s really hard in a culture of repression. Later in the novel, she commits a terrible crime — and maybe part of the reason is that she has had so little support in processing the tragedy of losing her sister.

“I think, don’t take no for an answer is a lesson we teach boys who would be better off learning that no means no.” Outside of the novel have we been able to implement this in our society? What are the conversations we still need to have to make sure this happens?

 Family of Liars is set in 1987 and the quotation refers to sexual consent and also to the general American value of persistence — not taking “no” for an answer. That value can be a good one, but it’s also problematic. If you don’t take “no” for an answer, you can end up perpetrating some pretty terrible acts upon people who are resisting you. I do think people talk about sexual consent much more openly now than we used to. Television shows and books model relaxed ways of asking for and obtaining consent, normalizing it. People are better educated about consent. That makes me hopeful.

The idea of family honour, expectations of family, perceptions of the society are themes common to both the novels. As a conservative society, in India, these are common issues faced by young adults. This was an interesting parallel to note for me as a reader. Your comments.

Over and over, people from cultures other than mine have told me that they see their own families in my books. I think that is because even though We Were Liars and Family of Liars are about East Coast old money Democrats who own a private island where they spend their summer vacations, the issues are close to universal. When you grow up, you begin to question the values of your family of origin. It is a time when you are becoming yourself independently, and there’s often conflict in that process.

A New York Times review of Family of Liars says “Carrie’s quiet struggles with her family in the prequel resonates stronger when viewed alongside Cady’s more explosive challenges in the original.” Do you agree to this?

I do think people will have more fun with Family of Liars if they read We Were Liars first. It can stand alone, but the books are meant to go together! Read Family of Liars to uncover answers to many small mysteries left open in We Were Liars. And for another big plot twist.

Suggested Reading: Aanchal Malhotra On Unlearning With Her New Book ‘In The Language Of Remembering’

Have you faced any stereotypes for being a  YA fiction author? Do authors get “typed” for writing a certain genre?

I suppose some people think adult fiction is a more valuable art form than books for teenagers, but teenagers read their favorite books six, eight, ten times. They pay more attention than adult readers, to the books they really love. I am so lucky to write for them.

E Lockhart

We Are Lairs by E Lockhart

You took eight years to write the prequel to a bestselling novel, when and how did you take the decision? What were the challenges you faced in terms of your writing process?

 I was busy writing other novels! I published Genuine Fraud, a thriller about a con artist. And Again Again, a love story set in multiple universes. I also invented a superhero for DC comics called Whistle. When We Were Liars became popular again thanks to TikTok, I spent some time thinking about how I might write another story set on Beechwood Island. I didn’t want to disappoint my readers and it took a good while to figure out what would be the most powerful and surprising next story.

 Tell us a bit about your writing corner. 

I have a lovely office in my apartment. It has a pretty blue rug, a large painting by my grandmother, and a couch where I do most of my writing.  My cats keep me company. There is a park outside my window. I feel blessed to write in this space, but I also write on airplanes, on the subway, in hotel rooms, in cafes, wherever I can. My work has me traveling a lot for speeches and book promotion, so I have to be flexible.

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