Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Meet Emily Lockhart!

My "visit" with author Emily ("E.") Lockhart was a little delayed by the holiday weekend and subsequent inclement weather but late is definitely better than never. I'm pleased to introduce everyone to the celebrated author of Fly on the Wall, Dramarama, How to Be Bad (together with Sarah Mlynowski and Lauren Myracle), and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, which was a National Book Award finalist, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, and received a Cybils Award for Best Young Adult Novel. She is also the author of 4 books featuring the irrepressible and irresistible Ruby Oliver.  The fourth in the series, Real Live Boyfriends was published in December and is the focal point of Emily's current blog tour.  Visit her at, where you can read all about Ruby. Or check out her blog at But, first, get a little insight into this delightful and talented author by taking a look at how Emily answered my questions:

R.A.: Thank you for giving Ruby Oliver such a unique voice. Which of her qualities do you admire most? Were you anything like Ruby in High School and, if not, did you know anyone like her? 

E: Thank you! I work very hard on the voice. Ruby is a hot mess, for certain, but she does have some great qualities.  I admire her willingness to grow and change. She is very open. She tries to be a good person.  I also admire her enthusiasm.  Apathy is my least favorite quality in a human being. Ruby is like me, or certain parts of me, jacked up and exaggerated.  I was, like her, an ardent vintage shopper and a boy-crazy lunatic. But the things that happened to her never did happen to me. I made them up. 

R.A.: I appreciate that you are a writer who carefully develops her characters. You are very generous with the supporting characters who get to utter some of the most insightful dialog in the book. For instance, when Ruby is filming Finn and asks him to define love, he says love is about trust. He then explains, “Love is when you give someone else the power to destroy you and you trust them not to do it.” That’s a pretty mature thought for a teenager. Is this how you would define love? Is love different when you’re in high school and afterwards? And what about trust – do you think the meaning and nature of trust changes as you get older? 

E: I appreciate what Finn says, but it has taken me four Ruby novels to kind of, sort of, a little bit define love. I can't put it in a sentence. 

I suppose for me, these days, love means showing up. That is, you don't check out. You don't walk away. You listen. You are consistent. You are reliable.  You show affection. You are all these things, even when the person you love is acting crazy or whiny or demanding or awful.  I don't mean no boundaries. Boundaries are very important! I just mean continuing to be there, even when the going gets rough. But that is very much an old married person's idea about love. A mom's idea. A grandchild's idea. I am certainly not sad my teenage ideas about love still have a place for expression in my books!

R.A.: Another theme covered in Ruby’s documentary is popularity. Her friend Hutch, a social outcast, tells her, “I used to think people were popular because they were good-looking , or nice, or funny, or good at sports… I realized the popular people weren’t nice or funny or good-looking. They just had power, and they actually got power by teasing people or humiliating them – so people bonded to them out of fear.” Hutch and Ruby’s friend Meghan both have revelations and seem “cured” from wanting to be popular. Do you think most high schoolers appreciate the connection between popularity and power? You subtly touch on the issue of bullying but focus more on the concept of popularity while inferring the link between the two. Do you have any advice for teens who are or feel cast out, ostracized or teased by the “popular kids”?

E: I'm not in the advice-giving business, although Ruby sometimes is --
-- I am in the business of writing stories in which I try to think about different and sometimes conflicting aspects of stuff that touches me or makes me think.  All my books are about power dynamics, except maybe How to Be Bad. I'm interested in talking about power, and I  hope my stories make people want to talk about it too. 

Instead of advice, I'd like to point teens to the "It Gets Better" project. It has loads of wonderful stories from adults who were bullied and ostracized at school because of their sexuality. I think the hope the videos provide will affect people who don't fit in for other reasons as well, though:

R.A.: Flushing. Ruby and her therapist decide Ruby should write down troubling situations and feelings on small pieces of paper and flush them away literally and cathartically. I think I might have to try this. Letting go is difficult for people of all ages and sometimes a symbolic gesture is enough to let someone move on. Have you ever tried this? How did you come up with this idea?

E: I made it up. But I get lots of the ideas for Doctor Z's (somewhat wacky) thereapuetic methods from my mother, who is a family therapist.  The "treasure map" was her idea completely.

R.A.: Finally, Ruby’s nickname is Roo. As a big Winnie-the-Pooh fan, I can’t help but love this name and wonder about its origins. Does Ruby’s name have any special meaning to you?

E: Kim is Kanga and Roo is Roo -- in the early days of their friendship, back when they were young enough to read Winnie the Pooh.  This was true of me and my best friend in elementary school.  We never had a falling out, though -- I just used the names to show the close connection the girls had, so that when their friendship collapses, readers can retain a sense of what Ruby is losing. 

Also, Ruby is a pretty common name these days -- having an unusual nickname makes the character a little more specific in readers' eyes.

RA: Thank you so much Emily - for stopping by Robin's Roundup and for writing such fun, accessible books for young adults (no matter how old we are!). I wish you the very best with Real Live Boyfriends and look forward to reading what you come up with next!

If your interest in Emily has been peaked, check out the other blogs she visited on this tour:

January 10th — Confessions of a Bookaholic
January 11th — Random Acts of Reading
January 12th — Books on the House
January 13th — Figment
January 14th — Book Butterfly
January 18th — Bookworm Book Lover

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