We Were Liars, E. Lockhart’s latest YA novel, was published by Random House on May 13. (E. also writes books for kids and this blog under the name Emily Jenkins.
Please describe the book.
A family owns a private island off the East Coast. They summer there each year. A patriarch, three daughters, countless
grandchildren, and two outsiders. There is love and amnesia. Things go very, very wrong. There is a website for the book! It has interactive bits.
As the story progressed from inception to copy-edited version, what were the major changes? How did those changes come about? When did you first begin work on it? When did you finish?

The love story became a much bigger part of the story in revision. I was trying not to write the love story because it was hard. The action sequences also became a much bigger part in revision. I was trying not to write those either. I am a big avoider of difficult bits.

I began with a proposal and then wrote the book. I showed it to 6 (I think) writer friends and revised with their comments. That is many more eyes on the book than usual. It was a tough one to write. Then I had two meetings with my editor, Beverly Horowitz, and made revisions based on her comments, each time. It took about two years, total.

What research was involved, and how did it affect the story’s development?

I read books I admired by wonderful writers on somewhat similar subjects. For example, books where a home looms large in a family mythology, such as Brideshead Revisited, Bleak House, Howard’s End.

The Secret Life of Billie’s Uncle Myron, your first book, was published in 1996. What have you learned about the business of writing since then?

I have learned to write and sell fiction on proposal, which works for me. I like a deadline. I need a paycheck. Most importantly, I like to know a story I am working on will have an audience, and commitment from the publisher inspires a similar commitment in me. I know a lot of writers who prefer not to work this way, but to me, it feels right.

If very good friends are visiting for one evening, do you cook or go to a restaurant? If the former, what would you cook? If the latter, what restaurant?

I cook. Mostly vegetarian. Often for people with kids, but I find if you just put out some cut fruit and provide warm bread, kids won’t complain no matter what else is on the table. I am a big fan of room-temperature or oven-warmed food that causes no stress on the host. Nothing last-minute. I might make Ottolenghi’s cauliflower with tahini sauce (from the cookbook Jerusalem), roasted asparagus with Parmesan (from Barefoot Contessa), a big cheese plate with apples and warm bread, maybe a tomato salad. Then a big gooey dessert. I like layer cakes and crumbles. My favorite baking cookbook is Baked Expressions. You see? I just recommended three books.