An Interview with Cara Lockwood
How important is reading in this multi-media world that our children
live in today? Kids are bombarded constantly with live-action media...their
game-boys, X-Boxes and Play Stations, along with iPods, Television
and other electronic gadgetry that entertains them without any effort
on their part.
How can we get our kids to read? How about reading to them? Yes,
even the older kids. Parents should try to set aside weekly family
time where good books are included. Try to find books that have
the same interests as your child. That, in itself could be quite
a chore with many thousands of books published for children and
young people each year. It is difficult to stay on top of issues
and trends as well as particular books from various publishing houses,
but there are many resources to help you with that. I have included
several links to helpful web sites at the end of this page.
During your family reading session, keep each participant in mind
and encourage participation both in choosing the reading material,
reading it aloud, and discussing it. Allow time to discuss each
person's responses, and ask questions that guide the reading-thinking
process. Let the discussion wander where it may and Listen TO
what young people say rather than FOR what you
expect them to say.
Children's literature is constantly changing. I talked to Cara
Lockwood, the author of teen girl's novel, Wuthering
High, about the new trends. Here is what she had to say:
Cara, can you give us a brief biography about yourself?
What has your life been like up to now?
I grew up in Mesquite, Texas down the road from
the Mesquite Rodeo. I have since, however, lost my accent.
And no, I don't own any cowboy boots, although I do own
quite a lot of black shoes. My Dad is a third-generation
Japanese-American, and my mom is a second-generation Texan
who's mostly English and Irish, so I had an interesting
childhood, which is something I talk about in Dixieland
Sushi (a chick lit book I wrote in 2005). I went
to school at the University of Pennsylvania, only I'm
not sure how I got in. I think these days they only accept
students who can solve String Theory. After graduating
with an English degree, I tried my hand as a journalist,
spending four years writing for a newspaper. I decided
I liked making up stories better than reporting them,
and wrote my first novel (I Do -- But I Don't)
in 1999. I sold it in 2001, and it was published in 2003.
Cara, how long have you been writing?
I've been writing for as long as I've been reading.
I kept a diary as early as age 6, and started writing
short stories in 6th grade. People, however, didn't start
paying me for it until much more recently. My first book
was published in 2003, and I've had four others published
I just finished reading Wuthering High. It wasn't what
I expected. Tell us about developing the idea for
When I was a teen, I actually loved reading the
classics. I think this makes me a lit nerd, but I can
live with that. I loved Jane Austen, Charles Dickens,
and nearly everything we read in class (with the minor
exception of Herman Melville). So, when my agent and editor
encouraged me to write teen fiction, I was looking for
ways to incorporate the classics, and I got to thinking
about what my dream school would be like, which is where
Bard Academy came from. Granted, in the book it's a place
of punishment for the students sent there, but I would've
loved to have gone there as a teen.
Also, I really like the idea of trying to inspire others
to get as excited about the classics as I was when I was
younger. There's so much to be learned from reading them,
and if I can get one teen to pick up Wuthering Heights
and give it a chance, then I'll feel like I accomplished
something. In fact, a 16-year-old who read Wuthering
High wrote me just last week to tell me she now wanted
to read Wuthering Heights. It made my whole day.
Novels for teen girls have certainly changed over
the past few years. Tell us about the differences from
I was a teen, Sweet Valley High and the Babysitters'
Club were all the rage. While they were books mostly
for fun, they did have a kind of morality to them in that
bad girls generally got what was coming to them and good
girls got rewarded. I don't think that's necessarily the
case now in many popular series. There are exceptions,
like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and the
Princess Diaries, but overall, I think there
are a lot more mean-spirited books out there. Many
of them send the message that girls should try to be rich
and popular, regardless of who they have to step on to
get there. In these books, bad girls are rewarded and
good girls are left behind.
And where do you think teen literature will go from
I'm really encouraged by the popularity of authors
like Sarah Dressen and Megan McCafferty, who write thoughtful
and authentic stories about the real challenges facing
teen girls. I'm hoping to see more books like those (and
of course mine!).
I felt like you left the door open at the end of
Wuthering High. Will Miranda and Ryan appear
in a future story?
Yes. In fact, they'll be back in the sequel to
Wuthering High, The Scarlet Letterman.
It's due out January 7.
What is your writing work day like? Do you outline, or
just start writing?
I like to start writing first to get a feeling
of voice and pace before I sketch out an entire outline.
I'll usually write a chapter or two and then set about
writing an outline. I don't always follow my outlines,
but I'm trying to be more disciplined. Although, I think
I do my best writing on the fly, usually when staring
down a deadline.
What is your current writing project?
Well, I've got a few things that I'm working
on. I'd love to do more Bard Academy books, so I'm putting
together proposals for my editor at the moment. Whether
or not there will be a book three or four in the Bard
Academy series, depends largely on sales of Wuthering
High. I'm also talking with my publisher about doing
a new adult series. Nothing so far is definite.
Do you have any advice for your teen fans that want
to be writers?
Read! It sounds silly, but I really think the
best way to learn to write is to read everything you can
get your hands on. Reading shows you how to create characters,
how to control pace, and how to develop an ear for voice.
Hunter S. Thompson, in fact, used to write out by long
hand pages from his favorite books to get a sense of how
the sentences were structured. I wouldn't necessarily
go that far, but I think reading all books -- good books
or bad, classics or modern -- will really help you develop
your own writing skills.
Do you have any other thoughts that you would like to
share with us?
Just thank you for the interview, and I can't
wait to see it on MyShelf.
Thanks so much for giving us your views Cara. I
can't wait to read The Scarlet Letterman.
Bard Academy Novel
By Cara Lockwood
Pocket Books -- July 2006
ISBN: 1-4165-2475-Trade Paperback
Young Adult Fiction
by Beverly J. Rowe, MyShelf.com
Bard Academy is a boarding school where wayward teens
are supposed to learn to behave. It's boring and strict,
and a bit Gothic. When Miranda totaled her Dad's new BMW
convertible, and maxed out her stepmother's credit cards,
and then came home drunk the night before the PSAT tests,
and overslept that morning, well, it was the last straw.
She was sent to Shipwreck Island and Bard Academy as penance.
The teachers at Bard are a bit strange and Miranda begins
to suspect that the whole place is haunted. The kids are
definitely not the ones she would have chosen to hang
out with back home. The teachers closely resemble famous
authors who died by their own hands. Things are not all
as they first appeared at Bard Academy. Miranda's room seems
to be haunted by the ghost of a girl who disappeared from
Bard some years back. Frightening, unexplainable things
happen straight out of the classics they are reading; Wuthering
Heights, Dracula, and Jane Eyre.
Things aren't all bad though. Ryan Kent, a boy who went
to the same high school as Miranda shows up...he's a dreamboat
basketball player, and he's showing lots of attention
to Miranda. There is also a strange boy named Heathcliff
who also seems interested in, and very protective of Miranda.
This book was not at all what I expected. It's a can't-put-down
novel that teens will love. I enjoyed the compelling characters
and the suspense and plot twists that kept them searching
for answers. Lockwood has definitely found her niche.
I can't wait for The
Scarlet Letterman, the next Bard Academy novel
that comes out in January.
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