Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Babe To Teens, Past
A YOuth Column
By Beverly Rowe

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:

Bev: Cara, can you give us a brief biography about yourself? What has your life been like up to now?

Cara: 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. 


Bev:  Cara, how long have you been writing?

Cara: 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 since then.


Bev: I just finished reading Wuthering High. It wasn't what I expected. Tell us about developing the idea for Bard Academy.

Cara: 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.


Bev:  Novels for teen girls have certainly changed over the past few years. Tell us about the differences from your perspective

Cara: When 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.


Bev:  And where do you think teen literature will go from here?

Cara: 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!). 


Bev:  I felt like you left the door open at the end of Wuthering High. Will Miranda and Ryan appear in a future story?

Cara: Yes. In fact, they'll be back in the sequel to Wuthering High, The Scarlet Letterman. It's due out January 7.


Bev: What is your writing work day like? Do you outline, or just start writing?

Cara: 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. 


Bev:  What is your current writing project?

Cara: 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. 


Bev:  Do you have any advice for your teen fans that want to be writers?

Cara: 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.


Bev: Do you have any other thoughts that you would like to share with us?

Cara: Just thank you for the interview, and I can't wait to see it on MyShelf.

Bev: Thanks so much for giving us your views Cara.  I can't wait to read The Scarlet Letterman.

Wuthering High
A Bard Academy Novel
By Cara Lockwood

Pocket Books -- July 2006
ISBN: 1-4165-2475-Trade Paperback
Young Adult Fiction

Buy a Copy

Review by Beverly J. Rowe,

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.

Cara's Book List

  1. Pink Slip Party - March 16, 2004
  2. I Do, But I Don't - August 31, 2004
  3. In One Year and Out the Other
    with Pamela Redmond Satran - December 2004
  4. Dixieland Sushi - May, 2005

2006 Past Columns

Cara Lockwood

© MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved.