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Pretty 'Fly' Idea by Author E. Lockhart

By Jessamyn Cuneo on March 31, 2006

E. LockhartWhile you may be familiar with stories about people turning into animals, here's a premise you definitely haven't encountered before: 16-year-old Gretchen Yee wakes up as a fly trapped inside the boy's locker room at her high school, where she proceeds to spy on her schoolmate's conversations, as well as their — well, um, let's put it as Gretchen Yee puts it — "gherkins."

This is the plot line for E. Lockhart's newest book, Fly on the Wall. Set in a New York City public "art" high school, the small cast of artsy students is a group of vivid and dynamic characters. Lockhart succeeds in combining romanticism, alienation, humility and comedy all into this compact coming-of-age story. The book is also written in a very unique style that allows you to read Gretchen Yee's thoughts as they come into her head. This allows you to develop a close bond with her that will continue on past the last chapter.

"The goal of Fly on the Wall was to get some honest emotion on the page," Lockhart explains. "Somebody coming to terms with feelings of lust, yearning."

This 38-year-old author's previous young adult work includes The Boyfriend List (Random House, 2005), which has a sequel due out this spring, entitled, The Boy Book.

Lockhart grew up in Seattle. She split her high school years between a small art school (admittedly similar to that in Fly on the Wall) and a prep school. "I was completely unpopular at the art school," the author says. "And at the prep school, I was magically popular."

"I had radically different experiences," Lockhart says. "[Which lead] to my interest in adolescent fiction. I didn't choose it consciously; it attacked me on all sides."

Lockhart finds much about high school to be "toxic comedy." The legal obligation to attend is intriguing; the fact that students must show up for class, and sit in classrooms with the people they've had romances, fights, and entirely separate pasts is packed with more than enough emotion to keep her imagination cranking.

"High schools are like these intense, little microcosms," Lockhart says. "The art school [I attended] — at which everyone was so competitive to be most unique — on the surface looked relaxed. At the prep school, everyone was safe in their position; secure socially. There, I could be unique."

Lockhart now lives in the New York City area, writing full-time in her small, raspberry-colored office with a window.

"I'm in my pajamas all day," she says gleefully.

Lockhart tells a story about how on a recent visit to a local school, she was asked if she was lonely after she described her lifestyle to the children.

"I'm never lonely," says Lockhart, an only child. One of her cats meows his agreement in the background. "I figured out how to entertain myself long ago. When I was six or seven, I realized I wanted to be a writer, although I had big hiatuses from it. I would write long novels and illustrate them."