Thursday, January 8, 2009

Interview With Megan McCafferty

Megan McCafferty is the author of the popular teen books Sloppy Firsts, Second Helping, Charmed Thirds, Fourth Comings and the upcoming Perfect Fifths which will be available for purchase on April 14, 2009. I was able to interview Megan on her books and how the Jessica Darling books were born.

Rachel: One of the things I liked about the character Jessica was she wasn’t extremely perky, and actually seemed real. In the first two books I loved reading her views on high school and the popular students. Were you in anyway like Jessica in high school?

Megan: Thank you! Perky is booooooring. Jessica is very moody, but her imperfections are what makes her relatable. As for how much she's like me, you can actually read my (retro)blog where I've posted journal entries and creative writing from my high school years to form your own opinion. But my stock response is that I started out with the truth and then started lying my butt off. However, I was most like Jessica in Sloppy Firsts. That's the book that is closest to my real life when I was in high school. For example, I was devastated when my best friend moved away, felt misunderstood by my parents, resented my shallow friends and—yes!--was obsessed with the disreputable bad boy in my class. That said, very little in any of the books happened to me in the same way it happens to Jessica. As the series progresses she really comes into her own as a character to the point where I was cringing as I wrote some of the things I made her say and do because I would never say or do those things myself.

Rachel: How did Sloppy Firsts come to be, what was the inspiration behind it?

Megan: I wrote the type of book that I enjoy reading. Yet of all the comic coming of age novels I had read, none came close to reflecting what my life was like in high school. So instead of complaining about it, I started writing that book. I kept a journal between the ages of ten and twenty-six and had taken numerous creative writing classes over the years so I had a lot of raw material to turn to for inspiration. I took some of the most vivid writings—about my crappy job on the Boardwalk, how bored I was in school or the pain of all my unrequited crushes—and added, subtracted, rewrote and revised until it started to make sense as a novel.

Rachel: Of the four books so far, they range from being a week in Jessica’s life to a few years. Which do you find harder to write, the shorter length of time or the longer?

Megan: FYI: Perfect Fifths (which comes out on April 14th!) takes place over eighteen hours that Jessica and Marcus spend in/around an airport. The pacing is radically different than Sloppy Firsts which covered a whole year. Writing this book required working in miniature—to examine and express each fleeting gesture and half-sentence. All five books posed different challenges, but that's one of the reasons why I varied the format from book to book. I'd get bored writing the same book over and over again.

Rachel: What do you recommend to teens who want to get into writing?

Megan: Read as much as you can. And write even more than you read. Period.

Rachel: Did you ever expect the books to be as popular as they are, and when they became popular what was your reaction?
Megan: The only time I think about the popularity of my books is when I'm asked a question like this! I'm proud to have invented characters who resonate with so many different readers all around the world. I've gotten email from an insomniac track star in Bulgaria who said that reading about Jessica Darling changed her life. I mean, that's craaaaaaazy to me. But making that kind of connection and getting readers excited about books gives me the greatest sense of satisfaction. That's what motivates me to do what I do and why I can't imagine doing else.

Thank you for Megan for doing this.