Friends, Aug. 28 marks the 10th anniversary of the publication of Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty. This book started what would become the Jessica Darling series...MY FAVORITE BOOKS OF ALL TIME.
To celebrate, I made a little video tribute of my love. Want to make your own? Do it! Because Megan's commemorating the occasion with a "Epic 10th Anniversary Giving Away of Rare and One-of-a-Kind Stuff." Click here for more info!
Plus, she's graciously agreed to do a 10th anniversary interview, just for me. I cannot tell you how much this means to me. Megan, THANK YOU!
Me: Red hair with dreads? Rooster tufts? Look, Megan, it's not like I don't trust you...but for the nonbelievers out there, could you please share some photographic evidence that this look can actually make a girl go "Sha-ZAM"? Or at least share your inspiration for Marcus' hard-to-picture appearance?
Megan: I saw Marcus Flutie on the 2 train in Brooklyn in 1998. I should have snapped his picture, but this was before the era of the camera phone and such stealth photography was much harder to get away with.
Me: If you could compare the fictional sound of Len Levi's fictional band to any non-fictional artist, who would you pick? (To aid my future imaginings of how the chorus would go...)
Megan: The Mighties are anthemic like 30 Seconds to Mars and literate like Vampire Weekend.
Me: If you could ask Marcus Flutie to make you a T-shirt right now, what word/phrase would you want on it?
Megan: YES. YOU. YES.
My husband and I have nicknamed this season The Summer of Yes. It’s a call for us to be more social and try new things. Also, I broke my foot in June and had to accept a lot of help from friends and family—something that doesn’t come naturally to me. Without getting too corny, I’ve realized that I shouldn’t feel guilty about their offers, that such generosity is a gift I should be grateful to receive.
Me: I was really touched by your account of how Jessica felt in the weeks after 9/11 -- I was in the same grade as her (well, fictionally anyway) when it happened, so I experienced it very similarly. Can you please share why you decided to include that day and its aftermath in Jessica's story?
Megan: I wrote SLOPPY FIRSTS and SECOND HELPINGS in “real time.” Meaning, the books were specifically set during the very period I was writing them so I could capture whatever was going on at that particular moment. I was about three chapters into SECOND HELPINGS on 9/11. I debated quite a bit as to how I should handle this unprecedented tragedy. Do I ignore that it happened, thereby making the books set in a fictional alternative universe without the treat of terrorism? Or do I incorporate the events in a way that reflects how teenagers really responded at the time? I nervously went with the latter and I’m glad I did.
Me: Marcus' poetry played a big role in the books -- do you write poetry for yourself, or only as Marcus?
Megan: I wrote a lot of poems in high school. Pseudo-Sylvia Plathy stuff. I only write verse through my characters now, probably because I’m not angst-ridden in that same poetic way I once was.
Me: No, really, what's with the Barry Manilow? Is he your guilty pleasure musician? If not, who is?
Megan: My love for Barry Manilow goes back to my childhood. His 1978 HBO concert was like, my FAVORITE thing to watch when I was five. So when it came time to come up with an artist popular in the 8-Track era for Marcus to play in the Caddie, I decided to make it Barry Manilow. I had no idea that Barry Manilow would serve as the cheesy leitmotif throughout the series. I certainly couldn’t have anticipated inventing the ridiculousness that is Barryoke.
Me: This is an adult series that I wish all YA books would emulate. Ten years later, now that YA books are much more prevalent in the market, do you still see it as an adult series? Or do you think it blurs the lines?
Megan: My books definitely blur the lines between YA/Adult. I pitched it as a crossover series, one that would be relatable to readers still in high school as well as those who had graduated long ago. I chose an adult publisher because they promised not to censor me (via Jessica) as much as the YA publishers hinted they would. I think Jessica’s outrageous candor is what makes different from other teenage narrators, even if such straight-talk wouldn’t be considered controversial by today’s YA standards.
Me: From book 1, page 1, line 1, did you always intend for Megan and Marcus to have a happy, hopeful ending?
Megan: Did you notice your error? MEGAN and Marcus? That’s funny, because no matter how much I try to separate myself from Jessica Darling, readers (even my own parents, mind you!) assume that we’re one and the same. We’re not, but I’m flattered that readers think so. It must mean that she feels too real to be made up.
To answer your question, I had no idea what would happen past book one, page one, line one! Each book came as a surprise to me as I learned more about the characters and their inner worlds. I do know that I always wanted what was best for Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie. Even if they—or I—wasn’t quite sure what that was.