As many of you probably know already, August 28, 2011 marks the tenth anniversary of the publication of Megan McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts, the first of the Jessica Darling books. We’ve already mentioned on this site that we love Jessica, but it bears repeating – her outspokenness, intelligence, sincerity and crankiness make her one of our all time favorite Slatebreaking characters.
The tenth anniversary of Sloppy Firsts is particularly thrilling for us on this site because as part of her celebration, Megan McCafferty is doing a series of interviews on ten different blogs. We are beyond honored to be included in that list – we feel like Anne Shirley in the spare bedroom. Megan, thank you for including us in the celebration, your graciousness in opening up your blog tour to some newer, less well-known sites and for your thoughtfulness in answering our questions. It means a lot to us to be able to post this interview!
And so, without further ado, here we have our first Celebrity Slatebreaker, Megan McCafferty!
SB: One of the things we love about Jessica is how easy it is to relate to her, and we know we aren’t alone in that. What are your favorite Jessica moments? What moments have fans seemed to respond to most strongly? (ours, for the record is a toss up between Jessica’s fight with her mom when they go to buy a homecoming dress in Sloppy Firsts and when she blows that awful interview in Fourth Comings because she’s thinking about what Marcus would think)
MM: Thank you! I love Jessica’s graduation speech in SECOND HELPINGS. (“A Malcontent Makes Peace with Pineville.”) It resonates with readers too. It’s her shining high school moment, when she’s finally celebrated for being herself. I never got to make a speech like that (nor have most of my readers) but I think the desire to reconcile the past before moving forward is universal.
SB: One of our favorite parts of reading about Jessica was getting to see her grow up into adulthood throughout the series. I feel like we don’t get to see that much anymore! A lot of the older series we read as a kid, like Anne of Green Gables or Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy books do this, but I can’t think of many other examples of contemporary YA that take us past the end of high school. Was it always your plan to take us into Jessica’s mid-twenties? Or was Sloppy Firsts originally conceived of as a standalone? How did it change your writing process to write this character as she got older?
MM: I knew that SLOPPY FIRSTS would have a sequel. Beyond that, each book came from a deep need to tell the next part of her story. I literally woke up from dreams about what should happen to Jessica and Marcus next! I took that as a not-so-subtle sign from my subconscious that I wasn’t done with these characters yet.
One of the greatest joys—and challenges—of writing a decade-long series was keeping the characters consistent in a way that would reflect their growth from adolescence into adulthood. I really believe that one’s core identity—what makes you you—doesn’t change much over time. How those traits manifest themselves are shaped by life choices and experience. So I thought hard about the core identity of all the characters in SLOPPY FIRSTS and had them make choices that were true to their worldview at that particular time. I wanted the characters’ destinies in PERFECT FIFTHS to be unpredictable and yet uniquely suited for who they were back in book one.
SB: Between the Jessica books and Bumped, we’ve noticed a real attention to lady business in your books. Do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, how does feminism play into what and how you write for young people? If not, how does an awareness of your female audience affect your writing?
MM: I am a feminist, even if I don’t go around shouting, “I AM A FEMINIST.” I believe in being well-informed and well-spoken regardless of gender. If I don’t have anything intelligent or interesting to add to a conversation, I try to shut up, listen and learn something.
Similarly, I can’t imagine writing a book that doesn’t aim to enlighten and entertain. I’m ten years older than Jessica Darling. I’ve always had a decade’s worth of wisdom on her, earned from my own off-the-page blunders. It was important to me as an author for Jessica to make many, many mistakes. Jessica certainly shows questionable judgment throughout the series, especially for someone who is supposed to be so smart. At times Jessica can be judgmental, insensitive and self-absorbed–but she’s a good person at heart and her flaws are what make her recognizable and relatable. She recovers from her failures and becomes a better person for having made them. To me, it’s Jessica’s resilience that makes her a character worth identifying with–for young women and men.
Thank you Megan! Congratulations on the 10th Anniversary, and we can’t wait to read what’s next.