About two years ago, I spotted a book called Perfect Fifths while perusing my favourite bookstore’s shelves. As I flipped through it, an entire chapter of haikus caught my eye and I made an impulsive decision to buy it. I quickly realised that it was the last book in a series, though that didn’t stop me: I sat down and read the entirety of Sloppy Firsts in the bookstore. When I finished it, I picked up Second Helpings and Perfect Fifths. I haven’t been the same since.
Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie are two of my favourite literary characters, so when the chance to interview Megan McCafferty for Sloppy Firsts‘ tenth anniversary came my way, I immediately signed up. Enjoy!
Angel: Are there any experiences Jessica Darling had that you wished you’d gone through?
Megan: No, I don’t envy her. I’m ten years older than she is. I was always very happy to write about her life from the safety of the other side of experience.
Angel: What inspired the haikus in the series? Were they difficult to write? What was your favourite?
I was inspired by Jack White of The White Stripes. I heard an interview in which he explained that stripping down his music to the most basic elements—drum and guitar—forced him to be more creative. The 5-7-5 syllable haiku format served the same purpose. The haikus came very easily to me. I love the poetic banter in Perfect Fifths, but I think my favorite individual haiku is from Charmed Thirds, one Marcus gives to Jessica on his birthday:
Oh, heavenly happenstance
Rare creation, you
Angel: What made you decide to stretch out Jessica’s story from high school to adulthood?
Megan: My subconscious made me do it! I’d wake up from dreams about Jessica and Marcus and where they would be in the next stage of their lives and I realized I wasn’t done with them yet.
Megan: It came to me very early in the process. I knew it was the last book so I wanted Marcus to have an opportunity to tell his half of their shared story.
Angel: If the characters of Sloppy Firsts (just this particular book) were Krispy Kreme doughnuts, what would their flavours be and why?
Megan: Does Krispy Kreme even have any flavors other than glazed? I’m not a KK expert.
Angel: Which literary heroines would Jessica get along with?
Megan: I see her hanging with Andrea Marr from GIRL by Blake Nelson. And Frankie Landau-Banks from E. Lockhart’s novel, THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF…
Angel: Out of the five books, which one was the most difficult to finish?
Megan: FOURTH COMINGS. I knew what had to happen between Jessica and Marcus and it made me sad to have to write it!
Angel: The ending of Sloppy Firsts is surprising, especially considering how the tension between Marcus and Jessica is built up. What made you decide to end it that way?
Megan: I knew I had a sequel to write and wanted the book to end with a surprising cliffhanger, one that put Jessica in an empowered position.
Angel: Did you write a lot of backstory for the series? If so, which character ended up with the most backstory?
Marcus Flutie definitely had the most detailed backstory that didn’t end up in the books. Until PERFECT FIFTHS, we only see him as Jessica and others see him. I needed to think about him from a less biased perspective.
Megan: I wrote the type of book that I wish I’d had in high school.
Angel: Do you trust inspiration or hard work more when it comes to writing?
Megan: Both. All the inspiration in the world won’t write a book for you if you don’t put in the work. And the work won’t resonate with readers if you aren’t inspired by the material.
Angel: How much of Jessica’s world is imagination and how much is based on real life people?
Megan: I started out with a tiny bit of the truth, then started making stuff up. There isn’t anything that happened to Jessica or her friends that happened to me in the same exact way. (Well, except going to the Glam Slam Metal Jam in Charmed Thirds. I totally did dress up in 80s drag.)
Angel: If you could invite your favourite literary characters to dinner, who would they be and why?
Megan: I’d invite Percy Jackson, Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins because my eight-year old would be very, very impressed.
Angel: What are you most grateful for, as an author?
Thank you for the lovely interview Megan!