Rian: Why did you choose to set English As A Second Language in England?
Megan: I didn’t decide to set the book in England so much as I decided to write something based on my graduate school experiences, which made it England by default. Had I gone to school in, say, Spain, it would have been a very different book! (Also a much shorter book, because I don’t speak Spanish!)
Rian: I really liked the main heroine Alexandra in English As A Second Language – she was tough, wise-cracking, coffee-addicted, strong and funny. But she also had her slightly neurotic side. Where did you get the idea for her?
Megan: Alex is really a fusion of me and most of my friends. I wanted to write about someone I might also want to hang out with, who talked the way my friends and I talk to each other– but, of course, a lot funnier. The great thing about Alex is that she always seems to get the last, best word. I’m envious!
Rian: English As A Second Language was very fun to read. Was it as fun to write? Why or why not?
Megan: It was a lot of fun to write, actually. In fact, it gave me a very false sense of what writing novels was like, because it just poured out of me in about three weeks. No wonder I was so gung-ho about a career in writing! That hasn’t happened again, sadly.
Rian: You managed to balance fun with more serious subject matter quite admirably. Do you think keeping such a balance in a novel is important? Why or why not?
Megan: I think it is important, and I’m glad you thought I did it well! That balance is what I fantasize an adult life is like– serious things happen all the time, and you soldier on, keeping a sense of humor about you like a cloak. Frankly, I’ve found it’s easier to do in a novel than in real life!
Rian: What activities led up to you writing your first novel?
Megan: Well, I didn’t sacrifice chickens or anything… What happened was that it was the summer of 2001 and I was working on my PhD, which at that point I very much doubted I would ever finish. A friend of mine had just finished her first novel and I realized that despite all the novels I’d begun over the years (and there were many), I’d finished exactly one: “With or Without You: The On and Off Relationship of Jackie and Ted,” circa 1989. Not exactly a literary triumph. So I decided that I was going to write something, and this time I was going to finish it, no matter what. I dove in, and once I nailed Alex’s voice, off I went!
Rian: What do you think of the chick lit genre in general?
Megan: I love it. It’s wonderfully inclusive, and has so much room for growth and variation. I’m always reading dire predictions about its coming death, but I don’t think that’s likely. Women are hungry for fictional characters to identify with. The more voices out there to choose from, the better for all of us.
Rian: Do you have any other books in the works? If so, what are they about? (If you care to share.)
Megan: I have some plans for a third chick lit book that I should be getting to pretty soon (it seems as if the holidays came way too early this year!), and a young adult novel. In the meantime:
My second book, Everyone Else’s Girl, will be out from Warner in October 2005. Here’s the blurb:
Meredith McKay has gone to a lot of trouble to create the picture-perfect life for herself– far away from her troublesome family, thank you. When her father’s car accident forces her back to her hometown, however, she soon discovers that there’s no running away from family issues– there’s only delaying the inevitable. Can anyone sort out a lifetime of family drama in one hot summer? Throw in a hot guy from back in high school with an axe to grind, a best-friend turned enemy turned soon-to-be-sister-in-law, and, of course, the sometimes irritating/sometimes delightful members of her own family, and Meredith is on her way to figuring out that sometimes a little trip through the past is the best way to move forward.
Rian: What are your favorite authors and books to read?
Megan: This is such a tough question to answer! When I was young, I was very emotionally involved with Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series, which made me interested in strong female protagonists in challenging situations. Anna Maxted’s Getting Over It was a huge book for me, too, and also made me think about writing differently. I’ve been a big Marian Keyes fan for years now, and also automatically buy Katie Fforde, Nicci French, Kathy Reichs, and Elizabeth George. More recently, I adored Sarah Dunn’s The Big Love and Lolly Winston’s Good Grief. But there are so many good books out there right now, it’s hard to choose between them!
Rian: If someone said to you “Chick lit is all fluff”, what would your response be?
Megan: I think statements like that say far more about the speaker than the genre, so I tend to just smile politely and excuse myself… But then, I’ve been reading romance novels proudly since the seventh grade, so I’m used to being sneered at! As a reader, I’m constantly looking for new things to read, so why would I deny myself whole genres? I’ve never understood that.
Rian: Do you have any advice to give someone who is interested in writing their own chick lit novel?
Megan: When I was in college my roommate and I had a picture on our wall– it was an ad for something I can’t remember, torn out of a magazine. It was a picture of a young guy, playing a saxaphone with a look of bliss on his face. It read: “Do what you love. The rest comes.”