Monday, 21 March 2011

A Cornucopia of Dystopia Event: Interview with author Megan Mcafferty

Megan McCafferty is the author of Bumped, a satirical dystopian YA novel to be published by the Balzer + Bray imprint of HarperCollins on April 26th, 2011. She also wrote the bestselling Jessica Darling series. Megan edited a short story anthology called Sixteen: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter Birthday. She has contributed to several fiction and nonfiction anthologies including My Little Red Book, Does This Book Make Me Look Fat? and Everything I Need To Know About Being a Girl Came From Judy Blume. Her work has been translated into eleven languages, including German, Chinese and Hungarian. She is writing the sequel to Bumped. (Bio from Goodreads)

Today is the start of the A Cornucopia of Dystopia event held by The Bookish Type and A Tapestry Of Words, which I posted about earlier, and I am very pleased to have the author of Bumped, an upcoming YA dystopian book, Megan Cafferty on the blog today to answer some of my questions about Bumped. So, without further ado- welcome Megan!

What was your inspiration for Bumped? Can you describe your process as it went from an idea germinating in your mind to a fully-formed story on the page?
My fascination with the media’s response to teen pregnancy started with the notorious Gloucester High School pregnancy pact. A few months later, Bristol Palin and Jamie Lyn Spears battled for the dubious distinction as the nation’s most famous teen mom. That media brouhaha, coupled with the critical and commercial success of Juno, made teen pregnancy a hot topic in the media, with a lot of hand-wringing over the sexual activities of teenage girls in particular. All this controversy prompted me to ask myself: What if teenage girls were encouraged to get pregnant? Why would that happen? Ultimately, I settled on a virus that makes adults infertile so only teenagers get have babies. I did research for almost a year before I started writing, and spent another year creating the characters, plotting, and—finally—writing it all down.

• How was the writing experience for Bumped different from writing your Jessica Darling series and how do you think your fans will react?

I had written about Jessica Darling’s world for ten years. I knew all those characters inside and out, and I underestimated how difficult it would be to get to know Melody and Harmony in that same way. Plus, I was creating a whole new world so the first draft was too long and all over the place because I hadn’t figured out what was important and what was filler. Many thanks to my amazing editor, Alessandra Balzer, because Bumped is a book that really didn’t come together until after the first round of major revisions.
Like the Jessica Darling series, there’s a lot of humor in Bumped—it’s not grim like you’d expect a dystopian novel to be. I never thought I would write anything that crossed into sci-fi territory, so I don’t blame readers for thinking, “What the what???”

• What was your process like to get into a teenage mindset for this novel? How did you build believable teens in this foreign, futuristic world, and how do you think teenagers today will relate to the characters of twins Melody and Harmony?

I didn’t focus on what would change. I focused on what would stay exactly the same. The characters in the novel are bored by school, play soccer, party too hard, gossip, flirt, fight with their parents, get hooked on technology and obsess over pop culture. It’s easier for them to focus more on their own futures than the fate of the Western Civilization. I think today’s teenagers will see a lot of themselves in these characters, despite the apocalyptic scenario.

Can you talk about the research or preparation that went into writing Bumped?

I did more research for Bumped than anything I’ve ever written before. I read dense books about the history of surrogate motherhood, reproductive technology, and the influence of religion on teens’ sexual decision-making. I read memoirs about girls (now grown women) forced to give up their babies for adoption in the decades before Roe vs. Wade, and about twins who were separated at birth and reunited as adults. I clipped countless articles and editorials arguing for and against abstinence only and comprehensive sex education programs. I watched hours of Christian teens’ testimonies on YouTube and have not missed a single episode of 16 & Pregnant or Teen Mom (1 & 2). In short, I did what I could to make sure even the craziest aspects of the book were rooted in reality.

• What were your favourite things about writing a dystopian novel?

I loved inventing a fictional world that reflects what’s happening in the real world right now.

· How are you feeling about the anticipation for the release of Bumped?

I’m eager to see what conversations it inspires.

· What message do you hope readers bring away with them from Bumped?

I’ll tell you what message I don’t want readers to take away: That BUMPED somehow promotes teen pregnancy as the cool thing to do. That couldn’t be further from the truth! If anything, I hope to raise serious questions about the “pornification” of our culture and the repercussions of loveless, senseless sexual activity. I find it hard to believe that readers could think otherwise…unless they don’t appreciate satire. This is a book about the dangers of extreme thinking, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by extreme reactions.

· Where is your favourite place to write?
I have a home office and it’s the only place I can work on my books. To stay focused I need solitude, green tea, dark chocolate, and music. For BUMPED I listened to a lot of LCD Soundsystem, though the soundtrack varies from day to day, scene to scene.

· What writing project are you working on now?

I’m working on the sequel to BUMPED and developing the idea for the book I’ll write after that. I’m not sure where this idea will take me, but that’s what makes my writing life interesting!

Thank you very much Megan for taking the time to answer my questions and giving such a fascinating insight into Bumped! It's amazing where inspiration can come from and it's really intertesting to know. I got a review copy off Net Galley and I'm enjoying it so far. Make sure you stop by some of the other blog posts for the event today, they're listed on the event schedule here.


  1. Looks great, Stephanie! I'm really interested to read this one because I like the idea of a dystopian novel with humor...that's rare!

  2. Fabulous interview, Stephanie! I've just finished this one for the tour, and it was really good! I love the idea behind her's incredible that a media circus could spark a novel like this :)

  3. Awesome! I really like what she said about the intense research she did to make sure it was rooted in reality. Now I'm really looking forward to starting this one! Thanks for the interview.

  4. What an excellent interview. It's so neat to hear about where authors get their ideas and how they do research for the books they write. Thanks for the awesome interview!


I love comments, they make me smile! So thank you for taking the time to write one, I read all of them.
I try my best to reply here or on your blog :)

Stephanie x