Please welcome author and fellow Philly-girl Meg Donohue to Women’s Fiction Writers! Her debut novel, HOW TO EAT A CUPCAKE, launches TODAY! I’m honored Meg is spending her book’s birthday with us!
Now, let’s celebrate!
Debut Women’s Fiction Author Meg Donohue Writes About Friendship And Food And Says To Hunt Down And Read The Type Of Book You Want To Write
Amy: Meg, it’s your BOOK’S BIRTHDAY!! In honor of the launch of your debut, can you tell us a little about your deliciously titled book, HOW TO EAT A CUPCAKE, and how you came up with the idea and characters?
Meg: Thank you for having me! As you might imagine, I plan to have many cupcakes today.
I really wanted to write about friendship and food—two of my favorite things. I was going to so many parties for both children and adults that offered cupcakes and I was pregnant with our second daughter, so I was craving and eating a lot of sweets. At that time, we also had a part-time nanny who would occasionally bring her young daughter with her when she took care of my daughter and I loved watching the two little girls interact. They made me think about the relationship between an employer’s daughter and an employee’s daughter—how those titles or roles mean nothing to young girls but might start to mean something as the girls grew up. Cupcakes seem so nostalgic to me and I started thinking about how two women who had a falling out might be brought back together over their mutual love of something that reminds them of their childhood—a less complicated time. Those were the seeds of How to Eat a Cupcake!
Amy: Because writers are an introspective lot, can you share with the writer-readers here some of the trials and tribulations on your road to publication, as well as your triumphs?
Meg: I took a rare, and fairly bump-free, path to publication because I am in the enviable position of being friends with my editor, Jeanette Perez of HarperCollins. We became friends through our husbands (who went to college together) and she has been kind enough to read some of my writing over the years. I sent Jeanette a summary of the novel, a very detailed outline, and the first two chapters, and was thrilled that she fell in love with the story. I signed a contract with her and then continued writing!
Amy: What has been the most surprising part of this whole process?
Meg: I have been surprised by just how much time I have spent marketing myself and the book. I want to do everything in my power to get as many people as possible interested in reading my book, and, for me, that involves a lot of tweeting, Facebooking, guest posting on blogs, and doing interviews. I’m actually both surprised by how much time I have devoted to these endeavors and by how much I have enjoyed doing so! Though, in the back of my head, I am always thinking, “Hmmm…now when exactly am I going to find time today to work on book 2?”
Amy: Ooh, that was a great lead-in! Can you tell us about Book Two? And how writing it is different from writing Book One?
Meg: I’m working on my second book, entitled ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS. It’s about three childhood friends whose lives are unraveling in three separate cities. They escape to the beach town where they spent the summers of their youth and end up confronting secrets about one fateful summer night seven years earlier.
In a lot of ways, this book feels “closer to home” than How to Eat a Cupcake. The characters attended a Quaker high school in Philadelphia—as I did—and spent time each summer in the beach town of Avalon, New Jersey—as I did. The autobiographical aspect of the story really does end there, but the experience of writing it has had far more of a time-travel feel to it than writing Cupcake ever did. I’m sitting in San Francisco writing about these places that were so important to me when I was growing up…Cupcake is set in my new town, and Summer Girls lets me return to my old haunts.
Amy: Do you have any writing rituals? Are you a plotter or a “pantser” — someone who writes by the seat of her pants?
Meg: I am a major plotter. I created a chapter-by-chapter outline for How to Eat a Cupcake and have done the same for All the Summer Girls. I find the whole process so much less daunting when I know where I am headed and how I plan to get there.
Amy: How do you (and do you?) define women’s fiction?
Meg: I honestly don’t really think very much about fiction categories, but I understand how they’re an important part of book marketing and helping your book find the right audience. I would say women’s fiction addresses issues and themes that are important to women—friendship, family, love, careers. Novels that fall under the women’s fiction umbrella offer an escape because they’re about someone else’s life, but the themes usually still resonate closely with women living in contemporary American society. They often cover those things you discuss with your partner late at night. Or the things you chat about with your friends over coffee—or martinis.
Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?
Meg: Hunt down the sort of books you aspire to write and then read them not for pleasure but for professional enlightenment. Take notes on every chapter and study how the author created the arc of plot and how she brought the characters to life. Don’t just read—study!
Meg Donohue has an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Dartmouth College. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband, daughters, dog, and a weakness for salted caramel cupcakes. How to Eat a Cupcake is her first novel.