Hi everyone! Recently, I interviewed Meagan Brothers, who wrote Weird Girl and What's His Name. I loved this book and I would highly recommend it, so if you're interested in it and you haven't read my review yet, you can find it here. For now, I hope you'll enjoy reading this interview, so please keep on reading!
Hi Laurence! I’m happy to be here – thanks for having me on your blog! Weird Girl and What’s His Name is about a couple of friends, Rory and Lula, who are kind of the unpopular nerdy kids at their school. They have a falling out, and have to try to put themselves back together again. Along the way, they’re also trying to make sense of their respective broken families and nascent love lives and what not. You know, the usual life drama stuff.
What inspired you to write this story?
Being kind of an unpopular nerdy kid! Actually, I had started the story sometime in 2007 – I had an idea to write something about a pair of friends, and I got as far as that first paragraph, which is actually opens the book now, fairly unchanged from its original state. I didn’t write any more of it, though, because I felt like my original idea was too similar to my first book. But then the next summer, I went to see the second X-Files movie on opening night. Seeing Mulder and Scully again took me back to being in high school and college, when the show was on, and I was watching it with my friends, or alone in a dark room and then going online to talk about it afterward. I don’t know what connected those things in my mind, but the week after I saw the movie, I dug up that paragraph, which was still sitting there in one of my notebooks, and, instead of working on my Supergirl Mixtapes rewrites, I wrote this short story instead. The story was basically a slightly shorter version of Rory’s half of the book. The next year, I wrote Lula’s half. I guess you could say the main inspiration, as odd as it may sound, was the camaraderie that I felt, between both friends and total strangers, that came from all of us watching a TV show together.
Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
Ahh, it’s so hard to pick a favorite! They’re all like my kids. Even the old guys. It’s probably easier to tell you my least favorites, which were Andy and Lula’s mom, Christine. It was a huge challenge to stay empathetic while I was writing those two. I can tell you, though, one of my favorites who I thought would have a bigger part in the book was Midnight Pete, the college radio DJ that Lula and Seth both listened to. I kept trying to work him into the story but it was so peripheral it just felt distracting, so a lot of his backstory got cut. But I went back and gave him a bigger role in two different short stories, which made me feel a little bit better about axing the poor guy.
Is there a reason why you mostly write for young adults?
Because I’m extremely immature. No, just kidding. Okay, only partly kidding. Actually, I like the lack of cynicism in YA books. I like feeling like I have free rein to write characters who are aren’t totally jaded yet.
Your novels have such creative names: Debbie Harry Sings in French, Supergirl Mixtapes, Weird Girl and What's His Name, etc. How do you come up with these titles?
I have to admit, with Debbie Harry Sings in French, it started out as a short story for a class I was taking in college, and it’s been so long since then, I have no recollection of how I came up with that title! Must’ve come to me on a flaming pie…. Supergirl Mixtapes was originally Citygirls and then Downtown at Dawn, but I wanted something a little less generic-sounding. Weird Girl… was called Teenage FBI for the longest time, which is the title of a Guided by Voices song, but my publishers at Three Rooms Press, Kat Georges and Peter Carlaftes, weren’t crazy about it. I think they were afraid people would think it was more of a straightforward mystery story, and I agreed. I’d actually been trying to think of a better title for a while, for the same reason. Peter suggested Weird Girl and What’s His Name. Suddenly, I was like: that’s it! Sometimes it takes another person to see something that’s been right in front of you all along.
In Weird Girl and What's His Name, Lula and Rory are part of a huge fandom and they take X-Files very seriously. Do you consider yourself a fangirl, too? If so, what are your fandoms?
Oh yes, definitely a pretty huge X-Files fan, too, going back to 1994! There are other sci-fi shows and movies I loved as a kid, and still love – the original Star Trek, Star Wars, Quantum Leap, Lost. All those cheesy sci-fi-ish movies from the 80s like Flight of the Navigator and The Last Starfighter and Explorers. But X-Files, yeah, that’s my jam. And I don’t know if you consider music fandom a “fandom” in the same sense, but I’m one of those people who goes to the record store on their lunch break at least once a week. On my desk currently is just a laptop surrounded by haphazard piles of used CDs. I should tidy up, actually.
Your characters grow up a lot during the story, especially while questionning their identity and their sexual orientation. What would be your advice for teenagers going through similar scenarios?
The main thing is to be yourself and to allow yourself to love who you love. But if you’re in an environment where you’re being discouraged, threatened, or bullied by people because you’re gay, bi, or trans, I know that’s not easy advice to follow. If you’re not in a supportive environment right now, try to hang in there. Don’t listen to the negativity. Rise above it. Try to find some way to redirect your frustration and express how you’re feeling, whether it’s art or jogging or writing – don’t resort to self-harm, and don’t isolate yourself. Find people who are supportive – it may just be one friend right now, or an online community, or a teacher, or a pastor from a progressive church – and let that person know what’s going on with you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t feel like you’re alone, because you’re not. There are so many people who want you to survive and thrive, believe me. It might feel like you’re fighting through each day right now, but trust me, you have a place in this world just the way you are, and it’s worth the fight.
What was the hardest part of writing your novels and why?
Probably the hardest part is when you’re working on rewrites, and you know a scene isn’t working, but you don’t know how to fix it. That, and the selling part. When I’m supposed to be Tweeting and Facebooking and Tumblring about how great my book is and how you should buy it. My teenage self-loathing comes back in full force and I’m like “ehh, I wrote this book, but it’s not really that great. You can buy it if you want, or whatever. But, seriously, you don’t have to, like, read it or anything. Ugh.”
What would be your best advice for aspiring writers?
Keep writing, all the time. Don’t be afraid to be that nerd who carries a little notebook around. Find some quiet space away from your phone. Read everything you can get your hands on. Go to readings and book events, if they’re happening in your town. Try to make friends with other writers – they will be your lifeline. And go outside and walk around. Get some fresh air every once in a while. Exercise a little. Eat healthy food. Obviously, writing isn’t a contact sport, but you’re gonna feel too crappy to do it if your back goes out from sitting for 8 hours straight and your brain is in a Dorito haze.
What do you like the most about reading and writing?
I like those moments in writing when you break through. When something’s bugging you and you can’t put your finger on it but you sit down to write this poem or this character comes to you and you’re able to work it out that way. A-ha, that’s what I was afraid of! And reading is great because it’s so still. You get lost in the world of the book, and hopefully there are no distractions, no pop-ups, no message alerts. It’s just you, traveling without moving. Very magic.
Which author inspires you and why?
Ray Bradbury inspires me a lot, because he was a really pure writer. Woke up pretty much every day of his life and wrote. Robert Pollard inspires me for the same reason. Dude just writes songs every single day. Whatever your art is, it should be an everyday pursuit.
What's your all-time favorite quote?
Probably it’s what the sculptor Constantin Brancusi said about being in a constant state of making art: “If one could create as one breathes, that would be true happiness. One should arrive at that.”
That, and “there’s no crying in baseball!” from A League of Their Own.
What are your current projects? Is there anything you can tell us about?
I’ve got four stories that are related to this book – well, three stories and a novella. They’re still a little rough around the edges, but if people like this book, maybe I’ll make them available online or something. I’ve got a new book plotted out, but it’s still pretty embryonic at this point. And the usual stuff on the side – poetry, a couple of short stories here and there. Maybe they’ll get out someday, who knows!
Where can we find you on your social media?
I’m on Twitter (@meaganbrothers), Tumblr (actuallymeaganbrothers.tumblr.com), and on Facebook (facebook.com/meaganbrothersauthorpage.)
Thank you for answering my questions!
Thanks for having me!