Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Where Did THAT Come From?

The first question a lot of people ask writers is, “How did you come up with this idea?” I certainly ask that when I read books. I think about the author’s life and wonder if the characters are people she knows, if the towns are places she’s visited, if the events that happen are things that have happened to her. Sometimes stories and characters feel so true, you believe they must be real.

In the case of LOVE, MEG, none of it is real, except there really is a Hollywood and a Queens, New York, and of course, a magnificent and talented Jennifer Aniston. But Meg and her sister are no one I know and there was no one I based them on - except for myself. (I love long straight hair and wearing low-riders and flip-flops and “Friends” is one of my favorite shows of all time, if you couldn’t tell…) And the events that transpire in their lives are a result of me playing the “What if?” game that all writers play.

When I came to Hollywood, I used to imagine all the things that Meg imagines: movie stars tooling around in their cars on Sunset Boulevard, stopping for coffee at the local Starbucks, their kids attending Hollywood High. I would drive through the Hollywood Hills and think about the famous people who must live behind those steel gates and up those long driveways. And I used to wonder what it would be like if someone famous, someone like Jennifer Aniston, were my best friend. (The original title of LOVE, MEG was, in fact, JENNIFER ANISTON IS MY BEST FRIEND.)

Imagine, having a movie star as your best friend! What would you do? How would you feel about yourself? And more importantly, how on earth could you make that happen? And that’s when I got the basic idea for the book: Meg would write to this famous star and become her friend that way.

There is, I confess, one very real thing that contributed to the book. My family did move around a lot when I was growing up, although not nearly as often as Meg and Lucie, and it was very hard to keep friends - making friends was not hard but staying in touch certainly was. That is definitely a part of Meg’s personality that is based in truth. And the connection Meg feels to the show “Friends” is based, in part, on my mom. She was a stay-at-home mother when we were kids and each time we moved, she lost her friends too. But her soap operas became her friends. I remember her telling me once that no matter where we moved, she could always turn on “All My Children” and find people she knew.

So that, in a nutshell, is where the original idea came from - nothing special, no big lightning bolt smacking me in the head. Just a “hey this would be kind of cool” that inspired me to create a character like Meg Shanley. To me, she is a real person and I’ve loved spending every minute with her as she told me her story.

Your Hollywood connection,