Interview: C. Leigh Purtill
Current Mood: awake
Current Song: She Floats by Vanessa Carlton
For as long as she can remember, Meg has been raised by her older sister. Lucie is the only family she has, and they move around quite often, but Meg's fairly well-adjusted for a fifteen-year-old. Even though she lacks long-term friends, she loves her sister and she has a pretty cool pen pal: actress Jennifer Aniston, who has been responding to Meg's letters for years.
Then the sisters move to Hollywood, where someone finds them and reveals the truth about their family - something Meg never suspected, something Lucie always hid, something that will change their lives forever.
Love, Meg by C. Leigh Purtill will appeal to teens, especially those who like to daydream, but might never admit to it. In fact, adults who remember writing fan letters to their idols will like it too. Though the main character in this story choose to write her letters to modern-day actress Jennifer Aniston, it's far less about the who and more about the what - that this character chooses to tell a stranger all about her personal life while keeping her real friends and family members at arm's length. That is very telling about her character, right from the start. Before the book is through, Meg grows up a little, both by chance and by choice, and she finally lets others into her life.
C. Leigh Purtill, the author of Love, Meg, dropped by Bildungsroman to talk about family, identity, and Disneyland.
Although I was born in Germany, I grew up on the east coast of the US, primarily in the suburbs of Connecticut and Pennsylvania. When I was an adult, I discovered the joys of cities and never looked back. I have been lucky to have experienced life in the great cities of Boston, New York City, and Los Angeles.
Meg often changes her signature. Did your manuscript ever bear a title other than Love, Meg?
Yes, indeed. The original title was Jennifer Aniston is My Best Friend. I loved that title! It was very hard to give it up because it defined the book for me. However, it didn't take long for me to love Love, Meg.
Meg also changes her nickname with nearly every move. You go by Leigh, but your byline reads C. Leigh Purtill. Is there a story there?
I have been C. Leigh since college graduation when I was asked for my name for the diploma. Everyone I knew was using their full names but of course, I had to be different! Now if you google Leigh Purtill, you'll find a guy in Australia who's a runner with the same name so I'm kind of glad I added the C. (And if you want to know what the C stands for, you'll have to listen to the podcast on my website. I promised listeners that would be the only place to find it!)
What prompted you to write this story?
I used to work in Burbank and every day, while sitting in traffic, I stared up at a giant billboard advertising Friends. There were these six fun, beautiful people with fantastic lives and I wondered how it would be possible to have friends like that. Not Rachel or Monica, but Jennifer Aniston or Courtney Cox Arquette. What would that be like? And realistically, how could that happen for a normal person? I came up with the idea of having a celebrity as a pen pal.
Why did you select Jennifer Aniston to be Meg's idol?
Okay, honestly? I think Jennifer Aniston is amazing. She's beautiful and talented and sophisticated. She doesn't seem like she would ever be caught in a compromising position. I have never read negative words attributed to her. I just think she's a great role model that way. Among celebrities, she seems accessible. Like, if you were standing in line behind her at Starbucks, you could strike up a conversation with her and she wouldn't be freaked out. And she seems like she would be getting her own skim latte, you know, not sending a chauffeur or bodyguard out to get it. Also, because she's in our living room as Rachel a hundred times a day, it feels like we already know her. We've been through so much with her as both Rachel Green and Jennifer Aniston.
Have you contacted Ms. Aniston or her reps about this book?
Yes! She has 2 copies of the galley. Through my manager, we were able to get one copy to her and then about a month or two later, she requested a second one. I have not heard anything since but I am dying to know if she liked it or not - or if she even read it.
Without spoiling those who have yet to read the book, do you think Bunny will ever know Meg's real identity?
Yes, definitely. I think Meg realizes how important it is to be honest and that she will get in touch with Bunny when she's older.
Will Meg stay in touch with the Hernandez family?
For a while, yes. I believe they serve a purpose in her life as a surrogate family. However, as Meg grows, she will form her own version of family and that will become just as fulfilling to her.
Where do you see Meg, Lucie, and the others in five years?
Meg will somehow scrape up enough money to attend college in Southern California, although she will probably need to rely on scholarships and financial aid and have a part-time job. Lucie will continue to have trouble keeping a job but knowing that Meg isn't going anywhere will encourage her to keep trying. The girls will move to a rent-controlled apartment in West Hollywood which they will paint and get some decent furniture that's not so easy to move. Unfortunately, Meg and Juny will break up when Meg outgrows Juny but it will be amicable. Lonnie will visit once a year with his family and take everyone to Disneyland.
Tell us about your next book, All About Vee.
Veronica May is a plus-sized actress who moves from a tiny border town in Arizona to the bright lights of Hollywood. Following in the footsteps of her late mother, she struggles to define her place in the world and along the way experiences rejection and heartbreak and love. (All About Vee is due out in April 2008.)
List ten of your all-time favorite books.
This is the hardest question of all! Okay, these are my 10 favorite at this very second. If you ask me in an hour, the list might change:
A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
The Trial, Franz Kafka
Never Change, Elizabeth Berg
An Almost Perfect Moment, Binnie Kirshenbaum
A Patchwork Planet, Anne Tyler
Fleur de Leigh's Life of Crime, Diane Leslie
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers
Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco