Megan Hooper was king enough to take the time to answer some questions about her book Megan, and the topic of sex in YA.
How did you come up with the idea for Megan?
Teen pregnancy is a perenially popular topic, always in the newspapers. But my writer friend Jean Ure tells me that she suggested it to me in the first place!
What was your intention with writing Megan? Was it just to write a story about teenage pregnancy, or did you want to give out a message?
Story every time. There's an old adage about writing which says, "If you want to send a message, use Western Union" (or British Telecom).
Megan’s Mum reacts very badly to Megan’s pregnancy. Why did you decide to write Megan an unsupportive mother?
For more drama and conflict. To make things as difficult as possible for Megan.
Claire, Megan’s best friend, also leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to support. Why did you give Megan very few people to rely on?
See above! If everyone is supportive and everything jolly, then there's nothing much to write about.
The story focuses more on what Megan is thinking and feeling, rather than on things such as antenatal classes and doctor appointments. Why did you choose to do this?
Interesting question; I hadn't realised this - but I think the answer is that I am more interested in a person's emotional responses to things than the practical everyday matters.
Megan’s conversations with her social worker, Susie, are very informative. What research did you have to do for the book?
I spoke to a social worker friend for up-to-date information (it was then that I discovered how few babies these days are given up for adoption). Also I went to a mother and baby unit and spoke to all the girls and the workers there.
It has been ten years since Megan was first published. Do you think the story still applies today, or has changes over the past ten years dated it?
It's certainly dated as regards mobiles/texting/Facebook and the like - none of them had been invented! But I hope not dated as far as emotions are concerned.
There aren’t any actual sex scenes in Megan. Was this because you didn’t want to include them, or because it wasn’t right for the story?
At the time I wrote the book, my editor was dead against any graphic sex scenes (which was a relief!) Also, I didn't need any sex stuff because all that was over and done with by the time Megan found out that she was pregnant.
What’s your opinion of how today’s YA novels are dealing with the topic of sex and related issues?
I'm writing historical fiction now so I don't actually read many modern YA novels to know what's going on as regards sex. I do know they have a lot more freedom.
Do you think there is a limit on what should be covered in YA novels?
A difficult question. No one is for censorship, but good taste and artistic sensibility seem to dictate that literature should enrich rather than debase. That sounds a bit fancy, so let's just say that that awful/vulgar/vile things do go on, but one doesn't necessarily want to read about them. A "misery memoire" is not my idea of a good read.
What books did you read as a teenager, and how well do you think they dealt with talking about sex?
There weren't any books for teenagers when I was one! I went straight from JUST WILLIAM and Enid Blyton (no sex at all) to adult books (very little there, either).
What do you think about parents not allowing their teenagers to read novels with a certain sexual content?
I can understand a parent or librarian not wanting a vulnerable teenager to read anything they considered gross, but this would probably add to the book's attraction. I remember not wanting my then-11 year old daughter to read FOREVER, but I'm sure she read it anyway.
Anything else you wish to add/discuss?
The three MEGAN books have just been reissued in new jackets. The first cover (ten years back) was very bland: you could just make out a girl's face with a lot of scribbble over it. The second cover had a little more going on and showed a girl looking a bit forlorn. The new one is utterly uncompromising and shows a young girl, heavily pregnant. I think this shows how things have changed!
Thank you, Mary, for a great interview!