Best of 2011

December 31st, 2011

Happy New Year! By the time you read this, it will most likely be 2012. How could another year have passed so quickly?

I don’t know. All I know is that 2011 went by like lightning.

Like most writers, I am a person of deep reflection (mostly when it concerns the lives of my characters, and celebrities, too, of course), so I realize that most of the highlights of 2011 — for me, anyway — involved all the traveling I did for the books that I wrote that came out this past year (Abandon and Overbite, not to mention my short story for the anthology What You Wish For) . . . not just this past month in France , but over the summer, too, when I got to go to places like Cedar Rapids and Tulsa and Boston and San Francisco.

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Shop window in Strasbourg

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Amazing French rugby shirt and fun poem courtesy of Florence – who wins the prize for coming to the most signings in a single country: every single one of them except one! Florence, you rock. I can’t thank everyone involved in my French tour enough for all their kindness. Merci!

2011 was especially meaningful to me since it was the year I finally found the answer to a question that is asked in nearly every interview I have:

“Which 5 people, living or dead, would you most like to have over for dinner?

How can anyone answer this? I know everyone thinks you can tell something really deep and important from the way a person answers this question, but I personally feel that this question is incredibly stupid, and that no one can tell anything about anyone from the way they answer it – at least not anything deep or meaningful, unless the person mentions 5 dead members of her own family. And this is why:

Everyone expects authors to answer that they’d have someone literary to dinner, such as Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte or maybe Ernest Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald. And I’m ashamed to admit that upon occasion, I have answered in this way.

But the truth is, I was lying. Except for a few of my author friends, I do not want to entertain any authors (except ones I already know) in my home. If you look at the great writers in history, almost all of them have had some kind of mental problem (presumably from being tortured by the burden of their genius, as one of my professors in college explained to us), and have self-medicated to numb the pain of their exceptional intelligence and creativity. This is true of nearly every great artist and musician as well (poor Amy Winehouse).

Most of us who grew up in large Catholic families already know how dinners like this go (generally there is a fist fight, then someone passes out on the living room floor).

It would totally spoil my enjoyment of Pride and Prejudice if its creator came over to my house and threw up on my carpet after too many vodka and cranberries.


Jane Austen. Crazy eyes?

Another way people expect you to answer the “5 People” question is with religious or political figures. Like, “I’d just love to have Jesus Christ, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, and Buddha to my house for dinner.”

Even though I have actually said things like this in answer to this question in the past (sorry, I panicked), I was totally lying, and it was only because I just wanted to get on to the next question and finish the interview and get back to sleep and/or to my deadline or whatever. I totally would NOT have these people to my house for dinner – not because I dislike Mother Theresa or think she might throw up on my carpet, but because one of the first rules of etiquette is never to discuss politics or religion over a meal.

But what else do you think these people would want to talk about over their supper? Probably not the things I like to talk about, such as whether or not Kate Middleton is pregnant (Jesus would totally give spoilers).

The same goes with celebrities. I would never have any of the Kardashians or Scar-Jo or Rhianna or Marilyn Monroe or LeBron James or anyone super famous over for dinner. I’m sure they’d be very nice (to my face) but afterwards they’d call their publicist and be like, “OMG! SHE SERVED STEAK FAJITAS! I TOLD YOU, I’M VEGAN!” Honestly, it would just be too stressful. What if the towels in the bathroom weren’t soft enough? What if Lamar’s dad showed up? Just no.

It wasn’t until this year I realized I had the perfect answer all along to the 5 People question and just didn’t know it:

Fictional characters. Not my own. Other people’s.

Most of the books I read this year featured serial killers (I went on a heavy duty Laura Lippman kick. So delicious), so honestly, I wouldn’t want to have THEM over. For the Meg Cabot book club this month, we’re reading an excellent YA book by Josie Bloss called Faking Faith about a girl named Dylan who gets into some trouble at school (something you or I could easily have done. Well, I would have when I was her age. She did it for love), gets suspended, and starts spending a lot of time online, reading—innocently enough—the blogs of girls who lead lives very different from her own…homeschooled fundamentalist girls.

Eventually Dylan begins to envy the seemingly simpler world in which these girls live (one in which what happened to her would never have occurred), and starts a fake blog of her own…an action which leads to an adventure that changes her life, and the lives of others, in both good ways and maybe not so good ways (I think mostly good, personally).

I enjoyed reading this book so much, I wanted it to go on and on. I wanted sequels . . . which is why it’s so fun to talk about it on the message boards, so join us! (It doesn’t hurt that Asher, the boy in the book, is totally hot!) More importantly, the book gently raises—and argues—a lot of important points about faith and religion (and feminism) without being judgmental (at least in my opinion. Maybe someone who belongs to the religion the girls in the book follow —it is never named, though— would disagree, which also makes it fun to discuss).

I’d definitely have Asher, his sister, and Dylan over for dinner (and Josie, too).

But if I could have ANYONE to my house for dinner, it would be the casts of my favorite TV shows of 2011. Not the casts as themselves, aka the actors, but the fictional characters that they play.

Because I think 2011 was an EXCELLENT year for television, one of the first we’ve had in a long time that wasn’t dominated by reality television…no offense to reality TV, because I certainly have gotten sucked into my fair share of marathons of Dance Moms and Hoarders and I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant. Because guess what? A lot of people in history have NOT KNOWN THEY WERE PREGNANT.

But I got sucked into way more excellent scripted TV series in 2011 than I have in a long, long time.

I think it would be fun to invite the characters from all the new shows that made 2011 such a great year. How awesome would it be to have the entire cast of Downton Abbey over? Difficult, yes, because not only is their new season debuting Jan 8 so I’m sure they’re quite busy, but some of them are members of the aristocracy in turn-of-the-century Britain and expect to be waited on, so I’d have to hire help for sure (but that’s OK, because you know who I’d hire? Yeah, you got that right, the 2 Broke Girls), while some of them are “servant class”, so ARE the help. How on earth would I do the seating chart? Plus some of them are helplessly in love with others, while others are murderers, or attempted murderers at least, which only we, as the viewers, know. Awkward!

Then of course I’d HAVE to invite the cast of Game of Thrones, which presents the same problem as the Downton Abbey cast with the aristocracy thing and the serving class thing, not to mention the murderer thing (oh, and the romance thing! And the incest thing! And the dire-wolves! Plus, when last we saw her, one character had just given birth to not just one, but three dragons. Now everyone in the seven kingdoms wants to kill her. Where am I going to seat HER? Plus, what will I do with the dragons while we’re eating?)

Oh, well, maybe the cast from Happy Endings could babysit the dragons. I’m pretty sure baby dragons wouldn’t faze Max too much. He’d be like, “Oh, look at the fun dogs with wings!”

I will definitely seat Penny next to Tyrion from Game of Thrones because I could see her being all over a cynical dwarf.

And even though it didn’t debut in 2011, I’m inviting the cast of Courtney Cox’s Cougar Town, the show with the worst name ever, because this show needs the love…and after dinner, we can all cheat at penny can, and make Prince Joffrey super mad!

Okay, so obviously if I’m allowing Cougar Town on my list, I can’t not invite one of the best shows of all time, Friday Night Lights, even though it didn’t debut in 2011. But it did END in 2011, so I’m counting it (it’s my party, I can do what I want).

Of course this means Tim Riggins will be there. So how am I going to keep the girls from the casts of Awkward and Suburgatory away from him? I can’t not invite these shows, because they both debuted in 2011, and they’re both great, but let’s face it, those girls are going to be all over Tim, and he’s too old for them. What to do?

I know, I’ll invite Brody from Homeland! He has a teenaged daughter and is a Marine sniper, so he’ll keep the girls in line, even though he might be actually be a turned Al Quaeda terrorist (no one, not even his castmate Carrie, the CIA agent investigating him, is sure).

So I’ll get the members of the UTF (Undead Task Force) from Death Valley on MTV to keep an eye on him (they battle vampires and zombies all day so a possible terrorist should be easy for them).

For entertainment I’m hiring The New Girl to sing (if she promises to bring her roommates and Winston plays the bells).

There are a few other shows I liked that are on the backup list if any of the members of the above shows can’t make it—for instance, I liked The Hour, and Enlightened, and Louie, but I’m not sure they’d get along with the other shows. I would have liked to invite Episodes or Once Upon A Time and Grimm, but I really think we have enough. Other favorite shows, such as Parks and Rec and Parenthood and The Closer, will have to be invited at another time, since this is a 2011 Debut party only, with just a few exceptions for special circumstances.

Those exceptions, by the way, include you guys. YOU are totally invited to my hypothetical party, of course, because 2011 wouldn’t have been the same without you. I’m sure we would have the best time. I know because I’ve met so many of you (and/or heard from you online) in the past year, and I know we’d get along (even with the dragons and the dire-wolves and possible terrorists and murderers).

So THANK YOU. Not only for making 2011 so incredibly great, but because next time anyone asks what 5 People I’d have over to dinner, I’m finally going to have an answer that isn’t a lame lie: I’m going to say you . . . and our fictional friends.

Feel free to add to the invitation list on Facebook!

And I hope your 2012 is filled with health, happiness, and plenty of good books.

More later.

Much love,

Meg