Meg Donohue dazzles with How to Eat a Cupcake, her delicious debut novel (in stores Mar. 13) about the mending of an unlikely friendship destroyed by betrayal. She dishes with SheKnows about her road to publication (the ups and downs), motherhood and of course, cupcakes.
How to Eat a Cupcake has all the perfect ingredients: engaging characters, a strong plot and a witty voice making Meg Donohue SheKnows’ obvious choice for debut author of the month.
A Q&A with Meg Donohue
SheKnows: You’re active on Twitter (@MegDonohue). Tweet us about your novel, How to Eat a Cupcake — in 140 characters or fewer of course!
Meg Donohue: Frenemies reunite to open a cupcakery. When a saboteur takes aim, but can they mend their friendship and uncover past secrets before it’s too late?
Wow. That was hard. I left out so much!
SheKnows: Your book makes us want to eat! Why cupcakes? What’s the backstory?
Meg Donohue: I’m always struck by how food brings people together — both literally and figuratively in the sense that we gather together to eat but then we talk about what we’re eating and those discussions are often great ice-breakers. And, of course, food can be a great comfort. These days, I feel like every life event is celebrated with cupcakes — children’s birthdays, adults’ birthdays, showers, weddings. They’re everywhere and I’m not complaining! Women in particular seem to be drawn to the comfort and nostalgic delight of cupcakes and I started thinking about how two very different women could equally love the not-so-humble cupcake, and how their love for cupcakes could serve as a bridge or gateway to bring them together, or back together in the case of Annie and Julia.
SheKnows: How did you come up with the title of your book?
Meg Donohue: The book was “Untitled Novel” the entire time I was writing it. I would occasionally jot down ideas for titles as I was writing and by the time the book was complete I had about ten possibilities. I sent that list to my editor, Jeanette Perez at Harper, and the one she liked best was How to Eat a Cupcake. It was in my top three, but it took me a while to feel like it was absolutely the right one. Now I completely love it and can’t imagine the book with any other title. Jeanette is so wise!
SheKnows: You have two small children (in fact you were pregnant while writing this book!) and the cutest rescue dog ever! When do you find time to write? What’s your secret to balancing it all?
Meg Donohue: The word balance implies that everything is evenly distributed and nothing ever topples off the scale entirely, which unfortunately is just not the case. There are many days when I feel like I am distracted by work and falling behind on my duties as mother — and other days when I am so involved with caring for my children that it’s nearly impossible to transition to a writing mindset. My 3-year-old daughter is in preschool three mornings each week and we have a beloved part-time nanny who watches her and our 9-month-old daughter on the other weekday mornings, so I end up having four mornings per week to write. It never feels like enough time, but I can’t imagine giving up those afternoons with my girls. And I try to squeeze in a few short jogs or walks each week with our dog to get us both out of the house and moving. I think juggling so much makes me use my time more wisely than I did pre-children — when I only have a few hours to write, I know I have to get down to business immediately! I’m also a big list-maker and goal-setter. I set myself the firm but not unreasonable goal of writing 10 new pages each week which means that it takes me about 10 months to have a full first draft of a novel written.
SheKnows: This is your DEBUT novel that was selected as Target stores’ “Emerging authors” pick. First off — congrats on your success! Now tell us, what was the road to publication like? What was your high point and your low point?
Meg Donohue: Thank you so much! I am so happy and grateful — and relieved — that some early readers and booksellers have enjoyed the book. My road to publication was a bit outside the norm. My editor is a friend of mine who had read some of my fiction over the years that we have known each other. Long story short, I submitted a proposal, outline, and the first couple of chapters of How to Eat a Cupcake to her and she offered me a contract to write the book. It was a dream come true — I call her my Fairy God-Editor. The only low points that come to mind were the occasional rough days when I was working on the manuscript and feeling like the writing was just not flowing at all — those panicky moments where I wondered if I could really get this done. Luckily, there have been many more high points than low ones. The day my editor emailed with the offer was the first of many. Signing the contract and splitting a bottle of Champagne with my husband was another good one. The days when the writing flowed and I felt productive and in control of the story were definite high points in the process. Turning in the manuscript was another exciting — and nerve-wracking — day. I’m not going to lie. Reading online reviews from early readers who have really connected with the book totally makes my day. And, just recently, holding the finished book in my hand was a truly joyous moment. That’s a lot of high points, but I can’t pick just one!
SheKnows: What book are you reading now? What book do you plan to read next?
Meg Donohue: Right now I’m reading Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? It is a funny book — pun intended — to catch me reading because I don’t often read nonfiction. But the author and I were a year apart as undergrads at Dartmouth so I was curious to read her book. It is laugh-out-loud-while-you’re-in-public-places funny. I have so many books on my to-read pile, but I think the next in line is Sleep Toward Heaven by Amanda Eyre Ward. I really admire and enjoy her writing style.
SheKnows: You’re working on another novel- any hints as to what it’s about?
Meg Donohue: Sure! I’m less than halfway through the first draft, however, so there are still a lot of things I’m in the process of figuring out about the story. It is about three childhood friends whose lives, at 29-years old, seem to be unraveling. In an effort to console Kate, who has been dumped by her fiancé, they all escape to the New Jersey beach town where they spent their summer as kids. It’s the first time they’ve been back to this town in years and while they’re there they uncover a boatload of old secrets and guilt that each has been harboring about the death of Kate’s brother 7 years earlier, among other things. Once again, I’m writing about the role of friendship in the lives of young and grown women. Thoreau said something about knowing your bone — that you should figure out what you’re infatuated with and dig for it and gnaw on it over and over again. I guess it’s safe to say that friendship is my bone.