Jeff Glor talks to Megan Abbott about "The End of Everything," the story of a thirteen-year-old girl named Lizzie who goes on a search for her missing friend, and finds many things she never expected.
Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?
Megan Abbott: I always wanted to write about those magical families we all want to be a part of. I think we all knew one, growing up--one of those families where the big sisters seem nicer, the mother more glamorous the father more dashing, and everyone seems to be having a marvelous time, together.
I had one in my neighborhood, growing up--the family of my best friend. Everything about them had this enchanted quality. Even her house seemed more exciting, filled with hidden corners and alcoves. But, over time, things fell apart for them. It struck me that, when something goes wrong in one of those "perfect" families, it goes very, very wrong. Their "lightness" is so intense, that when dark things happen, they are even darker. Unlike the rest of our varyingly dysfunctional families, these families are not built to last. That crash-and-burn that seems inevitable when something blazes so brightly.
JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?
MA: The narrator is a thirteen -year-old girl and at first that seemed daunting. But I was taken aback by how easy it was to slip back into that febrile mind. I found myself drawing on memories of my own that I wasn't even aware I had--these intense, physical memories. That pressing sense of mystery and painful discovery.
I think for many of us, and maybe women in particular, thirteen is a deeply significant year. At that age, you live, every day, in this crackle of tension between a uncontrollable curiosity--a desire to uncover the secrets of life--and this series of disillusionments as those secrets are revealed. Somehow, writing the book, that all came flooding back.
JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?
MA: Right now, I also work as a grant writer for Union Settlement, a nonprofit in East Harlem, so I'd probably be doing that. Doing both at once is a good balance between living in the world of my own head and living in the real world. So, the downside would be that, were I not writing, I'd only be living in the real world.
JG: What else are you reading right now?
MA: I just read Daphne Du Maurier's "My Cousin Rachel," which was a stunner. Twisty, dark and strange. One of those books you read and think, "Where have you been all my life?"
JG: What's next for you?
MA: My next novel, "Dare Me," comes out next year and is the end result of an obsessive excursion into the world of high school cheerleading. I became fascinated with how cheer has transformed since I was a teenager. Today, it's fiercely athletic and very dangerous. These girls perform death defying stunts and seem to embrace the risk. They're proud of their wounds, like boxers, or even soldiers. It began to strike me kind of like Fight Club for teenage girls. So I began writing about story about a power struggle among a squad of cheerleaders under the sway of a charismatic coach. It's not a world I expected to find myself in, but once I was in, I couldn't let it go.
For more on "The End of Everything," visit the Hatchette Book Group