Though she would like to, Megan McCafferty won’t forget the day that Charmed Thirds—the third in her series of beloved novels about plucky young Jessica Darling—was published in April 2006. An e-mail from a fan alerted her that an excerpt in USA Today of a new novel by one Kaavya Viswanathan sounded awfully like McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts, which had launched the Jessica Darling series in 2001.
McCafferty got a copy of the suspect novel—How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life—and was appalled to discover that the plagiarist had also swiped portions of her follow-up, Second Helpings. “Once I saw the extent of it, I knew immediately it was going to be the media maelstrom that it became, and it horrified me,” the Princeton-based author says.
Charmed Thirds leaped onto the New York Times bestseller list—not, McCafferty says, due to media attention to the plagiarized book, which had been snatched off the market by its publisher. “It was my readers going out that first week and buying it,” she says. “The problem is, the New York Times compiles its lists two weeks in advance. When the list came out simultaneous with the scandal, people were like, ‘Oh, look at her, she hit the bestseller list because of this. What’s she complaining about?’”Ironically, McCafferty had almost retired her heroine after the first two novels. “It wasn’t until I had a dream in which I was telling my agent that it was going to be titled Charmed Thirds, it was going to be about her college years…[that] I thought, Wow, my subconscious is telling me to do this,” McCafferty recently told Tamala Edwards of WPVI-TV in Philadelphia.
McCafferty, 34, isn’t done with Jessica. In August, Crown released Fourth Comings, in which Jessica wrestles with the job market, repaying student loans, and an unexpected marriage proposal from her longtime boyfriend. It has sold even better than Charmed Thirds.
As for the scandal, “I’m moving on,” says the author, now at work on a fifth and final installment. “I’ve always been a writer. I hope to continue to write books until I can’t anymore. And I hope that that is a blip, or forgotten entirely.”Click here to leave a comment