Welcome to MarieClaire.com's Q&A author series—the spot where we ask the #ReadWithMC author-of-the-month five burning questions about her latest book. For our second pick of 2020, we're reading Followers by Megan Angelo. If you're interested in the novel and looking for some friends to talk about it with, find out how to participate in Marie Claire's online monthly book club here. (Yes, you really don't have to leave your couch.)
When Megan Angelo began outlining her debut novel, Followers, five years ago, Fake News didn't require a definition from Merriam-Webster and people were still using Instagram hashtags like nobody's business. TDLR: Things have changed. Once she began writing about what she thought would be the alternative outcome of the 2016 election—a Donald Trump presidency—that instead became an unimaginable reality, the idea she had for her book suddenly didn't seem so outrageous.
In Followers, Angelo explores the lives of two roommates—Orla, a budding novelist, and Floss, a wannabe star—from 2015 all the way to 2051 when government-appointed celebrities exist and social media dominance is greater than ever. Marlow, an influencer with 12 million followers, enters the picture when she discovers a game-changing secret about her past, and privacy is no longer an option. Angelo knows her book is bonkers—and a bit scary—when you realize the parallels between the plot and our society at present.
Here, Angelo explains how, despite not being a big sci-fi or dystopian person, she chose to focus on social media's foreseeable future, and why Pen15's Maya Erskine would play the perfect Marlow in an on-screen adaptation.
Marie Claire: What inspired you to write Followers?
Megan Angelo: I started to write Followers after I was writing in my journal and I realized that my kids will probably never be able to read it because I write in cursive. I don't know why a moment that's so pen- and paper-oriented ended up leading to this book, but I think it was because I started to think about writing something set in the future. I’m not a big sci-fi person or dystopian person, so if I did [write about that] I would want it to build around things like that—stuff that your grandmother tells you, like, "Oh, it was like this in my day...” and it's obviously different in yours. It’s funny because I feel like everyone thinks I set out to write this social media manifesto, but I think my own nervousness about social media and where it's all headed kind of seeped in unconsciously. I didn't really set out to be like, okay, let's see what happens when Instagram goes wrong.
MC: What makes your book timely? Why should people read it now?
MA: Yes, it's partly a cautionary tale about what happens if you try to get famous, but it's also just a story about what can happen if you share too much. And sometimes the two things kind of blur together actually because these days it seems like we're all curating ourselves in a way that makes it look like we want to get famous...even if we don't. All of the social media sharing stuff is definitely what makes it timely even though I didn't really set out to lecture anybody.
MC: If you could be one character in the book, who would you be?
MA: I gotta go with Floss! What separates Floss from everybody else is that she doesn't think of consequences. Floss has never had drunk guilt. You know what I mean? When you wake up the next day even if you just had two glasses of wine and you're like, “Did I offend somebody?” Floss has never had that a day in her life. So for all of her flaws and all of the bad things she does, she's very free. It would be cool to just act like that for a day and then go right back to being the weenie that I am.
MC: Who would play the main characters in a movie? Cast your protagonist and antagonist.
MA: For Orla, I always imagined Emma Watson—someone who's smart and has that reader/writer cred, and who always seems like she has this major interior life going on. For Marlow, I would love Maya Erskine. I am the hugest fan of PEN15, and I love how expressive Maya's face is, how funny and vulnerable she is. I feel like people would really root for her. Floss is where I get stuck—totally taking suggestions. I have a hard time seeing her. In the book, Floss seems to come out of nowhere, like an asteroid, and I hope whoever would play her would have that same quality—one day you've never heard of her and the next day you can't remember life before her.
MC: What are you reading now? What's currently on your nightstand?
MA: You need good books to distract you from looking at your Amazon ranking! I'm in the middle of Long Bright River by Liz Moore and next up is going to be Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey. I'm also looking forward to Mary Kubica's next thriller, The Other Mrs., that comes out in a couple of weeks, and Alka Joshi's The Henna Artist. And then, of course, Such a Fun Age. I might read it again...it’s such a good read. Oh, and The Wives by Tarryn Fisher. It’s a thriller and I'm not usually a huge thriller person, but I literally finished the book screaming and that’s never happened to me before.
Audio excerpted courtesy HarperAudio from Followers by Megan Angelo, read by Jayme Mattler.
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Rachel Epstein is an editor at Marie Claire, where she writes and edits culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also manages the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game, finding a new coffee shop, or analyzing your cousin's birth chart—in no particular order.
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