almost as big or as big or bigger than the next big thing

The lovely and talented Caroline Grant, one of the co-editors of the anthology THE CASSOULET SAVED OUR MARRIAGE: True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat (which I contributed to, yay!) asked me to participate in the Next Big Thing, a blog meme for writers. I have never done a meme before! She persuaded me to participate by telling me that she had chosen me because I am almost as awesome as unicorns and donuts. I’m paraphrasing slightly.

What is the title of your book?

STRANGER HERE: How Weight Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed with My Head

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Stranger Here is about the fantasy of weight loss, the difficulty of body image issues, and about trying to figure out who you are when you have nothing left to blame–you know, like being fat–for your unhappiness.

What genre does your book fall under?

The little note on the back says, “memoir” and “personal growth.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

In 2007, just a few months after getting weight loss surgery, I was approached by an editor from Conde Nast. She had been reading the little blog about the surgery I had been keeping on a Blogger site. She told me my story was fascinating and my voice was compelling, and would I be their featured blogger on a new body/health/wellness website they were creating, called Elastic Waist?

I jumped at the chance, because who doesn’t want to say they write for Conde Nast? For about two years I wrote a blog about my weight loss experiences after weight loss surgery.

I’ve been writing fiction all my life, and never considered writing a memoir—I’m not old and wise enough to think that my life story is important. But in the process of writing that blog, I met and spoke with a huge number of people, some who couldn’t be considered fat in any sense of the word and some who would never consider weight loss surgery, but who all still found that my struggles with self-acceptance, re-learning who I was outside of my identity as a fat girl, were resonating with them. Self-acceptance wasn’t just the purview of overweight people—almost everyone fights with it, and almost everyone despairs of ever winning.

That was a revolutionary idea for me.

So I thought it was important to write a story about weight loss that wasn’t a traditional weight-loss memoir, the kind with a happy ending at goal weight and a fade to black. I wanted to talk about self-esteem and body image and life choices and the idea that the fairy tale of losing weight—that you will become perfect, that your life will become magically perfect when you are skinny and happy—is a lie. And that it’s okay to not be perfect, too.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It took me more than a year after the site ended to work up the courage to write a proposal and find a pair of wonderful agents. When the book didn’t sell on proposal—editors were worried that the market was oversaturated with weight loss memoirs—I decided to sit down and actually write the book, to show editors that I could write this story and make it compelling, show that it was important and necessary.

That process took almost two years and it was excruciating—it is hard to be honest about your major flaws and faults, and I was writing about a lot of really dark thoughts and difficult times. I didn’t want to rehash the blog I wrote for two years—I was starting completely from scratch.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The blog readers who told me my story was important to them.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Cheryl Pientka of Grinberg Literary Management represents me, and the book is being published in March by Seal Press, an imprint of Perseus Books.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?

I admire and love Wendy McClure‘s I’M NOT THE NEW ME, Jennette Fulda‘s HALF-ASSED, Shauna Reid‘s AMAZING ADVENTURES OF DIET GIRL, Frances Kuffel‘s PASSING FOR THIN, and Valerie Frankel‘s THIN IS THE NEW HAPPY.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

WELL Jennifer Lawrence could totally pull off my gravitas. And boobs. The love interests should be played by Gerard Butler and that guy who plays Khal Drogo. My friends could be played by Emma Watson, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone and Mila Kunis.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It takes place in San Francisco; it’s got adventure and sex and sadness and happiness and friendship and comedy. I am told it is “compelling” and “arresting,” which sounds slightly dangerous to me.

Tag five writers who you think fit the phrase “The Next Big Thing.”

I think they’re already currently amazing things, but these are some of my favorite authors, new and previously published and going to be publishing something soon.

Joshua Mohr, whose amazing book FIGHT SONG is coming out soon!
Susan Steinberg, who recently published a gorgeous collection of stories, SPECTACLE.
Jan Richman, whose beautiful book is out now.
Brooke Warner, who can get you published–check out
KM Soehnlein, brilliant author of Robin and Ruby, The World of Normal Boys and You Can Say You Knew Me When. (And rumor has it that he’s working on a new novel now!)

One Reply to “almost as big or as big or bigger than the next big thing”

  1. I literally just finished your book this afternoon (it was recommended to me by a friend of mine on livejournal, ‘nonelvis’, who I *believe* knows you). It was an excellent and compelling read and I even wrote a short-ish review on Amazon about it (which I never do) and posted a recommendation on my Facebook. :)

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