How did you come to the story, Fat Angie?
I was sitting in a mom and pop diner in Madison, Wisconsin. Dead of winter with five-foot snow stacks. I had this antiquated iPod that landed on Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way.” Something in the opening riff of that electric guitar hooked my attention — ignited this voice and visual. I asked the waitress, Grace, if I could borrow a pen, and scribbled out on a napkin what would be the opening of FAT ANGIE. The intensity in the music jumpstarted my imagination, and there was no hitting pause. The girl who would live large rocked the page!
2. What makes Angie a strong girl?
This isn’t a story where the handsome guy rescues the female protagonist. It isn’t a love triangle either. This is the story of a girl who must find her own value and strength through challenging herself to be more than her couldn’t-be-bothered mother, couldn’t-care-less adopted brother and most of the people in her school believe she can be. Angie has to find her own strength and be comfortable in her own skin — and not by dropping thirty pounds to be loved and/or belong. And with new girl in town, KC Romance, Angie also has a chance to have someone mirror her true self which also helps her to recognize she is beautiful … just the way she is. No weight makeover required.
3. What was the most challenging part of writing Fat Angie? What was the sweetest surprise?
The most challenging part of writing Fat Angie was her mother. I never liked Connie — I resented her. She is a horrible mirror for Angie to see herself and is so closed off by her own fears and heartache that she essentially bullies her daughter. But that’s just it. Connie’s own pain and flawed process around it was an active part of her character journey. Knowing that allowed me to create someone who is not a flat, caricature of a person. Once I got that, it really opened up Connie and Angie’s dynamic and allowed a nuance I wouldn’t have otherwise arrived at.
The sweetest surprise was the plethora of pop culture that felt absolutely right for the narrative. Pop culture can really date a story fast, but it just flowed with this corky, funny, tragic and triumph story. As an avid fan of the television series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, it was so much fun to infuse components of that into the narrative in a way that felt authentic to the character KC Romance. Both Fat Angie and KC are allowed to express their “girl power” in their own unique ways. I didn’t set out to write feminist characters but was elated to see the evolution of both girls and the impact of pop culture on them and the narrative.
4. Finish this sentence, strong girls______
aren’t afraid to stand in their power, truth and embrace that when knocked down, it is simply an opportunity to get back up.
What are you working on next?
Candlewick Press recently purchased my fourth novel, When We Was Fierce. It is a gritty, urban story that chronicles the efforts of a group of friends to stay out of gang warfare.
I’m completing the documentary about my self-funded and unconventional book tour for Fat Angie called At-Risk Summer [http://nevercountedout.com/how-to-help/support-the-film/] We plan to hold special screenings across America in October 2014 while submitting to film festivals.