Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Interview with K. L. Going

This interview was supposed to be part of Body Image and Self-Perception Month in July, but there were a few delays, so I'm posting it now as a follow up. I hope you enjoy it.

Most of the books that have been featured in Body Image and Self-Perception month have girls as the protagonists. Why did you choose to write about a boy with body image problems?

When I was writing Fat Kid Rules the World, the character came first and the issues came second. Troy came into my mind as a fully formed person with a voice and image all his own. As I followed where that voice led me, I began to understand that a lot of Troy’s journey had to do with body image. So, it wasn’t a choice I consciously made to write about a certain subject, but I’m glad I’ve been able to offer an alternative perspective.

What challenges did you face when writing from a boy's point of view?

Whenever I write male characters, they usually cry in the first draft and then some male reader tells me that perhaps that’s not masculine enough! I’m not sure if this is true in today’s society, but nevertheless, it’s helpful to have someone double check my work. It’s the little details that can be the most challenging to capture correctly.

In your website FAQs you say that you've always been small and thin. More like Curt than Troy, yet Fat Kid Rules the World is from Troy's point of view. What sort of research did you do so that you could accurately represent the experience of a much larger character?

Actually, I didn’t do too much research. I read other books that featured overweight characters, but mostly, I drew on my own feelings of self-consciousness that I felt as a teen. Those feelings (I believe) are universal, no matter what size you are.

I thought it was really interesting that you made Troy and Curt physical opposites. Why did you choose to do this?

As with my writing of Troy, this wasn’t something I consciously chose. Curt’s character was inspired by Kurt Cobain and he was always stick thin. I did, however, consciously decide that Troy’s brother Dayle was going to have eating issues. You may have noticed that he is always trying to gain weight for the sports he’s on and having troubles with that. I wanted to draw attention to the fact that eating disorders come in many sizes and shapes, and while Troy’s problems are obvious, Dayle has issues of his own that might not be seen at first glance.

I thought that Fat Kid Rules the World showed brilliantly how different our ideas of what other people notice about us can be from the reality. Troy obsesses about things that most other people either don't notice or don't care much about. Eventually he learns to stop worrying about the opinions of the few people who do insult him. Do you have any advice for teenagers struggling to accept themselves and their bodies?

Yes. I’d say that as hard as it is to believe, you’re beautiful just the way you are, and when you feel inadequate in some way, remind yourself that everyone feels this way in one form or another, no matter what they look like on the outside.

Do you have any favourite books about teenagers with body image and/or self-perception issues?

I’ve always loved Staying Fat for Sarah Burns by Chris Crutcher. Also, I’ll add that I have another book out that deals with both of these issues from the polar opposite perspective from Fat Kid Rules the World. It’s called King of the Screwups and it’s about a drop dead gorgeous guy who wishes he was a nerd.

Anything else you would like to add?

Just that I hope people will visit my web site: Thanks for doing this interview!

I'd like to thank K. L. Going for answering my questions. Her responses have definitely given me some food for thought. I reviewed Fat Kid Rules the World as part of the themed month, as did Jo at Once Upon A Bookcase. Jo also reviewed King of the Screwups, which was mentioned in the interview.

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