Today, it’s my pleasure to interview Stacey Ballis, author of Good Enough To Eat (Berkley Trade, 9/7/10). A native of Chicago, Stacey’s most recent novel tells the story of a woman who lost half of her body weight only to have her husband leave her for a larger woman.
To win a copy of Good Enough To Eat, leave a comment below telling me about your craziest or most successful diet (or change of eating habits).
Check back tomorrow for my review of Good Enough To Eat.
Nat @ BL&S: For those readers who haven’t had the pleasure of reading your novels, how would you describe them as a group (or individually)?
SB: I write what is usually termed in the industry “women’s fiction” which I think just means that my protagonists are women and that they tend to be dealing with issues connected to their relationships, careers, sex, dating, friendships, and their sense of self and place in the world. The stuff that when men write it with male protagonists they refer to as “books”. I try to write smart, if I can, even when the topics might not be particularly heavy. I try to write honest, and to create characters that seem real. And I usually write funny.
Nat: Good Enough To Eat, your latest release, tells the story of woman who loses half of her body weight, opens a health food cafe, and is then unceremoniously dumped by her husband for a larger woman. The irony is a departure from other novels in which the main characters lose weight and get the guys of their dreams. What inspired you to tell this story with such a twist?
SB: I have always been a plus-sized woman, so I do often try to show positive images of larger women who aren’t self-loathing and do have active and passionate dating lives. For this book I wanted to delve into the part of weight loss that very few people ever discuss, which is that for people who lose a great deal of weight, in this case nearly 150 pounds, it can have profound effects on relationships and sense of identity. If you lose “that extra 15 pounds”, you look great and feel great. But you still look like you. If you lose 145 pounds, you are an entirely different person. And you may not know how to live in your new body, or how to relate to people romantically. Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of people who prefer partners with meat on their bones, just like some people seek out people who are tall or dark-haired. People hear all the time about the guy who leaves his wife when she gets fat. But there are guys who marry the fat girl and leave her when she gets skinny. I know several people who have had gastric bypass surgery and lost a tremendous amount of weight and then find that they have problems trusting people in romantic relationships. They wonder what would happen to the relationship if they were to regain the weight. They wonder where these people were when they were heavy, since they were still smart and funny and kind and had that great smile and those sparkling eyes. Yes, it is better for your physical health to not be obese, but there is an emotional and psychological toll that I find interesting and not really spoken of.
Nat: Several of your novels (Good Enough To Eat, Spinster Sisters, and Room For Improvement) all feature strong female protagonists with entrepreneurial and/or creative careers. What type of research did you do to bring credibility to the diverse jobs?
SB: For Room for Improvement I actually tagged along on several shoots for the show While You Were Out, to be sure that my “behind the scenes” at a home improvement show details were right. For Spinster Sisters, I relied on my own “common sense” advice that I have always given to friends and family, as well as that I have received from them. For Good Enough to Eat, I was able to use all of my personal experience as a foodie and passionate home cook, as well as my relationships with professional chefs, and I worked with a holistic nutritionist, Carey Peters (who is Melanie’s nutritionist in the book) to work on some of the diet issues.
Nat: Thanks for including recipes (at the end of the book) for many of the meals mentioned in Good Enough To Eat; I’m on a cooking kick and have been looking for some new things to create. Are these your own personal recipes, and do you prepare them at home?
SB: All the recipes (unless noted) are mine, and I hope people enjoy making them! I do make all of them with some regularity. I personally love foodie books, and hate when there are gorgeous descriptions of food and no recipes, so it was important to me to include them.
Nat: I found the ending of Good Enough To Eat open-ended with the potential for a sequel (or two). Will readers be seeing Melanie Hoffman again?
SB: I would love to do a follow-up, and have some notes, but that is always a function of sales!
Nat: I always have a stack of books on my nightstand, how about you? What’s in your TBR (to-be-read) pile?
SB: So many things….I am late to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, so that is on there. Sarah Silverman’s The Bedwetter. Chris Cleave’s Little Bee. American Food Writing Anthology. And a bunch of slow cooker and pressure cooker cookbooks, since I just received one of each and need to start playing with recipes for the blog.
Nat: Who are some of your favorite literary characters?
SB: Eloise. Beatrice from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. Goldy Schultz. Thursday Next. Elinor Dashwood.
Nat: Aside from the obvious, how is your life as an author different than your former life as an educator?
SB: I have much more time to for my friends and family, which is a gift. More time for actually living…cooking and being thoughtful and present in everyday tasks. I also have higher stress levels, since freelance work is difficult to come by, so that irregular income is trying. But I get to work in my pajamas, which is pretty nice. And napping is back!
Nat: Stacey, thanks for stopping by Book, Line, and Sinker.
SB: Thanks so much for having me.