Rian: I loved your novel- it is certainly one of the better “bigger girl chick lit” books that I’ve read. Tell me, where did the main heroine “Maggie” come from? What inspired you to create and write about her?
Liza: Maggie’s been haunting me for years. I think, in most cases, your first novel is really the novel you’ve been trying to write your entire life. I mean, I can look back on any little sketch, any little doodle and there’s Maggie – just trying to get a word in edge-wise.
I was inspired to write Conversations With the Fat Girl because I was sick of reading and seeing this archetypical fat person. The sad, donut-in-hand virgin who decides she’s going to lose weight and then in three months takes off like a thousand pounds and finds herself in a relationship with Ben Affleck or somebody. It was just so false to me – so, I wrote the book I’d been dying to read.
Rian: One of the main story lines of Conversations With the Fat Girl was about Maggie and Olivia’s failing friendship. Why did you choose to have the characters drift apart rather than stay close?
Liza: Because that’s more of a reality to me – I mean, Maggie needed a new beginning and I think that’s what Peregrine symbolized. I think looking to Olivia for definition and an identity was no longer something that Maggie was comfortable with – and I think that shows a lot of growth and maturity on her part.
Rian: What do you think of the bigger girl chick lit phenomenon in general?
Liza: Well, I think I’m a tad biased on this one. I LOVE IT! No…I think it’s amazing…but it’s still very much in the fetal stages. For every Good in Bed there’s 100 Bergdorf Blondes – so, I love that the Fat Girl phenom is gaining strength – but I would just like to see any type of diversity in the genre. I did a panel on chick lit at the West Hollywood Book Fair and it was beautiful. It was Tamara Gregory, Mary Castillo, Jennifer Coburn and me – it was this little perfect biodome of what the world actually looks like and I felt super lucky to be part of it.
Rian: Do you have plans for any upcoming books, and if so, what will they be about?
Liza: Jim Collins (Built to Last and Good to Great) was on Charlie Rose a coupla weeks back and he said that he writes books to pursue questions…and I love that.
I know that Conversations With the Fat Girl was me trying to expose the underbelly of how we as women find the stupidest reasons to hate ourselves – and through asking that question all of these other little questions about self-worth and being invisible and why we stay in neglectful, abusive relationships kind of popped up. My next novel, Seeing Me Naked, really tries to tackle the question of what being a grown up means – building a home and family of our own, buying a couch retail…you know, the big stuff.
Rian: What did you find to be the most difficult thing about writing Conversations With the Fat Girl, or writing fiction in general?
Liza: I knew the more raw and honest I got, the better the book would be – but that just isn’t pretty, is it? Amy Einhorn (my editor) kept asking why…why…why- and in life we don’t ask that – or at least not to that microscopic level. It was really difficult to look at how I’d allowed my own self-loathing to take over my life – just as Maggie’s had.
Rian: Do you think that Maggie’s weight struggles will resonate with many women today? Why or why not?
Liza: Unfortunately, I think Maggie’s struggle will resonate with more women than we will ever know. It’s a sad state of affairs when every woman can identify with a woman who doesn’t see her own beauty. I’ve had women approach me and tell me how much they identified with Maggie – and there was never a commonality physically with these women: short, tall, skinny, fat…it was the gamut.
Rian: When you were writing Conversations With the Fat Girl, did you start out with a solid plot outlined and go from there, or did you just start out with the characters, who then ended up carrying the story forward themselves?
Liza: I am definitely a character driven novelist. I fully sketch out my characters to the point of ridicule. A writer friend commented that my little character sketches looked like something out of a Dungeons and Dragons game…she’ll sit across from me and ask where my 20 sided die is. Very funny. But, in all seriousness – I just really build the characters and then follow them around. I do a fairly basic skeleton- and then just set out to fatten up the baby.
Rian: How and when did you first get into writing?
Liza: I’ve been dabbling since I was a kid – I wrote about Tex and Animal Land when I was in elementary school. I really feel that we all know what we want to be at about 8 years old. But it takes us decades to really get to that authentic place where we actually set out on that path.
Rian: If someone asked you for advice on creating a realistic “bigger than average” heroine for a chick lit novel, what would you tell them?
Liza: I think any writer wants to create an honest and genuine hero – no matter what their physical attributes are.
I know that when Maggie came alive for me was when I allowed her to really come from a deeper and more honest place – and that’s usually the most painful. Meaning, it wasn’t fun to re-hash the pain and humiliation of that voice – but in order to make her into a living being – I had to infuse her with my own soul – and that may sound cheesy, but a hero is only interesting if there’s a truth to them – and you can’t be true if you’re hiding something or embarrassed to talk about something or trying to be clever or whatever it is we use in our daily lives to make it through the daily grind.