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Jennifer Carpenter dreams of being a different person - A person with confidence, a person with beauty, a person who weighs a heck of a lot less. At twenty seven, her world falls apart. She’s out of work, her mother has died, her estranged brother is in a coma and, despite good qualifications, each and every job interview ends in another rejection. Marked by the teasing, taunts, and fat jokes that defined her childhood, Jennifer blames her current lack of success on her ever growing waist band. In need of a change, Jennifer puts her dream of ‘skinny’ above all else. Obsessed with this mission, she devotes her life to becoming the ideal version of herself even if it means becoming alienated from the only people who love her. Determined to lose the weight she believes is ruining her life, Jennifer finds herself in danger of losing so much more.
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An Interview with the Author:
Q: How did you come up with the story of Skinny Me?
A: Sitting in my comfy blue reading chair one night, I started wondering how many people perceive others' treatment of them as judgmental or prejudiced when in reality a lot of that attitude comes from the way they present themselves in the world. It must have been what I was reading that made me think of exploring this idea through an overweight person.
I've known many people who are the sweetest, kindest, most appealing people, and others who are somewhat bitter, judgmental and sort of walk around the world just expecting people to be nasty to them. As a defence mechanism (I imagine), they let that negativity show and people see that, which, unfortunately, just promotes their belief that their 'shortcoming' (in Jennifer's case, her weight) is why people treat them badly. In reality, most likely people's negative treatment of them is at least in part because of their attitude.
As a child and young teenager I was quite overweight and I know there was a phase in my life where I let a lot of my own negativity and fear of rejection come out in the way I treated people. I can recall times when I pushed people away or put them down before they could put me down. Jennifer's story is in no way my own but I certainly drew on several painful experiences from my past to lend some truth to her story.
Q: Jennifer isn't the nicest person around, was it hard writing someone who can come across as an unlikable character?
A: Jennifer was actually the easiest character I've ever written. She kind of flowed onto the page. She's not always the nicest, but I think part of what made writing her easy was that deep down she has a good heart--it's just a badly battered heart. She's had a lot of pain and although that may be an explanation, of course it's not an excuse for some of the choices she makes. But most of us make bad choices at some point in our lives and sometimes it's easy to not be the person we wish we were.
A couple of readers have said they just wanted to shake some sense into Jennifer and that's not a surprising reaction! If anything, once I got going it seemed harder to make Jennifer MORE likable than to make her unlikable. It wasn't hard to think up ways she could be awful; what was hard was finding ways to counter those less than stellar moments so that, hopefully, readers would root for to become the kindhearted person she longs to be.
Q: Where did the concept of the A New Start series come from?
A: When I was writing Skinny Me I had no plans of writing a sequel or making it a series but I basically fell in love with the characters and the friendships they displayed. I wasn't ready to say goodbye. In today's society the late twenties and early thirties are what the late teens and early twenties were to people several generations ago. It's a time where we're really discovering who we are, what matters to us, and forming the types of people we're likely to be for the rest of our lives. There's a lot of upheaval in that and a lot of soul searching. I liked the idea of witnessing the journeys these women go through when they realize it's time to make a new start.
Q: Do you need to read the novels in chronological order for the books to make sense?
A: Absolutely not. Each story is written so that it can be read independently. However, they are written chronologically, so if you read book two before book one aspects of the previous story will be revealed. Basically, you'll have read some spoilers!Based on reader feedback, Skinny Me now has a bonus chapter readers can sign up for which I think is a nice transition between books one and two. It's not necessary to either story but adds another layer of depth while fulfilling some readers' desire for a little extra romance!
Charlene Carr is an ardent lover of words. A voracious reader, when she needed punishment as a child, her parents took her books away. These punishments were blessings in disguise – with nothing to read, she created her own stories. Pursuing her life-long obsession with words, Charlene studied literature in University, attaining both a BA and MA in English Literature. She contributed to that learning by also earning a Bachelor of Journalism. She chose to work as a freelance writer, editor, and facilitator so she could develop and grow her writing skill while having the time and flexibility to focus on her own creative work. Currently, Charlene is focusing exclusively on novel writing and loving every minute of it ... well, almost every minute. There are days when her characters fight to have the story their way! (And they're almost always right.) Charlene lives in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada and loves exploring the amazing coastline of her harbour town, dancing up a storm, and using her husband as a guinea pig for the healthy, yummy recipes she creates!
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