Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Friday, October 7, 2011

About Food. About Love. About FOOD OF LOVE by Anne R. Allen

Today is a guest post by the always entertaining and insightful Anne R.Allen, author of the new release, FOOD OF LOVE—a novel about friendship, size acceptance, a small nuclear bomb, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. 

Does anybody remember the size acceptance movement of the 1990’s?

Fashion magazines like Mode and Radiance featured gorgeous models with non-surgically-enhanced curves. The plus-sized Emme became a supermodel and motivational speaker. Romance publishers issued whole lines featuring curvy women who didn't diet to find love. Helen Fielding's BRIDGET JONES DIARY and Jennifer Weiner's GOOD IN BED topped the fiction bestseller lists. Books like Geoffrey Cannon's DIETS MAKE YOU FAT and Susan Powter's STOP THE INSANITY let us know 98% of diets resulted in weight gain.

The movement urged women to put energy into living instead of dieting. It reminded us that nobody who's starving can work at full capacity. It told us that if women channeled the energy we were putting into hating our bodies into changing the world, we could make a difference.

I wrote my novel FOOD OF LOVE during that era, just when a diet drug combination called phen-phen had to be taken off the market because it, well, killed people (but left a fashionably skinny corpse.)

I wanted to point out the ironic truth that women--no matter what culture, sexual orientation or race--are united by one thing: the compulsion to diminish ourselves by dieting. I showed how women inflict this insanity on ourselves and each other--as one character says "women are always complaining how the menfolk are oppressing us, but you know...we're pretty damn good at oppressing our ownselves."

I didn’t want to write something preachy. Or another “men are jerks” saga.

So I combined satiric social observations with a roller-coaster plot involving an aging supermodel, a conservative talk show hostess, a hot KGB agent, a small nuclear bomb, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

Two different agents took it on and tried to sell it, but it didn't pigeonhole neatly into a prescribed genre. Finally in 2001 I found a medium-sized independent publisher in the UK who loved it. I think the book might have taken off if they had been able to get US distribution rights. But one of the owners of the company died under mysterious circumstances (yes, fodder for another novel--coming out soon) before the book had a chance to find a US audience.

Soon afterward, New York pronounced romantic comedies "over" and plump, life-affirming heroines were replaced by vampires, zombies and the hungry undead.

At the same time a new cultural mindset emerged--carefully orchestrated by the multi-billion dollar weight-loss industry. By the mid 2000's, the concept of body acceptance had been erased from our consciousness. We were again being told that starvation (and/or surgical enhancement) was the path to happiness.

I suppose it helped that our romances were all about falling in love with dead people.

Boomers were told the natural weight gain—which has been happening to aging human bodies since we were swinging from the trees-- is "unhealthy." Children as young as six were put on diets that destroyed their natural appetite regulators. We didn't let them run free and exercise, then shamed then for being fat. Fad diets like Atkins came back with a vengeance. Fat people were humiliated for entertainment and dieting lies got new life
with the 2004 debut of “The Biggest Loser.”

Personally, I lost faith and fell for the lies again: “It’s not a diet—it’s an 800-calorie-a-day ‘lifestyle’.” I was swayed by those nightly news reports about the obesity “epidemic”—which turns out to have been created by reducing the medical definition of “normal” weight, inflated by the natural weight gain of aging Boomer bodies. I was shamed by those decapitated images of people who dared walk our streets without buns of steel or six-pack abs.

After three years of starvation dieting and the subsequent craving, depression, and binging, I’d gained thirty pounds and looked for help in the size acceptance movement again. But I discovered most of their websites were dead and/or had been vandalized. I Googled “Emme” and couldn’t find one entry. It was as if the whole movement had never existed.

But this weekend something happened that gave me hope. The brilliant actress Melissa McCarthy won the best actress Emmy.

I’m not a big awards show fan, and the TV was on only to accompany my laundry-sorting. McCarthy’s sitcom, Mike and Molly was barely on my radar. But as I stood there folding my plus-size clothes, watching her walk regally across the stage, I shocked myself by bursting into tears. Here was a beautiful fat woman—seriously fat, not simply un-skeletal—winning an award over the likes of Amy Pohler and Tina Fey.

I couldn’t stop crying. It was as if some huge shift was happening in my own consciousness as well as that of the ATAS voters. I had a glimmer of hope that maybe things were moving back to sanity. Later that evening, I Googled Emme and found she has a new website, Emme Nation http://emmenation.com/ full of new messages to women about honoring ourselves, no matter what size the bodies our genes and age dictate.

This all happened the same weekend that FOOD OF LOVE finally made its US debut—thirteen years after I wrote the first version.

I am so blessed that a small US publisher, Popcorn Press, liked my blog enough that they contacted me and asked about my out-of-print books—and then liked the books well enough to publish them. With a fresh edit and a gorgeous new cover, the book is as relevant today as when I wrote it—maybe more so, because a whole generation of young women haven’t been able to hear its message. Most women still need to learn to stop “oppressing our ownselves”—and love the bodies we were born with.

FOOD OF LOVE is about living life to the fullest and honoring our own passions—whether for food, music, faith, or an all-consuming romantic love.

********

Anne R. Allen blogs with NYT bestselling author Ruth Harris at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

She’s the author of five comic mysteries debuting this fall with two publishers: Popcorn Press and MWiDP. FOOD OF LOVE is available in ebook on Amazon. The paper version is available for pre-order at Popcorn Press.

Upcoming titles: THE GATSBY GAME (October 2011) GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY (October 2011) SHERWOOD, LIMITED (November 2011) and THE BEST REVENGE (December 2011.) Paper versions will be available at Popcorn Press.

Anne is also working on a nonfiction self-help handbook for writers with PAY IT FORWARD author, Catherine Ryan Hyde.

22 comments:

  1. What a fascinating story. I love the cover for FOOD OF LOVE too. It really grabs the attention. Let's face it though, anything showing chocolate grabs my attention. :)

    Have a great weekend!

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  2. Yay for us middle aged ladies with thighs of chocolate! Yay for you Anne for writing such a glorious book! I cannot wait to sink my teeth into it!

    Thanks Karen for hosting Anne.

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  3. Ooh, congrats on your book launch and for your upcoming titles - you are busy! Well done! I remember the 'acceptance of plus models' that was a break through definitely. Have a fab weekend!

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  4. Yay for you Anne R Allen!!! And yay for chocolate. Chocolate is good for you - it's been proven! So there!

    Good luck with your many many publications!! All the best! Take care
    x

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  5. "Fashionably skinny corpse" - now that's funny!
    People have always said Kate Winslet was fat, which I thought was really odd. She has a shape and curves! And this guy likes women with shapes and curves.
    Besides, how can a woman have a nice butt if she's a stick figure?

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  6. Wowza. Not only am I more motivated to continue with my novel, I feel so much better about me round self. My husband has always loved my round self. Whay can't I love my round self as much? Gotta go make a cake then I have another new book to purchase. One by Anne

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  7. With all we're being sold everyday in terms of what's beautiful, is it any wonder we're mixed up about who we are? Wishing you runaway success with Food of Love.

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  8. I was actually eating a Reese’s Cup as I read this post! So there Fad Diet creators! Great story with the perfect fairytale ending. Republishing of your book. The cover is gorgeous! Congratulations.

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  9. Like Alex said, it's pretty sad when someone like Kate Winslet or Jennifer Lopez are considered "big and curvy". I do believe in healthy eating and daily exercise, but no one will ever accuse me of being skinny. My body just won't do skinny. What a shame if I thought that meant I wasn't worthy of all the good things in life.

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  10. Shirley—Isn’t that a fantastic cover? It’s by a wonderful designer named Meghan Derico of Derico Photography in Utah. I won the cover design in a Facebook contest. At the time I was playing with the idea of self-publishing my backlist. But soon afterward, I got the email from Popcorn Press asking to read Food of Love, and when they accepted it, I asked if they’d like to use the cover. They took it almost as is, with only a few tweaks to make it read better in a black and white Kindle thumbnail.

    Anne—Thank you so much for being such a good friend and supporter.

    Talei—Busy doesn’t half describe it. But it’s good busy.

    Old Kitty—You’re so right. It IS good for us. Especially with red wine.

    Alex—Kate Winslet is one of my heroes for not letting Hollywood force her into starving herself.

    Donna—Oh, good. Bake that cake. Send a virtual piece to me.

    J.L.—You’re right. We’re taught to doubt our own beauty and always feel bad about ourselves, so they can sell us products to make ourselves “OK.”

    Ann—Ooooh. Reese’s peanut butter cups are the one commercial candy I still can’t resist. I used to buy them for Halloween, but I couldn’t keep them around long enough to give them to the kids. Now I give out stickers and toys.

    L.G. I believe in real, healthy food, too. And I walk every day. I shop Farmer’s market and keep carb intake down, but the starvation stuff just made me fatter. Just as you said--some bodies aren't genetically made up to do skinny.

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  11. Hi Anne! You have definitely struck a chord with this post. And your cover truly is stunning! Wishing you every success with Food of Love, I personally can't wait to read it! It's on my to-buy list, just haven't decided yet whether I want to read print or Kindle.

    Thank you everyone for stopping by and welcoming Anne on her blog tour for Food of Love. I am just really enjoying all the comments, and chuckling at many of them :)

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  12. Hooray! FOOD OF LOVE sounds delightful. I wish you much success, Anne. :)

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  13. What a fantastic story behind the story.
    Your book might have been written 13yrs ago but methinks it has come into being exactly when it was supposed to.
    Bravo!

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  14. Anne, your book sounds fabulous, and very meaningful. My granddaughter has already bought into the skinny as a rail is beautiful crap. No skimping, now. I hope your book makes a lot of big fat sales!!!

    Thanks, Karen.

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  15. Hi Karen.
    It's Pat. For some reason I can't comment on blogs unless they have a pop-up comment box. I'm still trying though... okay to the post...
    It's about time for the fashion industry to get things right. Too many people have screwed up their lives trying to be something their not!

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  16. I love this! Thanks Karen for hosting Anne. I've always loved Melissa McCarthy from her Gilmore Girls days, and i think she is beautiful!


    happy weekend!

    nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  17. Karen--Thanks so much for hosting me!

    Linda--thanks so much. I hope this book will finally get a US audience.

    Possum--I believe that too. Things happen for a reason.

    Susan--I think kids are falling for that younger and younger. Diet-pushers are like cigarette sellers of a few decades ago. They have no shame.

    Pat--I heard from my commenters they were having that problem, too, so I switched to the pop-up. It's working for almost everybody. Actually, I blame the medical-industrial complex as much as the fashion industry. Weight loss products are a billion dollar industry.

    Nutschell--I missed the Gilmore Girls, because I didn't have a TV during a lot of that time, but I should get it on Netflix--so many great people love it.

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  18. What a lovely post Anne and Karen
    Food of Love looks delicious as well as intriguing.

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  19. What a stunning, heartfelt and important post about a book I now can't wait to read. Thank you!

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  20. Karen, thanks for hosting Anne.

    I've never been terribly big, but I'm always on a quest to be smaller. This book will tap into what so many women deal with everyday.

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  21. What a fascinating story! Thanks so much for sharing it - I'm off to check out your book now... :)

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  22. Madeleine--One reader told me the book had ruined her diet, because she couldn't read it without eating chocolate (Maybe I did her a favor.)

    Liza--I'm so glad. I hope you enjoy the read.

    Teresa--Isn't it amazing that we are taught to want to diminish ourselves?

    Jemi--Thanks. I sure hope you like it.

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