Editor’s Note: Kristan Higgins is the kind of author who likes to dance her way out of the box and into the creative space, simultaneously maintaining humor while addressing deep-rooted and uncomfortable issues. In Good Luck with That (on Sale August 7), Kristan Higgins provides an emotional, compelling read that focuses on addressing the issues of body image, eating disorders and self-esteem. Her unique voice helps the story come to life, and we find ourselves rooting for these friends to truly develop their self-worth. That’s why it’s our Book Club pick for August and September! We had a chance to catch up with Kristan recently, and she was kind enough to share her thoughts on these important issues.
Why do you feel it is important to represent women of size in literature and other media? Where do you think we are still missing this perspective?Everyone deserves to be seen. Everyone has a story! So many times, women of size are presented as sidekick characters, or women who want to lose weight, or women who have absolutely no problems with being overweight—they’re content, healthy and confident (which of course, we want them to be). But I wanted to write a book that showed where most of us are—still struggling to like what we see, knowing on the one hand that our value comes from within, yet still fighting off those messages about looking a certain way.
This is the hardest perspective because it admits that guilty secret…a lot of us still care. It can be really hard to like our bodies in a society obsessed with beauty and size…and food! We’re given so many mixed messages, and the healthcare pros have a new theory about what or how to eat every half hour. We need to learn to take care of ourselves in all ways—mental, spiritual, physical. Once we get to that place—and it can be hard to get there—real self-acceptance and love begin, no matter what your size.
The fat acceptance and body positivity movements are great and incredibly needed, but it’s a process. When I look at fiction, most of the women of size are shown as “curvy,” not significantly overweight, and happy with their sizes. Which is lovely, if you’re one of them. But for those of us who struggle to like how we look, struggle with how much we weigh, struggle with food, there’s not much out there. Maybe that’s starting to change with characters like Kate from This Is Us and Renee in I Feel Pretty, but in general, women of size have been ignored or glossed over. I was tired of it. It made those struggles feel invisible.
Are there any storylines that you wrote into your characters that you struggled with? Perhaps because they were too personal or maybe too revealing?Sure. This was a very personal book. I’ve done every crappy eating habit the characters do, from starving myself to binge-eating (one dark night, I ate two pizzas, all by my lonesome, just like Emerson in the book). Like Georgia, I had a family member who constantly criticized my size. And like Marley, my family shows love by cooking really unhealthy food. But it felt so good to admit that, even through fictional characters—to talk about self-esteem and its link to size in a way that’s not filtered, that’s hard and honest and difficult and funny, too. My heart broke for Emerson, and while her story is tragic, it still deserves to be told. I was so proud of Georgia and Marley for tackling their issues. Their friendship is the kind we all deserve. Girl power, yo!
What inspired you to write this book? Was there a particular moment in your life when you thought “I need to write about this?”
Yes! There was! It was actually when I was writing Now That You Mention It, the book that precedes Good Luck with That. I did a classic move in that book—my heroine was an overweight, miserable girl who went off to college and reinvented herself, lost weight because she was happier, almost like magic. God bless, right? But when I was writing a passage about her teenage misery and obsession with her own size and her sister’s effortless beauty, I thought, “Boy, this is raw. This is coming from a place deep inside me. It’s time to stop pussy-footing around and write about what it’s like to struggle with self-acceptance.” And so…Good Luck with That was born with a vision—three teenage girls at weight loss camp, imagining life when fat wasn’t an issue.
The list your characters Emerson, Marley and Georgia make as teenagers is crucial to the development of the story. What was/is on your list of things to do when you “grow up?”
The list is full of teenage longing and fantasy about how perfect life will be when they have these idealized bodies…which none of them ever gets. Most of us never do, and we STILL think, “Oh, crap, I need to lose weight for that.” It’s ridiculous, but there it is. We should all appreciate our bodies for how they are now, not that imagined time in the future, but man, it can be tough.
What’s important about the list is what’s underneath it…fat prejudice, fat shaming, the idea that once the girls are “skinny,” everything will fall into place. We need to stop that kind of magical thinking. We need to do those things now. Life is for the living, not just the 0.5% of people who look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.
I absolutely had a list, which included things like lose weight, get a boyfriend, own a house, get a dog, have a baby. I never believed I was unlovable because of my size…I just believed life would be better if I was thinner. And had better hair. And wasn’t so awkward and clumsy.
I was wrong. Life got better when I stopped being so hard on myself and learned to see what I had going for me. That’s the message of Good Luck with That, and I hope every reader will carry it in her heart.
Thank you so much for having me! It was a pleasure!
Kristan Higgins is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nearly twenty novels, which have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. Her books have received many accolades, including starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist. Higgins is a six-time nominee for The Kirkus Prize for best work of fiction. She lives in Connecticut with her family. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Her latest, moving novel, Good Luck With That, is available on August 7 in Half Price Books stores and online at HPB.com while supplies last. You can also Kristan Higgins in person on Tuesday, September 18, at 7 p.m. at your Flagship HPB in Dallas.