Thursday, June 19, 2014

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Heather Grace Stewart, Author of Strangely, Incredibly Good

Strangely, Incredibly Good…Food!

Can your relationship with others affect your relationship with food?

Absolutely. For better, and for worse.

In my novel, Strangely Incredibly Good, the main character Katherine “Cat” Glamour is an emotional eater. Now, don’t assume that the book is all about women dealing with weight issues - no way. It’s one of the subjects the book covers, but it’s by no means its only theme.

By the time you’ve hit 40, I believe you’ve read & seen enough messages about how to eat and exercise right to last you three lifetimes. Enough, already! This book is meant as a fun escape for men and women of all ages. Okay. Glad we cleared that up.

At the beginning of the novel, Cat is unhappy with her life, and her weight, and the two - pardon the pun - feed off eachother. Cheesies and chocolate milk are her favorite snack.

Why did I choose those? They are my nine-year-old daughter’s favorite snack, besides candy. When I’m writing, I write what I know, and then make it about ten times larger than life.

So, Cat has been up snacking the night before, and when she decides to try to pull herself and her life together and start exercising on a Wii, it’s only natural a genie would appear from out of the Wii, right? Told you I like to make my stories larger than life.

Once Cat and Genie become acquainted (I’m not sharing that part, you’ll have to read the book!) the Genie, Eugene, criticizes her food choices:

“These are awful for you, you know.” He holds up a cheesie, carefully inspecting it. “I can’t believe you eat this crap. I lived on a farm when I was a boy, and one of my chores was making cheese. This is not even remotely close to how that tasted. This is so full of artificial, I think it could fly to Mars, visit the surface on one of those fancy rovers, return to Earth, and still look and taste the same as it did the year before.”

Eugene, as you’ll discover, is sweet, charming and funny. He’s no jerk. In that scene, however, I wanted to underscore how even nice people who “mean well” can make people who are struggling to lose weight feel small. Cat had just begun an exercise routine. She’d begun. That’s what matters, and yet, she was still met with criticism. When all that criticism builds up, it can immobilize and damage a person like clogged arteries.

Thankfully, Eugene soon realizes how he can help Cat, and becomes one of her greatest allies in her journey of self-discovery. Too bad he didn’t show up before her series of very bad dates, and very bad shakes. Cat is set up by her sister, Cici, on one of those dates, but the date is a total bust. I’ll let Cat explain the rest:

I didn’t think dating could go downhill after that. How much more hill was left bottom at that point, right? Wrong. Later that night, Cici apologized profusely by text.

<So sorry. Jeezus. Didn’t know he was such a jerk? Forgive me? xo>

<Know you meant well. Pls dnt bring anyone else 2our Cosmo dates. Want to drink in misery of being old and fat with sister.>

<Hey, I’m not fat! Or old! Bitch.>

I laughed out loud. I could handle talking about my weight with her, and it was never a competition. Though she was at a healthy weight, she’d been supportive, a participant, in fact, of all my attempts to lose weight, including the week I asked her to follow the latest craze and drink Spinach and Chick Pea Shakes with me for two whole weeks. She was such a sport, even buying the groceries for our little adventure, because I couldn’t afford everything. Such a sport, until 3 p.m. on Day Three, when I received this text from her:

<In crucial business meeting. Boss making presentation. Am filling up room with atrocious fart smell. Do I stay or do I leave?>

< Be heroic. Tell them to get out while they’re still breathing!>

I put my phone down on the kitchen table, threw my head back, and had the biggest belly laugh I’d had in ages. Tears were streaming down my face. Then Gram came in.

“What’s the joke?” she stood at the counter, making tea.

“Oh God, Cici and I have the farts. It appears these shakes make us fart.”

“I coulda told you that. Shit Shakes. That’s how they taste, and that’s what they make you do.”

“You think we’re actually going to lose weight on these?” I push my half-empty green shake glass away, feeling a little nauseous.

“I think you’re gonna poop a lot, get sick of the Shit Shakes, and fill up on all your favourite foods next week. That’s what I think.”

I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.

“Yea. I hate to say it but you’re probably …Ewww.” I’d let another big one out. They just kept coming and coming. I’d lost all control!

“I’m outta here, Fartsy. You’d better get a handle on that before you bed another man,” she raised her tea mug and nodded, as if to wish me luck.

This scene is one of my favorites from the book, and was inspired by some of the crazy diets I’ve tried with my sister. No, I’ve never had a Spinach and Chick Pea shake, and I never will. “Diet” is a four letter word for me now. I try to limit sugar and desserts instead of dieting. You’ll probably notice, though, that my characters have a love for milkshakes, and ice cream with sprinkles. Now you know my dessert weaknesses. Add some hot fudge, and I’m yours! 

Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Heather!

Heather Grace Stewart is best known for her poetry, which includes: Three Spaces, Carry on Dancing, Leap, and Where the Butterflies Go.

In 2012, she published the screenplay, The Friends I’ve Never Met, which has been well received on both Kindle and Kobo.

Her two non-fiction books for youth are part of the Warts & All educational series on Canada’s Prime Ministers.

She has written for a wide range of magazines, including Reader’s Digest and Canadian Wildlife magazine. Her regular column in the Queen’s Alumni Review magazine, Grace’s Grads, was created in September 2005.

Heather’s poems have been published in Canadian literary journals, newspapers, and magazines, Canadian, British and South African school textbooks, audio CD's, online journals, international print anthologies,
and in the British small presses.

You can visit Heather here: