1) Your Size 12 books are about body image, right?
No. They’re about a girl who used to be a teen popstar, but now works in a dorm in New York City, where students keep unexpectedly dying. The books are murder mysteries with a dash of humor and romance. In the newest book, Heather’s dating Cooper, the private detective for whom she works as a part-time bookkeeper.
2) So what’s with the size thing in each title?
The reason Heather left the music business is that she was told by her record label she’d gained too much weight, and she needed to slim down (this was in the 90s, when she was still a teenager). But that’s just a small part of Heather’s story. Her mother and manager ran off with all her money; her dad went to jail for tax evasion; and she walked in on her ex-boyfriend, Cooper’s brother, in flagrante delecto with her arch artistic rival, Tania Trace. Now in her late twenties, Heather’s starting over, in every way imaginable.
3) Are any of these books based on things that happened to you?
Yes. I spent my twenties working as the assistant manager of a New York University dorm. I also walked in on a boyfriend while he was having sex with another girl. I have also been a size 12, a size 14, and up. I have also been a size 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. I have never, however, been a teen popstar or solved a murder, nor where there any murders in the building in which I worked as an assistant dorm manager.
4) Do you have any experience solving crimes?
I did briefly work as a bookkeeper for a private detective. My brother is a police sergeant. I read a lot of detective fiction. I have a very active imagination. In other words, no.
5) Will Cooper and Heather ever get married?
Yes, unless something goes terribly wrong!
6) Not very many authors write about plus-sized heroines—sorry, average-sized, since in the US, 14 is the most common size. Why did you?
We’re seeing a few average- and even plus-sized heroines in books and film, but I wish we’d see more. It would be great if someday that became the norm on our television screens and in the pages of our books just as it is in real life. Why does it seem comment worthy to people when woman larger than a size 6 has a romance and even buys clothes in a book or movie? (The vast majority of American women are a size 14 or larger, but very few popular retail clothing stores sell women’s clothing sizes over size 14.)
This seems like a disconnect to me. As a writer, I thought I’d create a heroine who reflects someone like myself and my friends (this was back in 2005, when the first book in this series came out).
The reality is that many people who might be considered “overweight” (if judged solely on their BMI) are not unhealthy, just like there are many people who have never been overweight who suffer from diseases such as high blood pressure (like my dad. He died at age 53 when I was 26).
Some of it is simple genetics . . . like the way I now have celiac disease and so have had to cut all of Heather’s favorites (and my own) from my diet entirely, including beer, bagels, pizza, pasta, and anything dipped in flour, then fried.
That’s also why I love Heather. I get to eat of my favorite foods again vicariously through her.
But more importantly, through Heather I get to right wrongs of justice, such as murder, and relive the fun days from when I worked in the dorm.
So, that’s where Heather came from.
7) Size 12 and Ready to Rock seems to explore slightly more serious issues than the previous books in the Heather Wells series, like stalking and intimate partner abuse. What’s up with that?
What could be more serious than murder? But I get why you’re asking. To be honest, incidents of teen dating abuse occurred a lot more often than murder in the residence hall where I worked for over ten years in New York City. Very rarely did the victim (often female, but occasionally male) herself come forward. These incidents were nearly always reported by a roommate, and often accompanied by statements like, "I don’t understand why she stays with him. If my boyfriend ever hit me, I’d hit him back."
My boss(es) and I always wanted to say if hitting someone back was really all you needed to do to end an abusive relationship, intimate partner violence (also known as domestic abuse or domestic violence) wouldn’t be the number one cause of injury to women ages 15-44 in the United States—which, sadly, it is.
It’s estimated that at least two thirds of restraining orders filed due to sexual partner abuse are violated, and one in three female murder victims is killed by her intimate partner.
The truth is, half of the female population will experience some form of abuse from a partner during the course of a relationship. Domestic partner abuse isn’t something that “only” occurs to a single type of person belonging to a particular ethnic, cultural, or socio-economic group. Statistically, you know someone who has been, or is being, abused. If you or someone you know needs help or more information, go to http://www.thehotline.org/ (but remember that if you are in an abusive relationship, computer use can be monitored and never completely cleared) or call 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.
8) Infertility is also a subplot of this book. Is this an issue with which you’ve struggled?
Yes … and no! Like Heather, I suffer from endometriosis, and also painful ovarian cysts. As a result of one of these cysts, I ended up losing an ovary. Of course there are many women with much worse fertility problems than this who have still gotten pregnant. Adoption is also always an option (I have an adopted brother).
But I spent so much time looking after other people’s kids, both growing up and when I was working in residence life (not to mention my literally millions of readers, many of whom write regularly to say they’ve grown up with my books), I’ve always felt a little as if I’ve already had kids. My husband agrees with Cooper that parenthood is the most difficult, demanding job in the world (but obviously has its rewards). So if it never happens, we’re both more than fine with that.
One of the reasons I love living in Key West is it’s motto: We’re all one human family. Families, like people, can come in many different shapes, sizes, and descriptions. They don’t have to be a baby, mother, and father. They can be a couple, their cats, and their gazillion friends and extended family.
Sometimes on the path towards what we think we want, there are unexpected twists and turns . . . but that doesn’t mean they aren’t the perfect twists and turns for you.
8) When will Heather be back?
Soon! Look for Heather in Size 12 is the New Black in 2013. Heather and Cooper can finally afford the wedding of their dreams … but it looks like that dream has a good chance of becoming a nightmare, and not just because, on the advice of her perky new boss, Heather’s hired a wedding planner, and that wedding planner has turned out to be…well, less than reliable.
Heather doesn’t have time to solve a missing person’s case right now, however . . . not with 700 freshmen checking into Fischer Hall, a charismatic new resident assistant who seems to think he’s the boss, 400 guests RSVPing to her wedding reception, and one out-of-towner who simply showed up without an invitation at all: Heather's long-lost mother.
But with a runaway wedding planner to track down, a groom who could be ready to call the whole thing off, and a residence hall to assistant direct, a mother and bride reunion is the last thing Heather wants, especially since Mrs. Wells has brought along her sleazy boyfriend Ricardo, whose shady business dealings could mean instead of wedding bells, Heather might be hearing wedding bullets...