Danielle Steele Pens Personal Book About 'Big Girl'
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
We all know the story: a beautiful but overlooked girl manages to draw the attention of the handsomest guy in town. After hardship and trials they wind up together and ride off into the sunset. Its been a staple of contemporary fiction since, well, there was fiction. But now, bestselling novelist Danielle Steele turns this conventional fantasy on its head in her latest book Big Girl, where our heroine is exactly that, a young woman who has struggled with her weight all her life.
All this month, NPRs taking a look at this countrys obesity crisis. So we thought wed call Danielle Steele to find out more about how she translated her ideas about America's obsession with size into fiction. And she's with us now. Welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.
Ms. DANIELLE STEELE (Author): Thank you.
MARTIN: How did this idea come to you?
Ms. STEELE: Well, it dawned on me that, you know, not everybody is thin and beautiful and perfect and that it must be very irritating for women who dont fit the fashion magazine image to always see the beautiful women get all the benefits and great relationships. And I wanted to write about somebody more real who had a weight issue.
MARTIN: Did you have some particular person or scenario in mind as you were thinking about this?
Ms. STEELE: No. But I think its a big issue in America today. And when you look at the role models in fashion magazines, this is what all women measure themselves against. Most of those girls are very, very young and very anorexic, in many cases, and its not what real women look like.
MARTIN: Has this ever been an issue for you?
Ms. STEELE: No, it hasnt. But I still relate to the problem and its I think its a big problem for a lot of people.
MARTIN: Your protagonist, your heroine Victoria Dawsons relationship with her parents is critical to this. And I dont want to give everything away, but they are very cruel in their treatment of her. Now, obviously, you know, youre passionate about motherhood and children are very important to you. And I'm just wondering how you imagined them and the role they have played in the life of Victoria, your heroine.
Ms. STEELE: I think thats an important too of the damage that parents can do to their kids and the messages they give their kids about their self-image and their self-worth which doesnt always relate to size. In this case it was an easy thing for them to hang their hat on. But their cruelty impacts her for much of her life and she deals with it pretty efficiently. But I think thats an issue for a lot of people, too.
MARTIN: I dont know if this is giving it away, but I do want to point out that her roommates at one point - when she moves to New York, she has two roommates who are gay.
Ms. STEELE: Yes.
MARTIN: And one of the points that they make as characters is drawing the analogy of the rejection that they have felt in their life from being gay to hers.
Ms. STEELE: Everybody has their issues that they're unhappy with or that their families dont accept about them or whatever it may be. And so, its interchangeable with the roommates or with other people. I mean, each of us have been picked on. Every one of us have been picked on for something.
MARTIN: One of the particular cruelties of her parents, her father in particular, is that he calls Victoria, your heroine, his tester cake. You know, meaning that...
Ms. STEELE: Yes.
MARTIN: ...if youre going to cook for company, the thing that you do to practice on. I thought that was particularly, you know, vicious. And I wonder, where did you get that from?
Ms. STEELE: I dont know. It just came to me. And actually, originally that was the title I wanted to use for the book and they didnt like it because its a little too oblique. But its the kind of incredibly stupid thing that some parents will say, you know, to a child. And I mean, she lived with that all her life, that she was the practice run. And then, she had a sister who was gorgeous, so, of course, she was the victory and the heroine of the book was, you know, was the disaster.
MARTIN: How did you get into her head, since this hasnt been an issue for you?
Ms. STEELE: Well, really the key for me was her parents cruelty and narcissism. And thats an issue that interested me and I got into her head about, you know, shes always comparing herself and being compared badly by her parents to other people. And I think, I mean, I think the weight issue is painful for a lot of young women and grown-up women today.
MARTIN: When you decided - and, again, I dont want to give away the ending. Its kind of delicious.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: Did you start there and think, I want to be sure it ends in such a way that people will be satisfied with it or feel like there's a victory? And again, I'm trying not to give anything away, but what was your goal?
Ms. STEELE: Well, I like giving people hope. And sometimes I've said that the ending of my books is victory at a price. But I never think about, gee, I think Ill do this ending. People will like it. The story kind of happens naturally from itself and the progression of it.
MARTIN: What kind of reaction are you getting to the novel? Its been out for a couple of weeks now, as you and I are talking.
Ms. STEELE: Yeah.
MARTIN: What kind of reaction are you getting?
Ms. STEELE: I've had very, very positive reaction from readers who are very pleased that I've related to their problems and their issues. And I think a lot of women can relate to it.
MARTIN: Has anybody argued with you about it, saying thats not the way it is at all. I dont emotionally eat, I'm just big.
Ms. STEELE: I've had a couple of letters from people who felt she wasnt enough overweight, that she should've been 100 pounds overweight, not 25 or so.
MARTIN: Author Danielle Steele has authored more than 100 books. Weve kind of lost count. Her latest book is Big Girl, and she was kind enough to join us from San Francisco. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
Ms. STEELE: Thank you so much.