July 2008


Lyndsay Russell's debut novel, Fat Chance, is about a plus-size woman who finds herself in a world where fat is in. The English author has worked as a newspaper journalist and radio broadcaster and published a children's picture book with her daughter.

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  1. What inspired you to take on the weight-obsessed world in Fat Chance?

    Sadly, I can't remember a day I haven't woken up, squished my flab, and wished I were slimmer. And I know I'm not alone! One morning, I was due to enter a televised event with a group of journalists called 'Write a Novel in a Day' - I was pushed into it at the last minute by the organisers because there were no females taking part. But with such short notice, I had no idea what to write, and my mind was a scary blank. Then, as I got dressed, I saw that yet again the pointer on the scales showed I'd gained another two pounds. I just thought; 'wouldn't it be great to live in a world where that was a GOOD thing.' Pressure works miracles. I got the idea just in time. As for taking on the world, well . . . with a background in advertising and media, I have always deeply resented the pressure to be super skinny, and as I wrote the book, I loved the fact I could take my vengeance with a pen dipped in satire.

  2. What is it about Sharon that will appeal to readers?

    She's any one of us. She's also effectively alone in the world, and insecure. We love her rise to fame and fortune, because it's so unexpected and not due to machinations, ego or manipulation by herself (a modern day celeb curse!) She's also a heroine who is self-depreciating, and shows us the funny side in every situation.

  3. Was it fun creating an alternative world where fat is in?

    Fantastic! Really great. True fantasy - where women buy silver cosmetic pens to highlight stretch marks, and Pig Lard cream to encourage cellulite . . . all very attractive attributes in this alternative universe.

  4. How did your book deal come about?

    It was so amazing . . . Last June, I'd sold a picture book called The Rainbow Weaver, which I had illustrated and written with my 10-year-old daughter to a publishing house called Oldcastle Books. I initially wrote Fat Chance as just a short story. But it had a growing appeal, so I gave it to the same editor a few months later, because she's anti-size zero and I figured she might be interested. She never mentioned it again, as we were so busy promoting The Rainbow Weaver. Then, after the London Book Fair where we launched the picture book, the head publisher and some buyers took me to dinner. Out of the blue, the editor announced, 'I know the book we should do next . . . Lyndsay - tell them about Fat Chance'. All these eyes swiveled towards me, and then like a movie, the MD said 'OK, pitch it to me in 10 words'. Having just taken a swig of red wine and a mouthful of spicy Thai (the first thing I'd had a chance to eat all day) my stress level went through the roof along with acid reflux! I managed to choke out: 'Plump, pretty girl who finds herself in a world where it's �in' to be fat and out to be slim. She becomes a model and a celebrity in a reverse universe.' He forgave the extra words, and as I rushed to the loo to throw up, I heard him say 'sign her up!' I floated home with my first novel deal, and six months to write it!

  5. Why do you think so many women are unhappy with their bodies?

    Apparently, 98 per cent of us now find fault. No question, the saturation of magazines, Hollywood, advertising and fashion are greatly to blame. Also, I think one of the major culprits is easy computer retouching. My girlfriend is a top retoucher, and I know through her work how many images we daily see around us, that have been 'stretched' to give someone who's already a strikingly slim model extra long waist/legs etc. It's far more extensive than we realise and totally impossible to live up to. This kind of retouching now happens even in mundane catalogues. It's quite shocking. Also, there's this strange girlfriend competition peer pressure. (As we all know, most men love a curvy shape). We are doing a lot of the damage to ourselves.

  6. Not being plus-sized yourself (well, you certainly didn't look it in your photo!!), how did you get inside the mindset of a woman like Sharon?

    Aww, that's extremely kind of you . . . but I'm an English size 14 (I've got very big boobs). So in truth, not a great push of imagination to visualise my fat spreading! Also the thoughts Sharon has are really the same thoughts we all have . . . frustration at finding a dress too small, wishing the chocolate bar would last forever, staring enviously at the slender figure of a rival girlfriend.

  7. Tell us about your planned promotion of the book.

    Actually, it's all sounding very exciting. We're holding a pre-launch of the hardback and large softback at Borders in Kingston on Thames, the market square, 7-9pm on Friday, July 11 - open to the public, your readers are really welcome to come and join us. Then, a protest during London Fashion Week (in September) - I'll let you know details later as we'd love some support from any women who have ever felt pressurised to be a 'perfect' size. There's also talk of a ball and linking up with some big fashion names in a new approach to 'get the book out there'.

  8. What message do you hope readers will take from Fat Chance?

    Being the right size is down to media manipulation and state of mind - fat or thin, there is no 'right size'.

  9. Do you have another book in the pipeline?

    Indeed, I do . . . and I'm on the look out for a top literary agent - I've been really lucky to get this far without one, but need someone to negotiate better than I can.

  10. Who are your favourite authors?

    Arthur Golden (Memoirs of a Geisha), also Allison Pearson - I just relished her book I Don't Know How She Does It.

  11. What are you reading now?

    I've just finished the funniest chick lit book I've read in years . . . Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. I picked it up in Canada, so I don't know if it's over here (England) yet, but it's SO funny. A very basic story, but every line sings with humour.

  12. What does chick lit mean to you?

    A book I easily identify with . . . simple as that.

  13. What book do you wish you had written?

    Mmm . . . for royalties sake, The Bible. A pretty good read, too.

  14. What five words best describe you?

    Oh no, that's like 'Pitch the book in 10 words' again! Okay, how about supermodel, slim, tall, blonde, liar.

  15. If you had one wish that could come true, what would it be?

    Only one? Shame. Okay, can I stretch that . . .? Here we go. For my first novel to spread by word of mouth, become a mega bestseller and catch the eye of a top Hollywood producer who makes it into a blockbuster movie, starring fat ol' me. As a result, I get to go to the Oscars and prance down the red carpet next to all those skinny babes, whispering 'Put on a few pounds, you daft tart!' Will it ever happen? You could say 'Fat Chance!' But with a bit of magic, you never know!

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