Grace is the author of Looks Great Naked. She offers the following description of her novel.
Jackie Donnelly has it all under control. True, she can't order anything through the mail for fear her dachshunds, Laverne and Shirley, will intercept and eat the contents, and she's still carrying a few extra pounds from the birth of her kindergartener, but the rest of her life--marriage, kids, house, even her tennis game--is picture perfect.
At least it is until the day her mother hands her a diet and exercise book called Look Great Naked and says, "I think your husband's having an affair." As the façade begins to crumble, Grace realizes that looking great naked means having nothing to hide. It's accepting yourself exactly the way you are--right here, right now, flaws, wrinkles, knots, bumps, lumps, bad attitude and all.
1. How would you describe Jackie, the protagonist of Looks Great Naked?
Jackie is a strong woman, but her sense of self is directed by a massive perfectionistic streak that makes her, at times, hard to live with. She is a good girl, but she feels such a need for people to admire her that she holds true relationship--and love--at arm's length. The problem with perfectionism is that when someone or something exposes the imperfections, the ego is terribly threatened. When her husband's affair screams to the world that Jackie and her marriage aren't perfect, she's forced to find out who she really is. She seems to crumble under the pressure and to give away her power in a desperate attempt to patch up the cracked façade. But in the end, Jackie comes through for us by learning to stick up for herself and realizing that being real, not being perfect, is the path to true love.
2. Do you consider the book to be a response to the many books, how-to videos, TV shows, and websites dedicated to the pursuit of a physical ideal?
Yes, it's definitely a way of expressing my disgust with the way we beat ourselves up in the pursuit of physical perfection. What I wanted was for Jackie to find a Look Great Naked program for toning up and firming the psyche's trouble zones. I think that's the only way we can stand against the constant onslaught against our physical appearances! For example, I woke up this morning with a zit on top of a wrinkle--a few years ago, that was enough anguish to warrant a whole pint of Haagen Dazs Rum Raisin! I want people to see this book as a love story because Jackie fell in love with the one person who matters most in the world--herself.
3. As an author writing a novel, how do you balance "writing what you know" with creating a fictional character whose experiences have some overlap with your own?
Ah, the old question of whether life imitates art or art imitates life! Here's what I believe is the balance: the old saying that truth is stranger than fiction is completely true. I've known so many women with stories similar to Jackie's, but if I wrote them exactly as they happened, it wouldn't be good fiction because no reader would be willing to suspend that much disbelief! In other words, most of the events in this book actually happened to me or to someone I know, but they've been toned down in order to fit the boundaries of good fiction.
4. What are the challenges of writing about sex and sex addiction?
Sex addiction represents the fastest growing of all the 12-step recovery programs. The majority of web searches every single day involves sex. Twenty years ago, people whispered the word "alcoholic," and alcoholics strove to remain truly anonymous. But it has become acceptable--admirable, even--to publicly admit that addiction and to seek treatment. I think sex addiction is headed in the same direction. Ten years ago, most people had never even heard the term. Thanks to Tiger Woods, David Duchovny, and Californication, sex addiction is in the news. So the challenges of writing about sex and sex addiction just aren't what they would have been a few years ago.
5. How does your blog feed your writing life?
5. That blog is where I have fun and where I get things off my chest. I'm in the middle of a doctoral program in creative writing--all this serious stuff, highbrow reading and writing--so the blog is where I get to let my hair down.