Monday, July 21, 2008

Stuff and Things and also a Starred PW Review



The best thing about Graceling tattoos is that if you happen to be two years old, they take up half your forearm.


Behold my Gollancz cover, for the UK edition!


I think it's gorgeous and striking and I love the atmosphere. It isn't faithful to the character's actual wardrobe (no, I don't generally clothe my characters in skintight leather!), but it still captures the right feeling, in my opinion. Also, OMG, what an excellent sword.

It does remind me that I wish the default woman in magazines or on TV or on book covers wasn't always so skinny. To be fair, I never specifically state that Katsa isn't skinny. I believe I'm mostly vague throughout, and I hope that I've allowed for interpretation. But anyway. This all brings up a thing I've been thinking about lately, and a thing I struggle with and get frustrated about as I work on my writing. I don't like the idea of contributing to our society's fat-phobia. At the very least, I want to avoid fat-negativity in my writing -- no evil villains whose awfulness is embodied by fatness; no strong women whose strength is embodied by thinness; no fat, weak heroines whose journey to strength and enlightenment is accompanied and symbolized by weight loss; no implication that fat people don't even exist (i.e. only putting thin people in my books). And at the most, I want to write fat-positively, I want to express that fat is beautiful and competent and strong. The question becomes, how can I work this into my writing while being true to the characters and stories that live in my head, and without seeming like I'm using a shoehorn?

I try to be vague about things like body size with my heroines, unless her body size is actually relevant to her character or to the story or to the moment. It's partly because their body sizes tend to be vague in my own head and partly because I like, when I'm reading a book, to be able to picture the character how I want, and like my readers to be able to do the same.

At the same time, I try to make sure to depict secondary characters who are also either vaguely depicted or else represent a range of body sizes/appearances that do not reinforce our society's stereotypes. (Sometimes I might make a strong character short or a pleasant character ugly or a strong character fat or an unhealthy person thin, but I don't mean I dwell on it, I just try to add little details in passing. [Honestly, I'm not sure what I did in Graceling. I was less conscious of all of this when writing Graceling; at that point, I was just struggling to write a coherent book. I've found myself more conscious of this stuff with Fire and Bitterblue. Ugh, and I'm sure there are places where it doesn't work or I contradict myself and so on. Let me say, to anyone who does not write books, that this sort of thing can get unbelievably tricky.])

I got sidetracked there. The point I was trying to get to is this: I'm worried that what I'm creating is a catch-22. If I'm being vague about the body size of my heroines, but am then careful to be specific with the occasional secondary character, doesn't that mean that I'm implicitly relegating my heroines to whatever is considered body-normative? By which I mean, if Secondary Person X is described as noticeably round, but Heroine A's diameter is not specified, then doesn't that imply that Heroine A is NOT noticeably round? AARRGGHHH! AT THIS RATE I WILL NEVER SAVE THE WORLD!!!

Obviously the solution is for me to write a protagonist who is definitely and deliberately fat. Unfortunately, no definitely fat protagonist has appeared in my head so far. I've only got vague-bodied protagonists in my head (and also one very small person). And I'm sorry, but here I put my foot down as a person who has written four and a half books and therefore is in a position to have an opinion: you cannot force these things. She has to come to me, and it has to feel right. Perhaps she will. And then I will do my absolute darndest to write an awesome fat heroine. (Which then brings up the whole other issue of whether a skinny person is qualified to write a fat person, which of course she is, or no one could ever write anyone except themselves, and besides, I can't imagine my fat heroine's fatness being the point of the book. It would just be the way she was. Sigh. NEVER MIND.)

As you can see, this is something I get myself all confused about. And at a certain point I need to let go of any and all social agendas, because there are so many things that go into writing a book, and I can only take them one at a time. But. I'm trying. At the very least, I will avoid any conscious fat-negativity in my books, and I will aim for fat-positivity. AND I will encourage seeds of diversity in the landscape of my brain. Because that's where the magic grows.

If this stuff interests you, check out the recent post "Where are all the Fat Heroines?"at the Rotund, which is what got me on this train in the first place.

Whew. Thanks for bearing with me on all that, and I would love any reactions, including, "You are the biggest moron ever to walk on two legs." (Because I do. Walk on two legs.)

Great news: I have a Spanish-language publisher, Roca.

Fabulous news: Publisher's Weekly gave Graceling a star and said some embarrassingly nice things here. (It's the very last review on the page, and it contains spoilers. The final two or three sentences are spoiler-free.) (Edit: PW's website has been having some trouble -- sorry if you can't open the link!)

Finally, anyone who knows me knows I have a weakness for cute guys. So I'll close my post with the cutest guy ever. His name is Callum. :o)


11 comments:

Amanda said...

Hurrah for the great PW review! Also, Callum finally gave in and scrubbed the last bits of his tattoo off last night in the tub. It survived many days!

kristin cashore said...

Amanda, I'm impressed! And thanks for the hurrah :o)

robingarretson said...

So first off I discovered I can use my google account here. Cool!

Love the UK cover, but love the US one more :P Especially since I never pictured Katsa in skintight leather, although it's pretty sexy!

I never imagined Katsa as skinny, but very fit. I didn't think about what kind of figure she had, even though she is beautiful. I pictured more practical things, her arms being muscular, etc. I think that you have done a good job of NOT making women out to have to be thin.

I think a fat heroine would be awesome! The societal ideal of size zero is ridiculous.

The review was very nice, and yay for a spanish publisher! Congrats!
~Robin

kristin cashore said...

Hey, thanks, Robin! I know, I almost wished I had dressed Katsa in leather. :o)

alex milway said...

I just found your blog through the longstockings - I've really enjoyed reading back through your posts.

It'll be great to see your book in the UK!

kristin cashore said...

Alex, thanks for stopping by -- and I just did the same with your own website, and now I have a new book to look for at the library!

The Rotund said...

Hi! I am so excited to see this discussion here.

It's a great cover and I love the temporary tattoos. I would just like to point out that, as vague-bodied as you leave your protagonists in their writing, most people probably picture the person on the cover when they read - that's the one drawback to having a "realistic" image on the cover. *grin* So Katsa, whether you have described her as such or not, is now that skinny in the minds of many readers. Also, she has fabulous hair.

I don't think writers need to necessarily force themselves into writing characters of different bodies/abilities/etc., because there is most definitely a certain amount of inspiration involved. But, as the comment thread on the entry you linked to kind of reveals, a lot of writers have never even considered writing anything other than the normative body. Just being open to it is a great big step.

As for working fat positivity in without using a shoehorn, it sounds to me like you already do - because it is something you actually believe in. By making those secondary characters the way they are, instead of going for the standard fat=evil trope, you are undermining that device which is awesome and I'd love to see it in more fiction.

Thank you so much for bringing this discussion here.

kristin cashore said...

Dear Rotund,

Thanks so much for dropping by -- I was thrilled to see your comment. I'll continue to be vocal on this issue, because it is something I believe in. People will begin to notice and society's mental landscape will change. At least, that's what I've decided to believe. :o)

Anyway, just wanted to say welcome, and thanks.

Robert said...

Where can one be getting those tattoos? Are they purchasable, I mean? I doubt it, but I and several members of my book club would certainly wear them, say, the week the book comes out :)

Of course you got a starred review. That's what amazing books get.

So the third book is named "Bitterblue"? Your "about my books" page wouldn't cough up that secret.

I pictured Helda as fairly rotund, which is probably stereotypical, but whatever.

I like the UK cover, it's different from the US one in so many ways, and I like them both evenly in different ways. I wonder if that one will have foil.

kristin cashore said...

Robert, sadly, the tattoos are not purchasable -- my publisher seems to give them out at events. I'm not sure if there is a grander plan for them at this point. :o) Wish I could be more helpful! And thanks for your kind words about the book.

a.r. said...

I do have to say, A beautiful cover is a beautiful cover, and only helps. I mean, I bought and read the us edition and i thouroughly enjoyed. I just saw this uk cover and i am jealous that i dont own that edition :P and am delighted that Katsa was as gorgeous as I thought she was in my original reading :P

and i must also say, i can more picture katsa in the skin tight leather, than i can in a dress. right? :D i am too excited and hate to have to wait for october

-a.r.