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Lorraine Duffy Merkl

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"Fat Chick" Finally Gets Its "Fat Chance"

Posted: 11/19/09 12:53 PM ET

My debut novel, "Fat Chick," will be published at the end of this month by The Vineyard Press.

At age 51, I never thought I'd be "debuting". In fact, I thought I'd be on the downward slope of a successful advertising career. But, plans were meant for changing.

HOW MY BOOK CAME ABOUT:

I always dreamed of writing a book (about what I don't know), but dreaming doesn't make it happen and for a long time I was more concerned with my copywriting career. I'd worked on staff at ad agencies all over NYC for about 15 years. When my first child was born I went freelance. I felt very fortunate to be able to care for my baby, while I worked mostly from home. That was a truly rewarding experience for me, until about five years ago, when my clients started keeping things in-house (theirs not mine).

In my mid-forties, I had to reinvent myself. I figured, if Madonna can do it, so can I.
I started writing essays for a local Manhattan newspaper, Our Town, where I now write a bi-monthly column. The column also runs in its sister paper, the West Side Spirit.

With the I-don't-have-time excuse no longer on the table, it was time to write my book -- and I finally knew about what. Over the years I had decided that having balance in your life really improved the quality of your whole life.

I had always been a yo-yo dieter and finally decided once and for all that I was tired of either being overweight or so thin that if I turned sideways you wouldn't be able to see me. There had to be something in between. Perhaps if this balance could be achieved on the outside, it might also happen on the inside.

But no memoir for me. Quite frankly with people out there like Kirstie Alley, Valerie Bertinelli, Marie Osmond and Carnie Wilson telling their "I'm-fat-I'm-thin-I'm-fat-I'm-thin" stories, I didn't think a non-celeb could really compete. Also, that wasn't the story I wanted to tell. I wanted to talk about getting off the yo-yo and not settling at either end of the diet spectrum. I thought my point would be better made if I used my imagination.

I also wanted to write a book that didn't rely on the clichés usually found in women's fiction: blaming the fashion/magazine industry that so many blame for women's bad body images; having the male best friend be "the one" all along; having everything be perfect once the weight comes off.

The story is about a woman who tires of being the skinny bitch as much as she did being the fat chick, and wants off the yo-yo in order to live life in the middle -- both physically and emotionally.

There is a subplot about the combative relationship the main character has with her mother. The result is not a fairy tale where everyone hugs it out and promises to change, but a more realistic story of forgiveness (which really takes weight off your shoulders, if no where else), accepting people as they are, then moving on.

Besides the main character, there are strong supporting female characters, who also prove inspirational: the de facto heroine of the story is a plus-size model. The main character's best friend has a very healthy view about body image ("Look, no one's ever gonna drool when I step on the beach. Page Six is never gonna care where I ate dinner last night, and..." she continued as she held up her arm and poked at the upper part making it jiggle, "...see, my Grandma Suki's body-snatched me, but I could give a shit. I have a man who loves me, a baby girl I cherish and a good job. To me, that's a model life.") And there's a young, anorexic woman who serves as a cautionary tale.

It took me two years to write the book. I got an agent right away, however, although I believe he tried his best, could not sell it after a year. He told me to, "put it aside and write something else."

But, I wrote the book I wanted to write, parted ways with the agent, and decided to sell it myself going to small presses, since big houses don't like to deal with authors directly.
I got my deal in May 2009.

My motto: Let the other guy give up. Hope you do the same.