Thursday, February 14, 2013

Annette Bower: Woman of Substance

Regina writer Annette Bower’s new novel, Woman of Substance, was a thought-provoking read. I invited her to visit Latitude Drifts to talk about the book and the issues it raises.

Annette Bower (photo courtesy of author)
Annette Bower (photo courtesy of author)
Your latest novel has a serious social theme. Can you sum this up?  
What does it mean to be fat? 
How does it feel to be called fat? What affect does this have on a person’s self esteem? Is it bullying?
Why do people feel as if they can intrude, by suggesting that you should try this or that diet?
How does this play out in Woman of Substance – and in society?
Have you noticed that we will often comment to people that they look as if they have lost weight? But we rarely say, “Oh, looks like you've put on the pounds.”
Society seems to suggest that loss of self is obviously a better honour than taking up more space.
I try to explore these issues with my character Robbie/Robin Smith. Robbie’s master’s thesis is about women’s body image in contemporary society. She has a research group of women who are considered fat in our society. After she is told that she will never understand what it feels like to be fat until she is, she takes up the challenge and dresses up as the opposite of what is considered acceptable. She becomes an “other” in a body suit.
Your book touches on other issues, as well.
Yes, I also explore the loss of an important person in the life of the male character Jake Proctor. He was raised by his grandparents and has come home because his grandfather is dying.
This raised questions for me about how it might feel for an only child to become an adult orphan. There are many families today with only one or two children. This places a large responsibility on the children for care of their parents, as well as challenges in fulfilling their personal needs for a supportive community.
I am intrigued by this, as I am from a family of six children, and have more than one hundred first cousins. We share the care of our parents and support each other through family tragedies and celebrations.
Then I also touch on disguise. I believe that we wear protective disguises when we are out and about meeting strangers. When we feel loved unconditionally we can finally remove our protection and learn to grow more fully as human beings.
What was the most surprising thing you discovered in researching and writing this book?
I was most surprised by the importance of the number on a little tag stitched or printed on the inside of clothing and how this can affect our sense of self. Depending on the particular shopping day, I can be fooled by this number on the size tag, as determined by a manufacturer. It can either cause me to feel good about myself or put myself down.
Cover, Woman of Substance,
Soul Mate Publishing
I read an article about a woman who went to Thailand and although the clothing was lovely, she could not bring herself to purchase any because all the clothes that fit were marked with two digits rather than the single digit size she purchased in Canada.
So I also think about the size 0 and what that means for women. I was surprised that some women smoke in order not to gain weight. They’d rather take their chances with dying from the effects of cigarettes than chance being fat.
I've also followed Oprah Winfrey’s public struggle with her body image. After telling her largely female audience that she only wanted to be healthy, she finally – with the help of all her trainers, cooks, and psychologists – reached what was considered a “model” size. Her celebration was her photograph on the cover of a magazine that usually features models. I felt as if she sold out because it clearly wasn't about being healthy after all; instead, it was about meeting a society-sanctioned image of body success. But she couldn't stay at that weight. She, too, had to accept that certain body shapes and weights are who we are. 
So what is the answer? I only know that answers are more complex than the advertisers for diet products want us to believe.
When you write, do you have a specific audience in mind?
My short stories and novels are about women in communities and families, searching for love and in love. I write to the women’s fiction market, which is an umbrella for books marketed to women. Women purchase more of these books, perhaps because publishing statistics suggest that women read about what directly concerns them in their lives. And love is a part of women’s lives, therefore, I am categorized as a romance genre writer.
You've done a lot of online work and promotions for your books. Was there anything that surprised you?  (Reactions, new approaches, success or failures?)
The surprising thing to me is the time it takes writers to find their reader audience. So many times, as writers of e-novels, we promote and market to each other. 
I also find it hard to promote a virtual book. I am part of the Saskatchewan writing community, where I read to an audience and then the audience can go to a book table, purchase a book, and have the author autograph it. Without a physical book in hand, it’s like selling a dream to a population that is not quite willing to embrace the electronic reading trend. 
The other surprising moments are how fleeting the events on the web are. I spend time to submit material, answer questions and then the blog post, book review, book blast tour, etc., are quickly covered by the next post. However, when someone does a Google search, there I am for all to see. 
My next suggested business growth is for book marketing companies, because it takes time away from writing for authors to promote and market themselves, as well as the specifics of their books.
In one sentence, why should people read your novels? 
Readers should read both Moving On, A Prairie Romance and Woman of Substance for enjoyment, and then to see themselves, their friends and their community reflected in women’s fiction/romance novels. 
What question do you wish people would ask you about this book?
  1. Will you attend our book club?
  2. Where can I purchase your books?
Thank you, Shelley for asking these interesting questions about my latest book Woman of Substance. You have many interesting interviews and articles about writing and Saskatchewan writers. I’m honoured to be on your site again.

Thanks, Annette! 

My thanks to Annette Bower for dropping by again with Woman of Substanceand Moving On!


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