Author Interview: Tara St Pierre and her book “Just a Few Inches”

Hi there! I’ve been missing for a while working on some personal… shall we say projects? Sure. We’ll go with that. But I’m back! And today I’m so excited to tell you about a book I read recently. I don’t usually do the book promoting/reviewing thing on here, but I couldn’t resist with this one! The book is called Just a Few Inches and you can read my full review here.

JaFI cover

But more than that, I am thrilled to have its author, Tara St Pierre, on my blog with me today! I’m so so happy to get to support a fellow indie author! First, the blurb for the book so you have a bit of context…

All Carrie Roberts wants is to be a little bit smaller.

To fit into the perfect dress for the Valentine’s Day Dance. To look beautiful for her boyfriend, the school’s star basketball player. To keep his jealous ex-girlfriend, a rival cheerleader, away from him. And to be noticed by her classmates.

Exercising and dieting don’t work, but an advertisement for weight loss pills promises a quicker solution to her problem. As time runs out, she takes more than the recommended dose until she’s just a few inches slimmer. Heads turn when she arrives at the dance, and the wonderful night with her boyfriend is beyond what she dreamed it would be.

Days later, Carrie discovers that her body is changing in ways that should be impossible. While her doctor searches for a cure, she desperately turns to her friends and family for support. Everyone is noticing her now whether she likes it or not, and even the media is intrigued by her incredible story. Getting everything she once wanted has created new problems–problems that are growing more terrifying every day.

Because Carrie Roberts is shrinking.

Sounds so good, right? It is unique and thought-provoking, funny and touching… I really enjoyed it all around. And now… Tara!

Hi Tara! Thanks so much for joining me on my blog today!

Hi Sioux! Thanks for having me!

Just a Few Inches has such an interesting premise. What inspired you to write this book?

The original inspiration came from standing in the check-out line at a supermarket or drugstore. All those magazines with airbrushed cover photos made me wonder about the messages they send to young women. One had a cover story about some method to shrink your dress size. I remembered the Lily Tomlin movie The Incredible Shrinking Woman from my youth, and my brain created an interesting mash-up. I imagined a girl, struggling with her own perception of her body based on such conflicting images in the media. What if she tried one of those methods to shrink her dress size but instead of losing inches around her waist and hips, she lost them from her height? At that point, I was sure I had something unique. I hoped the simple speculative element of her shrinking would keep readers turning the pages while Carrie learned her lesson. I quickly realized that the only way to make it work was to write it from Carrie’s point of view. Not only would it help make her situation seem all the more real, but I could utilize her narration as social commentary while she internalizes what she learns from her own experience and from observing others.

We see the book, first person, through Carrie’s eyes. It was fascinating to watch her shrink and see ordinary objects become challenges and even threats to her. How were you able to keep track of all of the specific height references?

Lots and lots of measuring! I measured the height of counters, sinks, doorknobs, tables, beds, clothing, various dolls, phones, and other common objects. I referenced growth charts for girls so I could compare Carrie to her sisters’ heights—but she wouldn’t perfectly match their sizes. For example, a toddler has a different overall shape than a teenager, so that would affect how clothes would fit. Using averages for a girl of Carrie’s starting height (5’8”), I created a spreadsheet to calculate her measurements (height, weight, waist, arm length, foot length—you name it) for every single day of her incredible journey. At that point, I matched situations to her height. For example, there’s a scene where she’s trapped in a closet, so she needed to be too short to use the doorknob effectively. I also used the spreadsheet to determine when she’d transition her clothing—from her younger sisters to infant clothes and ultimately to doll clothes.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?

Trying to find the right balance between theme and plot. I didn’t want it to come across as too heavy-handed, yet I wanted Carrie to learn so much—to grow internally—as she shrank externally. It’s easy for her to regret her decision to take the pills early on because it’s doing something so incredibly terrifying to her. But along the way, I had her observe others (her younger sisters, her friends and classmates, even her mother and doctor) to try learning where—and when—our body image issues come from. Various heights allowed for different lessons. For example, some people claim the unreal dimensions of fashion dolls may be an early contributing factor to body image struggles in girls. Whether or not that’s true, I can’t say, but I could posit the question while Carrie was that tall.

It’s pretty clear that there are body image messages throughout the book, and they’re handled really well. (Having her want to be a journalist and using that to speak consciously about her issues was a really smart move, by the way!) Is there one Tweet- sized message you’d like to have us come away with?

Thank you! Since the media plays a part in our perception of body image, it made sense to make Carrie somewhat media savvy. She starts maintaining a blog about midway through the story, and she’d probably post on other social media sites too. This is a fewer-than-140-characters line from her blog (when she’s 2’ 2” tall) that I believe she’d Tweet out: “I’d much rather have a body—any body, at any size, even this one—than to shrink away to nothing and have no body whatsoever.”

What is a favorite line from Just a Few Inches? 

My absolute favorite line occurs at the very end of the story, but I don’t want to give anything like that away. Got to save something for the readers. 😉 I have so many other lines that I love for a variety of reasons, including the one above and this one (from when she’s 4’ 2” tall): Would I ever be that secure with what I was? And which of the labels—cheerleader, shrinking, or incredible—would I ultimately embrace?

And I have to ask… other than Carrie of course, who is your favorite character?

Definitely Evan. It was great to write someone so sweet and secure in who he was, even if he was shy at times. Also, I could incorporate some of my inner dorkiness into him. There are some scenes where he performs calculations about Carrie’s height or her trajectory in a cheering routine. I had to do the calculations myself in researching and developing the story, so why let them go to waste or keep them behind the scenes? His character gave me the opportunity to insert some of them into the storyline!

Are you working on other projects?

Actively working on? Well, not exactly. But I have written what may become the first chapter of a future project. Right now, it’s a scene with two boys eating pizza while one wants to discuss fractions and infinity. The conversation came to me one morning, so rather than lose it, I typed it out. I like the narrator’s voice, and I’ve started sketching out what his lecture is a defense mechanism for. Whether this will develop a later YA novel, I don’t know. It took a long time for me to complete Inches, so we’ll just have to wait and see!

And now… just for fun…

Chocolate or Vanilla?

Vanilla…which is interesting, considering at least one character in the story has quite the affinity for chocolate.

Apples or Oranges?

Apples…I don’t like citrus.

Disney or Universal?

Do I have to choose? Both are responsible for so much wonderful entertainment!

Superman or Iron Man?

Iron Man…love his snarkiness…and he’s got a cooler suit than Superman.

Movie theatre or Netflix?

Movie theatre…there’s something great about the shared experience of watching the story unfold as part of an audience that’s far better than watching it at home where you can pause it.

Winter or Summer?

Summer…long days, sunny weather, barbecues, beaches. What’s not to love?

Thanks Tara! I loved having you join me today. Now here ya go readers … go forth and read! Here’s the link (or click the cover above). And don’t forget to add it to your TBR list on GoodReads too. 

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