Written by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
Hungry for an intimate, intense third person drama? FAT ANGIE will keep you reading, wondering – and laughing.
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo has created for Fat Angie a barely functional family. Some characters are caricatures with exaggerated all-good, all-bad, qualities, which adds to the humor but doesn’t subtract from the realism or emotional punch. But when Big Sister (family glue) signs up for the military (surprise!) and is deployed, Fat Angie’s family falls apart. Comic-strip BAD Mom becomes increasingly self-centered; Dad goes missing; Brother was Jeckle, but is soon Hyde. And then there is Fat Angie who figures out how to survive, and throughout, tells it like it is.
This book is brutally, brilliantly honest. It is about people, parents, growing into one’s skin, one’s life, one’s reality, and even one’s friendships:
“I saw you as my friend,” said Angie.
“I am your friend,” said KC. “But friends screw up….”
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo takes on tough topics one by one – dysfunctional families, grief, bullying, obesity, cutting, lesbian coming-into-awareness, all with a recurrent steady focus on friendship and family.
Reading Fat Angie sometimes feels like watching a fast-moving movie. In fact, I look forward to sitting down in a theatre with a big box of buttered popcorn, and watching Fat Angie full-screen.
OK, here is my interview with the author (who plays a mean game of football) and not only writes award-winning books and dramas but also produces and directs live drama.
Is this book somewhat autobiographical, or not at all?
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo: Not really. I wasn’t bullied in school nor was I the bully. I think I was more like Jake Fetch in that I stuck up for those who couldn’t always stick up for themselves. I understand what it means to be ostracized for other challenges, so the notion of being separate or lost was incredibly relatable.
What inspired you to take the risk and write in one book about cutting, bullying, over-weight/eating disorder, friendship, sexual identity, dysfunctional families, and grieving the loss of a sibling?
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo: Some people might say I was insane to take this kind of risk with my career. Any one of those topics is loaded in and of themselves. Then you have a book where they all intertwine which is dicey.
The thing is, I don’t choose the story. It chooses me. I’m kind of along for the ride by listening…really listening. There are those who get upset because they perceive the story as the only way you can be fat and find happiness is to lose weight. That’s not the point of the book for me at all, but every reader is entitled to their experience. There are others who will only be able to hone in on the issues around sexuality and disengage. Again, it’s the story that needed to be on the page. A story with everything in the kitchen sink but not as a window dressing. Everything is there because those issues exist in the forward and sometimes backward momentum world of Angie. Does that make sense?
Whew – did I leave anything out? Dysfunctional therapists?
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo: Ha! Well, I didn’t grow up in the easiest home. I think that I infused some of my father’s traits into Angie’s couldn’t-be-bothered mom, Connie. He was a hard guy with a lot of expectations which was a difficult childhood for me. I ended up in therapy when I was in my late teens, and I encountered a few not so insightful therapists, so I’m sure I subconsciously drew on that experience.
When did you begin working on this novel? How did you decide where in the story arc to begin?
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo: Let’s see. It was winter, and I was sitting in a mom and pop dive of a diner in Madison, Wisconsin. I’m listening to Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way” on the iPod when it just clicked. I snapped up a napkin and sketched out the opening of the book. Funny thing, the opening and format of how it is laid out is incredibly close to the final novel. Something in the rhythm of the music — the opening sound in the electric guitar — the pulse and the whole world of this girl named Angie just opened up. It was a done deal.
Was the use of cinematic “style” intentional or did the story unfold that way?
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo: I’m not a big over thinker or outline person. It often gets in my way on early drafts. The story is initially driven dialogue. The spine takes shape. The muscle and skin follow. The cinematic references were there early on but only in that it was the voice of the narrator guiding me. Coming from a film background, cinema language is my day-to-day life vernacular, and it simply worked for this story. When it didn’t, I yanked it, but it didn’t happen until the second draft.
What would you describe is the real “heart” of the story – the emotional understanding you hope the reader will have?
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo: That we /they are not alone. Someone somewhere is listening — caring — and will show up. For those who do that for others, then hopefully they will know how invaluable they are as people.
We are all different. We all don’t fit and we all fit. It’s when the “not fitting” becomes exacerbated and we lose our life jacket insight. Hopefully, FAT ANGIE is a book that has humor, beauty, sadness, truth and hope. The hope is that through the most unbearable moments you can find a way to some place better.
My favorite line is – “It’s so hard when the person you look like on the outside doesn’t really match how you feel in the inside.”
Did that thought unfold as you wrote or was it something you had thought about before you wrote Fat Angie?
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo: Again, I’m not an over thinker, which makes me sound either incredibly shallow or sloppy. I only mean that I am in complete character lockdown when I write. I go into the world for 12 to 13 hour days for three or four weeks and then I’m done. I see the characters in three-dimensional space. What does the gum they chew taste like? How does the carpet feel after it is vacuumed? What does the fabric softener smell like in KC’s room? Even if these details don’t appear on the page, I know them and let them be a part of the background noise that informs how their world unfolds.
It was clear to me just as the story unfolded that KC was a mirror of sorts to Fat Angie. When I wrote that line, I knew I’d hit it. It wasn’t planned. It just … happened.
Side Note: I’m an avid fan of BTVS, so infusing that into the feminist philosophy of KC Romance was definitely “ultra even.”
PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY Star Review
High school freshman Angie sees herself the way everyone else does, as “Fat Angie,” until KC Romance, “a model kind of beauty beneath the bad-girl garb,” breezes into her small, conservative Ohio town….Charlton-Trujillo (Feels Like Home) offers a hard-hitting third novel that swings between incredibly painful low moments and hard-won victories.
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL Star Review
A father who abandoned the family. A couldn’t-be-bothered mother. An adopted brother who is a criminal in the making. A high school full of peers who relentlessly tease her following a failed suicide attempt at a basketball game. And the only person who really understands her–her older sister–is being held hostage in Iraq and is believed to be dead by everyone except Angie. This is Angie’s life. Then a gorgeous, punk-rock chick with a mysterious past, KC Romance, begins taking an interest in her ….The voice of a dry and direct third-person narrator works in a story laden with heavy topics, including war, death, suicide, cutting, bullying, and homosexuality.–Nicole Knott, Watertown High School, CT
What do you think of the stars and other praise for FAT ANGIE?
Stars are fantastic and humbling. I am fortunate to have received the praise from my peers, Gregory Maguire (Wicked), Jo Knowles (Harry’s Place) and so many more. The thing is that at the end of the day all that matters to me is that I show up. 199.9 percent at the page. I didn’t cower, and I didn’t quit when the emotion of the stories ran deep. I hurt with these characters, and I laugh with them. They are so much smarter than me which sounds incredibly insane since I’m the one typing out their world. I guess what I mean is that in the moment they are who they are. No buffer. No second guessing. Their character is their truth. In my day to day life, a hesitation is inevitable just out of the requirements of social norms. Well, some of the time.
The thing to also remember, for whatever it is worth, that my path to writing came from the single darkest moment in my life. I mean, I always wrote but not novels. The novels came after my best friend Amanda J. Cunningham was killed in a car accident. I guess it was the only way I could breathe. Soon after writing two novels in mere months and winning the Delacorte Dell Yearling Award, I realized that this was a gift worth channeling. Not for money or awards or even stars. It was because I had the opportunity to reach into to a person. To create a space where they could be entertained and also not feel alone. That’s the magic in all of this. The chance to show up, be authentic and create change. And when I’m fortunate, be changed by the stories I create.
Blog Tribute to Amanda J. Cunningham:
Want to know more about e.E. Charlton-Trujillo? Visit her website at www.bigdreamswrite.com