Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Slim to None by Jenny Gardiner

Abbie Jennings is Manhattan's top food critic until her expanding waistline makes staying incognito at restaurants impossible. Her cover blown on Page Six of the New York Post, her editor has no choice but to bench her—and suggest she use the time off to bench-press her way back to anonymity. Abbie’s life has been built around her career, and therefore around celebrating food. Forced to drop the pounds if she wants her primo gig back, Abbie must peel back the layers of her past and confront the fears that have led to her current life.

Jenny Gardiner is the author of the award-winning novel SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER, Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me, SLIM TO NONE, and OVER THE FALLS and is a contributor to the upcoming humorous dog-lovers anthology, I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship (NAL/fall 2011). Her work has been found in Ladies Home Journal, the Washington Post and on NPR’s Day to Day. She likes to say she honed her fiction writing skills while working as a publicist for a US Senator. Other jobs have included: an orthodontic assistant (learning quite readily that she was not cut out for a career in polyester), a waitress (probably her highest-paying job), a TV reporter, a pre-obituary writer, and a photographer (claim to fame: being hired to shoot Prince Charles--with a camera, silly!). She lives in Virginia with her husband, three kids, two dogs, one cat, one rabbit, and a gregarious parrot. In her free time she studies Italian, dreams of traveling to exotic locales, and feels very guilty for rarely attempting to clean the house.

What will readers like about your book?
My protagonist is sort of everywoman. I wanted to write a book in which a protagonist had to reckon with her weight, but it needed to be high concept too. Ultimately the premise I think achieved this goal: it's about the premier food critic in Manhattan, outed on Page Six of the New York Post so that everyone knows she is fat, and her editor gives her six months to lose weight or she loses her job. I loved taking this woman who has to eat for a living and make it so that she can't eat for a living so that she can continue to eat for a living (does that make sense?!).
But who can't relate to the constant food struggle--especially my protagonist Abby, who has truly defined herself by food. But she's also funny, endearing, and she doesn't put up with anybody's crap.

Why did you self publish?
I know this sounds crazy by last March/April it seemed like leaping into the self-publishing waters would put me wayyy ahead of the game. It was really just the earliest of early days for self-pubbing in the main stream (I know erotica and sci fi etc had their self-pub realms for a while). I'd gotten a Kindle for my birthday the previous year and LOVED it and just saw that e-pubbing was coming and coming fast (who knew how fast). When Steve Jobs announced the iPad was going to be released last spring, I knew that was going to really ratchet it up and fast. Especially because Amazon had been working assiduously to ensure that they owned the e-book market, and so competition was going to make it all the more interesting.
Slim to None is probably my favorite book I've written and had the grave misfortune of being shopped around New York houses when the economy died and pub houses were facing massive cuts and layoffs. We had several editors who loved the book but weren't buying anything. One editor loved it and was interested in acquiring it when the imprint got switched from commercial women's fiction to literary fiction, which my book decidedly is not. It bothered me that due to circumstances well beyond my control this book might languish in my laptop rather than getting the audience that would enjoy it, so I just figured e-pub was the way of the future, I'd rather get in on the front end of it rather than the back end of it. Meanwhile in the ensuing months thousands of authors have joined in. It's fabulous that authors now are regaining some control!

What is your writing process?
I noodle over a book long before I write it. I totally write by the seat of my pants--no charts and graphs and outlining for me! It's a completely organic process. Sometimes I'll write and write and write, and then I might take a good long break from writing just to regenerate the stores.

How long does it take you to write your first draft?
it really depends. My parrot memoir took a few months. My novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver probably took about 8 months. Of course rewrites are another story altogether!

What inspired you to write this particular story?
The basic crux of it started out as a work of creative non-fiction--it was a parody of the South Beach Diet, I called it the South Pole Diet. I stupidly listened to the 1st agent I pitched it to, who told me I could NEVER get it published without being a big-name. That was dumb of me; I should've kept shopping it. But in the meantime I started writing a novel with a character I wanted to make as sweet as could be--this in response to some agents reactions to my protagonist in Sleeping with Ward Cleaver that my protag was a bit of a ballbuster. So I wrote a book that had some similar threads, included recipes just like in Slim to None, but really pretty different stories. Then I got to talking with agent friend and we batted around a few ideas to make the story high concept, which is how Slim to None came about. I love the evolution of the premise and of the character--she's someone I think is so fun, yet flawed, but fixable.


Me want cookie!

~Cookie Monster

Chapter 6

Blend Wafer Well with Liquid

White is blight. White is blight. White is blight. My new mantra.

Do you know how much of what I eat is white? I think I’ve been on the monochrome diet for half my life, it’s so white, white, white, white, white!!!! No, I’ll be clever and call it the Nanook Diet. Because of the blizzard white-out conditions. All I can see to crave is white food, everywhere. South Beach Diet? No way, baby, I’ve been living the South Pole Diet. And loving it all the way. Bring on those Eskimo pies! Oh, but I can’t. Because white is blight. White is blight. White is blight.

Thus my current dilemma. I’m at Saint Patrick’s for Sunday services, listening to the sermon. Father Kerrigan is talking about sacrifice, about what we as humans must do to sacrifice for our God. And I can only focus on the food I’m sacrificing. It’s been eight days now and all I can think about, morning, noon and night is my lack of white food. I need carbs. And in about seven minutes I have to decide if I’m supposed to give up the symbolic Christ because that communion wafer is calling my name. And I’m hungry. And dammit, I want my communion wafer! I love those things. It’s always been one of the high points of church, the melty, bland but salty, slightly tangy but not, goodness of the things. Am I supposed to sacrifice my communion wafer for the greater good of all diets, simply because it’s the wrong color? Or is the Higher Power picture more important. I’m not sure if I want to take my chances. Forty years from now (God-willing) I’m at the pearly gates and Saint Peter gives me a thumbs-down because I refused the sacrament because it contained carbohydrates?

“But it was my sacrifice,” I’ll insist to his menacing scowl. “Just like Jesus gave up all of those things for us men and for our salvation, remember that line? We say it every week at church, remember? So I figured since Father Kerrigan was talking about sacrifice, it was code, some secret message from God that I had to give up the communion wafer!”

And then I would tumble in a dizzying spiral, Hell-bound, all for not taking communion. I can’t risk it.

The truth is, not only do I want my communion wafer (and I’m gonna have it, I’ll show you, low carb!), but I want mine with a dollop of goat cheese topped with this fabulous homemade balsamic black pepper strawberry jam I put up last spring during strawberry season. That would be the best way to eat it, now that I think about it.

And since I’m on a roll, and it is Sunday, and Sunday is a day of rest, doesn’t that mean I’m entitled to rest and relaxation? And rest and relaxation to me means fixing up a lovely Sunday supper. And I just thought of two things that are white that I can eat! Crabmeat and chicken. And I’ve got just the recipe.

I make a couple of stops on the way home from church to collect up the vital ingredients. When I get back William is downstairs tinkering with one of his motorcycles. This one is his favorite, a 1968 baby blue Lambretta Lui, which he’s nursed back to health after previous owner-abuse. He loves this motor scooter so much that I’m not sure which is William’s top priority, his Lammy, me or Cognac. Or me on top of the Lammy with William. Nah, that would definitely not work well, at least not these days.

Judging by the way he’s caressing the manifold, well, honestly, I wouldn’t even know if the thing has a manifold. It just sounds like the right thing for him to be caressing. Far better than a womanfold, at any rate. God, he wouldn’t caress some woman’s manifold, would he? William looks up at me from over his goggles. I guess he was tinkering with something blinding, and felt the need for protective eye gear. Sometimes I feel badly that I don’t share William’s interest in hogs (and maybe it’s presumptuous to call a scooter a hog). I know to him it’s just as pleasurable as food is to me. Call me crazy, but give me a roasted pig in a spit any day over a hog in a Harley shop. Although actually, I’ve asked William to stay out of the Harley business, because I can’t abide the noise of the things.




  1. I can't wait to read Slim to None. I saw the ebook on sale a few weeks ago and quickly bought it because I LOVED Sleeping With Ward Cleaver. I'm telling my friends to buy it too because they loved SWWC as much as I did :) Wishing Jenny all the best.

  2. Thanks Mary! I really appreciate that! FYI I am going to be putting a few other books up online in the next few weeks so keep your eyes out for them! (If you haven't joined my facebook page to get updates that would be helpful: http://www.facebook.com/jennygardinerbooks
    And thanks so much Nadine for hosting me!

  3. Hey Jenny! You know how much I loved this book. Hope you're doing great.