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"Rather than having a singular moment of inspiration, it was more of an evolutionary journey."
Named one of our most anticipated books of this year, The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls is, simply, brilliant. It focuses on the story of three sisters who have had their share of struggles over the years. However, nothing has ever been quite like when one of them is arrested with her husband, leaving the other two to take care of their sister's children. Through this experience, the family must face being a major disgrace in the community whilst learning of new secrets hidden within the tissue of their family unit. It redefines how we think of our relationships with those we love most.
Anissa spoke with us about how the novel evolved from another idea, in what ways she found inspiration in the interactions of her own family, and what role forgiveness played in the plot.
How did you become interested in writing?
As a kid, I loved reading and I also enjoyed writing my own stories, so I always had this dream of becoming a novelist. When I graduated from college, however, I decided to pursue journalism and a steady paycheck. I loved my job, but that dream of being a fiction writer never left me. A few years ago, I made the space to sit down and write. That first novel was not the best, but I kept going. And here I am.
Your background is in journalism. What is your relationship between journalism and writing fiction?
You’re certainly using some of the same muscles in journalism and fiction writing—creativity, an understanding of storytelling structure. But, for me, the biggest impact is on how I work. As a journalist, I view writing as a job, so I tend to approach fiction in that way as well, which means I’m quite regimented when it comes to scheduling and prioritizing writing over other things—always mindful of deadlines.
Why were you inspired to write The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls?
This is actually not the book I intended to write. The story I intended to write was about a therapist in an eating disorders clinic, based on some of my own experiences in treatment. The main character was Viola. But her story just wasn't coming together. It wasn’t until I started looking at her through the context of family—her sisters, her nieces, her relationship—that things started to work. The voices of the other characters became more resonant, and I could see there was a much broader story there about each of these women and their own struggles. So, rather than having a singular moment of inspiration, it was more of an evolutionary journey.
Photo Credit: Bonnie J. Heath
Your work has been compared to that of Tayari Jones and Brit Bennett. Were they or any other writers influential in your writing?
I admire both of these writers, but I discovered their work after finishing my novel. As a life-long reader and an English major—both as an undergraduate and in graduate school—I have a pretty vast well of inspiration, so I hesitate to try to narrow it down to just a few beloved novelists.
The novel explores the complexities of relationships within a family after the matriarchal sister is arrested. What interested you in exploring how women react with one another within a family dynamic?
As it happens, I have three sisters, all of whom I love dearly. But we have our moments. Depending on the issue at hand, different factions can form. And yet, we remain a cohesive gang of four. So, given my own life and the experiences I have observed among friends, telling this type of story came quite naturally to me.
Forgiveness is another theme of the novel. How did you think about this subject when writing the book, particularly with these characters and their situations?
The question of what it means to forgive comes up throughout the novel, and it is a dilemma for virtually all of the characters. My goal was to approach the issue honestly, which means not every character has a neat and tidy resolution.
After the book's publication, what is coming up next for you?
Up next is a book tour, which I’m quite excited about. Following that, another novel. Stay tuned.
Rachel A.G. Gilman is the Creator/Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Creature.