Competition published on April 1, 2018.
This month, we are delighted to announce Appetite by Anita Cassidy as our April Book of the Month. Scroll down to read our interview with Anita, and be in with a chance of winning a copy of this exciting and thought-provoking novel-
Food and Sex: two appetites the modern world stimulates, but also the ones we are expected to keep under control. But what happens when we don’t?
Embarking on an affair, lonely wife and mother Naomi blossoms sexually in a false spring while David, the fattest boy at the local comprehensive and best friend of her son, struggles to overcome bullying and the apathy of his divorced mother.
David finally starts to learn about the mechanisms of appetite through a science project set by his intelligent but jaded teacher, Matthew. David’s brave efforts to change himself open Matthew’s eyes to his activist girlfriend’s dangerous plans to blow up VitSip, a local energy-drink company where Naomi works.
At the mercy of their appetites, this exciting debut novel shows that some hungers can never be satisfied…
Author meets reviewer: Anita Cassidy Interview
Interview by Nicola Smith, from Short Bookand Scribes.
- First of all, can you tell me where the idea came from for Appetite?
The image that started it all was of the mums passing the junk food through the school gate in Jamie Oliver’s School Dinners series. It made me think: what kind of love does that? And how much do we all do things in the short term that we know, in the long run, will harm us, or others, but which feel good right now so we find ways to justify it?
Appetite evolved from that idea and the parallels between food and sex, the harm that affairs can cause and the excitement and pleasure that they can generate too, seemed very apt. I also wanted to start a conversation about marriage and monogamy, to bring the reality of affairs and why they happen for some for people, into the mainstream.
- With each of your three protagonists, there is a need, a desire for something that is either destructive or that they cannot have. I was wondering if you were writing from personal experience here, or from an observational viewpoint.
How David is around food and how he feels about himself is very much how I felt as a teenager. It can be such a hard time and I definitely used (and still use!) chocolate as a comfort and a retreat. The scenes where he is hiding in the school toilets and eating, I used to do that. In writing Appetite, I wanted to look at what we eat and why as well as to take away the stigma of being overweight and to encourage people to look at the person not the fat.
I also wanted to talk about the challenges we all face trying to manage what we eat in an environment that bombards us with opportunities and encouragement to eat food that can cause real harm when it is consumed in too great a quantity.
Naomi came out of some of my own loneliness and feelings of not being “seen” or heard in my marriage and Matthew was very much the part of me that was transformed and encouraged by teachers as well as wanting to inspire people and change things too. The fact that he is a bit misguided is also very much me. I am always doing my best as well as making lots of mistakes!
- David, the overweight schoolboy, undertakes a project about the inner workings of the body and how you are what you eat. Also his teacher, Matthew, gets involved with a woman who is passionate about saving the planet. How much research did you carry out with regard to these issues? Are they issues that you are passionate about yourself?
I read a lot of books! The Robert Lustig book (Fat Chance) as well as Michael Moss’s Salt, Sugar, Fat really helped me understand the complexities of the issues around our bodies and food and food production.
I have always been fascinated by what we eat and why and writing Appetite allowed me to really delve into the subject. I liked the idea of using a story to convey some of the more technical things I had learnt about food processing and also biology. I wanted to entertain as well as help people understand themselves and others as well as our social and natural environment better. I think this is what stories are for.
- Whilst David was my favourite character, I think perhaps that Naomi was the most complex and the most interesting in some ways. I found her descent into sexual obsession, and her greed for more, fascinating. How did you approach writing about something that that was a little bit risqué?
It was a bit scary! Having your family and friends read something so explicit can feel very uncomfortable. I am very sex positive as well as critical and it felt important to me to include the masturbation scenes as all as the sex scenes as I think these things are things we should be able to talk about more openly.
It has been interesting to me that most people are very condemning of Naomi but I have also noticed that some people are able to see the why of what she does. She is acting very badly but I don’t think it is action that we should knee-jerk condemn. I think that we should all be talking more openly about how to successfully navigate long term commitments and monogamy. Writing Appetite was an attempt to start that discussion.
- Do you plot your stories meticulously or do you just write and see where it takes you?
I tend to have an idea in my mind of how the story will develop – I often visualise key scenes – but I do not plot in the strict sense of the word. I like to let the characters develop a little on their own too – they often surprise me!
- If you weren’t a writer what do you think you would be doing now?
I am honestly not sure… I have been writing on an off all my life so it feels odd to imagine it not being part of what I do. I loved my jobs as a sales manager and trainer so maybe I would have carried on doing that…
- Tell me about your writing day. Where do you write and do you have a daily routine?
I write in the mornings after I have taken my children to school. I write on and off in the holidays too but that is REALLY hard so I try to time my work around term times. I write for about two to three hours a day, usually a mix of the fiction I am working on (the first draft of book two is nearly done!), non-fiction essays as well as journaling depending on where I am in the midst of my various projects.
- Do you have time to read yourself and if so what kind of books do you enjoy?
As a writer, I think it is an important part of the job to read so I try to make time to read every day. I read a lot of non-fiction and am currently reading the new Robert Lustig book “The Hacking of the American Mind”. I am also reading the classics as part of research for a future novel and the current one is Joyce’s “Ulysses”.
- Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
I don’t think so! I do enjoy doing National Novel Writing Month every year (writing 50,000 words in a month). Even if I wasn’t working on a book at that time of the year, I love the experience so much I would write that month anyway!
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