I am super excited to have Author Deirdre Riordan Hall on the blog today for an interview on her novel SUGAR‘s release date. It is such an amazing book and I was thrilled to be able to ask the author a bunch of questions about her book and characters.
In addition to the Q&A, I am including my review of SUGAR, so if you’d like to know what I thought about this incredible story feel free to check it out a bit further below.
There is also a giveaway for a SIGNED copy of the book. So if you’d like to enter for a chance to win, scroll down to the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.
Author: Deirdre Riordan Hall
Release date: June 1, 2015
Formats: Paperback, audio, eBook
I’m the fat Puerto Rican–Polish girl who doesn’t feel like she belongs in her skin, or anywhere else for that matter. I’ve always been too much and yet not enough.
Sugar Legowski-Gracia wasn’t always fat, but fat is what she is now at age seventeen. Not as fat as her mama, who is so big she hasn’t gotten out of bed in months. Not as heavy as her brother, Skunk, who has more meanness in him than fat, which is saying something. But she’s large enough to be the object of ridicule wherever she is: at the grocery store, walking down the street, at school. Sugar’s life is dictated by taking care of Mama in their run-down home—cooking, shopping, and, well, eating. A lot of eating, which Sugar hates as much as she loves.
When Sugar meets Even (not Evan—his nearly illiterate father misspelled his name on the birth certificate), she has the new experience of someone seeing her and not her body. As their unlikely friendship builds, Sugar allows herself to think about the future for the first time, a future not weighed down by her body or her mother.
Soon Sugar will have to decide whether to become the girl that Even helps her see within herself or to sink into the darkness of the skin-deep role her family and her life have created for her.
Q&A with Deirdre Riordan Hall
Q. You’ve written a number of New Adult novels. SUGAR is your first foray into YA. What prompted you to write a novel aimed at a young adult audience?
Believe it or not, I started writing YA before I ventured into New Adult. Actually, I wrote for a younger audience before that, but when I discovered YA was this rich, thriving category, I knew I found my literary home.
I write YA for a variety of reasons; mostly, I like it much in the same way I enjoy the beach, strawberries, and sunny days. With things like that, there doesn’t necessarily have to be a reason; it’s one of those things that just is. But because you asked and I like lists, here are three worthy reasons:
1.) I love reading YA. I find there’s a kind of freedom on the pages that isn’t as evident in books for adults.
2.) YA is fertile ground; there’s potential, possibility, and in terms of characters, there’s a fascinating paradox of a defined sense-of-self and yet an unfolding sense-of-self.
3.) I enjoy tapping into topics that are relevant at what’s essentially a ground level. There’s the page and a blank space to explore a version of the human experience.
I wrote Sugar specifically as a teen character because it was at that time in my life when my struggle with my relationship to food started so it was a natural place for me to begin Sugar’s story.
Q. What did you enjoy most about writing a contemporary Young Adult novel?
I really enjoyed following Sugar’s trajectory from feeling helpless to finding her voice to stand up and say, no, this isn’t what I want and then stepping into her power and saying, but this is what I want.
Q. In 25 words or less, how would Sugar describe herself?
Q. In 25 words or less, how would Even describe Sugar?
Q. You’ve given your main character a number of potential challenges – her home life, her self-image, not feeling as if she fits in, etc. What would you say Sugar’s biggest challenge/obstacle is to being happy with herself and with her life?
I would say Sugar’s biggest challenge is self-acceptance. She has to overcome a lot of noise, that isn’t so easily put in the background, in order to unearth an indwelling source of happiness.
Q. What was your favorite scene to write in SUGAR? And why was it a favorite?
Can’t tell, yet 😉 It would be a spoiler.
Q. What was your most challenging scene to write in SUGAR? And what were the challenges?
The scenes with Mama and Skunk were an uphill climb. Writing them was one of those times when I plugged in the earphones and went in deep to fully capture the various shades of their personalities. It was dismal work. It was heartbreaking. But the broken heart can be written whole again so there were scenes I was able to immerse myself in to redeem the difficult ones.
Q. Who was your favorite character to write about? And what was it about them that made them your favorite?
Sugar, for sure! I adored writing her. She and I would totally be BFFs in real life. Aside from her gentle soul and big heart, she’s a powerhouse, one of those people who are magnetic—just being in her vicinity sets off this megawatt charge! (At any given moment it’s like, watch out world!) While writing her story, half the time I wanted to hold her in my arms and the other half I want to fist pump say, “Girl, you’ve got this!” Sugar was an incredible character who was an honor to write.
Q. Now that SUGAR is completed and will soon hit shelves so that everyone will get the chance to read it and meet your characters, what would you like to say about your novel to those who are just now being introduced to it?
I’d like to share with readers that SUGAR is a story of hope in the life of a girl who can’t see beyond the very small world she lives in. The novel deals with body image, size, and obesity. It also deals with bullying, abuse, and friendship, community, and healing. The story isn’t prescriptive; it tells one version of the human experience. It is my hope that readers embrace and celebrate Sugar and her story can inspire a dialog about these topics in an honest and heartfelt way.
About Deirdre Riordan Hall
Photo credit: Lara Farhadi
Deirdre Riordan Hall is the author of the new adult contemporary novel, To the Sea.
Deirdre studied at George Washington University. She enjoys writing, reading, surfing, and yoga. One of the best things about those activities is they’re all done barefoot. Although she loves shoes, she doesn’t like to wear them.
Deirdre writes upper young adult and new adult fiction. She spends her days with her family, at the custom-made desk her husband crafted—writing (what else?) or seaside, pretending she’s a mermaid.
SUGAR was such an incredible surprise. It was moving and empowering and heartbreaking. It introduced a heroine who went from someone weak and pitiable and self-loathing to someone who was strong, accepting of herself, and a little bit daring. It tackled a number of hard-hitting issues from obesity, to emotional and physical abuse, to bullying. And it showed how just one person can make a difference.
Before Even Anderson came into her life Sugar Legowski-Gracia was sure that no one would ever like her or see her as more than just the fat girl. Even her sometimes friend Brittany didn’t really take the time to get to know her. But not so Even.
From the moment they met he saw her. He saw beyond what everyone else saw. He saw what even she couldn’t see. And he liked the person he saw. Unlike her mother, her brother, her former friend Hillary and all the rest of the kids at school.
To Even she was the girl with the beautiful smile, the girl with the big heart, the girl he wanted to spend time with, to get to know, to experience life with. To Even she wasn’t worthless or disgusting, like she had believed for so long. And maybe he was right.
Author Deirdre Riordan Hall takes readers on a tough and emotional and heartrending journey with her character, Sugar. They are made to witness her mother’s and brother’s physical and emotional cruelty, the toll that caring for an ailing and dependent parent takes on her, the solace she finds in binge eating, the struggle she has with her peers at school, and the issues she has with herself.
With Even’s help, the author makes her character confront some hard truths, overcome several of the obstacles that have been keeping her down, and begin to love herself for who she is, no matter her weight. And she forces her to find the strength to stand up to those who wish to see her fail, stand up for herself, and stand on her own.
SUGAR is a quick and captivating read, but not always an easy one. What Sugar has to suffer through will make readers both angry and sad. But watching her transform, thanks in large part to Even, is heartwarming and inspiring. There will be tears. There will be smiles. There is much that can be taken away from the story and applied to real life.
It is a well-told and important story that gives readers something to think about. It promotes a number of positive messages. It offers perhaps a different perspective on dealing with body image issues. But at its core it’s simply a great story with well-developed characters and is a read that promises to be unforgettable.
Note: This review is based on an ARC received from the publicity agency in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.
Courtesy of the publicity agency I have a SIGNED copy of SUGAR to give away – US ONLY
- Must be 13 or older to enter
- Giveaway is US ONLY
- There will be ONE winner
- Prize will be sent by the publicity agency to the winner
- Giveaway ends June 11th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific
- Winner will be chosen by Random via Rafflecopter
- Winner will be announced in the Rafflecopter and contacted by email
- Winner has 72 hours after notification to claim their prize or another winner will be chosen
There are no requirements to like or follow this blog to enter. But there are a few extra entry opportunities by following the author on social media, adding the book on Goodreads, leaving a comment, spreading the word on Twitter, and adding the book on Goodreads.
Enter in the Rafflecopter below…