Today I am delighted to say we have YA author Mary Hogan to talk about her novel Pretty Face.
How did you come up with the idea for Pretty Face?
Hayley is definitely ME. Though she’s funnier and smarter than I ever was. I grew up near the beaches of Southern California, where everyone was tan and blonde and perfect-looking…except me. At least, that’s how I felt. So, I wanted to write about a girl who felt the same way I did, only she changes her life in a way I could only dream about back then.
What research did you have to do for the story?
Ahhh….the best research ever. I spent a few weeks in Italy. I actually lived in the tower (Le Torre) that Hayley lived in. That area of Italy…Umbria…is so beautiful, my book wrote itself. Cute Enzos were everywhere! And, there really is a different appreciation for the female body shape in Europe. Curves aren’t the enemy. Italians love food instead of fear it.
Most of the books I have read so far that deal with body image are of some other genre, like Romance for example, with a body image element, but Pretty Face seems to be a body image story with a romance element. Why did you choose to write a book solely on the subject of body image?
Body image in teens is like a virus…if you don’t “heal” it soon, it will plague you the rest of your life. My goal was to write a character who is on the edge of becoming a woman. She has a lot going for her…brains, guts, looks. Her only “flaw” is the way she feels about her own body. And, of course, she lives in a self-conscious city where kids can be really mean. But, after Hayley sees another culture and experiences a different way to view her body, (and her self) she realizes that her body image is in HER control. She’ll never be “perfect” but she can be perfectly happy with herself. As is. How great is that?
One of the things I love most about Pretty Face is how Hayley’s change in attitude about the way she looks comes mostly from herself, rather than from other people’s positive opinions or an actual physical change in her appearance. Why did you decide to write Hayley over coming her insecurities on her own?
It’s the only way to go. There will always be someone who thinks you’re too fat, too thin, too wrinkled, too brunette, too blond…that’s our culture. You can never please everyone. It’s hard enough pleasing your mother! I absolutely believe that the most beautiful thing a girl can have is confidence. It blinds everybody…all they see is your style. So, build your confidence and leave your body alone.
I find it interesting that Hayley had to leave the shallow superficiality of Santa Monica behind, and go to Italy to discover her own beauty; two beautiful destinations that have a completely different effect on Hayley’s self-esteem. Why did you choose to write this? Are you trying to say something about these two places?
Santa Monica forgive me, but it’s certainly not a town that embraces girls of all shapes and sizes. That entire region of Southern California--particularly the beach towns--is incredibly self-conscious. Perhaps it’s the proximity to Hollywood where the “power lunch” was born. A power lunch in Italy is pasta. With wine. Then a nap. My kind of town.
Did you write Pretty Face with the intent on sending out a message on body image and self-perception?
I would never set out to write a book with a “message”. My goal is always to tell a good story with honesty and humor. But, whenever I hear that Pretty Face has helped a girl feel better about her body, her self, her normal-sized dinner, it truly makes my day. I spent so much of my teenhood feeling like I, quite literally, didn’t fit in. I now know there’s room for everyone!
What is your opinion on how YA novels deal with body image and self-perception?
Hmmmm….young adult books, like other books, seem to follow trends. I’m hoping the
next trend will get back to a bit more reality, away from snotty girls who think it’s cool to judge everyone. I do like the vampire trend, however…though I am waiting for a vampire to realize how delicious girls can be with a little meat on their bones. (Did I just say that? Hehe)
Were there any books you found dealt well with this topic when you were a teen?
Heck, no. I wish there were. It would have made my teen years less stressful. It’s always comforting to know you’re not alone…even if girls like you happen to be fictional.
What is your opinion on how peer and media pressure on how we should look affects teenagers today?
OY! When I was a young teen, I wanted to be Twiggy and Laurie from The Partridge
Family. Both super skinny. (Ask your mom who they were!) Each generation has their icons. I have no problem with that. It’s the 24/7 part of it now that I think is so destructive. Girls think it’s normal to be super skinny because everywhere they look, that’s what they see. It can really mess with your head.
The world is full of interesting faces and body shapes. It’s not a one-size-two-fits-all universe. Why should Hollywood dictate how you should look?
Anything else you would like to add?
Learning to accept your “imperfect” body is hard!!! This is a complex issue. (For one thing, ask yourself who profits from you being on a diet??? Women spent 50 BILLION dollars on diets last year. Our very economy will suffer if you stop dieting, so the media is constantly trying to convince you that you’re not good enough.) That said, one thing I know for sure is this: weight goes up and down, but body shape is forever. If diet and exercise could turn you into a model, Oprah would look like Tyra. My best advice to anyone struggling with body
image is to, first, calculate your BMI (Body Mass Index…look it up online). If your BMI is too high, don’t panic. Move around more, and stop eating as many white foods (bread, baked goodies, potato chips, etc.) If your BMI is fine, great! Now, focus on loving your shape. It may be curvy or pear-like, but it’s YOU. The only YOU you will ever have. Might as well make friends with her.
If all that fails, you can always move to Italy!
Thank you, Mary, for such a brilliant interview! I especially love her last answer! What are your thoughts on Mary's answers? And if you haven't read it yet, check out my review of Pretty Face below.