"Fatty Patty" is book one of the James Bay Novel series which introduces us to Patty Perreault, a twin who seems to have gotten the plump end of the gene pool, some difficult choices, and some hard lessons to learn on her inspiring journey towards self-actualization.
Rural Mom (RM): As "Fatty Patty" deals with twin siblings, we must ask, are you a twin? And is that what inspired this endearing novel?
Kathleen: The idea of twins has always intrigued me. I am a ‘single’, but my husband is an identical twin, our daughter Abby has twin boys, and my sister had two sets of twins. In "Fatty Patty," Patty has a fraternal twin, Priscilla.
The inspiration behind the idea of twin sisters was actually born out of a TV news clip I happened to catch one night on our local news station. It featured a story about a woman who’d given birth to a set of fraternal twins, both girls. Baby #1 weighed less than two pounds at birth while the other was fat and healthy. Somehow, Baby #2 had received most of the nourishment while in their mother’s womb. Baby #1 spent weeks in the hospital’s neo-natal unit. Baby #2 went home much sooner.
I couldn’t stop thinking about those babies. One fat, one thin. How would they grow up? What would they be like as adults? Would Baby #1 gain weight and catch up with her sister, or would Baby #2 always be fatter? The thought that one twin could enter the world healthy and thriving, while the other twin was sickly and scrawny, got me wondering. And suddenly I heard their mother’s voice in my head. “Take care of your sister, Patty. She’ll never be strong like you.” Thus, the idea for "Fatty Patty" was born. One fat baby (Patty) and her sick twin (Priscilla).
RM: What else compelled you to tell this riveting story? The character's emotions are so rich, are some of your life experiences entwined?
Kathleen: "Fatty Patty" is my debut novel, the first of four in the James Bay series. Patty Perreault is the overweight heroine whose childhood nickname was Fatty Patty. Though she’s now an adult, Patty still remembers the cruel childhood taunts from the very same school playground where she’s now a teacher.
The novel deals with Patty’s struggle to figure out not what she’s been eating, but what’s been eating her. She needs to confront her self-esteem issues, put down the fork and give her heart a try.
It’s definitely a book I wrote from my heart. I was born fat, tipping the scales at over 9 lbs. I was a chubby baby, a chunky little girl, and eventually exploded into a fat teenager who never had a date, never went to her high school prom, and never thought a boy would ever want to kiss her, let alone marry her.
When I graduated from high school, I weighed 300 lbs. By the time I started college, I was convinced I would always be fat. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Eventually I got down to the weight I am today: 153 lbs., which is perfect for my height (5’11”). I feel good at this weight, and I’ve maintained it for 35 years.
When I finally quit eating, I realized I had a story to tell that many people would relate to. I believe the story speaks to eternal truths that all of us face as individuals, men and women alike. Each of us have things we keep buried deep in our hearts: secrets we’re afraid to expose to the light of day. Some of us will never let go of those secrets, preferring to keep our hands in the cookie jar and our hearts clamped shut. But painful as it might be, there’s also bliss to be found in finally admitting the truth.
It’s a wonderful feeling to finally be able to live your life free of the fear that you’ll be eaten alive. I am no longer willing to sacrifice myself to a sweet sugary bondage. I am no longer living to eat. Today, I am eating to live.
RM: What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing "Fatty Patty"?
Kathleen: Since so much time had elapsed since I was seriously obese, I assumed I would be able to tell Patty’s story without becoming personally involved. I thought 35 years of living at a normal weight would give me a comfortable distance from the feelings of frustration, uselessness, embarrassment, and self-loathing that I had experienced while I was heavy.
But Patty surprised me. As I began to write the story, I discovered that all those feelings hadn’t left me; they were simply buried deep inside. I still struggle with my body image. I will always have issues with food.
RM: Tell us a tidbit about Patty that we won't find inside the page of the book.
Kathleen: During the course of the novel, Patty and Sam (the overweight hero) have numerous discussions about food. While Patty is continually on a diet, and constantly bemoaning the way she looks, Sam rarely talks about his own weight problem. Instead, he remains Patty’s champion and constantly affirms how beautiful she is to him.
Since "Fatty Patty" is written in first person (through Patty’s point of view), the reader is unable to share Sam’s inner thoughts. And while Sam never admits it in the book, he himself—just like Patty feels about her own weight and body image—is also embarrassed by the way he looks.
In my experience living as an overweight teenager and woman, I was painfully aware of exactly how bad I looked… but I never wanted to discuss it with anyone. I felt totally alone, that I was the only one in the world who felt so terrible about my body. Writing the novel, I discovered that Sam Curtis felt the same. Patty was able to express her feelings—good and bad—about the way she looked. But like so many men, Sam chose to keep his emotions to himself. Without giving away the novel’s ending, I will say that each of them benefits from the way the other dealt with overweight issues.
RM: Where can readers best reach you if they have additional questions or want to find more information on "Fatty Patty"?
Kathleen: If you love personal stories, viewing plenty of photos, and reading blurbs about books, check out my website: http://www.kathleenirenepaterka.com
I must confess I do not use twitter (Believe it or not, though I have a cell phone, I don’t know the number!). But I do hang out on Facebook, and love hearing from readers! Email me at Kathleen@kathleenirenepaterka.com. Visit my Facebook Author Page and click ‘like’ to catch up on the latest news: http://www.facebook.com/KathleenIrenePaterka
RM: We fans of "Fatty Patty" and the James Bay Novel series want to know- What project are you working on now?
My latest manuscript, "Royal Secrets," is scheduled for release in May 2013. It takes place in Las Vegas, and centers around a family-owned wedding chapel on the Vegas strip. The family has ties to the British royal family.
My day job as staff writer at Castle Farms, one of the Midwest’s premiere bridal venues, is an inspiration! The Castle hosts lots of weddings, so I’m surrounded by romance. Plus, I’ve always been fascinated by the royals across the pond. I thought it would be fun to celebrate with a book combining both loves: brides and royalty!
RM: If you could leave us with one thought or message (and of course, you can!) what would it be?
Kathleen: Never lose hope. Hope inspires everything.
If you are experiencing difficulties in your life, be it with food, alcohol, drugs, relationships, work, anything, do not give up. Talk to someone. Sharing your feelings is hard, but it helps. Talk to a friend. A professional. Someone who understands. If you don’t know who to turn to, email me at Kathleen@kathleenirenepaterka.com. I promise to respond.
Above all, please remember that you are not alone. We are all human, and we are all in this together.
About the Author
Kathleen Irene Paterka fell in love with writing (and food) at a very young age. By the time she graduated high school, she’d completed her first manuscript and she weighed 300 lbs. Though the extra pounds have long since disappeared, Kathleen still carries the emotional scars of being a former fatty.
FATTY PATTY was born from the cruel teasing she endured on the school playground. Kathleen is the author of numerous novels which embrace universal themes of family and home, including the Women's Fiction series, "The James Bay Books".
She and her husband live in the beautiful north country of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Kathleen loves hearing from readers! Contact her via her website at http://www.kathleenirenepaterka.com or follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/KathleenIrenePaterka