There is a girl who blogged about losing half her weight and wrote a book about it – and she’s not me! As far as I know there are only two people on the planet who fit this description, me and Shauna Reid, aka DietGirl (although she’s not a diet). I interviewed her last year when her aptly titled book The Amazing Adventures of DietGirl was released in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. I imported a copy for myself, but only received it after the interview, leaving a fair amount of questions unasked.
Now Americans have a chance to buy Shauna’s book without paying for .01% of a tank of jet fuel because it’s recently been released in the USA. Or you can read to the end of this entry for details on how to win a copy. I checked in with Shauna to see how things have been going since she became a published author and how she went from blog to book in the first place.
Each edition of your book has featured a different cover. The British version has a cartoon of you in a superhero outfit. The Norwegian version features candies spelling out the title of the book. The American version has a picture of a curled-up tape measure. And presumably the German edition will have a different cover. What’s it like seeing your book dressed up in several different outfits? Do you have a favorite?
It’s a hoot seeing my ramblings translated into foreign languages but I feel bad for the poor translators. I took 5.5 years and 90,000 words to lose my weight – I’m sure they must have thought, “Just put down the chocolate and HURRY UP!”
As for the covers, I like the Norwegian one because those candies look 3D. I can’t understand the words between the covers but I like gawking at those candies. I’ve also really grown to love the American one – the cover paper has a lovely texture and I can’t stop stroking it. It’s a total fingertip massage.
I loved the flip animation that appeared in the lower right corner of your book and was happy to see it’s included in the American version too! How did that come about?
The flip-animation was a last minute brainwave by my UK editor, just before the book went to print. I haven’t read my book since it was published but I have done the flip thing about 1000 times!
What was the writing process like for the book? How long did it take?
The writing took fourteen months all up. I started writing the book in April 2006, squeezing in an hour after work each evening. Then in August 2006 when I was a quarter through a first draft, I found out that non-fiction book deals are done on proposals, not finished manuscripts. So I started working on a proposal instead. In September I got in touch with Transworld, who became my UK publisher. They gave me until June 2007 to finish the manuscript. It was like the biggest school project of my life – endless procrastination, brief bursts of inspiration; then a last-minute rush to the finish!
I have author friends who are also mothers and they liken the process to childbirth: it hurts like hell at the time, but the moment your little darling pops out into the world, the euphoria blocks out all the pain!
Basically the book took over my life in the months before the deadline – it was all I thought about. I didn’t hear a word anyone said to me; I was lost in Book World, re-writing sentences or freaking out about how/if a crappy chapter could be saved. I was snappy and weepy and couldn’t sleep. The best ideas always came at 3AM as I dropped off to sleep. I’d write on a notepad in the dark, so not to wake my husband. In the morning there’d be a blur of indecipherable scrawl which I’d spend half a day trying to interpret, so the snappy weepy insomniac cycle would start again! I look at the finished book today and still can’t comprehend how all that angst and Word documents added up to a finished product.
How did you decide to use a journal format for your book?
I spent the first two months trying to write Dietgirl novel-style, but it just didn’t work. I wanted the reader to feel like they were right there beside me as the action unfolded, witnessing the many ups and downs. The transformation was more about my mind than my body, so the journal format helped show how my thoughts changed over time.
It can be difficult going from a blog to book. Do you have any advice for bloggers who aspire to be published authors?
Write, write, write like the wind! Writing a book is a lot like losing weight: people are often waiting for the “right” moment to start. But there’s no right moment; just A moment when you pick up the pen or plop your fingers on the keyboard and begin. Don’t worry if what you write is complete rubbish – just get into the habit of doing it regularly. A blog is a great way to explore different styles, hone your voice and figure out what it is you want to say.
Once you’ve got your book or proposal done, find out which agents or publishers cover your kind of genre or topic so you don’t waste your time barking up the wrong tree. I recommend a great book called Is There a Book in You? by Alison Baverstock, which gives realistic and practical advice about the writing and publishing process.
Overall I’d say be passionate and patient with your writing, and try not to let any rejections destroy your soul! Let them fuel your determination :)
What was the editorial process like? What was your relationship like with your editor and your publishing house?
My original UK editor was great – she was there from the proposal stage to publication. I loved the editorial process because by the time my manuscript was due, I was so bloody sick of writing about myself . I was all, “Take it, please! Do your worst. Be ruthless!”
The changes we made were subtle but they really sharpened up the book. Nothing like a fresh pair of eyes!
What was the book promotion process like for you, particularly since you did it while working a full time job?
It was madness! My boss quit right before my book came out, so I was doing two full-time jobs and promoting the book at the same time. I was sneaking into empty offices to do phone interviews between meetings. But it was a fantastic experience. I was lucky enough to do a photo shoot with ELLE magazine, radio sessions at the BBC in London and even flew to Dublin to do interviews and drink Guinness with my Irish publicist. For someone who grew up on a farm in the middle of Nowhere, Australia it was surreal and unforgettable. If I ever have grandkids I’ve got a nice stock of stories to bore them with!
Have you received any particularly memorable emails or letters since your book came out?
It’s humbling to read letters and find that your ramblings somehow inspired people to make changes in their own lives. One woman even left a crappy marriage and decided to go traveling round the world! Another reader sent me some tea after reading about my tea obsession. It was her own special blend of leaves and she even sewed her own tea bags! It was delicious.
It was interesting to see what was “Americanized” for the US release of your book and what was not. For instance, “stones” and “kilograms” were converted to pounds, but they left the Australian/British sizing of clothes the same. I was happy to see they kept many of your familiar adjectives, like “lardy,” and that your mother is still your “mum” and not your “mom.” What was the Americanization process like?
For the US HarperCollins edition, my editor Jeanette Perez was fab – least of all because she didn’t want to change the book! I’d heard nightmare stories from British authors saying the life and blood had been drained from their precious words but mine barely changed at all. British crisps became American chips, but that was fine by me because I’m Australian and we call them chips anyway!
Now that you’ve been through the process of writing a book, is there anything you wish you’d known beforehand that you know now?
I don’t think it would have been half as much fun if I’d known what was in store. I’ve lived on adrenaline and panic for about two and half years now – life has never been so exciting! But seriously, I wish I’d done some sort of media training so I’d have felt more confident and prepared for promoting the book. I still feel uncomfortable with tooting my own horn… but if you don’t toot, nobody hears about your book :)
How is your life is different now that you’ve published a book?
Life goes on much the same – I still work full time and do all the same things. Sometimes I almost forget I ever wrote it! But I reckon the greatest thing about having a published book is that it takes on a life of its own and travels on without you. I’ve had emails from people saying they found the book in Dubai and Singapore and my hometown library back in Australia and that kind of thing makes my day, because I didn’t do anything… I’m just here sitting on my butt at the office, staring into space, and that book is moseying around all over the place. I feel very lucky.
Thanks, Shauna, for taking the time to thoughtfully answer my questions! Now, about that free book…Today Shauna is appearing on every radio station in America (and a couple in Canada). Please pray for her and hope the telephone cord is long enough to stretch to the bathroom and the fridge, otherwise she might not survive. To win a free copy of the book, please leave a comment on this entry by 11:59pm on Friday, January 9th with the title of a song you think the DJs should dedicate to Shauna. A winner will be randomly chosen. US entrants only please.