An interview with Diane Lang & Mike Buchanan, authors of The Fat Boy Chronicles
As part of the OverDrive Summer Read program young readers at participating schools and libraries can read The Fat Boy Chronicles without waitlists or holds through July 9. Recently we spoke with the authors, Diane Lang and Mike Buchanan about their experiences writing this book.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
Diane: When Mike and I were at a book signing for another novel, a young teen approached us and asked if he could tell us his story. At the time, Doug Hennig was a sophomore in high school, and seemed very athletic and fit, yet when he was in junior high he was very obese and bullied by his classmates, similar to Jimmy Winterpock in ‘The Fat Boy Chronicles.’ Mike Buchanan and I decided to tell his story to help kids who are bullied because of their weight, or because they seem different from others, and to help kids understand how much their bullied peers suffer. We hoped the book would be a starting point for conversations about bullying, and we hoped the book would create empathy in teens for others.
Mike: Even though the story is fiction, there is still a lot of truth in it. Many of the scenes are borrowed from our own experiences as teachers and from our lives. When I would work on the more painful days of Jimmy’s life, I would often reflect on my own school days. I would remember how it felt to left out because of being the smallest kid in class. And, regretfully, I would remember the days in which I was the bystander, the times in which I did nothing by watch the victim get bullied. Those days in particular haunt me still. But when I was writing about the entertaining part of being in school, there are many times I laughed out loud.
What do you hope readers take away from The Fat Boy Chronicles?
Mike: I hope the reader will gain a new confidence in themselves and an appreciation of how they truly can change the life of someone else. And “changing” can have two meanings. One is that through your actions, or lack thereof, you have the capacity for destroy a person’s self esteem, restrict their potential as a human and sometimes even cost them their lives. On the other hand, you have within you the opportunity to be a hero for someone, to make a difference in their life that they will remember forever. And all is costs you is a few moments of sitting with them at the lunch table, a simple phrase of “how about leaving them alone?” or being a real friend when someone needs you.
What do you remember about your local library growing up?
Diane: As a child I loved browsing the library, and without the library, I would have never found such wondrous books as “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” “Girl of the Limberlost,” and “Anne of Green Gables.” Some of my other favorite books as a teen were “East of Eden,” “The Pickwick Papers,” and “Sister Carrie.” My all time favorite novel is “All the Kings Men” by Robert Penn Warren.
I think parents should take their children to the library as soon they are old enough to walk. My dad loved to read, and he was the one that took me to library before I was old enough to put sentences together. My dad turned me on to “Little Women” and “Ivanhoe,” among many other well-known books.
Any Advice to young writers?
Diane: My advice to young writers is to READ, READ, and READ. Almost through osmosis, a person who reads a lot of books learns the structure and the nuances of good writing.
Mike: No matter what it is you write about-write! Even if you just write about your day at school, each time you put your words on paper, you get closer to learning your own voice.