Category Archives: favorite books

Can Harvesting Human Body Fat Solve the Oil Crisis?

That’s the premise of GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT, a dark, daring, and hilarious new novel by author/filmmaker Pamela Corkey.  Read my interview with her below.

You'll DEVOUR this book.

You’ll DEVOUR this book.

If I had to place your novel in a genre it would be really difficult, so can you tell me, in general, how are people categorizing it? Science fiction? Drama? Fantasy? Dark comedy?  Literary fiction, or satire with literary fiction underpinnings. It’s not quite “laugh-out-loud funny” enough to be categorized as humor, but it is a comedic satire, not a stark social satire the way you would think of Aldous Huxley or Chuck Paliniuk. It’s lighter than those works but darker than Irma Bombeck. By a mile.

Were any of those writers on your mind? Aldous Huxley, in particular?  No. Actually, I hadn’t read Brave New World when I started working on GDP. I read it while I was writing the book just coincidentally. Now, after reading it, Brave New World had a huge impact on me and my thinking in general, but there’s no connection to Gross Domestic Product for me.

Something that everybody who’s read the book probably wonders: harvesting human fat to solve the oil crisis — where did that completely outlandish premise come from?  I think it was just the natural trajectory of a train of thought. You hear about people adapting their car engines to be able to run on the fat from deep fryers — they go collecting that stuff from fast food chains — and I thought, well, what’s the difference between the fat of a peanut, the fat of a chicken, and the fat of a person? Once that thought struck me, I considered the fact that we also have this often-commented upon obesity issue in our country — so it all just unraveled from there.

I think that’s one of the brilliant things about the book — it takes these two conundrums that we face in our modern world and they dovetail.  Right. I discovered as I was writing the book that it was really all about, “What if we solve all our problems. Then what?” Stories are based on conflicts, but I’ve often been tempted to push past conflict and see what is there to say once they have been resolved. What about society when it’s done addressing its shortcomings? What is the meaning of life if we don’t have struggles? What would we do with ourselves? I don’t know if I answered that question in the book, but it was constantly at the back of my mind while I was writing. What would happen to the human animal if it didn’t have to struggle and strive or exert any effort? What then?

That would bring me to the three main characters: Frannie, Derek, and Treyshawn. Why these specific people?  Early on, when I was just sort of playing around with what would happen if we really could use human fat as a fuel, I wondered who would get rich and what problems it might solve. And one of the first things I imagined was that poor communities that have a much higher rate of obesity and who struggle the most, those would instantly make out like bandits. Poverty would be eradicated. American poverty is not generally made up of a lot of emaciated people the way it often is in other countries. It’s a lot of big people. So I came up with a character who would recognize the opportunity that existed in his own poor community and have the smarts to exploit it.

And that’s Treyshawn.  Yes, that’s Treyshawn. Because he is naturally skinny, he himself can’t participate in the process, but he can see how to exploit it. I didn’t want him to be a villain, even though he’s taking advantage of the situation — I wanted him to be resourceful and caring. I came up with this character who, at the start of the story, is already taking care of everybody. He was born with his eyes wide open and darting around, looking for trouble and trying to preserve himself and those he loves from danger. And I wanted somebody who was immune to the desire to slack off, who didn’t have any impulse to slack off. Treyshawn is just a whirring little engine of industriousness and resolve.

Right. He’s an admirable character. Of the three, his story is the one that gives us something we traditionally expect from stories in that he follows an arc where he overcomes challenges and hurdles and become stronger and wiser. You chose him explicitly to be the one to grow and change rather than then the other two.  Well, none of them really change dramatically. They all come to an understanding with their world and themselves. I guess you’re right though – Treyshawn’s circumstances certainly change a great deal.

And he also gains a lot of self-confidence that he doesn’t have at the beginning.  Yes. Absolutely. That’s absolutely true.

Can you talk about the other two central characters?  Of course. There’s Derek. Derek was actually the first character that coalesced. I wanted somebody who would be in the middle of the media-pop-cultural whirlwind of this initiative — the introduction to the American public of Project People Power, which is the name the government creates for the fat-to-fuel program. So it seemed fitting that he would start out as the fattest man in the world. In the book, Derek starts out completely bedridden, living in a trailer, and then he gets a very extreme and dramatic liposuction that sucks him down to the size of a normal person and he’s put in commercials to popularize the program. He’s not even remotely ready for it. I have a great tenderness for Derek and deep sympathy for his inept attempts at assuaging his pain and fear in this life.

Yeah, and what I would ask you then is, Derek and Franny — you put these poor guys through hell. They’re smart and funny people and they’re characters that a lot of your readers might identify with, even though they might have some problems that are extreme and pathetic. What would you say to someone who said, “Oh, I wish that Derek had more agency or some kind of way to get out of this horrible situation he’s been put in,” or maybe, “Why can’t Franny grow or be stronger-minded in the end?”  Because that isn’t who they are and it wasn’t what I wanted to explore. I tried to give those two characters a happy ending because I’m a sucker for that, but I didn’t want to be disloyal to them or completely manipulative and unrealistic about the psychological profiles I’d created. These three-dimensional characters came to life in my imagination — it’s just not what would happen to them. It would be completely out of character for them to grow in those ways. Franny does a lot of two steps forward, one step back, but in the end I try to reward her. I love her because she’s the idealist who can’t bear to live in this world.

And she struggles when everybody starts to give into this marketing campaign.  Yes, because it’s the antithesis of everything she holds dear, philosophically. Even though that philosophy is made up for a fantasy franchise. She’s trapped in a very mundane life, so she uses her imagination to try to create a simulation of a different world in pure denial of reality.

The place where Franny and Derek do get to have some fun is The Realm (their online game). It seems as if, when the story goes there, Franny and Derek get to escape from their lives, and we as readers can also have fun and fly a little bit, because it’s not so heavy like the rest of the chaos that surrounds them.  Which is exactly why fantasy worlds are so popular, why people are so drawn to games. A game is just a conflict with no real consequences. A simulated conflict with simulated danger and simulated triumph. It’s a lot more compelling than real-life triumphs like, “Oh, fantastic! I found a good parking spot,” or, “There are $212 extra dollars in my monthly paycheck so I’m going to be slightly less pinched.” The triumphs in our actual lives don’t often reach such heights as they do every single day in games like World of Warcraft or a video game like Grand Theft Auto. Most people want to live full lives and just don’t know how. Franny is a person who refuses not to live as full a life as she can, if only in her imagination. Most grown-ups give up on their imaginations. Look at the adults in our lives who are dorks who stay invested in childish dreams of adventure and we look at them with pity or mockery, but there’s something to be said for the life force of a person who refuses to give up on their make-believe world. It’s both sad and beautiful to me.

So have you or do you participate in online gaming?  I don’t. It doesn’t work for me. I can’t get into it enough to for the illusion to take hold. Writing is what I do instead.

There’s an aspect in your writing that I love, and that is the level of detail that creates a sense of these places and the characters that inhabit them and always makes me think, “She’s been there. She knows folks just like this.” Have you been to these places you describe? Do you know people like these.  Of course I do, yeah. In parts and pieces. I’m a big Star Trek fan and when I was younger I loved it enough to go to conventions, but I didn’t go to conventions like a normal dork. I remember one time I dressed up in an Original Trek sort of 60s mod alien outfit of my own invention and several people at the convention were like, “What episode is that from?”

You’d just made it up?  Yeah. It was inspired by those campy alien babes, but the conventioneers couldn’t wrap their heads around that — to them it was like I wasn’t doing it right…I do love alternate realities. I do love imaginary worlds.

So, back to the online gaming: do you think that the things you describe, like the cybersex stuff — does that actually happen?  Yes. That happens a lot. It’s not something that I have personal experience with but I do know of people who have. People have gotten divorced over virtual cheating, so having consensual text-based sex or jerking off to somebody else’s prompts — that’s real.

It’s just that combining it with the sci-fi/fantasy stuff seems really over the top, but I’m sure you’re right.It happens constantly. Thousands of people are doing it right now. As we speak, thousands of people doing it in the greater Houston area.

In this book, you’re pretty fearless about tackling topics that other people would consider unmentionable. Anything from farting to deeper social taboos we’ve been socialized to stay away from. Why is it that you decide to go there?  Because I’m a 12-year-old boy. I find those things funny. I think farting is funny. I also find that the most interesting thing is the stuff that nobody wants to talk about. That just seems so obvious to me. If I were in a situation, in a business meeting, say, and somebody had a booger hanging out, the first thing I would say to the person to my left, if I knew them well enough, would be to point out the booger. I find it endlessly interesting to poke at the invisible boundaries that society puts around us. Because they’re so flimsy! They’re so easy to breach. Another reason is I’m concerned that perhaps other people aren’t noticing these things and some of them are really important. Pretending they’re not there is keeping us apart. Because if you say that Bradley has a booger, so what? It humanizes him. If you tell Bradley he has a booger and he laughs and asks how long it’s been hanging there, then you become closer to each other as human beings. But if Bradley gets really uptight and gets upset, then you know that his sense of self-worth is very fragile and you know that you’ve humiliated him and then you’re not friends with Bradley anymore or maybe you treat him more gently.

Yeah, but when you’re writing a book, nobody’s going to get hurt.  Well… that’s not true, but it’s tru-ish. I think that I want to say to Bradley, “Hey, man, don’t be so upset about the booger thing. It was hilarious — there was something to pay attention to while we were going through all those dry, boring numbers.” I want Bradley to know that I see his booger and I like him anyway. How can we be really be enlightened beings if we don’t acknowledge our farts? Or our humanity, our frailty, the little weaknesses that plague all of us from the moment we’re born.

I want to take the quote, “How can we be enlightened beings if we don’t acknowledge our farts,” and crochet that onto something.  Be my guest. I do have a copyright on that, but I hereby grant you permission. You have to send me a picture of it though.

What’s next for Treyshawn and for the world? And what about you, personally? Are you planning to start a new novel?  What’s next for Treyshawn is I don’t know. I think about it all the time. I envision him coming back with an incredibly brilliant scheme to rescue the planet from itself. But I have no idea. See, that doesn’t need to be a book. There’s no story there. There’s just Treyshawn being awesome. What’s next for Treyshawn is greatness.

Do Franny and Derek have a baby? Yes.

And what’s next for you? I’m working on a web series right now, but I plan to write another book. I have three different story ideas that I am developing and have notes on and I can’t decide which one to devote the next several years to. I think it’ll be the one that seems like it would be the most fun world to spend all that time in.

Thank you for writing this delightful novel. You’re welcome. And thank you for your time and the thought you put into this.

Click Here to purchase GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT on Kindle for only $3.99.  

on the train

Author Pamela Corkey, jammin’ to some tunes.

Pamela Corkey is a film professor at Hofstra University, a director, and the author of numerous screenplays. Her debut novel, Gross Domestic Product, which was recently released on amazon.com and will soon be available in print as well, revolves around the premise that the United States has solved the oil crisis by harvesting human fat, and explores how this development affects the lives of her characters and the social fabric of the country. 

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Take the Beach Bag Quiz & enter to WIN a FREE copy of REUNITED

Can someone please make a cocktail called "Reading on the Beach"?

Can someone please invent a drink called “Reading on the Beach”?

Q: Which of These Items Belong in your Beach Bag?

A) A tub of Crisco (for sun-tanning)

B) An obnoxiously large boom-box that only plays AM radio.

C) A thermos of piping hot Ovaltine!

D) A paperback copy of REUNITED.

(CORRECT ANSWER: D.  REUNITED, now available in paperback! Enter to WIN a FREE COPY here.  Or, buy your own.)

1_final_reunitedsmallmedium.jpg

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What makes a great book club

Last week, I had the honor of doing my first book club visit as a published author, thanks to my friend Connie, one of my biggest cheerleaders. Though not technically young adults, Connie’s book club branched out from their typical reading fare in order to include my YA novel, REUNITED.  The afternoon started with a fun speaking event at the Westfield, MA Athenaeum,  followed by a lovely dinner with the book club gals.

Having never been to a book club other than my own, it was exciting to get a glimpse of another group’s unique combination of literature, food and friends–this special recipe being the heart and soul of the book club experience.  Plus, a good book club exposes us to ideas, authors, and cuisines that we might not have discovered to on our own.  Just like the Westfield ladies probably wouldn’t have have found my book, had it not been for Connie’s gentle prodding. ;)  Right now, my book club’s reading THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Diaz.  What are you reading in your book club?

Books, food, and friends–a hat-trick of awesomeness.

 

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Toilet Papering the Yard – from the pranksters at The YAmazing Race with MGnificent prizes

Welcome to “Toilet papering the Yard,” which, in addition to being an obnoxious yet biodegradable Halloween prank, is also the name of my group in  the YAmazing Race with MGnificent prizes.  If you’ve never hopped with us before, the YAmazing Race is the coolest blog hop ever featuring over 50 YA & MG authors and tons of excellent prizes including: books, gift certificates, swag, and a personalized make-over from Honey Boo Boo. 

Okay, I made up that last one. ;)

If you haven’t yet been to the Apocalypsies website, CLICK HERE to start from the beginning and read the complete rules.  Now, off to the races! (Official start time is Monday, 10/22 at noon EST.)

REUNITED  Synopsis

1 Concert.    2,000 Miles.     3 Ex-Best Friends

Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends.  Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3.  But when the band broke up, so did their friendship.  Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books.  Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show. Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse.  And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town.  But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?

 _______________________________________________________________________________________

Now tuck that away in your clever, little brain for the quiz at the end.

But before you go – here’s a bonus contest! Do any of the following and you’ll be entered to win a signed hardcover copy REUNITED!

And if you do all five you’ll be entered five times!

Ready to keep racing?  Then check  out the website for INNOCENT DARKNESS author & steampunk goddess Suzanne Lazear to move on to the next stop.  Good luck!

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Calling all Los Angeles Reader Girls! (and boys)

On October 25th at 7:00pm, I’ll be doing a reading/book signing at the Glendale Americana Barnes & Noble along with the fabulous Carmen Rodrigues (34 PIECES OF YOU) and Suzanne Lazear (INNOCENT DARKNESS).   We’ll also be talking about the process of of seeing a Young Adult novel into the world.  So, if you’re a YA fan and/or an aspiring writer, please join us for a night of books, fun, and giveaways!

Writing Young Adult

Date:  October 25th

Time:    7:00pm

Admission:  Free

Location:  Glendale Americana Barnes & Noble

The Americana at Brand 210 Americana Way

Glendale, CA

(818) 545-9146

Event website:  http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/4005813

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Emily Bronte & Me

So, I finally got a copy of Glitter Magazine & took a good, long look at their Books That Rock spread that features REUNITED, which just so happens to be right next to WUTHERING HEIGHTS.  I realize it doesn’t actually mean anything, but to see my book next to WUTHERING FREAKING HEIGHTS delights me way too much not to share. ;)

REUNITED, in very good company.

REUNITED & WUTHERING HEIGHTS: literary soul-mates, or mere cooincidence? You be the judge.

Thanks so much to the book-reading gals over at Glitter Magazine. And big shout-outs to all of the other wonderful books & authors included here!

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Last Stop: Blue Bunny

I’m still riding the high from last night’s excellent reading/book-signing at Blue Bunny Books & Toys.  Or maybe it was all those cupcakes I ate. ;)

Store Owner/Cupcake Maker, Janet Reynolds

So happy I got the chance to meet some local tweens & teens as well as some lovely and enthusiastic booksellers.

Books & vanilla frosting. Two of life’s greatest pleasures.

 

And how often do you get a photo op with Babar and a life-size stuffed sheep?

Of course, no Road Trip Book Tour stop would be complete without the obligatory Pea Pod photos.

Kids: don’t read & drive.

Booksellers extraordinaire: Cheryl, Margie & Janet

Overall, I’d say Kristen-Paige and I had a very successful (albeit slightly exhausting) week.  Thanks to all the booksellers, friends, and readers who came out to join us!

 

 

 

 

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Sandwich, a personal history.

1. A long time ago, I was in an all-girl band called Sandwich.  We only played one song, also called Sandwich.

Sandwich, at a Halloween party, circra 1998. We’re sitting because we can’t play standing up.

2. Once, I invented a sandwich. The ingredients were: Fluff, Nutella, and sliced bananas on white bread. I called it the “HW Yummy” (patent pending).

3.  Last night, I had the honor of doing a reading/book-signing at the lovely Sandwich Public Library with my fellow road-trip author, Kirsten-Paige Madonia (FINGERPRINTS OF YOU).  The event was sponsored by Titcomb’s Bookshop.

We started off our night with an interview for a local cable access show, hosted by Kathy & her #1 YA reader, Emma, a high school senior.

We’ll be back, after this message from our sponsor.

Then we moved downstairs for the reading & book discussion.  Boy, were we surprised to see how much work Kathy put into our event.  The room was decorate with maps and travel guides, and she even had a bevy of tasty road-trip themed snacks!

Mmmmm, sugar.

Afterwards, we chatted with fellow YA author Scott Blagden, author of Dear Life, You Suck (Harcourt, March ’13) and signed some books.  Of course, we ended the night with some pictures in the Pea Pod photo-booth.

Kids, do not try this at home.

Vicky & Kathy hit the road!

HUGE thanks to Kathy Johnson of the Sandwich Library and Vicky Uminowicz for making our night so special.  It really means a lot to know there are such devoted booksellers & librarians out there willing to go the extra mile to help out a couple of debut authors.  And kudos to the amazing Emma for being so darn literate & cool.

If you’re in the Dedham, MA area tonight, it’s you last chance to catch our Road Trip Books Hit the Road Tour at the Blue Bunny Bookstore at 6:30pm.  Hope to see you there!

 

 

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Road Trip Stop #2 (where we meet the future authors of America)

The Road Trip Book Tour continues!  Yesterday, Kristen-Paige & I had a WONDERFUL meet & greet at the Manchester, NH Barnes & Noble.  And we were THRILLED to see so many of our new Pinkerton Academy & Londonderry Middle School friends/Future Authors of America.  How much do I love meeting teen readers & writers?

 

 

Meeting these girls totally made my day.

Next stop:  The Coop in Harvard Square!  (Monday September 10th, 7:00pm)

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My Middle School Marathon (with a high school visit & a book reading thrown in there, too)

Kristien-Paige and I are still recovering from our back-to-back school visits yesterday at Pinkerton Academy & Londonderry Middle school.  Not to mention the fact that we capped off our day with a book-signing at the Toadstool Bookshop in Milford.  But, boy, did we have fun!

I don’t know what they’re putting in the drinking water in Derry & Londonderry, but those kids were all so great!  Amazing questions, lots of enthusiasm.  And as you can see from the pix below, they are totally rocking the Pea Pod!

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