She Reads is all about the books that make you feel something so when we received an early copy of The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray in September of 2018, we immediately knew it was a book that couldn’t be ignored.
Award-winning journalist Anissa Gray has spent the last 20 years reporting on the stories that are most important to her and now she’s ready to tackle the next chapter of her life: writing fiction. Lending her brilliant mind and thoughtful energy to She Reads this February, we couldn’t be more excited to host her as our Guest Editor. Keep reading to learn more about Anissa and stay tuned for more exclusive content from the dazzling debut author all month long.
What was the inspiration behind The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls?
I initially set out to write a book about a woman working in an eating disorders clinic. Having struggled with an eating disorder for much of my adult life before finally getting treatment, I wanted to explore the recovery process. But the story wasn’t coming together. As I tried to figure things out, I took a step back and looked more closely at the main character. I started seeing her through the context of her loved ones – her sisters, her nieces, her relationship – and suddenly, the voices of those other characters became more resonant. I could see there was a wider story to tell about each of those women and the very different ways they coped with loss and betrayal. So, for me, it was more a process of following a story where it leads, rather than being led by a fully formed stroke of inspiration.
Did you always know you wanted to write fiction in addition to your journalistic work?
I developed an interest in journalism when I was a kid, watching the evening news with my father. But I was also a kid who loved reading and writing stories, so I always had this dream of becoming a novelist. When I graduated from college, I decided to pursue journalism and a steady paycheck. But that dream of being a fiction writer never left me. A few years ago, I made the space to sit down and write. That first novel was not the best, to put it mildly, but I kept going. And here I am. I count myself incredibly fortunate to be doing exactly what I’ve always wanted to do as a writer.
What’s the one thing you never leave the house without?
My phone – but for more than the obvious reasons. My handwriting is not the easiest to read, even for me, so when I’m out and about and a writing idea strikes, I use Evernote to take down whatever comes to mind. So not only am I spared from trying to decipher what I would have otherwise scrawled down, but I also don’t have to worry about keeping up with stray scraps of paper and sticky notes.
Which authors do you admire most?
I’ll turn again to Toni Morrison. Not only has she created extraordinary works, she inspires me almost every day with a quote I keep on my desk shelf: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
I’ll also go back to David Mitchell. From Cloud Atlas to Black Swan Green to The Bone Clocks – I simply love the man’s inventive mind.
Jeanette Winterson is another writer I deeply admire. Some of the most beautiful sentences I’ve ever read can be found in Winterson’s Written on the Body. What’s more, she’s also incredibly funny and fierce when writing about her difficult childhood and coming out.