Writing The Fatness

The Fatness

Click the image to get it at Amazon!

I’m not sure how interesting it is for readers to know the story behind the story, but I thought I’d share my experiences with writing this book.

This one was personal.

I’ve struggled with weight issues most of my life, so I found it quite difficult to write a humorous account of what it would be like to be imprisoned for your weight.

Really difficult.

As is the case for many of my novels, the idea for The Fatness first came to me, in a dream. I’d been reading The Obesity Myth, by Paul Campos. It’s an eye-opening non-fiction about the bad science surrounding the idea of the obesity “epidemic.” This was sometime in 2005, the year ENC Press published my first book The Amadeus Net.

So that’s a horrible notion, I thought. Concentration camps for fat people. That’s terrifying. And strangely compelling. I could see people thinking this was actually a good idea, policy wise. But I trust my readers to know satire when they see it, so I wrote four chapters…

They were terrible. There was nothing funny about the book. It wasn’t biting satire, it was just bitter.

I made several other attempts, all failures. Six years ago I even got as far as completing an outline and a large chunk of a draft. But it wasn’t really what I wanted the book to be. It was strained and really not funny in a way that was compassionate for the inmates of the Calorie Reduction Centers.

Then four years ago I got serious about my own weight issues. I worked with two wonderful personal trainers and got my weight down below the dreaded 30 BMI for the first time in years, and for some reason, that gave me the ability to write the book. I think I needed to understand the process of losing weight so that I could communicate it properly. Within the course of a year I managed to produce a draft of the book I felt was good.

The following year I worked with my editor and produced two more drafts. Then my life got really complicated. My long-term relationship ended, my dog died, and I started a new and extremely challenging work position. (Sounds like a bad country and western song, doesn’t it?) So it took a few more years until I was ready to start the publishing process. Yeah, sometimes it takes that long.

This is the longest gestation period for a book I’ve written. By comparison, my first novel, The Amadeus Net, was a breeze. It only took 10 years from start to finish.

But I think it’s the best book I’ve written (so far) and the positive reviews seem to back up that feeling. I’m particularly pleased that readers feel the book is satirical, yet has a big heart that is compassionate for people struggling with weight issues. As the book taught me, there’s no easy answers.

Learn more about the book here.

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The Fatness is live!

The FatnessMy fourth novel is available as of today! 

It’s a satire about concentration camps for fat people and bureaucracy gone mad. (Don’t worry, it’s a love story.)

This crazy book was 12 years in the making, so I hope you enjoy it. Here’s a quick synopsis, and more purchase links below:

Synopsis

Keelan Cavanaugh is fat. That’s why the government put him in prison.

They placed him in a Calorie Reduction Centre (CRC), where trained staff work to help him and many others slim down. Well, that was the intention, anyway. The powers that be had decided chubby citizens must either go there or lose their health care coverage.

When he meets Jacinda Williams, an activist lawyer researching this new system, Keelan is more determined than ever to slim down. But Keelan discovers losing weight is more difficult than it seems, especially when he also has to fight against a ridiculous bureaucracy and policy wonks with hidden agendas. Can he succeed? Will the CRC-crossed lovers ever dine at love’s banquet together?

From award-winning author Mark A. Rayner, The Fatness is a contemporary satire of socialism, capitalism, and the so-called “obesity epidemic”. This is Catch-22 for a new generation, with a distinctly tender undertone, even as it mercilessly spoofs the establishment.

Critical reception

As of today, with 20 ratings, it’s got 4.4/5 stars on Goodreads, and the Amazon reviews are starting to come in (4.5/5 so far)

“Mark A. Rayner—an all-Canadian synthesis of Douglas Adams and Ben Elton—understands that the best satire is only five degrees to the left of reality. The Fatness may not be reality (yet), but it’s too close for comfort. Luckily, it’s also funny as heck.” ~Corey Redekop, author of Shelf Monkey and Husk

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Feeding the Beast

This is a script for a piece I read on CBC Radio (Ontario Morning) way back in 2006, when some people still didn’t know what a blog was.

Feeding the Beast

by Mark A. Rayner

Hi, my name is Mark, and I am a writer with a problem. There is a monster eating my novel.

It is an insatiable beast. A slobbery demon that greets me every day with an obscene wink, and asks:

“What are you going to feed me this morning, Mark?”

It’s my weblog. Or blog for short.

#

Blogs are the latest version of the personal web page. (You know, the kind of website that has lots of cat pictures on it.) But blogs are used for a wider variety of things than that. There are blogs about technology, history, books, politics, bat-grooming. You name it and there’s probably a blog about it.

Some people treat their blogs like a diary, except instead of writing in a book with a lock on it, they’re posted online for everyone in the world to read. Many of these blog-writers — or bloggers — get fired from their jobs for revealing wildly inappropriate things about their workplace. I’d say that happens to about half of them. The other half thinks its cool.

But the one thing all of them have in common is that to be successful, blogs must be updated on a pretty regular basis. The more often, the better.

They must be fed.

#

“Skwib requires sustenance Mark. Must have copy.”

My Beast is called The Skwib. I feed it short fiction, satire and the occasional bit of humorous commentary.

It likes the short fiction and the satire the best, which figures… That also takes the most time to write.

And so, part of my morning writing time — time I should be devoting to my new novel — is taken up by the Beast.

This would be fine if I was some kind of genius, a prolific scribbler. But I’m in the Thomas Mann school of writing. He’s the German dude who wrote The Magic Mountain, and said:

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Though I imagine he said it in German.

So why start and feed a blog? I don’t know. It’s kind of like asking me why I used to wear a leather tie, or rugby pants. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, I’m not so sure, but the act of feeding it does keep me writing, no matter what.

#

“Feeeed me.”

The Fatness

Click on the image to check out an excerpt.

Okay, gotta go, I think it’s started snacking on my short stories now.

The End

Update, 2017: I’ve been starving the beast of late, which I why I have a new book coming in November, called The Fatness:

A satire about concentration camps for fat people and bureaucracy gone mad. (A love story.)

You can check out an excerpt here.

Originally published August 2006. Photo by Danielle Blumenthal, via Flickr.

Rejected Halloween-Themed Cereals

hobo flakes cerealAfter the success of Count Chocula, Boo-berry and Frankenberry, cereal executives everywhere were on the look out for new Halloween-themed cereals. Alas, these never made it to market, though the last entry did make it to the packaging design phase. (This happens BEFORE taste testing, I should note.)

10. Candy Corn Pops
9. Werewolf Balls
8. Creepy Clown Crunch
7. Slutty Nurse Puffs
6. Green Gooey Grahams
5. Fruity Mime Berets
4. Black Cat Smacks
3. Crunchy Pirate Hooks
2. Pumpkin Bran
1. Sugar-Coated Hobo Flakes

Originally appeared as one of  Corey Redekop’s 31 Lists of Horror.

Fabulous artwork by Neil Darbyshire (fellow member of the Legion of Doom), and inventor of the AdventureBand, which you can support in a Kickstarter.