All Carrie Roberts wants is to be a little bit smaller.
To fit into the perfect dress for the Valentine’s Day Dance. To look beautiful for her boyfriend, the school’s star basketball player. To keep his jealous ex-girlfriend, a rival cheerleader, away from him. And to be noticed by her classmates.
Exercising and dieting don’t work, but an advertisement for weight loss pills promises a quicker solution to her problem. As time runs out, she takes more than the recommended dose until she’s just a few inches slimmer. Heads turn when she arrives at the dance, and the wonderful night with her boyfriend is beyond what she dreamed it would be.
Days later, Carrie discovers that her body is changing in ways that should be impossible. While her doctor searches for a cure, she desperately turns to her friends and family for support. Everyone is noticing her now whether she likes it or not, and even the media is intrigued by her incredible story. Getting everything she once wanted has created new problems—problems that are growing more terrifying every day.
Because Carrie Roberts is shrinking.
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"Just a Few Inches" is a Young Adult novel that deals with issues of body image, self-esteem, and teenage relationships. It is intended for readers age 13 and up.
Tell us about your book.
Just a Few Inches tells the story of Carrie Roberts, an ordinary high school senior who undergoes an extraordinary transformation.
The Valentine’s Day Dance is approaching, and she finds a beautiful red dress, but it’s unfortunately one size too small. A rival cheerleader, who happens to be her boyfriend’s ex, wanders into the store, interested in the dress. Fearing the ex would wear the dress to win back the boyfriend, Carrie buys it and tries everything she can to slim down just a few inches before the dance
Ultimately, she takes more than the recommended dosage of diet pills. They seem to do the trick, but after the dance, she’s still getting smaller…not just in weight, but in HEIGHT. She tries to navigate her way through senior year as normally as possible, but the media catches wind of her story, and she becomes an internet sensation. Doctors scramble to cure her, but she keeps getting smaller… and smaller…
Will her shrinking ever stop?
Was this book inspired by something in particular?
I was standing in the checkout line at a supermarket or drugstore when I saw the women’s magazines. Beautiful women graced the covers, but I knew that many of the images were airbrushed or doctored in various ways. As a society, we’ve become obsessed with chasing an ideal outward appearance.
But it was a cover story about a weight-loss plan that really caught my eye. It specifically mentioned a way to “shrink your waist.” As a fan of classic science fiction movies, my mind wandered to thoughts of The Incredible Shrinking Man. What if a teenage girl, struggling to attain that ideal and shrink her weight, shrunk in a completely different way? Stories of miniaturized people have been around for ages, but as far as I knew, using the idea to illustrate the theme of body image hadn’t been done. A story was born.
That was in the mid-1990s.
How long did this book take you to write?
The idea first came to me twenty or so years ago, and it took that long to finish it.
I started writing immediately, making Carrie as relatable a character as possible—a kind of everywoman, so to speak. I was able to write the first handful of chapters: Carrie finding the dress, taking the pills, going to the dance, and then realizing she was shrinking. I was a younger, less experienced writer then, and I had no idea where the story was going to end, so I stopped writing and dabbled with other projects.
Every few years I’d try revisiting Inches with no luck. Then in late 2013, I wrote what became Carrie’s final thoughts in the book. Suddenly, I knew where I was going, and I started plotting the course to get there. Once I had the course plotted, I wrote the first draft in about seven months. The words flowed out of me so well that I could barely contain them—and it took a long time to shake Carrie’s first person narration out of my head!
Honestly, I’m glad that it took me so long because I was able to incorporate smartphones and social media into the plot in a believable way that I wouldn’t have been able to twenty years ago!
How much research do you do?
For this book, my research mostly consisted of measuring anything and everything in my house, a local school, and so on. I needed to know at which heights it would become difficult for Carrie to perform everyday tasks. When would she no longer be able to reach the shelf in her locker? When would she no longer be able to see herself in the bathroom mirror? When would she no longer be able to reach doorknobs? Not only that, but when would everyday items transition from awkward to hold and use, to difficult to hold and use, to impossible to hold and use?
I found medical charts showing the normal growth progression of girls to teens. It was helpful to know when Carrie would be the same height as a ten-year-old, or a five-year-old, and so on. Eventually, she’s reduced to wearing toddler, infant, and doll clothes. I wanted her ever-changing wardrobe to be a part of story because what we wear ties into ideas of body image and self-esteem. But I learned that even though she’d be the height of a toddler, she’d be proportionately a young adult so toddler clothes would be baggy. And would she be exactly the same proportions as popular fashion dolls? Probably not.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Matching Carrie’s height to the right scenes in the story. She has two younger sisters who are affected by her situation as well, and I wanted them to have specific reactions at specific times. I wanted there to be some doubt whether she’d be able to attend her senior prom and graduation, so I had to have those occur when she was neither too tall nor too small. Also, I wanted Carrie to question the role fashion dolls play in shaping young girls’ sense of body image—the book doesn’t answer the question, but Carrie needed to be that size to ask it.
I planned certain heights for certain scenes and then matched it to a calendar to come up with a reasonable rate for her to shrink. That required doing some math.
What were your favorite subjects in school?
Would it be a surprise after that last question for me to say math? Though it was a challenge to do the math for her shrinking, it was also a lot of fun.
I’d also say science. Though a person shrinking so small is fantastical, I wanted the explanation to sound scientifically plausible. I don’t go into too much detail, but there’s enough for some science fans like me.
And of course, English class, especially when we were given a creative writing assignment.
What actors/actresses would you cast in your book’s movie?
Though she’s now a little older than a high school student now, I would have loved for Jennifer Lawrence to play Carrie. I really think she’d be able to embody both the insecurities and strengths of Carrie on her journey. And she always seems so relatable, which is important for this story. The main character needs to be someone the audience can easily root for.
When you read, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
Until I self-published this book, I would have said traditional paper/hard back books. There’s nothing like the crispness and smell of the pages, and the weight of the book itself. I’m happy that there are self-publishing paperback options so I can actually hold a tangible copy of my first book and display it on my bookshelves with other books.
But I bought a Kindle to make sure the ebook of Inches was correctly formatted. Because I have it, I’ve used it to read, and I must say that I see the appeal. I recently went on a train trip, and instead of lugging several books along, I had them on my lightweight Kindle. Reading in a dark area is easier with an ebook than a traditional book. The cheaper cost of ebooks help feed a reading addiction too.
So right now, I love them both!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time? What’s that? 😉
I enjoy reading, and I’ve got a long TBR list that I’m trying to tackle. Now that the weather’s nicer, I hope to get outside more for some walks or bike rides. I also like to cook and bake, and thinking about that now is making me hungry. My friends say that I make really good chocolate chip cookies.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
At all of these wonderful places!
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Tara-St.-Pierre/e/B00XZE6SGI/