Welcome to MarieClaire.com's Q&A; author series—the spot where we ask the #ReadWithMC author-of-the-month five burning questions about her latest book. In March, we're reading The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Emmy Award–winning journalist Anissa Gray. If you're interested in the novel and looking for some friends to talk about it with, find out how to participate in MarieClaire.com's interactive monthly book club here.
Anissa Gray may be making her novel debut with The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, but she's been writing stories for decades. In fact, her career as a journalist has spanned more than 20 years, holding roles at Reuters and CNN, and earning Emmy and duPont-Columbia Awards for her work. "I felt a bit burnt out from journalism," she admits. "Writing a novel is a new way to see yourself and the world, and it's incredibly refreshing."
The Care and Feeding is an intimate account of family bonds told from the perspective of three sisters—Althea, Viola, and Lillian—who must come together when Althea, the eldest, and her husband are unexpectedly arrested. Each woman is portrayed in her own unique way, exploring themes of identity, forgiveness, and the complex role that hunger plays in their lives.
Here, Gray discusses the inspiration behind the book and how she developed her characters from her own personal experiences.
Marie Claire: What inspired you to write The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls?
Anissa Gray: Ironically, this isn't the book I set out to write. When I sat down to write The Care and Feeding the title was the same, but it was a story about someone who worked in an eating disorder clinic. It was largely based on my own experience with eating disorders and the treatment process. The main character was Viola rather than Althea.
I flailed around for about six months not really wanting to let go of that story. I kept writing, but the characters stayed with me. As I looked into Viola's back story with her family, I saw she had these sisters—they had their own stories and struggles. Once I opened the door to those voices they became incredibly resonant, and I became very interested in these characters. Viola is still very much a part of The Care and Feeding, but it's a much broader, richer story with those added voices.
MC: Why should people read this book now?
AG: It resonates with you no matter your age or race (it helps to be a woman, of course). You see a family that comes together in the face of a tragedy. Different characters are confronted with the question of forgiveness. How do you forgive someone who has done you harm? There are a lot of complex questions without a lot of easy answers.
Even though things are not wrapped up in a nice tiny bow, I hope readers will feel like they've read an honest story. I've told stories all of my professional life as a journalist, and now as a novelist. The heart of what I want to put out into the world is a good story. It sounds simple, but achieving it can be difficult.
MC: If you could be any character in the book, who you would be?
AG: I love all of the characters dearly, but I wouldn't want to be any of them. I have known some of the specific struggles Viola has faced in respect to recovery from an eating disorder and the difficulty of that...the insidious nature of the disorder. I was a few years out of treatment while writing it, and in a lot of ways it was cathartic.
MC: Who would play the main characters in a movie? Cast your protagonist and antagonist.
AG: I'm incredibly superstitious so I don't even allow myself to think in these terms, but because you asked...Viola Davis would be a great fit for Althea. For Viola, definitely short-haircut Halle Berry. For Lillian, I would love a bright, young actress like Tessa Thompson. She has the spark Lillian has.
MC: What's currently on your nightstand?
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Rachel Epstein is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York City. Most recently, she was the Managing Editor at Coveteur, where she oversaw the site’s day-to-day editorial operations. Previously, she was an editor at Marie Claire, where she wrote and edited culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also launched and managed the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game or finding a new coffee shop.
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