Stephanie Evanovich burst onto the writing scene last year with her debut hit, “Big Girl Panties.” In this story, the female protagonist is not the typical slender fashion plate who graces the pages of many women’s books. She is blatantly overweight and not dressed to kill. Yet in the end, she gets the guy.
In Evanovich’s second book, “The Sweet Spot,” based on characters pulled from the first book, Amanda Cole is the protagonist who is “20 pounds from being a prom queen.” Again, this woman is not a size 0, nor is she even in the single digits (in Evanovich’s mind, at least).
Stephanie Evanovich and I met at Lindy’s Landing, a charming restaurant on Bang’s Lake in Wauconda where Stephanie was appearing later at the public library for a book signing and talk. Over quesadillas and spicy jalapeño peppers, she explained to me how she got the idea for the “spice” in her stories.
Her husband and two sons are huge sports fans. “I could get on board or get left behind,” she said. And during one playoff year she noticed that there seemed to be excessive butt-slapping. Every time something happened, every guy’s butt seemed to be getting slapped.
Stephanie said, “I thought that there’s no way those guys aren’t taking this home to the wives.” And while she didn’t research pro-athletes for the story, she did spend some time online researching the role dominance plays in sexual relationships. “It was really easy to research,” she told me, explaining that there’s a lot of information out there. “I could research it for the rest of my life and never see the end.”
What is Evanovich working on now? “I like to make my readers happy,” she said, and her readers enjoy the characters she has created. “I’d like to bring all four characters together with some new characters,” she mused. And she admitted that her favorite characters are Chase and Amanda, from “The Sweet Spot.”
Evanovich takes her writing seriously. She works on creating solid back-stories for even the minor characters, and her work translates to the books. Her characters are solid and real — they feel like they have complete lives. She explained that part of her process — something she learned while writing plays — is to think about the characters in ways that might not end up in the book, but which make the characters fuller and more real while writing. What were they like as children? Are they successful? What drives them?
Evanovich also has firm ideas about what is healthy and body size. If someone has healthy eating habits and exercises regularly, then they are probably healthy without being a tiny size. In fact, that could be just one of the reasons that readers love her books — because they are reading about women who are not model-thin and who have real bodies.
Her women characters are in many ways like Stephanie Evanovich herself — real, down-to-earth women with lots to say. And Evanovich’s biggest desire in writing her books? To entertain and give readers a break from reality.