As part of the tour, I got to do a bit of a Q& A with Sheena which was so fun!
I love that BOTH of your books so far have starred fat positive girls, can you tell me what was most important to you in choosing that focus for your books?
For a long time all the characters I saw myself as were thin, and it made it so even when I dreamed, I dreamed in a thin body. And then I read Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, and seeing a girl centered in a body that looked like my own, literally changed the way I dream. Fat positive books change lives. It’s a privilege to write these characters. It’s a privilege to tell these readers who look like them that they are enough, as they are now, in the body’s they have. They can absolutely be the hero.
What inspired the time period in this book?
A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions is a very political book, so I knew I wanted to place it as far away from the current time period as I could get. I chose the 1920’s, because that’s when my grandmother was born. She died while I was drafting, and it was a choice I made to tribute to her specifically.
Were your characters based on or inspired by anyone in your own life?
I love this question. This is an immensely personal book. I developed this society that valued men’s contributions more than women’s because that’s the society I grew up with, and I wanted to poke holes in it. Several of the female characters have been drawn from real life experiences, and observations, but no one character is based on a specific person…well, that’s not exactly true. There is one. Bea is my middle name, and she’s probably the character I’m most like. This whole book has a theme of your name matters, your life matters, so naming Bea after myself was my way of signing it.
What do you hope readers take away with them from your book?
I hope they leave knowing that their worth is intrinsic, and that they matter, now, as they are, in the bodies that they have. That their dreams matter and are worth fighting for.
YAY for Pitch Wars! Tell me a little bit about your experience, and how you think it turned you into the writer you are today.
I LOVE PITCH WARS. I was selected as a mentee in 2015, where I was mentored by the fabulous Megan Lally. I’ve been a Pitch Wars Mentor three times now, and every time is such a fabulous experience. Working with a mentor is great training for working with a future agent, or editor. It’s so empowering to learn how to collaborate, and also how to trust your own vision. It was a lot of work as a mentee, but it taught me so much not only how to do this whole publishing thing, but also that I could do this thing. Before Pitch Wars, publishing my stories felt like an impossible dream.
As a writer, are you also a big reader? I would love to hear what books you’ve read recently or recommend to read!
I’m such a big reader. I just finished The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He and it was incredibly smart. I also recommend Starfish by Lisa Flipps, The Kindred by Alechia Dow, Off the Record by Camryn Garret and Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly Devos.
I know you’re also contributing to the fat-positive anthology, Every Body Shines, what can you tell us about that?
EVERY BODY SHINES is everything I ever needed as a teenager. It has sixteen different stories from some absolute powerhouse authors, and each one shows a different way to be a fat hero. It’s so vital to see yourself in fiction, and this anthology is very intersectional and inclusive. My short story Weightless is a YA Scifi about a fat math genius named Sarka who is on a mission to save her dying planet, and she can’t stop thinking about her weight. It’s all about the moment when she learns to put away her self-hate and learns that she matters, no matter if she can save the day or not.
Are you working on any other projects right now?
Yes! I’m working on a YA Fantasy Romance about an intrepid fat girl and creepy woods full of monsters. It’s weird and swoony and I really hope I can share it one day.
Sheena Boekweg grew up reading books with tree branches peeking over her shoulder. Her novels Glitch Kingdom and A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions, both with Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, feature fat positive girls with ambitions, love stories, and sometimes battle axes. She’s a contributor to Every Body Shines, a fat-positive anthology publishing May 2021 with Bloomsbury, and is an alumni of the 2015 Pitch Wars Program and was a Pitch Wars mentor in 2017, 2018, and currently in 2020. Sheena believes that beauty is intrinsic and worth is unquestionable, and thinks you can’t solve all problems with food, but it will always help.
She is well-loved by a tall man with a great beard, her three kids, and the world’s most spoiled puppy. Visit her online at boekwegbooks.com, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SheenaBoekweg. She’s represented by Jessica Sinsheimer at Context Literary.