Review and synopsis of Killer Body
How far would you go for a killer body? That’s the question Hearn Hill answers in her latest novel featuring four women, three of whom are vying for the position of the “Killer Body” spokesperson, and one who is investigating her cousin’s untimely death, along with the sudden disappearance of spokesperson Julie Larimore, whose vanishing has left the position up for grabs. But has Julie met foul play, or simply tired of the game? Questions such as these, will lead these women down a treacherous and dangerous path, where beauty can be deadly.
These four women come together in a highly suspenseful and timely story of perfection, danger, and the search for oneself in a world where the outside ranks higher than the inside. Tightly plotted with characters that are genuinely real and appealing, Hearn Hill scores again in a story that you won’t want to miss.
Tell us a bit about the women in your latest book.
When the spokesperson for Killer Body, Inc. disappears, three women vie for the spot. Gabriella Paquette, an American-born princess, is separated from her philandering husband. She’s broke and convinced the Killer Body job will help her get her own talk show. Rochelle McArthur, a former television star, believes the job will help her reinvent herself. Tania Marie Camp, whose public affair with America’s most trusted (and very married) news commentator, is desperate for credibility. Instead, Tania Marie is hounded by photographers who want only to record her yo-yoing weight. Enter Rikki Fitzpatrick, the reporter whose cousin died while on the Killer Body program.
What is it that so strongly drives them towards this need for perfection?
What drives them is what drives the rest of us. Each of us has a hole in her life, just as my characters do. Food will never fill that hole, but some of us believe a killer body can.
Killer Body touches upon a very sensitive issue for many women, what made you decide to tackle this?
Because it’s what my friends and I talk about when no one’s listening. Because it’s what I’ve spent too many years obsessing about. Because after losing almost 30 pounds in 1999, I wanted to write about weight/food issues. And I wanted to do it in a thriller format, a story driven by characters, not any specific “message.”
The danger inherent with this current obsession with weight is very obvious, what did you find most startling about it during your research?
Probably the drug aspect. I mean, I understand all too well that eating a package of chocolate-chip cookie dough doesn’t count if you do it standing, with the refrigerator door open and the lights off. But I didn’t realize that people will really swallow Epson Salts, that they’ll take drugs (even inject drugs) they know will endanger their health, their lives, to knock off ten or more pounds in a hurry. Still, I look at the current trends – the eat-all-the-meat-and-cheese-you-want trends—and I can guess that the next step to injections probably isn’t such a giant step, after all. I follow the Weight Watchers program. It works for me because it’s not a diet that, once you quit it, you gain back. I also like the idea of being in control of what I eat.
In a perfect world, where would your characters go from here?
The characters (well, the ones who live) figure out that having a killer body won’t fill that hole in their lives. I know they’re going to be OK, even the one who ends up as the Killer Body, Inc. spokesperson.
What is the most important message you would like readers to walk away with after reading your book?
First of all, I just hope you enjoy the book and the characters. That’s my first job—to tell you a story about fictional people who matter to me (and I hope matter to you.) If you take away a message, it might (but doesn’t have to) be that the power to heal yourself is within you. The only things that own you are those of which you cannot speak. I speak out in Killer Body. My characters speak out. Many people shared amazing stories about weight/food issues with me. They speak out. I’m uncomfortable talking about The Message, though. I just tell the story through the characters. The rest is up to the reader.
Now for some more general questions. Any favorite authors you’d care to share with us who may have inspired you to write?
I loved Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays, which I read at an impressionable age. It made me realize that it was possible to write voice-driven fiction. I’ve read poetry since I could read. That also influenced me. My mother promised to let me have all of her fairy tale books if I would learn to read before I went to kindergarten. I did. They were the scary old tales, where the witch ate the little kids. No wonder I write thrillers and sleep with a light on.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
n the fourth grade, in Mrs. Gerdes’ class, when I won a Coca Cola contest in 25 words or less. The bug bit. I knew that I had to be a writer.
What’s the most difficult part of writing a novel?
For me, the first 100 pages. Only then, do I see the story.
Why do those who meet you at conferences and who take your classes have such a high rate of success?
Ultimately, it’s because of them, because they’re ready and because they can shout down those voices in their heads. In my classes, as in my books, my theme is empowerment, but that’s not my mission. It’s not up to me to decide who’s ready for success and who isn’t. In my advanced workshop, which has been featured in Writer’s Digest, we have a published cowboy poet, an essay writer who’s been published in Woman’s Day, the editor of a book about Hispanic labor leader Cesar Chavez, the author of a business book with Amacom, an award-winning mystery writer, the columnist who writes the Cosmopolitan magazine Bedside Astrologer (and who landed a six-figure, two-book contract with Simon & Schuster), one of the top quilting artists/authors in the country, and the author of Redneck Haiku. Can you imagine the fun we have on Tuesday nights?
And finally, any ideas you’d care to share about your next book?
If It Bleeds, a mass-market paperback and the first of my newspaper thrillers, will be out in August. After newly promoted newspaper reporter Corina Vasquez covers the murder of the city’s first woman mayor, she is stalked by a hideous man with a scarred neck and an obsession with fire. Corina soon realizes that this is not just another murder—that the stakes are high, and somehow she is the key. The only person who can help is Mayor Wes Shaw, the man she still loves, who abruptly broke their engagement almost a year before. This book introduces, not only Corina, but Geri LaRue, the hearing-impaired reporter, who will have a book of her own next August. I have a six-book contract with MIRA, am currently working on No. 5.
I’ll also have a new hardcover thriller, MISTRESS, publishing in February of ’05. When a much-loved U.S. president dies, his former mistress contacts the least likely person – Reebie Mahoney, a recently divorced employee for a temporary service, who no longer cares about anything, and tells her they must meet. Before they can, the mistress is killed, and Reebie is the prime suspect.
Author, teacher and public speaker Bonnie Hearn Hill has always been courageous about allowing her personal experiences to influence her work. Her 2003 novel, Intern, sprang from her interest in the older-man/younger woman attraction and was called, “a page-turner” by Publishers Weekly. KILLER BODY, published February 2004, is about our weight-obsessed culture and about how far some will go to attain a killer body. And, like Intern, it’s a thriller.
“I love reading thrillers, and I love writing them,” Hearn Hill said. “If I can take something away from any thriller I read, I feel that much richer. I hope my readers will remember the book and its issues after they’ve finished reading it.”
And what does she want her readers to take from KILLER BODY? “First of all, the food issues many of us have, the way we self-medicate with food. And ultimately, of course, all of those scary things people do to try to fix inside flaws by trying to adjust their body image.”
Born in Yuba City, California, Hearn Hill worked as a newspaper editor for 22 years, and wrote a nonfiction book on legendary Muscle Beach, Santa Monica with Harold Zinkin, the first Mr. California and inventor of the Universal Gym Machine. She has long been interested in the fitness/weight-loss industry and the American myth that no one can ever be too rich or too thin. The characters in KILLER BODY find out otherwise – and some are willing to die for just that – a killer body.
In researching her book, she talked to personal trainers, doctors specializing in weight loss, prize-winning bodybuilders and members of her own Weight Watchers group, where she became a life member in 1999. “Weight Watchers isn’t magic. That’s why it works,” she said. “The weight loss is slow but steady. It’s a program you can live with forever. One of my characters is ultimately helped by the program, but most of them resort to more drastic measures.”
Hearn Hill said she was amazed how readily people shared their “fat stories” with her. “I couldn’t have invented anything as bizarre and as sad as what was shared with me when I was researching the book,” she said. “They were happy to talk about it and glad someone was writing about it.”
A national writers’ conference speaker, Hearn Hill teaches fiction writing for Writer’s Digest Online Workshops and is a mentor to many writers. She leads a private writers’ workshop in Fresno, California. In her workshops, as well as her novels, the theme is empowerment.
Bonnie Hearn Hill WILL BE ONE OF THE FEATURED SPEAKERS (ALONG WITH CAROL HIGGINS CLARK) AT THE YOSEMITE WRITERS CONFERENCE IN AUGUST.