Jen: Today we welcome Bruce Stuart to Romancing the Book. Bruce, will you share a short bio with us?
Bruce: BRUCE STUART is the author of five books. THE LIGHTENING ROUND was originally published as a serial on SerialTeller under the pseudonym K.T. Newman.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from?
Bruce: THE LIGHTENING ROUND is a novel about a 39-year-old overweight single mother’s journey in a world that values exteriors more than interiors. The story centers on a very unusual gym which segregates its members based on weight and fitness level and using modern technology limits members on different levels from interacting with one another even outside of the gym. Hannah is exceptionally reluctant to join this “little gym of horrors,” but once she does, she finds that for the first time she is actually able to progress towards the body she had never thought was possible to achieve. Of course, at the same time, she finds herself falling in love with a member who has now “risen” to a higher level at the gym causing her to do all kinds of over-the-top antics to land the love of her dreams.
The idea for THE LIGHTENING ROUND comes from many inspirations. I have worked out or have been a member at gyms over the years. The struggles and inertia Hannah experiences with trying to get her body into shape are similar to the ones that I have gone through personally. Some of the concepts in the book that may seem a bit extreme — including taking pictures of the food you eat — have come from nutritionists and trainers with whom I have actually worked. The concept of the Reveal comes from a “wearable” on steroids which has been taken to absurd extremes.
I have also always been fascinated as to why our culture places such immense importance on physicality. In fact, I wrote my undergraduate honors thesis on Physical Attractiveness and Cognition of Looks with the help of models editors from magazines including Vogue, Gentleman’s Quarterly, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and Ms.
Jen: Describe your writing in 3 words.
Bruce: Just 3, eh? How about: 1- Fast, 2- Fun, and 3 -Intriguing.
Jen: Who has influenced you as a writer?
Bruce: Great question. I have been heavily influenced by reading other writers. Among my favorite authors are Jane Austen, Stephen King, John Grisham, Dante Alighieri, William Shakespeare, Judith Krantz, Danielle Steel, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Isaac Asimov, Terry Brooks, and Ernest Hemingway.
I have also been shaped by the readers of my work. I have to admit that I didn’t expect the reactions I received to THE LIGHTENING ROUND both good, and at times, more critical. But, what I learned from the process is that you must always remain true to your art and although it would be wonderful to write a book that is loved universally—for the most part it is generally not possible nor is it even necessary.
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Bruce: I hate to play favorites, but in THE LIGHTENING ROUND I am quite partial to Levreece. He began life in “outline land” — where most novels, and in this case serial fiction, often begin — as comic relief. He ultimately proved himself to be far more than someone who was good only for a laugh out loud moment. He was warm, knowing, attuned to the needs of those who mattered to him. Above all, he is rather lovable. Do I identify with him? I would say I more aspire to be like him.
Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you’ve received about your books?
Bruce: A recent review of THE LIGHTENING ROUND identified the novel as “dystopian chick-lit!” I thought the characterization was spot on.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Bruce: I am working on a new novel although those readers who are expecting another novel similar to THE LIGHTENING ROUND are going to be a bit stunned. My new book is a complete 180-degree turn. I enjoy the freedom of moving in very different directions. It’s what keeps life so interesting.