Michelle Mankin is a New York Times bestselling romance author who is shifting her writing focus toward young adults in the Tempest series, with each novel touching on a different social issue ranging from eating disorders to domestic violence.
Michelle’s latest novel, Tempting Tempo, addresses eating disorders, an issue near and dear to her heart as someone who struggled with an eating disorder during her teenage years. We interviewed Michelle about her experience as an eating disorder survivor and writer to get the word out about her efforts to influence positive social change through her novels!
Stephanie Padich: As a New York Times bestselling romance author, what made you shift your writing focus for your new series to social issues?
Michelle Mankin: I like to write what I like to read: a story that makes me feel, a story that makes me think about things I might not otherwise consider. I decided to start the Tempest series with heroin addiction—not to be exploitive—but to show how someone might fall into that lifestyle and to also show how someone who is very brave and strong could pull themselves out of it.
SP: You mentioned that you suffered from an eating disorder and body image issues as a teenager. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience with these issues?
MM: From about 16 until I went off to college, I was a restrictive eater and bulimic. I would go days without eating and then, when I did eat, I would feel guilty and force myself to throw up. Like far too many women, I equated being thin with being beautiful.
SP: How did your struggle with body image influence your writing?
MM: My writing is very cathartic. There are little bits and pieces of me, my friends, my family, and my life experiences in my stories. In Tempting Tempo, I wrote Melinda’s struggle with body image by remembering how I felt. When I cross-referenced it to the fact sheet for anorexia on the NEDA website, I found that I had hit all the major identifiers.
SP: On a similar note, has writing helped you in your recovery process? How so?
MM: Writing Tempting Tempo reminded me how difficult it is as a young woman to believe that you are beautiful by just being you. Media sets an impossible, unhealthy standard that puts too much pressure on women to be thin. It is a daily process to remind myself not to be obsessive with counting caloric intake and exercising.
SP: Why did you choose to write your new series of novels for young adults/college-aged individuals?
MM: College is a time when you figure out who you are. Self-discovery and coming of age stories heavy on character development are my favorite.
SP: Through your writing, what message(s) are you trying to convey to your audience, specifically about eating disorders?
MM: First, that those with eating disorders are not alone in their struggle. Secondly, that there is hope for recovery. Third, that there is beauty in being uniquely you and also that there is redemption in love.
SP: How do you think ideas/talk surrounding body image and eating disorders has changed from when you were a teenager to the world at present?
MM: It has changed very little. There is still far too much emphasis in advertisements in popular clothing catalogs for young women to be skeletally thin. The cycle continues. From my mom’s generation, to mine, to the current. At nearly 70, it makes me sad that my mom still records her weight every day and exercises obsessively.
SP: Reflecting on your own recovery journey, what is one piece of advice you would want to give to every young person today currently struggling with disordered eating and/or body image issues?
MM: I would tell them that true beauty comes from within.
“You’re beautiful, Blue. Beauty isn’t just in the eye of the beholder. It also springs up from what’s inside your heart. Don’t let the bulls**t expectations of other people define how you see yourself.” -Sager Reed, Tempting Tempo