Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke
Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters’ story. Those girls don’t get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing.
Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after–in fact, she doesn’t think they are possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has pulled herself in and out of therapy, struggled with an “emotionally disturbed” special ed. label, and loathed her perma-plus-sized status.
When Imogen’s new stepsister, the evil and gorgeous Ella Cinder, moves in down the hall, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace–the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant–aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time.
While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story.
And maybe even find herself a happily ever after.
They’ve been lying from the start. From the first time we hear the words “once upon a time,” we’re fed the idea that these girls— these gorgeous, demure, singing-with-the-wildlife girls—get a happy ending. And I get it. Poor thing had to do some chores around the house, fine. But the idea that she needs a magic old lady to come down and skim off the dirt so the prince will see her beauty? That’s ridiculous. Maybe she should have been working on her lockpicking skills instead of serenading squirrels. She could have busted out, hitched a ride to the castle, and impressed the prince with her safe-cracking prowess. Sorry, magic-fairy lady. She didn’t need your help. The deck’s already stacked in her favor. Why? Because she’s the golden girl. She’s the star. No one cares about the stepsisters’ stories. Those girls don’t get a sweet little ending. They get a lifetime of longing. Seriously. Hot girls get the fairy tales. Hot girls like my stepsister.
- Describe your book in ten words or less. Go! Raw, sassy, swoony, hopeful, dramatic
- Where did you get the idea for Damsel Distressed? DAMSEL DISTRESSED was inspired by so many things. Some of it came from my own experiences as a teenager, and other moments were inspired by my friends. Still other facets of the story and characters were shaped by my experiences as a teacher in high school and middle school. There are little whispers of so many lives on the pages of my book and I hope that everyone who reads it finds a little sliver of their own experience in the words.
- Damsel Distressed touches on several sensitive topics. What made you write a book about body image and self-harm? What do you hope your readers will take away from it? In school, I was never thin. I may have been average, in reality, but the feeling of being bigger than all my friends was real. In adulthood, my own emotional eating resulted in weight gain that eventually lead me to an unhealthy weight for my size, which was brought to my attention during a health screening. I have definitely experienced a complicated, and sometimes painful relationship with food and body image. When I was younger (and even when I got older), those emotions were often fundamental in how I saw myself, and I wanted to express that experience through Imogen. The other side of Imogen’s primary problems exists in the realm of mental health issues. I am a vocal advocate for the destigmatization of mental health needs and care. I have spent most of my career as a teacher working with young people who have emotional/behavioral difficulties. Sometimes, it seems like the hardest part of living with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or any number of other conditions, is that those who haven’t experienced it rarely understand the complexities involved in recovery. There are no easy solutions, you know? It can be hard in YA to write a character and keep the readership from saying/thinking, “Oh my gosh. Stop whining! Go get some Xanax and get on with it.” But those types of oversimplifications are damaging and hurtful to the real young people that our characters represent. It was important to me that Imogen’s problems be as authentic as possible.
- Theatre is an important part of Imogen’s life. How does being in theatre help her? If she didn’t have theatre, what would it mean for her? Theatre, for Imogen, is an anchor. Her mother was involved in theatre, so her connection is in part a way to hang on and not let go even though it’s been 5 years since Mom’s death. Beyond the connection to her mother, however, Imogen feels at home in the sound booth (her theatre work of choice is running sound, not being on stage) because it allows her to connect to other people in a real and meaningful way, but also allows her the space to be in her own head and watch from a safe distance. Theatre is such a wonderful part of development for so many young people and adults (including myself), and it was very exciting for me to honor that work with my book.
- Damsel Distressed is going to be accompanied by Imogen Unlocked, a “soundtrack of original songs written and performed by Wedding Day Rain.” What do you like most about having a companion album? In what ways does it allow the reader to dive deeper into Imogen’s head? Having a soundtrack for this book was a weird, crazy, ambitious idea, but now that it’s done, I can’t imagine my book without the songs that accompany it. The songs come after critical scenes, and in most cases, the songs directly continue the emotional weight of that chapter. I like to think of the book as Imogen’s thoughts, as she is aware of them, and the songs as the things she doesn’t even know she’s got swirling around in her head.
- Craziest thing you’ve had to Google for a work in progress? My research on compulsion disorders and self-harming behaviors was incredibly enlightening, and necessary. However, it was also incredibly difficult and emotional for me to study, because I can’t help but think about the individuals who live with the burdens of these issues every day.
Enhance the experience with the companion soundtrack, Imogen Unlocked, by the author’s band, Wedding Day Rain.
- No Goodbye
- Something About
- Don’t Wake Me Up
- Let Me Go
- My Strength
- Always Speak Too Late
- The End is Just the Beginning
- Breathe Easy
- Edge of the Fall
CD Info: Damsel Distressed is the story of Imogen, a girl who’s survived the years after her mother’s death by focusing squarely on her best friend, Grant, musical theatre, and lots of cheese. The book is full of humor and heart, and also contains a few surprises. Full page sketches are scattered throughout the novel, and each one contains a QR code that corresponds to a song from the book’s soundtrack. Imogen Unlocked is a 12-song album of original music written by the author and her husband Daron as their indie-pop band, Wedding Day Rain. Together, the book Damsel Distressed and the soundtrack Imogen Unlocked work together to tell the story of a girl who might just make her own Happily Ever After, if she can just hold herself together.
Kelsey Macke has been creative for as long as she can remember. From an early age she was on stage singing, penning poetry, and writing notebooks full of songs. When the idea for her debut novel, DAMSEL DISTRESSED, popped into her head, she was undeterred by the fact that she had no idea how to actually write a novel. Her bff, the internet, was her guide, and after much trial, error, and candy, she finished it, and set out to get it published… a process far more difficult than, the internet (now her mortal enemy), had lead her to believe.
Her whirlwind adventure was made even more unbelievable when she signed with fabulous agent, Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency and, shortly after, Danielle Ellison of Spencer Hill Contemporary bought her debut.
This innovative, mixed-media art project has given Kelsey an incredibly unique opportunity to join two of her passions: writing and making music with her husband as half of the folky, indie-pop band Wedding Day Rain.
DAMSEL DISTRESSED, and the companion album of original songs, Imogen Unlocked, are scheduled for release in October 2014.
(A giant prize pack for ONE winner, consisting of: Signed copy of Damsel Distressed. Copy of the CD, Imogen Unlocked. Posters and buttons. Artist cards — US Only)
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