In our first post from a guest author, E. M. Reapy discusses the modern-day issues that inspired her second novel, Skin, available in shops now.
I was inspired to write something visceral exploring the anxiety that happens when there’s a disconnection between body and mind. Skin is comprised of vignettes about a woman’s journey to self-acceptance. When we meet Natalie, she is struggling with binge-eating, worry and a deep uncertainty about her place in the world. She’s spurred to travel and during these episodes, a narrative unfolds with Natalie’s discovery of where home truly is — her body.
It could be argued that in capitalist culture, there’s conditioning to see oneself as inadequate in order to spend and consume. This is how most advertising works. Societal pressure is rampant, with unachievable ideals on beauty, youth, body shape, on hitting life targets by a certain age. But societal pressure and society itself are just ideas. I wanted to write a character who was waking up to this so in each episode, Natalie is confronted by other people’s relationships to their own bodies and thought processes, and through these encounters, she learns about herself and the world.
Other themes that I explored in the book were of concern to me in my late twenties and early thirties: imagination, embodiment vs. overthinking, health, Western privilege, and finding purpose and meaning in life. At that same time I was backpacking to various locations internationally, and frequenting the gym in Ireland, thus these became the background settings for Skin.
Despite Natalie’s woes, I wanted the book to be a light-hearted read. She’s an adventurous narrator and I hope there is joy to be found in these stories of minor successes and self-discovery.
E. M. Reapy is an Irish author and tutor. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Queen’s University, Belfast and is currently a Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Writer-In-Residence. Her debut novel, Red Dirt, won a Irish Book Award and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.