Hot, juicy, spicy.
Carl Weber's characters have a lot in common with the Caribbean-style jerk chicken some of them savor. And the portions he's serving lately have gotten more substantial.
His newest book, Big Girls Do Cry, features Rubenesque female characters. And his 2008 novel, Something on the Side, details the romantic adventures of the women who belong to a book club that requires members to be at least a size 14.
"I try to always make sure that there's somebody in the book who's not stick-thin," says Weber in a telephone interview. "What happened is, after a while I started getting all these women coming up to me thanking me for making sure that there was somebody that represented them in the book. So I got to thinking I should write a plus-sized Sex and the City; I thought that would be totally hot and people would appreciate it."
They are, after all, the people who pay his mortgage, and he's grateful.
Expect plus-sized humor when Weber, 40, author of a dozen books brimming with drama and romance, tells fans all about it at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Stranahan Theater at Authors! Authors! sponsored by The Blade and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.
"I have a comedy monologue that I do about my books and where all the books come from and how I became a writer, and it usually gets a laugh and lets people know and understand who and what Carl Weber is and where he came from," he says, noting that he's worked on it for the last five years.
"I do like to entertain people and I like to laugh."
Being a stand-up comedian, however, is not on this high-achiever's "to-do" list, which includes producing a feature film and a television series, expanding his Urban Knowledge book store chain (17 east-coast stores) as well as his publishing company (Urban Books has published more than 400 books, turning out eight a month.) He'd also like to take his business public.
"That would be fantastic," says Weber, an accountant with an MBA.
That full-figured women are seeing more print may be a reflection of the times. In Danielle Steel's new best seller, Big Girl, a young woman struggles mightily with weight. And there's Mo'Nique, the zaftig comedian who won best supporting actress Oscar last month and has written Skinny Women Are Evil: Notes of a Big Girl in a Small-Minded World.
Weber's fans, including a book group at the Mott Branch Library, love him for it.
"Somebody's given us a voice," says Judy Jones, Mott's manager. "Who does that? Nobody does that."
How, she wonders, does a man create that voice?
Weber lives on Long Island with his wife, an editor, and children. They attend a Lutheran church, and some of his 12 books have church settings, including The Choir Director that he's beginning to write.
He's had many women make passes at him at book signings and even follow him home. He writes from both male and female points of view.
"I don't think women are too much different than men. I think we kind of hide our feelings a little bit more because we've been taught over the years that we have to be macho," he says.
He ensures credibility in his womanly protagonists with the help of many female eyes, beginning with his wife, and his editor at Dafina Books with whom he discusses plot and characters.
"I'm not afraid of constructive criticism, so before I send a book out to my publisher I have a lot of women read it and let me know how they feel. What am I doing wrong, is this character realistic or not? I have close family members [read it], then I have people that I barely know.
"I have a tendency not to be as explicit as a lot of women would like. I was kind of shocked at that. Then I found out they really do want to be given the whole experience explained in a sensual way," he says. "I get a lot of help in those types of areas: how women feel during intimate moments that a man might not necessarily understand."
The writing life
Raised around New York City, Weber thinks of Queens as home. The second of five children, his father was a businessman in construction and retail; his mother a homemaker. As a kid, he was enthralled with comic-book characters Spiderman, Ironman, Captain America, the Avengers, and The Fantastic Four. He played football and ran track in high school. After college and a job at an accounting firm, he opened comic book stores in Virginia, and he continues to be an avid collector.
"It's not so much the volume of the comic books I have but the quality; Amazing Spiderman and almost all Marvel comics I have from 1 to 100. Plus I have a Superman No. 1."
He began writing books a decade ago, seizing on what he saw as an underserved niche: relationship-drenched fiction for African Americans, primarily women.
"People like to deal with other people's drama, they just don't want to deal with their own."
Three years ago, he was ready to hang up writing to focus on his businesses, and he turned down a book contract.
"I was getting a little tired. I didn't have what I considered fresh ideas, and as a writer if you don't have fresh ideas I think it's horrible, I think you're wasting people's money and time."
After a while, the contract was offered again, substantially sweetened. In the interim, Weber had come up with some ideas. And, the weather got warmer.
"I have seasonal affective disorder. I get kind of depressed during the winter months. The doctor says it's because of a lack of sunlight. Usually when I start to write a book, I take a trip by myself to Florida to jump start the book."
Soon, he'll put his car on the auto train near D.C. and head to Florida, holing up somewhere near water.
"It's a work week. I get up at 5, work, take a walk on the beach, eat, work, eat, swim, work until about 1 (a.m.), sleep about four hours, get back up." When he returns to New Jersey, he'll finish the book at his solitary writing retreat.
"It's a little place that we own by a lake." It's clear the location is closely held.
Weber himself is not as full figured as he was a year ago. He said he's recently lost 25 pounds and is sleeping six hours a night — longer than the four or five he had in the past.
Carl Weber will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Stranahan Theater. Tickets are $10; $8 for students, and can be purchased at library branches and at the door. Information: 419-259-5266.
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