A massive woman with massive problems anchors Tiffany Baker's first novel, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County (Reviews, Sept. 8).

The story is told from the viewpoint of Truly Plaice, whose large stature is the result of a glandular disorder. What inspired you to feature such an unusual character?

I started with the character—it was like tuning in a radio, and I got the Truly station. Then I wanted to have a woman in a small town who was an outsider. What if she was so big that you couldn't possibly miss her, she couldn't be overlooked—and yet somehow in this town, everybody had overlooked her. I played with the juxtaposition of a woman who is so large, but who is simultaneously invisible, and the story took off.

There is a wonderful contrast between Truly, and her dainty, beautiful sister, Serena Jane. How did you develop that relationship?

I have two sisters and I know about the rivalries that go on. I made a game with myself of upping the ante for Truly. What could make it even worse for her in this small town? What if her sister was incredibly beautiful? It allowed me to explore appearances and that what you see is not necessarily the truth [of who you are].

Your author bio mentions your love of cooking and how you relate that to writing. Can you explain that connection?

I think writing is a lot like cooking—you throw things in a pot, you have a recipe to follow, but if you follow it too closely, it doesn't come out quite right. Sometimes you need to throw in that crazy spice. You need the proper contrasts to make the flavors pop. Also, I find when I'm blocked and having a hard time writing, cooking relaxes me. Of course, at the end of the day cooking, you can eat what you've made. You can't eat the book.

What would you like readers to take away when they read the novel?

I want people to realize that the world is a strange and wonderful place, and that when you look at another human being, what you see on the outside isn't what might be inside the person. If someone tells you his story, you can always find a string of connection with the person. I think that's what reading is for—it allows you to be compassionate for a person who may or may not be like you. I hope the book will inspire people to connect with other people.