When he was young, Redondo Beach’s Sean Coons struggled with his weight. But, after a lifestyle change that involved diet and exercise and shedding the weight, he became a little obsessive in the process.
“It was an interesting journey going through both parts of it, kind of letting myself be unhealthy in the first place, and then crossing over to being a little too mindful of my food and my eating practices,” Coons said.
His issues with body image eventually led to his first novel “Body: or, How Hope Confronts Her Shadow and Calls the Flutter Girl to Flight.” The author will discuss the book at Sandpiper Books in Torrance on Saturday, Nov. 23, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Coons describes the book as a “faith-based comedy exploring body image and intuitive eating.”
In the novel, Hope is a graphic artist, married and a mother of two, who manipulates images of women’s bodies for a living, and who has hated her own body her entire life. The latest crash diet has caused upheaval in her life.
“Modern culture gives so many mixed signals and messaging about beauty… early on she meets a mentor that kind of helps her get back in touch with what's really important in life and helps her see her body and herself in a different way,” Coons said.
Hope is one of three women—one in her teens, one in her mid-30s and one in her mid-50s—who deal with body image issues.
“It’s fiction, but there’s a self-help element to it as well… call it a comedy, but it does get serious with the issue of body image,” said Coons, who has a 9-year-old son, Jack, with his wife Barbara.
Coons was born in Torrance, but has lived in Redondo Beach for most of his life. After he graduated from Mira Costa High School in 1990, he studied psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine and counseling psychology at Loyola Marymount University.
His years as a musician led him to a writing career that included freelance work for The Atlantic and Salon, covering topics ranging from history to Hollywood.
When he wanted to explore helping other people with body image issues, he reached out on Craigslist to see if anyone was interested in joining forces with him.
Coons met a woman on Craigslist and they started working on a coaching-type of business. She suggested he write a non-fiction book about his own experiences, but his first thought was to write his first novel.
“I sat down and worked on the book for about eight months and no one was interested,” he said, of writing the book in 2009.
He tackled the world of journalism and was published in The Atlantic, Saloon and The Daily Breeze. He also wrote some screenplays, but, in 2013, he pulled out the novel he started years earlier and started to rewrite.
“I'm hoping through this story people will find some peace with themselves through my own experiences,” Coons said. “I know through any struggle you can impact your whole life and your approach to life. You can have a body image problem and when you deal with that you can fix some other things too and you change your perspective and maybe have a little more grace with yourself and other people.”
Coons taught for years in the Torrance United School District and was an administrator before moving to Valor Christian Academy, a private Christian school that teaches preschool, elementary and middle school in Redondo Beach. He is currently an administrator there and teaches music as well.
He is currently working on a non-fiction version of his book based on the male perspective. He has noticed in recent years, male adolescents commenting more about their bodies and he blames that on social media.
“Trends have worsened, problems are getting younger and younger," said Coons. "It’s not an easy time to grow up."
Sandpiper Books is located at 4665 Torrance Blvd.