When Tricia of The Laid-back Book Group contacted me to say that The Christmas Promise had been read by the group and was due to be discussed, I offered to reply to any questions. I found the result fun and interesting so I kindly asked if I could reproduce the discussion on my blog:
Tricia: My reading group met last Tuesday evening to discuss The Christmas Promise. Everyone really enjoyed it and loved the characters. They liked how you brought awareness to personal photos between couples landing on the internet.
Sue: I’m so glad that they all enjoyed The Christmas Promise! There are few things that give me more pleasure than people enjoying my books.
T: Here are a few questions and observations from our group:
The Laid-back Reading Group: How much research did you have to do for the online porn?
S: Unfortunately, it wasn’t hard to research revenge porn. There’s a huge number of online articles on the subject, a government campaign and case histories from victims in many parts of the world. I became angry on behalf of those victims and wanted to shine a light on the subject. I began with reputable and authoritative websites and let my research expand organically from there. Some of the case histories were harrowing: the mother whose 19-year-old daughter had killed herself in her humiliation; the documentary-maker who’d been told by the owner of such a site that he wasn’t in the business of making friends of women; ordinary people whose lives had been marred by online malice. What WAS difficult to research was the legal remedies available. When I began the book the UK had no specific law to counter revenge porn although there was a movement to create some, which the House of Lords dismissed. Then the House of Lords changed their mind between the book being bought and it being published so I had to rewrite! I wish they’d made up their minds the first time.
TLBRG: Alcohol has a negative presence in the story. Did you have to do any particular research about heavy drinking?
S: I’m not sure why alcohol was shown in a fairly negative light in the book as I enjoy alcohol and don’t have a personal drum to beat. Of course, people do act stupidly when they drink too much and that’s particularly highlighted by the Christmas festivities. Truly, over-consumption of alcohol just suited this particular plot and was credible with the Christmas background.
TLBRG: Why did you give Izz such a hard time? Making her part of the upload was completely out of character, even if drunk.
S: Things did go a bit awry for Izz, didn’t they? I’m quite glad if it appeared out of character for Izz as the point I was making is that alcohol does make some people act out of character. I think it’s clear that Izz never meant to do what she did. She was showing off her techie knowledge to Patrick and they completed the upload without thinking of the consequences.
TLBRG: Faux dating – Have you checked the urban dictionary definition? They felt they should make you aware of what it says.
S: No, I hadn’t checked the Urban Dictionary and simply made the term ‘faux dating’ up. Now I do check I see the UD’s definition is when a man pays for dinner and gets no sexual reward. I’m not too worried by that, although my reactions are: a woman should expect to pay her way on any date, partly because why the hell shouldn’t she? and partly to avoid any expectation that she should be intimate in exchange for food. You’ll remember that the subject of financing dates is a theme of The Christmas Promise and Ava has strong feelings on the subject. I garnered opinion from men and women in their thirties on social and in person on this subject. Dating etiquette is fascinating!
TLBRG: P.61 – searching tongues – one member said ‘Tongues really? – Was this necessary?’ and felt this shouldn’t have come until much later.
S: The heat level of a book does provoke a wide range of reactions from readers. How we conduct ourselves in intimate circumstances is so personal that when we read something that jars it can feel uncomfortable. I do understand this but I don’t know a one-size-fits-all solution. Personally, I don’t feel that tongue being involved in a Christmas kiss is unlikely or outrageous.
Many thanks to Tricia and the members of The Laid-back Book Group! It’s been great chatting with you.