Saturday, April 23, 2011

Introduction: Sexting--When Life Meets Books

Coming May 2011
I absolutely love when books (especially fiction) meets life and great conversations can be had about real life issues.   This has recently happened when I received a book for review called Exposure by Therese Fowler.  A short exerpt from Goodreads describes the book in a nutshell.
In Exposure, Therese Fowler has written her most gripping novel to date—a ripped-from-the-headlines story of ardent young love and a nightmarish legal maelstrom that threatens to destroy two families.
So how does this affect real life you might ask?  Well this book centers around "sexting" which is a relatively new issue that is coming to play with today's technology.  This is a HUGE problem when people are underage.  The consequences are pretty big.  Someone breaks up and the pictures are let loose unto the world-wide-web...this is VERY VERY BAD.  In this day and age, those pictures are just simply out there forever.  Everyone has access to everything and if you make a bad decision the consequences are perhaps last a little longer than most.

Many of you have heard a bit about the real me--former teacher, law student, and newlywed (I think). I also intern at the Texas State Capitol and I'm in the know about potential and future legislation.   A common topic recently is this idea of "sexting."  Many people think the answer is to criminalize this behavior.  Well this book certainly opens up the discussion about whether this would be a good idea.

It would really suck if your significant other sent it to other people, but what if they didn't?  What if someone else found it?  Who should be punished?  The person who received the image or the person who sent it?

Therese Fowler not only weighs in on the debate in her book, but she has personal experiences with the situation as this happened to her son. Check-in to the conversation with Therese Fowler below...

Q:     EXPOSURE is fiction, but was inspired by your own son's arrest for what's become known as a "sexting" crime.  Can you tell us about that?

A:     I was working on a different book when my son, who had turned nineteen, told me that a warrant was being issued for his arrest.  He'd shared a photo of himself undressed with a girl who'd asked him to send one, and when her father discovered it he called the police.  Because my son was over eighteen and the girl was not, he was charged with the crime that one of EXPOSURE's characters, Anthony, is charged with initially: disseminating harmful materials to a minor.
         Life for my son and our family became very complicated very quickly, but I felt bound to keep working on that other book and meet my deadline.  However, the story just wasn't doing quite what I wanted it to do, and I was worried that it might be somehow fatally flawed.
         In the meantime, the idea for EXPOSURE was taking root.  I'm sure it grew from my horror and frustration with what was going on, and the effects it had on my son and on our family.  I asked him what he thought about my writing a novel inspired by the situation (but completely fictional), and he was fully supportive.  I wouldn't have considered it otherwise.  Since he was supportive, I wrote the story outline and took it to my editor and publisher, who gave me their support as well. 

Q:     A lot of people would rather put a troubling time behind them, yet in writing a novel inspired by your troubles you chose to do the opposite.  Why?

A:     The subject of teens and sexuality and technology and the law is a fascinating, complex issue, an done I struggled with while my son's case was ongoing.  Where should we place the blame when kids get into trouble for sexting?  What's appropriate in terms of punishment?
         I'm a novelist, so maybe I'm predisposed to want to explore such questions in story terms.  But I also felt obligated; as I researched the issue, I came across many disturbing news stories about these issues and the consequences for everyone involved.  If my crafting a cautionary tale could help prevent even one new crisis, wasn't it my duty to try?  It didn't feel like a choice.

Q:     Early book reviews from people as diverse as public school administration, booksellers, and regular readers are saying EXPOSURE is a must-read for all teens, parents of teens, and adults who care for or work with teens.  This sounds like educational advice; isn't fiction supposed to be read for enjoyment?

A:     Absolutely--but that doesn't mean there isn't also something of value to be gained from the reading.  Whether invented or true, stories have been the vehicles of lessons and warnings and inspiration for as long as humans have had the means to tell them.  My philosophy about and my purpose with [sic] all my novels is to tell an engaging story, and to tell it about something that matters.

Q:    What do you hope people will take away most from this book?

A:     With EXPOSURE, I hope teen readers will gain insights that help them protect themselves and make good decisions.  It's difficult to be a teen today; there are so many messages, so many influences, so many temptations.  It's equally difficult to be a parent or educator or counselor, trying to understand and shape kids' environments in ways that acknowledge all the challenges.  I hope adult readers will gain some additional understanding  of this strange new world, and take reasonable action to help children avoid trouble.

About the Author:
Therese Fowler's ongoing love affair with books began when she was granted library privileges in kindergarten.  Inspired first by the stories  and later by their authors, she wanted to be a writer, but it took a few decades to turn her passion into her profession.  Along the way, she worked in U.S. Civil Service, managed a clothing store, lived in the Philippines, had children, sold real estate, earned a B.A. in sociology, sold used cars, went back to school for her MFA in creative writing, and taught college undergrads about literature and fiction-writing --roughly in that order.  With books now published in nine languages and sold world-wide, Therese writes full-time from her home in Wake Forest, NC, which she shares with her charming husband, four amiable cats, and four nearly grown-up sons.
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