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.
Amelia Wilkes's strict father does not allow her to date, but that doesn't stop the talented, winsome high school senior from carrying on a secret romance with her classmate Anthony Winter. Desperately in love, the two envision a life together and plan to tell Amelia's parents only after she turns eighteen and is legally an adult. Anthony's mother, Kim, who teaches at their school, knows - and keeps - their secret. But the couple's passion is exposed sooner than planned: Amelia's father, Harlan, is shocked and infuriated to find naked pictures of Anthony on his daughter's computer. Just hours later, Anthony is arrested.
Despite Amelia's frantic protests, Harlan uses his wealth and influence with local law enforcement and the media to label Anthony a deviant who preyed on his innocent daughter. Spearheaded by a zealous prosecutor anxious to turn the case into a public crusade against 'sexting,' the investigation soon takes an even more disturbing and destructive turn.
As events spiral wildly out of control and the scandalous story makes national news, Amelia and Anthony risk everything in a bold and dangerous attempt to clear their names and end the madness once and for all.
A captivating page-turner, Therese Fowler's Exposure is also a deftly crafted, provocative, and timely novel that serves as a haunting reminder of the consequences of love in the modern age.
1) I found reading EXPOSURE riveting and understand it was inspired by your own son's involvement and arrest for a sexting incident. Can you tell us about that?
Thanks so much, I'm glad to know this. EXPOSURE is a story I never expected to write. I’d been working on a different book in the summer of 2009 when my son, who had just turned nineteen, came home and told me he might be in trouble. It seemed he’d shared, electronically, a photo of himself undressed with a sixteen-year-old girl he was friends with—something now known as “sexting,”—and her father had found it and called the police. My son was arrested shortly after, and charged with something called “disseminating harmful materials to a minor.”
The local media got wind of the story. It ran on the television news, online, and on the front page of our local weekly newspaper. Reporters called and texted my son, and came to our house to try to get “his side of the story.” It was surreal.
2) Anthony, the young man at the heart of the story has a serious relationship with the young woman involved, and his mother knows her very well. Does this mirror the real life scenario for you and your son?
No, the book's characters and situation are entirely fictional. I've never met the others involved in my son's situation, and would never presume to write about them even if I had known them. Our experiences only inspired the story idea, and informed some of the details.
3) What was your reaction to learning of your son's troubles? How did you address it with him? Did you find it easy to discuss? Was embarrassment a big factor for either of you?
My son told me directly. I was very surprised, and my reaction to him was similar to Kim's with Anthony--very much a "What were you thinking?" response. Our relationship is good, and I've always tried to keep the lines of communication open; I think he was more embarrassed than I was, and I credit him for telling me.
4) You were in the midst of writing another book when you shifted gears and were inspired to write EXPOSURE. Why did you do this? Did you need to write EXPOSURE as a carthartic experience?Tell us about your drive and motivation to write the book.
While my son's case was making its way through the legal system, I went looking for information on this issue and found accounts of situations like ours, as well as others that were much worse, some of which ended tragically. In cases that involved criminal charges, I was simply astonished that so much was being made from what are minor infractions--if they can even be called crimes at all. A month or so after my son's situation was resolved, the story idea that became EXPOSURE came to me. I felt I was in a unique position to do some good by telling it, and felt compelled to do so right away if possible. Fortunately, everyone involved agreed.
5) You got your son's permission to write the book. Did you consult with him as you wrote? Did he contribute in anyway, beyond granting permission, to the story?
I had, of course, observed my son while he was going through his situation. Later, when I was in the midst of the writing and had decided to set the book locally, I did ask him to provide certain details--about his arrest experience, for example--in order to make the story accurate and realistic.
6) In the novel, it was clear that the exchange of photos was a voluntary, personal matter that went out of control and labels like sex offender, pervert, deviant etc were thrown around in the media and community with abandon. Did your family experience a similar occurence? If so, how did you all cope with that?
In almost every case I've heard of or read about, the initial exchange of photos is exactly as you say, and the same is true in my son's case as well. And yes, there were a few instances where labels like those were applied to my son. I was upset, as you'd imagine, and felt helpless to defend him; if you go public with these things while they're happening, you simply fan the flames. So all we could do was wait it out and hope for a good resolution.
7) What do you hope people will take away from reading EXPOSURE? Is there a lesson in the story? If so, what do you think it is?
It's a cautionary tale on a number of levels, especially where the potential consequences of sexting are concerned. Ultimately, I hope the book will inspire parents to be more aware and more proactive in helping their children avoid these kinds of problems, in whatever ways make sense for their families. I hope teens will recognize that as smart and well-meaning as they may be, they aren't always the best judges of their own circumstances. And in the end, I simply hope readers will enjoy the story on its own terms, and find it a worthwhile read.
8) Can you tell us of any future projects you're working on?
I've just turned in a draft of my next book, which is too fresh to say much about right now. But look for it around this time next year.
*Thank you so much Therese for speaking with us. You and your son certainly have my heartfelt sympathies for enduring a very frightening experience. I wish you both a bright and positive future.
It's my pleasure, and thank you for having me.
If you'd like a chance to get a copy of EXPOSURE, answer two questions: Have you or anyone you know, participated in "sexting"? Do you think this activity should be defined as a criminal offense? Why or why not? Don't forget to leave your email so you can be contacted if you're the winner. That is all.
My thanks to Kathleen Carter Zerelak Publicity Manager of Goldberg McDuffie Communications and Ballantine Books for making the book available.
Giveaway open to resident's of the US only. It ends Thursday, May 12, 2011
EXPOSURE released May 3, 2011 by Ballentine Books.