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.Read on for a chance to win a hardcover copy of this novel, but first here is Ms. Fowler's interview...
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.
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 just 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, and one 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: Did you know from the outset that the book would get published?
A: No; in fact the whole time I was working on it I was terrified that I’d made a mistake in abandoning the other book. Yes, I had my publisher’s blessing to substitute this story for that one, but I still had to meet a deadline and, as is true with any book an author writes under contract, the final product has to pass muster or it doesn’t get published and the author doesn’t get paid.
Fortunately, I met my deadline, and everyone involved was not only satisfied with but also quite enthusiastic about the manuscript.
Q: Early book reviews from people as diverse as public school administrators, 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 my all of 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.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I’m at work on my fourth novel, which, like EXPOSURE, is a contemporary drama that also looks at societal issues. Two very close families, a tragedy in which underage drinking plays a role, questions of loyalty, questions of guilt—who, or what, is really to blame? And what will happen when the truth is revealed? It’s scheduled for publication sometime next year.