I love the lyrics to Melissa Ethridge’s ballad, probably because my daughter sang it with the band my husband used to play with when we lived in New Jersey. The only reason I bring it up is because it popped into my head when I got a Skype account so I could Skype with a book club in Oklahoma who read Pam of Babylon. As a confessed computer idiot, the word window will never mean a computer screen. It’s a clear, glass hole in the wall to look out of. Anyway….
The Bartlesville Book Lovers in Oklahoma. invited me to join their meeting, both to answer questions and to discuss some topics that came up as they were reading Pam of Babylon. One of the members is a lovely woman I went to elementary school with back in good old Dearborn, Michigan. Linda and I reunited on Facebook, when a mutual friend, Marilynn suggested she read my book. She liked it and offered it to her book club. Having friends read my work is very intimidating. They either love it, like Marilynn and Linda did and talk it up all over the nation, or they don’t mention it, either because they hated it or aren’t interested enough to read it. That makes life very uncomfortable, because all I do is write anymore and I hate to bring it up, like the pink elephant in the room. Sorry about the cliche’. It was validating to have Linda like Pam because she’s spent her adult life working as a professional writer. I was certain her group would not have fluff questions, and I was right. Afterward, my husband asked me how the meeting went, and except for Skype not working, it was difficult! These women asked me the tough questions. I was glad that just that morning I did two interviews with bloggers and some of the obvious issues were discussed so my thoughts were somewhat organized. It has been a few days since the chat with the ladies from Oklahoma and since then I had a few traumas with family members seriously ill and in the hospital, so I have forgotten some of what we talked about. But I think when we were finished, I felt like it was okay to keep writing. I do owe readers honesty, and most of all, reason. If I set out to write something I want it to have a purpose, not just a bunch of words meant to titillate, which I’ve said before. I talked to my aunt about it, (she loves my books), and she said Pam needs ‘time to have a relationship with herself’ before I have her get involved with another man. In this last book, she is at the cusp of having a fling with someone younger than she is who is a Native American living on Long Island and I have to try really hard not to have that visualization of the cover of Mandingo when you are reading it. But almost. She can have a relationship with herself when the series is finally completed.
People want to know why I would write about topics that are so despicable. Child sexual abuse and all the rest of the garbage that Pam contends with is there because it’s part of the story and that’s really all it is. I can’t defend it. Someone who received the book in a Goodreads Giveaway was so upset by it that she said she was throwing it in the trash. She didn’t realize that in the subsequent books, the situations get worse. It’s really just life. Even people from the best families have awful things happen to them, and sometimes it perpetuates more awfulness.
But the women in the Bartlettsville group were right on. I know some of them weren’t thrilled with Jack, and that is as it should be! He was awful. How could a person move on in their life after discovering what Pam did about Jack?
This is a completely different kind of situation, but I want to talk about Rielle Hunter and John Edwards. A few weeks ago, during his trial, pictures of the illicit couple were shown on the news and I told my husband that if you look at the way he smiled at Hunter, and then at pictures of him with his wife, he always looked at Elizabeth Edwards in a solemn,unhappy way. Today I read that Elizabeth Edwards said Edwards never looked at her the way he looked at Rielle Hunter and supposedly, she took a photo of her husband looking at his mistress in such a joyful way and put it on her computer as a screen saver. Do you think that had anything to do with her untimely death? Who would be able to think positively about life with that as a reminder daily of what a complete !@#$%^&* John Edwards was? Just my opinion.
So to get back to the book club, I realized after talking to the gracious members who were kind to me and allowed me to explain my purpose in writing the series, that there are going to be more readers out there who are angry about the book, like my Giveaway winner. And she didn’t even have to buy it.
Finally read this blog–thanks for your compliments about me and our book club. All of us enjoyed talking to you–it added a whole new dimension to our book discussion. As you noted, some of the members had trouble with not only the situations, but the characters’ (especially Pam’s) reacations to those situations. Part of me kept thinking, just because we found it hard to comprehend that any woman could be as “forgiving” as Pam, or to the other extreme, as disloyal as Marie, is really here nor there. I mean, the characters were themselves, which is to say, they acted out of their own inner reality. In the end, it isn’t really for us to second guess what they do or how they behave. They do what they do, period. They have lives of their own. And it certainly gave us a lot to talk about!
The luxury of doing a series of books is being able to atone for past mistakes. In the next book, I had to revise several scenes in which Pam had the rubber band effect; she was too bitchy and unforgiving. But so like her, she is really closed off. I think I may leave her that way.