What if the worst thing you did went viral?
Today I am delighted to welcome Helen Fitzgerald to my blog. Last week saw the publication of her twelfth novel, ‘Viral’, which I reviewed here. The novel’s memorable opening line has merited some discussion. Readers of the book will form their own views about the behaviour of the various characters, something that I would like to think is also being debated by book groups and friends. I wanted to know what the author hoped to achieve in writing about such a fascinating and timely subject.
1. First of all, that opening line. It fits the story, and there are far more shocking events explored in later pages. Are you concerned that it will detract from discussion about what follows?
What opening line? I have no idea what you mean…
Viral is about a young woman who finds that she has suddenly been defined by one stupid act – defined, punished, and ruined: on a worldwide scale. The line is a statement by my character Su – she’s saying Oh my God, this is what happened; this is who I am now. She is in shock, and I feel it makes sense that the reader should feel her shock. The line is the inciting incident and the problem that drives the story to its end. Can she shed this world-wide shaming and redefine herself? I guess I’d be worried if I didn’t feel confident about all the lines that follow. I loved writing Viral. I’m really proud of it all the way to the end.
2. Have you had any negative reaction to the way you have portrayed young women going abroad for drink, drugs and no ties sex? Do some of your readers object to having to accept that this happens, that it is the public sharing without consent that is offensive?
Not yet, but I’m ready for it! I hope readers will see that misogyny, online abuse, and slut-shaming are the problems here; not young women.
3. Viral is your twelfth book. As a writer, do you have different expectations compared to how you felt when your first novel was published, or your third?
Yes, when my first was published, I expected to retire to Italy with my millions. Now, I just hope I can write another one.
4. I have read the term ‘breakout’ from others who have read early releases of this book. Does this cause you excitement or concern?
I love my writing career as it is. I’m not under too much pressure. I write what I want, when I want. People don’t take unexpected selfies with me on a bad hair day. So I don’t feel the need to break out. If I sold millions, I’d have to retire to Italy after all, and I don’t want to anymore. I’m happy where I am.
5. And finally, do you have any concerns about the direction discussion about this book may take at author events?
I quite enjoy making people feel uncomfortable – most of my books are about subjects that should unnerve you – so I’m not concerned at all. I’m looking forward to debates, difficult questions, being forced to think harder about certain things… bring it on!
Thank you Helen for taking the time to answer my questions. Now I need to find out if you will be attending any events near to me!
‘Viral’ is published by Faber and Faber, and is available to buy now.