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A Conversation with Robyn Harding, author of ‘The Party’

July 18, 2017

The Party is a dark and compelling domestic drama. It’s the story of one family’s unravelling after an innocent birthday party goes wrong; a page-turner that will keep you both appalled and engrossed to the end. Click here to read our full review. 

Check out a conversation with Robyn Harding all about her latest book and our Book of the Week, The Party:

Robyn HardingHow did you get the idea to write The Party? Were you inspired by any particular real-life situation or would you say that you were more dependent upon your own imagination?

As a mother of two teenage children, the use of substances is a real and relevant issue to me. I talked to a lot of parents about how they were handling their kids’ relationship with drugs and alcohol and I found vastly differing opinions. Some parents were zero tolerance, but many took a “they’re going to drink anyway, I’d rather they do it under my roof” approach. This made me imagine the worst-case scenario of kids partying at home, and how parents would really deal with that fall out. I also thought it would be interesting to have this happen to strict parents, who would see their daughter’s behavior as a betrayal.

Is there a particular character in the book that you are most sympathetic toward? If so, why?

All of these characters are very flawed individuals, but I feel sympathy for each of them at different stages in the story. While Kim Sanders is probably the least likable, ironically I feel the most sympathy for her. Initially, her character has lost touch with what’s important in life, and what true happiness means. Sometimes, it takes a life-altering event to wake a person up to what really matters. But by then, it can be too late.

Why did you choose to tell the story from various points of view rather than a single point of view?

I always find it fascinating how people perceive situations differently, particularly conflict. I felt that a horrific situation like the one in the book would be infinitely more interesting if we were privy to multiple perspectives.

Party-fb-ad-1200x630-B-v2As you were writing, who did you envision as the prime audience for this book? It seems that the book contains lessons that could be useful to several age groups.

I wrote this book for an adult audience, but I think teenagers will enjoy and relate to it, too. While most of the story takes place in the parents’ world, the teen storyline is prominent and pivotal. My daughter is sixteen and she’s a smart, sophisticated reader. While she still reads some YA novels, she enjoys a lot of adult fiction.

Were there any events in your own life or adolescence that you feel largely influenced the course of your life or the lives of those around you?

My dad died suddenly of a brain aneurysm when I was ten years old. Everything changed after that. When you experience a tragedy, you realize your whole life can be altered in a moment. I sometimes wonder who I would have become if he had lived, and if I would have made different choices with his guidance. My whole family was shaped by that loss.

How do you think people can best put a stop to bullying and cyberbullying?

As parents, we worry so much about our children getting good grades, making the team, or getting into a good college. But sometimes we neglect to emphasize being a kind and caring human being. And I think parents should monitor their kids on social media. It can feel like an invasion of their privacy, but the teenage brain is not fully developed. Kids post things online they consider benign but that could be hurtful or damaging to someone else. If children know there is even a chance their parents are checking up on them, they may reconsider posting something critical or cruel.

If you could go back in time and give your adolescent self one message, what would it be?

A perm is not a good idea. And also, that one day, you will feel comfortable in your own skin.

Who are some of the contemporary storytellers that you find most inspiring or compelling today and why?
I just read Bill Clegg’s novel Did You Ever Have a Family. I was afraid it would be too sad for me, but it was beautiful, so real and moving and smart. Liane Moriarty is amazing. Her writing is insightful and intelligent but still so accessible. I feel the same way about David Nicholls and Nick Hornby. And I am a huge Kate Atkinson fan. I don’t normally read a lot of mysteries, but I love her Jackson Brodie series. She inspires me with her little touches of humor in even the darkest tales.

You have written several other works. How does this story relate to your previous work? Do you feel that it’s very different from your previous books or would you say there is a common thread among the works?The Party - Cover image HR

Before this book, I’d considered myself a humor/comedy writer. My first novels were humorous women’s fiction (or “chick lit” to use a controversial term). I also wrote the screenplay for an indie dramedy titled The Steps, about a step family meeting for the first time. It’s very funny, but it does deal with some heavy themes (alcoholism, family secrets, parental neglect). Tonally, The Party is much darker than anything I’ve written, but I have always tried to create relatable characters and deal in real-life scenarios. To me, real people and this messy world we live in are more fascinating than a dystopian future or a fantasy land.

How did writing The Party change the way that you write? Was there anything that surprised you in the course of writing the book?

I took a lot more time with this book. I was very thoughtful with it. At times, it was tough going. I didn’t want to sit down at my computer and deal with this tragedy, to drag these characters through this turmoil and strife. But I knew this was a book that I would want to read and eventually, I got into! I enjoyed the twists and turns, the lies, betrayals and drama. I was surprised to find that I won’t plunge into a deep depression if I tell a dark and serious story. And there’s still room for a sense of humor in dramatic writing.

Can you please tell us a bit about what you are currently working on?

I’m working on a novel inspired by Canada’s most notorious female serial killer, who has served her time and is now a married mother of three, living in a new community. I’m exploring themes of retribution, redemption, and forgiveness. And I’m confronting some hard questions: Can people really change? Do they deserve a second chance? And can you ever outrun your past?

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