7 Questions With Robyn Harding
As a frequent reader of thrillers, I have certain go-tos.
Certain people whose grocery lists I would eagerly devour.
Robyn Harding is one of those people.
You can depend on Harding to consistently produce a beautifully paced novel that is somehow amazingly salacious yet extremely relatable.
Internationally best-selling Harding is the author of The Party, Her Pretty Face, and, most recently, The Arrangement – A tale about a sugar baby that is equal parts sexy and scary.
We recently posed some questions to the always gracious Harding.
Check out what she has to say about her writing process in general, and The Arrangement in particular, below.
1. What's your favorite drink?
Alcoholic: gin and tonic
2. Where and when do you write?
I have a small (and messy) home office. I like to write first thing in the morning, before I shower or get dressed. I just grab a cup of coffee and get started.
3. What does your prewriting process look like?
I have used screenplay structure for my last few books, so I hammer out the major plot beats before I start writing. I also write profiles for my main characters so I know their backstory, their feelings and insecurities, and how they would react in situations.
4. What's up next?
I’m finishing up a manuscript about a couples’ swap that goes very, very badly. Open relationships seem to be popular these days, and as a thriller writer, I always think: How could it all go horribly wrong?
5. You captured the feel of New York City exceptionally well in this book. Why did you decide to set this novel in New York City and what did you do to capture this gritty, urban setting so effectively?
Thank you so much! I have been to New York 6 or 7 times and I absolutely love it. A good friend lives there, so he has always toured me around and provided the local color. He helped me with the setting as did my New York based editor. I understood how my character, Natalie, feels in awe and in love with the city. I can imagine moving there and feeling so desperate to survive and belong. I’d originally wanted to set the book in my hometown of Vancouver. It’s very expensive to live here and the “sugar bowl” is very active. But my editor wanted a US setting, and a huge city like New York offered the anonymity required for the story.
6. This novel - essentially about a young woman who chooses to use her sexuality as a means to make a living - seems particularly topical right now, as the "me too" movement is in full force and people are continually engaging in discussions about slut shaming. What impact, if any, do you think this societal backdrop might have on how readers connect with the protagonist of your novel and the novel as a whole?
I interviewed sugar babies and talked to other young women who view this as a completely acceptable way to make money. But a lot of people my age (Gen X) and older, are judgmental about it. When a reported sugar baby was recently murdered in Salt Lake City, there were online comments saying she got what she deserved. No one deserves to be abused or murdered for going on a date. I think removing the stigma of the sugar bowl (and sex work in general) makes it safer for women. They won’t be ashamed to tell a friend or family member where they’re going and who they’re with. I hope that older readers will see how a regular, relatable girl can end up in this situation. And I hope this novel will spark the important conversations that are finally being had about female sexuality and empowerment.
7. As we read, we found ourselves feeling surprisingly sympathetic towards sugar daddy Gabe. Was this your intention? And, if so, why did you want your readers to feel sympathetic towards a man who is, for lack of a more appropriate label, a cheating asshole?
Well, I was trying to make him a narcissistic cheating asshole, but everyone seems to love the guy! I think people who measure themselves by superficial standards feel empty inside, and their lives lack true meaning. Gabe has it all on the surface, but his relationships are floundering. When I explored that emptiness and lack of true connection, I too felt empathy for Gabe. He hires a sugar baby for a “no strings” relationship, but she fills an emotional void for him that complicates his life and scares the hell out of him!