Since the publication of The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl, I’ve had the good fortune of meeting with a number of book groups to discuss my work. Most of these encounters have been cordial, but some have been oddly confrontational, bordering on interrogations. A few people, it turns out, think that I’m advocating Audrey’s life choices or trying to glamorize drug use. Others think that the book is unrealistic because “things like this” just don’t happen in suburbia. Still others wanted a happier ending. These objections don’t come up all the time, but they happen enough to make me think that I should clarify a few things about the book and why I wrote it.

Objection: I hate Audrey.

Response: That’s okay.

Objection: I think she’s weak and stupid.

Response: Because she uses drugs?

Objection: YES!

Response: That’s exactly the kind of thinking I’m trying to challenge. Another way to look at Audrey is to say that she’s human. We all have our weaknesses, and we all give into temptation from time to time.

Objection: Not me!

Response: That’s too bad.

Objection: So you admit that you’re advocating drug use!

Response: That’s a bit of a leap, but no. What I’m saying is that being human means making mistakes. It’s our ability to learn from them that makes us better people.

Objection: But she’s a mother.

Response: Mothers make mistakes, too.

Objection: But they don’t use drugs.

Response: Surprisingly, I get this objection a lot. But on more than one occasion, people have come to me after I’ve done a reading or discussed my book with a large group, and they’ve told me that they’ve either known people who have gone down Audrey’s path, or that they’ve been down Audrey’s path themselves. One woman went so far as to say, “This is my story.”

Objection: I don’t believe it.

Response: That doesn’t surprise me. But if you want proof that Audrey’s story isn’t just a product of my imagination, take a look at these news items:

Objection: Why didn’t her friends stop her?

Response: I met with one book group whose sole purpose (that evening, anyway) was to ambush me with questions like this. Everyone in the group agreed that they’d intervene if any of the members started using drugs. Ten minutes later, they proceeded to gossip about a woman who was no longer a member of their group and implied that they wouldn’t be surprised to find out that she was using drugs. No one suggested an intervention.

Objection: I know I’d intervene.

Response: That’s great. How would you do it?

Objection: Well… I…

Response: Sorry. That wasn’t a fair question. I will say, though, that many people who struggle with addiction are very good at hiding it. And also that Audrey doesn’t have a whole lot of friends outside of work. To my mind, she’s a lot like the woman the aforementioned book group was gossiping about.

Objection: Speaking of work, no business in the world could operate the way Eating Out does.

Response: That part was based on personal experience. I used to work for a similar publication, and the publisher used to regale me with stories about how his previous publication fell apart due to his increasing cocaine use and that of his employees.

Objection: Isn’t this book a lot like Weeds?

Response: On the surface there are some obvious similarities, but, really, there’s no comparison. Weeds is doing one thing, and Wonder Mom is doing another thing altogether. What’s funny is that I wrote the first draft of Wonder Mom before Weeds ever aired, and every agent and publisher I showed it to said that nobody would buy the idea of a drug dealing suburban mother. After Weeds debuted, the response was, “Isn’t Weeds already doing something like this?” Fortunately, I eventually found a publisher (and then another) who was willing to actually read the manuscript and subsequently saw that it was, in fact, doing something new and different.

Objection: I got confused because the narrative jumps back and forth in time.

Response: That can be confusing for some readers. My thinking when I wrote it was that the disjointed timeline reflected Audrey’s addled mental state. The good news for anyone who found this technique alienating is that the new edition (coming in May of 2011 from The Permanent Press) has a more traditional structure.

Objection: What about all the cursing?

Response: It’s a book about drug dealers. As a friend of mine said when his mother complained about some of the language, “What are they supposed to say? Gee, this is swell cocaine!

Objection: Why couldn’t the ending be happier?

Response: Curiously, the people who ask this question tend to be the same people who say that they hated Audrey because she is, in their opinion, weak and stupid. I don’t know how to respond to this question other than to say that a happy ending would be an insult to anyone with any intelligence whatsoever.

Objection: What about Captain Panther? He’s completely unrealistic.

Response: Oddly enough, and completely by coincidence, there’s a motivational speaker in the Philadelphia area who performs under the name Tiger Man.

Objection: Seriously?

Response: Seriously.

Objection: I still don’t like your book.

Response: I can live with that.