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Posts Tagged ‘Susan Lewis’

Discussion Questions: Behind Closed Doors

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Behind Closed Doors coverDetective Sergeant Andrea Lawrence is reluctant to take this emotionally charged case, but she can’t help herself. In a small British seaside community, a fourteen-year-old girl has vanished. Sophie Monroe hasn’t been seen since she fought—loudly, miserably—with her stepmother and father more than a week before. But her frantic parents seem to be the only people concerned about Sophie’s disappearance. Everyone else just assumes that an angry teenager is acting out by hiding for a while.

Did someone help Sophie run away, or abduct her? Either way, Detective Andee is certain something bad has happened. As Andee investigates, two men jump to the top of the list of suspects—but neither of them can be located. And the deeper Andee delves into Sophie’s life, the more she struggles to keep her own darkest fears at bay—because Andee knows all too well what happens when young girls are lost and never found.

Discuss Behind Closed Doors with your book club and dive into this this captivating family drama!

1. This book tackles a sensitive topic. What was the most difficult part for you to read? Why?

2. Do you think Andee should have been removed from the case? Do you think she was a reliable investigator? Is it ethical for a detective to continue to work on a case that he or she has a close personal connection to?

3. Did you lose faith in Tomasz at any point? What triggered that loss of faith?

4. How do you think you would have reacted if you were in Heidi and Gavin’s position?

5. What do you think could or should have been done to prevent Sophie’s downward behavioral spiral?

6. Which character do you sympathize with the most? Why?

7. Were you ever curious about the robberies? Or was it a surprise that they were linked to the broader plot?

8. Did you suspect the parents all along? Were you surprised?

9. Do you think Andee should have forgiven Martin? What if they didn’t have kids? Would you have forgiven him?

10. In many instances this novel presents adults who maybe aren’t paying enough attention to their teenage children. Think about Andee and Martin’s behavior too, not just Heidi and Gavin’s. Are they allowing their children a taste of independence and adulthood, or simply being negligent?

11. Many characters experience heartbreak of some form or another during this novel—Andee, Sophie, Gavin, Heidi, Kasia. Which character’s shoes would it be the hardest to walk in?

12. This novel explores themes of grief, broken homes, human trafficking, betrayal, and more. Which did you find the most powerful?

Exclusive Q&A with Susan Lewis, author of Behind Closed Doors

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Behind Closed Doors coverDetective Sergeant Andrea Lawrence is reluctant to take this emotionally charged case, but she can’t help herself. In a small British seaside community, a fourteen-year-old girl has vanished. Sophie Monroe hasn’t been seen since she fought—loudly, miserably—with her stepmother and father more than a week before. But her frantic parents seem to be the only people concerned about Sophie’s disappearance. Everyone else just assumes that an angry teenager is acting out by hiding for a while.

Did someone help Sophie run away, or abduct her? Either way, Detective Andee is certain something bad has happened. As Andee investigates, two men jump to the top of the list of suspects—but neither of them can be located. And the deeper Andee delves into Sophie’s life, the more she struggles to keep her own darkest fears at bay—because Andee knows all too well what happens when young girls are lost and never found.

Random House Reader’s Circle sat down with Susan to talk about her inspiration and research for Behind Closed Doors.

Random House Reader’s Circle: What inspired you to write about a missing-person case?

Susan Lewis: I think like most people I am fascinated—and terrified—by the thought of someone I love simply vanishing from the face of the world. I have explored this subject in other books, and I imagine it will come up again in the future, since there are so many possible reasons for a disappearance, and just as many possible outcomes.

RHRC: In the past you’ve traveled extensively, immersed yourself in the social work system, and gone to great lengths to build context for the stories you write. What was the most important part of your research for Behind Closed Doors?

SL: It was obtaining police cooperation. The book couldn’t have been written without it.

RHRC: Was there anything you learned that really surprised you during your research?

SL: The biggest surprise was just how many teenagers go missing. Most, thankfully, show up sooner or later, but some never do.

RHRC: Was Andee inspired by a real person? Why did you decide to make her have such a special connection to the case?

SL: Andee is purely fictitious. I don’t like to invade real people’s personal stories to the point of such brutal exposure.

RHRC: Did you always plan for Sophie’s parents to be guilty? Why or why not?

SL: Yes, that was always the plan, the reason being that Andee wouldn’t want to believe it of them, any more than she believed it of her own father. The blow of discovering it was them tips her into a new and necessary grief for her sister.

RHRC: Which character do you most connect with or have the most sympathy for? Why?

SL: Actually, it’s probably Gavin, Sophie’s father. He was doing his best after his wife died and he loved his daughter unreservedly, yet he still managed to get things wrong. Sometimes bad things just happen.

RHRC: What was the most challenging part of writing this novel?

SL: Police procedure.

RHRC: In what way(s) do you feel Behind Closed Doors is different from your previous novels? In what way(s) is it similar?

SL: I usually write from the heart of a family; this time I’ve written from an outsider’s point of view. Having said that, Andee’s family is as key to the story as Sophie’s is.

RHRC: How does writing about such heartbreaking lives affect you as a person? As an author?

SL: It affects me deeply while I’m writing the story—if it didn’t, I couldn’t expect to connect with the reader. Many tears are shed during certain scenes, but I’m glad to say that laughter often gets me up from the computer as one of the characters does or says something I really wasn’t expecting.

RHRC: Is there a message that you hope readers will take away from the book?

SL: That even people who do bad things aren’t all bad.

Reader’s Guide: NEVER SAY GOODBYE by Susan Lewis

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Lewis_Never Say Goodbye Susan Lewis delivers a deeply moving novel in Never Say Goodbye about finding friendship and love in the most unexpected of places. If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult, Heather Gudenjauf, or Elizabeth Flock then this just may be the perfect read for your book club. Below are the questions and topics for discussion.

For more information, stay up to date with Susan on her Facebook and Twitter.

Questions and Topics for Discussion:

1. How would Josie’s life have been different if she had been able to tell her family about her condition immediately? Do you think her life would have been better or worse if she had?

2. Have you ever had a secret you felt you had to keep from those closest to you in order to protect them? How did you deal with it?

3. Did you relate to one of the two main characters, Josie and Bel, more than the other? Which one, and why?

4. Why did Josie take her husband, Jeff, back after he cheated on her? Did he deserve it? Would you have done the same? Do you think he redeemed himself in the end?

5. Bel is upset when Nick and Kristina get married so soon after the death of her sister, which puts her off to a rocky start with Kristina. What brings Bel and Kristina together in the end?

6. Do you think Josie’s son, Ryan, actually committed the crime he was accused of?

7. Why does Bel push Harry away?

8. In what ways do Bel and Josie complement each other? Do you think they would have discovered a friendship if horrible circumstances hadn’t thrust them together? Has their friendship changed them by the end of the book?

9. Which of the many themes of the novel (friendship, family ties, love, and loss, among others) struck you as most important?

10. Were you surprised by the ending? What did you think would happen?

11. Did you learn anything you didn’t know before about breast cancer because of reading the novel? Did the book change your thinking in any way?

12. How did Bel’s volunteer work affect her life? Have you ever volunteered with or would you ever consider volunteer- ing with an organization like Breast Cancer Care?

Reader’s Guide: THE TRUTH ABOUT YOU by Susan Lewis

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Lewis_The Truth About YouThe Truth About You by international bestselling author Susan Lewis is perfect for readers of Jodi Picoult, Heather Gudenkauf, and Elizabeth Flock. This novel of secrets and suspenses challenges the ties that bind—while reigniting the hope of enduring love. Here at Random House Reader’s Circle, we have the exclusive book club questions for you and your friends to enjoy!

If you’ve ready read the book, feel free to share your thoughts with us on Facebook.

Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. From the beginning of the novel, Stacy and Lainey seem to have a closer relationship than that of Lainey with her own sisters. What do you think draws them together?

2. What do you make of the connection between Peter and his dog, Sherman? What does Sherman symbolize? What do you think Sherman’s steadfast loyalty meant to Peter as his dementia worsened?

3. Tierney and Guy’s relationship was risky from the beginning. When do you think Tierney became uncomfortable with what was happening? Do you think she should have told her mother when matters worsened? What can a mother do to prepare her daughter for situations like this or protect her from them?

4. Despite Tom’s absence, Lainey refused to change her plans to go to Italy. Why? Was it a dedication to discovering the truth? A need to find somewhere to belong? Retaliation? Or something else?

5. How did Skye and Tierney’s friendship transform throughout the novel? What were the most influential moments?

6. Before Tom’s relationship with Kirsten and Julia is revealed, Max is very alienated from the Hollingsworth family, especially Lainey. Yet by the end of the book he is closer than ever. What changed?

7. Do you think that Lainey’s discovery about her father was for the best? What was your reaction when she found out? What would you have done if you were in Lainey’s position?

8. Why did Tom want his family to learn about Julia’s condition on their own? Do you think if he had told them earlier they would have responded differently to the situation?

9. As the novel progresses, similarities between Alessandra, Lainey, and Tierney start to become apparent. What are these? Does this remind you of anything in your own family?

10. Divorce is a common theme throughout the novel. What do you think the author might be saying about divorce and its effects on a family, particularly via Stacy, Skye, and Nadia?

11. There are many life–changing secrets throughout this novel, but only some are disclosed. Why do you think some remain hidden? Is secrecy ever better than honesty? If so, how should you decide which secrets are better left untold?

12. Throughout the novel, Lainey relies on words to express her emotions, while Tom instead chooses action. Is one better than the other? Would things have happened differently if Tom had been more plainspoken or Lainey less effusive with her words?

13. There were many themes throughout the novel—-secrecy, adultery, family, trust, etc. Which theme resonated most strongly with you?

Reader’s Guide: THE TRUTH ABOUT YOU by Susan Lewis

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Lewis_The Truth About YouThe Truth About You is for readers of Jodi Picoult, Heather Gudenkauf, and Elizabeth Flock comes a novel of secrets and suspense that challenges the ties that bind—while reigniting the hope of enduring love.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. From the beginning of the novel, Stacy and Lainey seem to have a closer relationship than that of Lainey with her own sisters. What do you think draws them together?

2. What do you make of the connection between Peter and his dog, Sherman? What does Sherman symbolize? What do you think Sherman’s steadfast loyalty meant to Peter as his dementia worsened?

3. Tierney and Guy’s relationship was risky from the beginning. When do you think Tierney became uncomfortable with what was happening? Do you think she should have told her mother when matters worsened? What can a mother do to prepare her daughter for situations like this or protect her from them?

4. Despite Tom’s absence, Lainey refused to change her plans to go to Italy. Why? Was it a dedication to discovering the truth? A need to find somewhere to belong? Retaliation? Or something else?

5. How did Skye and Tierney’s friendship transform throughout the novel? What were the most influential moments?

6. Before Tom’s relationship with Kirsten and Julia is revealed, Max is very alienated from the Hollingsworth family, especially Lainey. Yet by the end of the book he is closer than ever. What changed?

7. Do you think that Lainey’s discovery about her father was for the best? What was your reaction when she found out? What would you have done if you were in Lainey’s position?

8. Why did Tom want his family to learn about Julia’s condition on their own? Do you think if he had told them earlier they would have responded differently to the situation?

9. As the novel progresses, similarities between Alessandra, Lainey, and Tierney start to become apparent. What are these? Does this remind you of anything in your own family?

10. Divorce is a common theme throughout the novel. What do you think the author might be saying about divorce and its effects on a family, particularly via Stacy, Skye, and Nadia?

11. There are many life-changing secrets throughout this novel, but only some are disclosed. Why do you think some remain hidden? Is secrecy ever better than honesty? If so, how should you decide which secrets are better left untold?

12. Throughout the novel, Lainey relies on words to express her emotions, while Tom instead chooses action. Is one better than the other? Would things have happened differently if Tom had been more plainspoken or Lainey less effusive with her words?

13. There were many themes throughout the novel—secrecy, adultery, family, trust, etc. Which theme resonated most strongly with you?

Giveaway Opportunity: DON’T LET ME GO and NO CHILD OF MINE by Susan Lewis

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 10.16.01 AM We have a special giveaway opportunity for our fellow Random House Reader’s Circle members today! Enter below for your chance to win a Susan Lewis book bundle that includes a finished copy of No Child of Mine and an advanced reader’s copy of Don’t Let Me Go. If you love Jodi Picoult then you’ll love these international bestselling novels.

“Unputdownable . . . a compelling blend of family dynamics, courtroom drama, and love story.”—Booklist

“Susan Lewis’s storyline is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. . . . Susan writes with sensitivity, compassion and hope.”—Fresh Fiction

Join the conversation with Susan Lewis on Facebook and Twitter. You can also visit her website for more books news, a Q&A, and event information.

Enter below for your chance to win!

Reader’s Guide: DON’T LET ME GO by Susan Lewis

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Lewis_Don't Let Me Go We’ve got the discussion questions to get you and your book club started with DON’T LET ME GO by Susan Lewis. Happy Reading!

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Even if no one had ever found out the secrets of Charlotte’s past, would she have been able to enjoy her new life with Chloe? Or would she always worry whether she got away with it?

2. Do you think Katie was right in turning Charlotte in?

3. Charlotte and Chloe have an intense and loving bond,
despite not being related by blood. What makes someone family?

4. What problems did you see in the foster-care system that Chloe faced upon her return to England? Could Chloe’s time back in the system have been avoided?

5. What will be the lasting effects of everything that Chloe’s gone through? Will Charlotte’s love allow Chloe to live a normal life in the future? Or will she always carry the scars of her early abuse and her traumatic time in the foster-care system?

6. Rick and Charlotte both led double lives, of a very different sort. Rick’s was ostensibly because he was worried about coming out to his father. Were his reluctance and lies justified?

7. Charlotte and her mother had a very loving yet also very difficult relationship from the moment they reunited, but Anna proved herself over Charlotte’s trial. What do you think their relationship will be like going forward?

8. What did you make of the “not guilty” verdict? What, to you, is the true definition of justice?

9. Anthony came to Charlotte’s rescue like a knight in shining armor. What did you make of his defense of Charlotte and her actions?

10. Were you surprised by the ending?

11. What changes do you think the additions of Anthony and the new baby will make in Charlotte’s family?

12. The novel has many themes, including love, home, and the true meanings of justice and family. Which was the most meaningful for you?

A Reader’s Guide: NO CHILD OF MINE by Susan Lewis

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Lewis_No Child of MineDear Reader,
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that this wasn’t always an easy book to write. I’m sure at times you didn’t find it easy to read either. Little Ottilie’s story touched me deeply in its creation, perhaps more than any other book I’ve written.

Thank you for staying with her and Alex. Abandoning them, which would have been the less challenging option, would have felt as though we’d abandoned all the children who experience the same sort of tragedy in their lives. None of us would want to do that, though it’s true we’d often like to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening.

My decision to tackle this difficult subject came about because of how frequently we see social workers being lambasted in the news. Sometimes this will be deserved, but more often than not we don’t get to hear the whole story. Therefore we have no idea how bureaucracy, inflexible rules and regulations, and manipulative adults might have made it all but impossible for them to act even when their instincts are telling them they must. I didn’t meet a single social worker during my research who didn’t care passionately about the children in their caseload; Alex herself is based on one of them (though I must stress that Ottilie’s case is purely fictional).

Indeed, because this is fiction I have been able to make some good finally emerge from the horror of Alex and Ottilie’s situation and to show that love can turn up in the most unexpected of ways.

It is, of course, a huge pity that this doesn’t happen for far too many children, but I felt it was extremely important to try to leave you, the reader, with a sense of hope in your hearts.
Now that I have said that, it might interest and perhaps please you to hear that there is a sequel, already written, entitled Don’t Let Me Go. Obviously I won’t give anything away here, but I hope you’ll agree that there needed to be more.

Once again, I thank you for choosing to read one of my books, especially this one. It matters a great deal to me what you think of it, so if you would like to be in touch please don’t hesitate. You can reach me through the contact link on my website or on the official Susan Lewis Facebook page.

A Conversation with Susan Lewis

Random House Reader’s Circle: What made you want to become a writer?

Susan Lewis: It’s something I instinctively felt would happen one day, though I didn’t do much about it until I began working in TV drama. Editing scripts, pulling together story lines, and dreaming up characters and their backgrounds was something I enjoyed so much that when an agent suggested I turn one of my projects into a book, I decided to give it a go. That book was never published, but the bug had bitten and the rest, I guess, is history.

RHRC: Describe your routine for writing and where you like to write, including whether you have any little quirks or funny habits when you are writing.

SL: I have a study at home that overlooks a beautiful spread of lower Cotswold countryside, and I aim to be there by ten each morning, through until six or seven in the evening. For a long time I wrote seven days a week, taking a break only when I was so exhausted I couldn’t do any more. Now I pace myself a little better by doing only five or six days, but even that is pretty grueling. I don’t have any quirks particularly, but I do have a very bad but thoroughly enjoyable habit of drinking a glass or two of wine when I read back over what I’ve written during the day.

RHRC: What themes are you interested in when you’re writing?

SL: I’m always interested in the strange or terrible things fate inflicts on innocent people and how courageously (or not) they strive to overcome them.

RHRC: Where do you get your inspiration from?

SL: The most obvious source of inspiration is life itself. Added to that there are certain authors I find very inspirational in the way they write, such as Lionel Shriver, Jodi Picoult, Anita Shreve, Susan Howatch, and Irène Némirovsky, whose book Suite Française played a very big part in my own book A French Affair.

RHRC: How do you manage to get inside the heads of your characters in order to portray them truthfully?

SL: It’s all done through imagination, I guess I can’t think that there would be any other way.

RHRC: Do you base your characters on real people? And if not, where does the inspiration come from?

SL: Very occasionally they’re based on people I meet, but as a real character is so highly complex, it would only ever be one or two aspects of them. I guess you could say that personality traits are perhaps more inspiring than actual characters.

RHRC: What’s the most extreme thing you’ve ever done to research your book?

SL: I once allowed myself to be locked up in a Filipino jail when researching Last Resort that was pretty scary, and it didn’t smell too good either!

RHRC: What aspect of writing do you enjoy most?

SL: I enjoy it all, especially when exciting and pivotal things happen that I hadn’t seen coming!

RHRC: What’s the best thing about being an author?

SL: For me it would definitely be doing the second draft, when all the really hard work is done and the smoothing out is under way. After that comes a lovely freeing time when I hold on to the book before giving it to my editor this is a period when there is no pressure at all, or anxiety about whether or not she is going to like it. That begins the moment I send it from my computer to hers.

RHRC: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

SL: Probably that you have to be serious about writing to make it work, not simply think “I’m going to write a bestseller” or “I’d write a book if I only had time.” It takes a huge amount of dedication and belief in yourself; if you have that, then I think the best advice I could give is pay great attention to your characters and who they are, and don’t forget to listen to them. It’s uncanny how often they’ll help out when you find yourself stuck.

RHRC: What is your favorite book of all time and why?

SL: There are many books I could list here, but I’m going to settle for Suite Française, because it’s the only book I’ve ever finished reading and then gone straight back to the beginning to read it again.

RHRC: If you could be a character in a book, or live in the world of a book, who or where would you be?

SL: I wouldn’t mind being one of Georgette Heyer’s heroines back in Georgian times, but as they didn’t have much in the way of anesthetic then, perhaps I’d rather be Claudine in my own book Darkest Longings.

Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Alex and Ottilie have a powerful connection. What draws Alex to Ottilie in the first place? And what draws Ottilie to Alex?
2. What role do you think Mrs. Wade’s childhood had on her life as an adult? What about Alex’s? What role do you think childhood experiences (both positive and negative) have in our future lives?
3. What did you think of the structure of alternating chapters between Alex’s life and Ottilie’s life?
4. Anna, Alex’s mother, has not contacted her in more than twenty years in order to protect her, which is hard for Alex to understand. Do you think Anna abandoned Alex, or was she right to avoid contacting her until her ex-husband’s death?
5. Alex keeps her breakup with Jason a secret from her friends and family for as long as possible. Why do you think that is?
6. When Alex finds out who her true father is, her whole outlook on her past changes. What role did this play in Alex’s self-image?
7. Alex has no patience for her supervisor’s obsession with rules and paperwork, and Wendy thinks Alex considers herself to be above everyone else. Do you think either Alex or Wendy is entirely in the right here?
8. Of all the children she sees in so many difficult situations, why do you think Alex chose to save Ottilie? What pushed her over the line in this case?
9. What would you have done if you were in Alex’s position?
10. Were you surprised at the ending? What did you expect?
11. There are many themes in this novel—abuse, trauma, resilience, motherhood and family bonds, among others. Which one affected you the most? Which do you think is the most important?
12. Did the novel spark any ideas for changes in the child protection and foster care system? Has it changed your opinion about it?

Enter for your chance to win NO CHILD OF MINE by Susan Lewis

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Lewis_No Child of Mine_tp From internationally bestselling British author Susan Lewis comes an unflinching, thoroughly suspenseful novel—perfect for readers of Jodi Picoult—about the darkest secrets a family can hide.

Alex Lake’s life is centered on helping people. Her job as a social worker in a British seaside town is more than a career: It’s the very essence of who she is. And though there are frustrations, Alex takes to heart the rewards of placing a child in a safe and loving home. But when she encounters three-year-old Ottilie Wade, Alex is completely unprepared for the effect the sweet, shy little girl has on her. Though on the surface Ottilie seems to want for nothing—she’s perfectly healthy and lives in a very nice home—she’s mysteriously silent and asocial. Alex knows that something is not right in the Wade house. And the deeper she looks into the case, the more Alex comes to feel that she and Ottilie are being drawn together by fate.

As disturbing evidence mounts and Alex’s superiors seem unwilling to help, Alex knows she will have to risk everything—her job and the life she loves—to save Ottilie. But Alex will also have to wrestle the demons of her own past before she can secure a future for this child in need.

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