Lesfic Book Club: Popcorn Love

For our April meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Popcorn Love by KL Hughes. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

Cara Malone 

So, what did everybody think of Popcorn Love? Was it your first KL Hughes read?

Reader 1

No, it was my 4th!

Plus, it was my first ever lesfic

Plus I read it when it was still a Swan Queen fanfiction

Reader 2 

my first

I adore Alison

Reader 4 

I’ve read several of KL Hughes, when she was writing as Chrmdpoet in SQ fanfic.

but this is the second book I’d read.

I also read it when it was SQ fanfic. I liked the changes she made to the storyline and character histories for the published version.

Reader 3 

After the first scene, I disliked both Elena and Vivian so much… but then the next scene, with Elena at home, she became a real and likeable character for me, and the rest of the book was wonderful…

Cara Malone

What do you think makes for a likeable protagonist with flaws, and an unlikeable one?

Reader 4 

it’s that glimmer of possibility that they are not happy in their “messed up” ways

Reader 2 

One thing I loved was how real Alison was.
Elena was harder for me, she sounded so much older than she was supposed to be, but I think part of that was also the narrator.

I still like Elena though

Reader 1 

I think it was supposed to be the way she was brought up in her family

Reader 4 

Elena is more mature, even if she is messed up. She’s corporate, business-minded, and a full-time mother with obligations. There’s a natural maturity to that state of being. However, I also liked that KL established that Elena and Vivian had their manners drubbed into them.

Reader 4 

That also gave qualifiers to Elena sounding “older”

Reader 3 

I think I imagined Elena to be what my mother would have hoped I’d turn out to be. (shudder)

Cara Malone 

So this Reeses-popcorn snack… have you guys had this?

Reader 1  4:12 PM

Yes, I did tried it after reading it

Cara Malone 

It seems like it can’t be as orgasmic as Alison makes it out to be, but at the same time, I think I might be missing out

What did you think @Reader 1?

Reader 1 

It was okay, nothing out of this world

Cara Malone 

I think it appears in another book we’ve read recently… Just Jorie maybe?

Reader 4

I wonder if KL put that in as an “easter egg” for fans?

Reader 3 

A waste of good Reeses Pieces – mostly because I don’t have the patience to get popcorn remnants out from around my teeth, so I avoid it now

Reader 4 

I’ve thrown lots of things into my popcorn but not chocolate or anything like that. I’ve eaten Crackerjacks and Twaddle which are caramel coated popcorn-peanuts mixtures. So I imagined it as a “homemade” version of that.

Reader 4 

I think it was a good way to establish their differences in a concrete example. Allison isn’t “storebought” anything. She’ll make it herself or do without. But she has her vices, and Elena who has all this money for vices, has so few.

Cara Malone

I love that. They’re definitely an ‘opposites attract’ couple – Allison is all about physical experiences while Elena prioritizes the emotional/her son, etc.

Reader 2 

I could see it being phenomenal for a kid growing up in the system though

When you have nothing, food becomes more important

Reader 4 

yep

that whole maslow’s hierarchy

and people develop complexes/reactions from extended exposure particularly as children.

Reader 3 

Also, the things that seem special to us as children often seem to remain special for us (even if as “guilty pleasures”) into adulthood

I think especially for children that may have grown up with less than their friends

Reader 4 

encapsulating characterization in the little actions is definitely a KL strength

Reader 2 

Randomly, I also liked that Alison didn’t mention that she sings or performs.

Reader 4 

the hard part of a book like this is picking one scene to “sum up the relationship” . It’s all built on such small details that add up over time.

Like a real couple, IMHO

you look at the 50-year married couple and ask “what makes it so strong?” and there’s not just one thing. It’s a lot of little things.

Cara Malone 

And the fact that Allison was equally excited to spend time with Lucas and Elena was so sweet

Granted she started as the babysitter so of course she likes kids, but not everyone would have incorporated him into so many of their dates like she did

Reader 4 

A dream of many single parents. To find a partner who loves your kids as much as you do

Plus, seeing someone interact well with a kid makes you love them more

for some people it’s a “test” that a potential partner can either pass or fail.

Reader 1 

Lucas is a sweet little thing

Cara Malone

Is there a Lucas character in Once Upon a Time or was he added by KL?

Reader 1 

Yes, Lucas was supposed to be Henry, Regina’s adoptive Son and biologic son of Emma

Reader 4 

Lucas is a “young” Henry for direct correlation, but probably more modeled after Roland, the son of Robin and Marian that Regina helped raise for a bit.

Roland is/was about Lucas’s age, whereas Henry starts in OUAT as a 10-year old

and we only see him as an infant in flashbacks in OUAT

but again, that’s one of the modifications that really worked well for shifting from fanfic to original fic

Cara Malone

I never read the fanfic but Lucas was definitely a highlight in this story

Loved the blind dates too – great comic relief

Reader 3

I also loved how the relationship with Elena’s mother went from the dreaded interrogation to she and Allison teaming up to tease Elena

Reader 2

I’m so glad the middle date was purposely making it bad. I was concerned lol

Reader 3 

Oh, those blind dates were wonderfully horrific!

Made me so glad that I never went on a blind date!

Reader 4 

Finding out the shift in who to set her up with was a great way to show Vivian’s awareness.

Cara Malone 

Oh man, I was cringing through that whole interrogation. A testament to how much Allison cares about Elena that she was willing to sit through it at all

Reader 3 

Oh yes! There are things that we can endure for love that we would not choose to endure for any other reason; and grilling by potential mother-in-law has to be right up there (especially with how the anticipation was set up for this interrogation)

Cara Malone 

What did you guys think about Elena’s decision to go on the third blind date, with the woman?

Should she have gone like she did or make an excuse to stay with concussed Allison?

Reader 2 

I think she should have stayed, but it worked better to have her leave.

I should clarify, to me as a person she should have stayed. As a writer, it made sense to have her leave.

Reader 4

Allison told her to go; to me the decision to go was because Elena had to acknowledge that Allison is her own person, and should know her own body. She realizes she cares, step 1. Going to the date with the woman showed her that it could be more than caring. So the date gave her character emotional growth and self-awareness. Necessary if you are taking a presumably heterosexual character and having them shift their sexuality.

Reader 3

I agree, Reader 2. I could make it a coin-flip decision if it was just Allison’s wellbeing, maybe… but it feels to me like Elena would (in reality) have worried about the potential effects on Lucas, if something were to happen and Allison were not 100%

Reader 2

Yeah, for me as a parent, with a with who has had plenty of head injuries, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable leaving. But, in the specific situation in this book, it still make sense.

Cara Malone

Did you guys have a favorite scene or anything in particular that you loved about the story?

Reader 2 

Every moment of cuteness with Allison, but really, that scene in the shower was the best

Reader 4 

I will defer my answer to my earlier comment about all the little moments. LOL

Reader 1

The scene in the shower

Reader 3 

For me, Lucas stole the show. Especially when he would talk about Allison having a sleepover with either he or his mother

Reader 1 

Yeah, Lucas was the star of the book

When he found Alisson in Elena’s bed

Cara Malone 

I tend to pay attention to prose and word choice a lot and KL had a lot of great lines. I think this was the first time Elena and Allison met, “She watched the girl’s emerald eyes rake the length of her body.”

Reader 3 

I thought of the way so many of us have been living the past few weeks with one sentence in Chapter 8…

[Allison] hated days like this, when she desperately wanted to do something, anything, but everything she actually did just bored her.

I know I had a couple of those days myself this week

Cara Malone 

Yup, that definitely sounds familiar

Do you guys find yourselves reading more or less in quarantine?

Reader 2 

I’m more busy than before

I might find a way to read more now that i have to (and want to).

Reader 1 

A little less reading, but I’m going back on track again

Reader 3 

I’m reading a little less: we bought a game console to help pass the time and… I find my routine just enough “off” with my partner working from home instead of the daily routine of dropping her off at/picking her up from the office

It’s not a whole lot less, but it’s there. (Though I did completely stop listening to audiobooks, because I mostly listen to them in the car.)

Cara Malone 

Yeah it seems like there should be a lot more time in the day now but the quotient of additional stressors has gone up too

I miss my audiobooks so much

Reader 2

Ok, I literally just finished the last chapter (because time management is hard) and I liked how she worked the popcorn and candy in at the end

Cara Malone 

Is my memory correct that Elena holds her ground and doesn’t try it?

Reader 2 

She holds her ground at first, then Allison explains how it represents them

but then she tries it

she says it isn’t awful, but it isn’t heavenly either

Cara Malone 

I figured there was no way she would get through an entire lifetime without trying Allison’s favorite snack – just couldn’t remember if it happened on the page

She’s pretty contrary – probably liked it more than she admitted haha

Cara Malone 

Well, we’re at just about the bottom of the hour… I did ask KL the questions that the group posed and here are her answers.

What inspires your stories?

I am inspired by a great number of things, but for characters and relations, I am often inspired by the people I’ve known or connected without throughout my life. I’ve been inspired by my own life experiences and those of others as well. I do my best to make characters that feel genuinely human in how they experience both joy and suffering because my whole life has been a very human experience in that way, that roller coaster of genuine joy and suffering.

How do you choose character names?

Sometimes, they just pop in my head, but often I do research from the years my characters were born, places they were born, culture, etc. Sometimes, I just pick names I like or have seen somewhere!

How hard your schedule been affected by recent events?

As far as my writing schedule, it hasn’t much been affected outside of the stresses and empathy induced anxiety affecting my motivation to work. I find I have even more time to research and write but less energy to do so. I am doing my best to keep balanced and well though and maintain schedule normalcy. But I also make sure not to let myself overwork so as to keep a healthy mind and balance in that way as well. My meetings schedule has come to a screeching halt due to the crisis, though, and that has been a bit stressful, but we are all doing our best.

What inspired the perfume bottle scene?

Ah, that ridiculous scene! To be honest (and embarrassed), it was inspired by an actual event in my life. It wasn’t quite so traumatic (nothing as hard or edged as a perfume bottle), but it was hilarious. I thought it would make for a great, funny, and endearing scene so I decided to use my experience as inspiration to write something similar but amped up a bit!

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a bit of both, though more of a pantser. I tend to have a solid but very general idea of story flow with a more meticulous idea of character structure before I begin. I have big points I want to hit or scenes I want to write to and from, but I try not to overplan or it kills my passion for the work as I love the joy of discovery. It truly depends on the work though. Some stories require a lot more research or, by the nature of their structure, more planning.

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