Unless you've been hiding under a rock you probably heard the story about the US couple who saved their home by self publishing erotic stories on internet? Or about how Natasha Walker, author of The Secret Lives of Emma, is a guy not a gal? And we all know the story behind the exponential rise in popularity of that sexy book everyone but my dog has read. It’s brought my attention to interesting phenomena around sexy books and what makes them popular – the story behind the story.
I've been blogging here about some of the hairier questions I've been asked since The Yearning was published. My sex life has suddenly become a point of interest, in particular my past sex life. The most common question I get asked, directly or indirectly, is ‘did it happen to you?’
Most people to want to know what inspires books, but everyone wants to know what inspires sexy books. Our appetite for a bit of salacious gossip is alive and well. We are voyeuristically fascinated by the tales of authors who have gone where we have feared to tread. It’s as though we need to gaze at the mirrored experience of others in order to reassure ourselves ‘I am normal’ or ‘Thank goodness I didn't go there’ or ‘I’m not alone’. Having watched how stories behind stories increase the popularity of books, I have considered my answer to this question at length.
IF I admit that, yes, I had a hot illicit affair with one of my high school teachers when I was 15, what kind of media attention could I expect to attract? A lot, I think. Because then The Yearning takes on new meaning, people will read it in a different way. They imagine me, in my unabashed youth, wandering guilelessly into a dangerous and damaging affair. They wonder how my family now feel now about having it all put ‘out there’ for the world to see. People will want to hear me talk about it and explain and justify why the teacher in question was never brought to justice.
Student/teacher relationships aren't uncommon. I’m not talking here about predatory paedophilic relationships, but the relationships that evolve as a result of mutual attraction. A number of women who have been through it have told me that The Yearning ‘nails it’. Yet, the book alone, no matter how accurately it portrays the scenario, no matter how well received and reviewed, is not enough to get the media’s ‘juicy’ factor going. What media wants from me is an open admission that this story is in some way my own.
Such an admission is not to be taken lightly. Let’s think about this. I have a primary school aged daughter and am part of a small school community. My step daughter and brother are both teachers. I have a family I care deeply about. I still keep in touch with friends from high school. Exposing a story like this has serious ramifications, not just for me, but for other people in my life.
Yet plenty of authors would, because they know that it would significantly increase the exposure and interest in their book. In fact, some authors have lied with reckless abandon about their personal experiences in order to achieve better book sales. It’s a stunt that, even if it backfires, assures them of notoriety.
But I’m not a liar (unless chocolate is involved). Nor am I ambitious enough to expose my daughter to things she’s too young to understand. The truth? The Yearning is an emotionally honest book. Inspiration from my past? All I ask is does it really matter and why?