A vain, wealthy divorce lawyer, 40, a notorious easy lover, locks eyes with a female intern, 21. He sees a flash of lightning as the thunder rocks him. For her, the earth moves.
This is a modern love story played out in “Blindfolded Innocence,” by Alessandra Torre, below. Through a trilogy, which includes “Masked Innocence” and “The End of Innocence,” fervid cravings lead to lasting love. Though love doesn’t come easy, in time, two hearts beat as one.
“The story is undeniably about my husband, Joe, and I,” says Torre. “Joe’s older than me, striking and was an infamous philanderer.” He is Brad. I’m Julia.
“Our story wasn’t naughty enough. I had to spice up ‘Blindfolded.”
Adding spice worked. “I was selling three thousand Kindle versions of ‘Blindfolded Innocence,’ a day,” says Torre. She regularly received high five-figure cheques from Amazon; her e-books cost three dollars.
The final books, in the “Innocence” series, are due in February and March 2014. “Then I’m done with Julia and Brad,” says Torre. “Let them live in their Hollywood ending, in peace.”
Another book, “The Girl in 6E,” has her attention, now. “6E” is about a young woman, Deanna, with a serious, if self-diagnosed, obsession. She holes up in her apartment; never leaving, having what she needs delivered.
To pay the bills, Deanna works, online, for camming sites. She only needs a camera attached to a computer, with Internet access, to earn an obscene amount of money. As an actor, she links with clients via camming websites. For seventy per cent of what she earns, the sites protect her identity and collect credit card payments from clients. “Deanna also has her own camming site, where she keeps all the money,” says Torre.
Camming is an ideal setting for a thriller. “It offers many new ways to create suspense, with much spice, while avoiding physical contact,” says Torre. It’s a take on “Rear Window,” directed by Alfred Hitchcock, “but much spicier.”
“6E” did not sell well, at first. “Yet, there was much interest for the film rights. The rights sold to four overseas areas and we, my agent and I, are dealing for more. Now, book sales are picking up.”
Torre is a new author. “Blindfolded Innocence” was her first book. “On Writing: a memoir of the craft,” by Stephen King, and self-publishing motivated her to try writing.
King says everyone can write, at some level. “Self-publishing,” Torre says, “is inclusive. Anyone can publish what he or she writes. As well, the author controls all parts of publishing: cover design, price, promotion.”
Torre, 29, writes fast; smoke rises from her keyboard. “I aim for three thousand words, six days a week,” she says. “I can write anywhere. I’m not easily distracted. Still, 10 pm to 2 am, when the house and dogs are quiet, are my most productive hours.”
In this interview, Alessandra Torre talks about writing and her success in self-publishing. She’s clear the story comes first. Yet, a liberal spicing, to taste, is okay.
Grub Street (GS) You threw a party after you sold four hundred copies of “Blindfolded Innocence.” A couple of months later, you had sold twenty thousand books. What a rush.
Alessandra Torre (AT) Yes, when I published “Blindfolded Innocence,” my first book, I had no idea what I was doing. I self-published the book on Amazon; there was a deal for exclusivity on Amazon.
The first day, I sprang out of bed and rushed to check my sales. Four Kindle versions of “Blindfolded Innocence” sold. I was so excited; that was huge to me.
After my euphoria eased, a bit, I wondered how four buyers found my book. I hadn’t told anyone about what I was doing. It turned out, my husband, Joe, had secretly asked four family members and friends to buy the book.
I hadn’t told my family about “Blindfolded Innocence.” I wasn’t sure how they’d react. It’s a spicy novel.
I didn’t want my family assuming the ostensibly kinky intimacy, threading through the book, came from my personal life. Once it became obvious writing was my new career, I owned up about the book. I made clear which parts were Joe and I, which parts were not.
GS Who created the controversial cover of “Blindfolded Innocence.”
AT I created the original cover, using a picture of me cropped to the lowest part of my midriff.
GS You’re nervy.
AT I didn’t consider it scandalous. The reaction from readers was huge, both good and a bad. During a book signing, in New Orleans, LA, a young woman said to me, “You’re the crotch-shot author, but you look so normal. I thought you would have chains, piercings and craziness.”
I didn’t tell her I was in the picture. I don’t think I’ve told anybody that I’m the model, until now. No matter, it enticed readers to click and read the blurb that sold the book.
Someone at Amazon thought the cover too lewd. Amazon quickly banned the book as soon as I hit the top of its best-selling erotica list. At this point, “Blindfolded Innocence” was selling 3,000 Kindle editions a day.
GS You were selling three thousand e-books each day.
AT Yes, it was exciting.
GS That’s flabbergasting.
AT That was when literary agents and publishers began calling. It took three months to get to that point from the day I published “Blindfolded Innocence.” I enjoyed the ride.
GS I see you’re giving E L James a run for best-selling author of Kindle titles.
AT That’s what my publicist tells me.
GS What’s your favourite word?
AT Intimacy, there’s pure beauty in saying and experiencing the word. When people are intimate, it is beautiful. Trust, comfort and honesty, becoming an extension of each other, need not be sexual; telling secrets you know won’t leak to the public.
GS What is your least favourite word?
AT That’s easy, amazeballs, I hate any annoying neologisms, especially those pushed for acceptance, but ‘amazeballs’ is my least favorite. Every time I hear the word I cringe. Thankfully, the word seems to be fading from usage.
GS How many books have you self-published?
AT I self-published four books, so far. I'm including, in those four, “The Girl in 6E” and “Blindfolded Innocence,” which are now with traditional publishers. I also self-published a miniseries that had four stories; eventually, I combined them into one book.
GS Your books sell for between three and four dollars.
AT Yes, when I started selling thousands of copies of “Blindfolded Innocence,” my husband advised me to set aside money for taxes. He has always worked in a commission-based industry. He knows it’s easy to fall into the tax trap.
GS What occupation would you not like to do?
AT Accounting, it calls for too much attention to detail. I’m not good with details. When I worked in administration, I disliked doing accounting the most.
GS What was your original career goal as a writer?
AT After I finished university, I worked for $35,000 as an administrative assistant. When I began writing, I hoped to make as much as my previous jobs paid. I figured, once I had five or ten e-books published, my goal was reasonable.
GS Seems a fair goal.
AT I thought it might take a year or two to get to that point, which was okay. Three months later, Amazon was sending cheques for two or three times my original goal. It was crazy. It was cool.
We, my husband, Joe, and I, decided to invest that money in my career. You never know what might happen. The next book could be a flop and the next book could be a success or all flops and all successes, so prepare for good and bad.
GS It’s a wonder what one can do with a bunch of pixels.
AT Yes, with a Word document and a $50.00 cover a writer can sell a great many books. That’s the great part, with writing and self-publishing, there are zero barriers to entry. This is good.
It could also be bad. Someone may write several books, of no worth at all, e-publish, but with catchy titles, say. The reader doesn’t know what’s what until he or she buys the e-book. All the reader has is the cover, blurb and reviews, if any. Even the reviews may be fakes.
GS What occupation, other than writing, would you like to try?
AT Web designer, its main appeal is doing it from anywhere: home, office, coffee shop and so forth. As well, it plays into my creative interests. I love making web banners for my books and such.
GS How do you get your manuscript from your computer to the online Kindle version?
AT For “Blindfolded Innocence,” I did all the publishing steps myself. Every site, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Smash Words, Eye Books, have an easy way to upload for publishing. All the uploading takes a regular Word document. Any writer, with a manuscript in Word, can upload it to the website, in five minutes.
When I say five-minutes, it’s true someone might take ten minutes, first time. After you find your way, publishing takes five minute. The companies make self-publishing easy.
You insert your cover file. Ensure you create a great cover; many readers do judge a book by its cover. The cover attracts first attention to your book.
You insert your blurb, which is the book description that goes on Amazon, say. Write a crisp blurb to post on the e-book retailer websites. The blurb is what the buyer sees after the cover, it must increase interest in the book.
Then jump off the cliff, upload your book. Amazon puts it into a package. Your book is for sale within six-to-twelve hours. Amazon says it takes 24-to-48 hours, but usually it publishes in less than twelve hours, as a Kindle book.
GS In six-to-twelve hours, I can start reading the clean and ready book.
AT Yes, it could be sooner. Fully expect to crash a few times. Books, electronic or traditional, from first-time writers rarely catch on; I was fortunate. Normally, you need to write a few books before you catch on.
GS Do you have to do this for Kindle, Nook and each website where you self-publish an electronic version of your books.
AT Yes, I do. Smash Words will do everything, if the author chooses. The author uploads his or her manuscript to Smash Words. Then Smash Words delivers it to most of the major retailers of e-books, in the world, including Amazon. Smash Words takes a cut of author earnings for this service.
Another step is formatting. For me, it is a simple exercise. I can do it myself, but lately I haven’t had the time. I use an experienced formatter.
Starting with, “The Dumont Diaries” I sent the clean final copy to the formatter. He added the fancy details, the copyright information and the time breaks, dresses up the chapter headings and so forth. This isn’t a necessary step, but it adds to a quality appearance.
When the book is ready, I upload it to the e-book retailer sites. I click a few buttons. Presto, the new book is ready for readers to buy and read.
For someone who is new to self-publishing, it might seem a daunting set of tasks: write the book, design the cover, write a blurb and so forth. If up-loading to the retailer sites is confusing for you, then the first time, use Smash Words or a similar service. Consider the fee, charged by Smash Words, an investment in your work.
GS You’re a strong supporter of self-publishing.
AT Electronic publishing, e-publishing, is a wonderful industry. I never would have gone the traditional route. Rewind five years to when writers had to send manuscripts to agents and publishers. Once the manuscript was ready, writers begged agents or publishers to read it.
Often, the experience was humiliating. Cold rejection was easy to take personally and rarely, I understand, did a rejection letter include any worthwhile criticism. I could not have done it.
I didn’t think I had the gift to write. Writing didn’t occur to me, until I noticed how many books E L James, author “Fifty Shades of Grey,” was selling and I read, “On Writing: a memoir of the craft,” by Stephen King. Also, without self-publishing, I would not be doing what I’m doing.
GS What advice do you offer a first-time self-publisher or e-publisher
AT Edit, edit, edit; don’t publish before the editing is complete and done by an experienced editor. Invest money in editing and proofreading; don’t rely solely on the spelling or grammar checker built into your software. Find a qualified editor to help you develop a clean and polished book before you make it available for sale.
Have friends, relatives and, maybe, bloggers read your manuscript. You want brutal comments on your writing and story. You do not want polite or dainty comments that your writing or book is oh-so good; you want truth, no matter how harsh.
GS You mentioned blurbs. Do you write your own blurbs?
AT Yes, I do, but sometimes the publisher, such as Harlequin changes the blurb to suit its needs.
GS The blurb for “6E” was great.
AT It had the effect I wanted.
GS Can you remember what you wrote for “6E”?
AT Sure, “My life,” went the blurb, “inside this apartment is simple. It works, as long as I follow the rules. Don’t leave the apartment, not in case of fire, not to mail a letter, not to run an errand. The door stays shut, and I stay inside. Don’t attach to clients. I take off my clothes, I stand in front of the camera and I perform. What they want, I give. Their secrets, I keep. Everything I tell clients is a lie. Don’t kill anyone. I’ve obeyed that rule for over three years. My life, inside this apartment was simple, and it worked. Then, I started breaking rules.”
GS “Blindfolded Innocence” had a series of different covers.
AT The first one, with the photograph cropped to my crotch, was one hundred per cent my cover. I think that cover along sold a great many books. After the cover changed, a few times, some readers said I should go back to the original cover.
Many readers liked the first cover because it’s risqué. I didn’t think it risqué, titillating, yes, but not coarse. I thought it was normal.
GS In way, she’s losing her innocence, shown by the covering up with two hands.
AT There’s naturalness to the cover, especially as you can’t see any other part of her body. I think it’s a good cover. Yet, there are four other covers for “Blindfolded Innocence.”
GS Is that you on the other cover, with a woman straddling a man sitting in a chair.
AT No, in fact, I think that woman is in her forties, I think. I found her a poor representation of Julia. I didn’t care for that cover.
GS Is there are story behind the covers for “Blindfolded Innocence”?
AT Yes, here’s what happened. Amazon banned the cover, as I mentioned, right at the time Harlequin bought the rights. I had to get a new cover fast, but now Harlequin was in the game.
Harlequin came up with the second cover, of the older woman straddling a man who is sitting in a chair. I thought the second cover was even more risqué the first. I wasn’t a fan of the woman because she seems hard.
That was when I realized I no longer had control over the book. Harlequin sent me four choices for the second cover. I said anyone except number two. Of course, number two is the one Harlequin picked.
The second cover lasted two weeks, maybe. Then it changed to one with a man standing behind a woman. I wasn’t crazy about that cover, either. What the third cover depicts shows the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing: the publisher controller the cover choices, not me.
GS Now, the cover, of “Blindfolded Innocence,” shows a zipper partially pulled down.
AT Yes, that’s the final cover, it’s on the print version, of “Blindfolded Innocence.”
I don’t think I ever complained about the girl, with the man standing behind her, his hand on her shoulder. It was better than the second cover. It fit the story, much better, that is, older man and younger woman, but not ideally.
Last summer, I got word Harlequin wanted to revamp the cover, again. That’s when the X-Rayed zipper appeared.
The cover of “Masked Innocence” uses X-Rays of a woman’s shirt. I love that cover. It’s clean and classy, different and no retailer will ban the book because of a lewd cover.
GS What is one fact about you that would surprise us?
AT Before anyone found out about my writing, everyone teased me for being a prude. I wear innocence well.
GS That you do and it’s a good segue into talking about “The Girl in 6E.” It is not amatorial. It’s a great story, a great new form of thriller.
AT I had difficulty classifying “6E.” At a signing, in Kansas City, a young woman came up to me. She said, “It’s not erotica; none of the characters engage, face-to-face, until near the end and it’s not a sexual entanglement. You shouldn’t have it called it erotica.”
I agreed with her. Yet, erotica is a story in which sexual action is central. That is how I separate erotica from romance. The former involves, but need not rely on, sexual action. The latter does not involve such action, directly.
In “6E,” I plainly describe cybersex. I describe the girl and her body. How she plays with her toys for clients that pay to watch over the Internet.
I think about what words I can write or can’t write. I write what I believe the reader needs to know. She or he needs to know what I know about Deanna, the woman at the centre of the story in “6E,” to understand and enjoy the story.
GS There’s only the protagonist.
AT Yes, she’s mostly alone. Honestly, I do consider “6E” a thriller. The way I want to classify it is as a sensuous thriller.
That’s not to offend the reader. Truthfully, I think “6E” may offend some readers. Still, I can understand why someone might not see it as erotica.
GS A matter of what context you choose.
AT Yes, that’s my audience. My readers, my fans, mostly women, want erotica. They were anxious for another book, after “Blindfolded Innocence,” and that book was “6E.”
The amatory aspect of “6E” was almost crucial to the plot. I’m not sure, Deanna, the protagonist in “6E,” could work any other job. She confines herself to her apartment; whatever she needs, she has delivered. This is a costly lifestyle, which camming supports, with much money left over.
GS What is camming?
AT Camming involves a camera attached to a computer, with Internet access, most likely broadband. A woman or man finds and connects with online, paying clients through a camming website. The website acts as a firewall to protect the identity of the man or woman that performs for the online clients as well as collect credit card payments from clients. Camming sites charge upward of seventy per cent of what the model earns.
Deanna learned to use her own camming website, which meant she kept almost all the money, as well as work for others. Any other line of work, which paid as well as did camming, would likely need her to leave her apartment. She couldn’t leave for any reason, which is part of the conflict in “6E.” Camming made the storyline feasible because it simplified her lifestyle.
GS You needed the computer and Internet to set up the confrontation between the real world and the perfect private world Deanna built for herself.
AT Yes, I could have made it less direct. I could have written the same story, but toned it down, done more behind the doors. Yet, that’s what’s great about “6E”: it’s in your face in so many ways and must be. I was curious to see how readers respond.
GS Where did you get the ideas for “The Girl in 6E”?
AT I wanted to do a book on camming. On the web, advertisements pop-up, all the time, offering online rendezvouses, with seemingly young women or, sometimes, men. That grabbed my interest. As I found out about the work, the story began to develop.
I dove into that world. I talked with models. I was curious about these women. What were their stories? How they got into that line of work?
I wanted to see if I could find a story. I was thinking about more of a romance. One woman I interviewed mentioned her darker clients. That got me thinking along a different route. I am a reader of thrillers and suspense novels; these darker clients interested me.
GS Do you read many romance novels.
AT No, I rarely read romance. I’m not much of a romance novel fan. I like gore, murder and mayhem, thus my interest in the darker clients.
Ideally, I would love to write more suspense and less romance. Maybe, I thought, “6E’ would allow me to blend both ideas. So, I started writing.
I don’t know where Deanna came from. I don’t know the background on her obsession with murder. I was trying to think of a way for her to need to stay locked away, by herself, in an apartment. Her obsession was my way to keep her away from other people.
Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. I wrote “6E” in three or four weeks, I think. The story jumped from my fingertips on to the keyboard.
GS You wrote a draft of that book in four weeks.
AT Yes, originally the book was shorter. It was fifty thousand words when it first published. It normally takes me four-to-six weeks to write a book that runs 50,000-to-70,000 words.
GS Do you realise how fast that is.
AT I don’t have much to use as a comparison.
GS That’s lightning fast. Considering the maximum in days and words, it’s roughly 1650 finished words a day. Smoke must rise from your keyboard.
AT It does.
GS What item must you carry all the time?
AT For obvious reasons, I always have a writing pad and several pens handy. My fingers are too slow to make notes on a phone. I like to write during down periods, say, standing in a long line, stuck in traffic and so forth.
GS What inspires you?
AT I find inspiration in many places, such as fantasies and conflict. Yet, I like to sit in restaurants or coffee shops and listen; I’m an eavesdropper. There’s much to inspire in the conflict inherent in many conversations. Imagining the lives of those in conversation creates story ideas.
GS What’s a typical writing day for you?
AT A normal day, for me, starts by working through the main social media sites. Then I work on rewriting my current manuscript. Usually, I restrict this time to obvious edits and so forth, nothing new or too involved.
I’m a late-night writer. I don’t normally write new material during the day. My best writing hours are from 10 pm until 2 am or, maybe, 3 am.
The dogs are quiet then; I have two dogs that always need attention. I turn off the Internet. Sometimes, I’ll put on music. Everybody, in my home, is asleep.
Late, late night, when my house is quiet, I can write nonstop. That’s when I get the most done. Nobody interrupts me.
A writer works best when there’s uninterrupted quiet. For me, that’s in the middle of the night. The daytime is usually too hectic for me to write, much.
GS Let’s see. You write 1650 final words a day. Your writing day is four or five hours. Those are productive hours.
AT Yes, I usually shoot for three thousand words a day. If I don’t make it or want a day off, then it’s no big deal. I stay on schedule.
GS Do you write seven days a week, for this four-to-seven week period.
AT No, I normally write five or six days a week. I aim for three thousand words, six days a week. That’s roughly eight pages a day.
It’s easy for me, now. When I’m older, I might not be able to stay awake until 2 am, let alone work that late. I’m cramming all I can these days.
If necessary, I can also write anywhere. I write in the car, when I’m not driving. As a family, we’re on the road much of the time. I write with headphones on while we drive.
I’ve written while watching television, in the living room. I don’t have to be quiet. I’m most productive when it’s quiet, though.
What’s good is I write full-time. I’ve been lucky. There’s no stress at 2 am or 3 am. There’s no pressure for me to be up at 7 am or 8 am, either. I sleep in as long as I wish.
GS As a writer, what’s your favourite curse word?
AT F***, which is not an original answer, I know. Yet, it’s the word for all seasons and circumstances. It’s a noun, a verb, an adjective and an adverb. The word covers so much territory, terror, joy, anger, happiness.
GS What do you do with that draft, of “6E,” say, once you believe it’s finished?
AT Normally, I set it aside for two or three weeks. I might start yet another book. I might rewrite a different book or do something else, away from writing.
When I come back to a manuscript, I read it, all the way through. I flag parts that might need rewriting or flushing out. I cut chapters or scenes.
When I write the draft, I put XXX in places for a city or street name, say, that I need to research. I go through and fill in some of those places. I spend roughly two weeks cleaning up the manuscript. Only then, do I send it to my editor.
GS You hire an extra set of eyes.
AT Yes, in a sense, but she’s more than that. I have an editor, Madison Seidler. She has a large clientele of independent writers.
Seidler reads the manuscript. She gives me her thoughts. She does a quick initial edit for typos and such.
GS It’s difficult to do a close read and not want to fix minor slips.
AT Yes, normally, I send Seidler a list of questions, too. My worst fault is ending the story too abruptly. My thinking is, “Okay, I am done.” Thus, I usually have a bunch of questions for her; did she enjoy a certain part, what’s her favourite part of the manuscript, did the story end abruptly and so forth.
Seidler sends me her thoughts, answers all my questions and offers suggestions. I spend another two weeks to a month improving the manuscript from her suggestions. Then the manuscript is ready to publish.
GS Do you use beta readers?
AT No, I don’t use beta readers. I tried that once. It was ten readers. They gave wildly conflicting opinions. It was just too hard to find a way to use all the comments. I like Madison Seidler. I trust her opinions as well as my own.
GS Is Seidler the only prepublication editorial reader.
AT In a sense, yes, but once I finish cleaning and polishing, I send the manuscript to ten bloggers. “Here’s the Advanced Review Copy (ARC),” I say. “Here is a list of questions for you to answer.” I want to know about their favourite parts or if I need to remove any part of the book.
The ARC copies are as clean and polished as possible, at that point. It’s a manuscript in Word or, maybe, a PDF. The idea is to get early comments and, maybe, reviews on blogging websites, when the book publishes.
Using the comments from the ten bloggers, I may do a last minute tweaking. If most readers, of the ARC copy, thought a certain part of the book should come out, I may remove it or revise it. If all the bloggers hate the lead character, I have a problem. So far, no serious problems have arisen from the early reading of ARCs.
GS You must exercise much judgement when considering comments from ARC readers.
AT I’ve learned that I can’t please everybody or make all the changes everyone suggests. If it’s something that someone hates, that’s a strong emotion, which is great; I pay attention. There are parts of “Blindfold Innocence” that readers hated, but I left those parts in the book because I think it’s important for the character.
GS Once you’ve gone to the bloggers, you’ve made the changes based on their suggestions and you say, “Here it is,” what do you do with it?
After the Seidler sends me back the clean final copy and I integrate blogger comments, the book is ready for formatting and uploading to online retailers.
GS What sound or noise do you love?
AT A groan, as it’s manly, especially during intimate moments. The man can’t help himself. He’s no longer fighting; he gives in. It’s raw, animalistic. I love it.
GS Where did you get the idea for “Blindfolded Innocence”?
AT It’s a love story. It’s about how I met my husband. Well, the basic story is about my husband and me. Joe was thirty-four and I was twenty-one, when we met.
For three weeks, friends and co-workers told me to stay away from Joe. He is Italian, a womaniser; he's sleeping with half the town. I had not laid eyes on him, yet.
He didn’t concern me, at this point. I had no interest in an old man. I had recently broken an engagement and wanted alone time, I thought.
GS This is clearly Julia in “Blindfolded.”
AT Yes, there are many likenesses between Julia, the protagonist in “Blindfolded Innocence,” and me. It was just as if I were Julia. My husband flew me to Las Vegas, within three days of us meeting. Brad did much the same for Julia, in the story.
After I left an administrative job, my husband, Joe, said I should write, if only to fill time. When I started to write “Blindfolded Innocence,” I wrote what I knew. The kinky parts I added later.
The first problem was our story, the story of Joe and I, wasn’t risqué enough. I didn’t want to go the bondage and discipline, dominance and submission or sadism and masochism route. Too many authors were jumping on the “Fifty Shades of Grey” bandwagon. To inspire of “Blindfolded,” I took another direction I thought I could explore in later books, too.
GS You imagined a series from the outset.
AT Yes, “Blindfolded” published. “Masked Innocence” is due 25 February 2014.The third instalment is “The End of the Innocence,” which I am self-publishing, too. It will not be in bookstores, only available through e-retailer Amazon, on 25 March 2014.
I'm not saying I wouldn't do a Novella, at Christmas, say, or more about Julia and Brad, but in five years, say. For now, the story of Julia and Brad has its Hollywood ending.
GS “Blindfolded Innocence” veered away from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” focus.
AT Yes, once I realised I had a series of books, I started to develop more characters. Brad, the man everyone tells Julia to avoid, is a swinger. I had to find more characters, multiple partners, if you like.
Most readers, of erotica, are women, not men. Women view swinging as sleazy. The word, swinging, has a sleazy ring to it.
GS I don’t care for the word, either.
AT I strongly dislike the word swinging. Yet, it’s the only word readers understand when “sharing” doesn't fully describe the lifestyle. I was trying to think of another word, other than swinging.
I wanted to make the idea, of swinging, less creepy. I needed a word to help explain why and how couples fall into this lifestyle. I didn’t find another word. I went with swinging.
For Brad and Julia, in “Blindfolded Innocence,” swinging compliments their lives. Readers say, “I want them to stop that” or “I want Brad to be happy with JUST Julia.” I say, “Well, it's not about not loving Julia.”
Brad is happy with Julia. He wants to satisfy his need for competitiveness, to be the best. He wants to include and please Julia.
I hope I took some of the scariness away from that lifestyle. I wanted to make it more relatable to a typical woman. I wanted a reader that never thought about such a lifestyle say, “Oh, That’s how it works,” for example.
“Blindfolded” is not a sales pitch for swinging. To describe and discuss a topic is not to recommend doing it. I wanted to follow that aphorism.
GS You said Brad De Luca is my husband one hundred per cent.
AT My husband agrees, he thinks Brad is awesome, but my husband is not a reader. He did find “Blindfolded” easy to read, most likely because of the similarities with our love story.
When I try to figure out how Brad would react to a certain circumstance, I ask my husband. He's as strong as is Brad. My husband was a self-styled playboy when I met him.
As with Brad, my husband loves women. He will point out a beautiful woman when he sees one. Again, as with Brad, my husband is an alpha male and lovable in his own way, even in his negatives, if that makes sense.
I can never stay mad at my husband. He's always able to disarm me. We get in great conversations, about sex and relations, as do Brad and Julia.
There is a scenario, in “The End of the Innocence,” where an ex-lover comes back into Julia's life. I worked out, for myself, how Brad would react. He would be possessive; march up to the fellow and give him a piece of his mind or worse.
When I asked my husband, he had a different reaction. “You must understand this man was her fiancé. He loves her. He's heartbroken. I don't think the right way to react to that is to threaten to beat him up.”
Julia needed to talk, seriously, with her former finance. He was not going to step out of her life unless he knew, unless she convinced him, that’s what she needed and wanted. It wasn’t about her new boyfriend.
I changed the scenario. My husband was right. I think that's how Brad would respond.
GS What turns you off?
AT A man hiccupping, it’s not masculine, although he can’t help it.
GS In “Blindfolded Innocence,” I got the impression Julia is wiley, always scheming. She wonders how high her heels should be and how much cleavage she should show.
AT Julia is a little crafty, yes. I think many beautiful women are crafty; they learn through experience. I didn't know until I married. We, my husband and I, talk so much about everything, including the control women have over men.
I learned much more about how men think. I realise, now, that women have much control. I had no idea, when I was in college, say, about the control women own.
GS It’s also a dangerous tool.
AT I wish I had known. I almost don't want to know, even today. Maybe it is good that women have no idea how much control they have. How easy is it for them to manipulate men?
I hope that's not offensive. I don't mean it that way. Yet, it’s easy for women to manipulate circumstances, if we want. I think Julia has an excessively strong ego and understands, if only implicitly, that she has much control.
GS What is your favourite indulgence?
AT Shoes, it’s a sickness.
GS Have readers commented about Julia.
AT Readers often say, in a good way, how Julia is full of herself. I tried to let the reader in on how she thinks. She’s only twenty-one years old and handles herself well. She also protects herself, well.
GS Why must Julia go after a man? Why wouldn't it happen spontaneously?
AT Well, a single woman might think romantic relations, with a particular man, would be good. Why wouldn't she go after him? Spontaneity might not happen.
Julia is used to being the aggressor. That changes when she meets Brad. He’s the epitome of an alpha male.
GS What turns you on?
AT Confident eye contact because it’s most personal. Across the room or in conversation, it takes much confidence for man to hold the eyes of a woman.
GS Strong confident men, many times, don’t find a strong confident woman attractive.
AT Yes, there’s a sense of competition. An aggressive, attractive woman may intimidate a man. I think too much aggressiveness comes off as needy. I thus think there's much benefit to playing a game and being aloof.
If Julia had been the aggressor, in her relations with Brad, his interest would not whet. Julia had a great to deal think about, to consider, when it came to Brad. I don't know what and how she thought were necessarily the thoughts of a twenty-one year old woman.
Julia knew from the beginning about her interest in Brad. She wanted his attention even if they weren’t partners. The aura of Brad, developed before she set eyes on him, needed some form of fulfilment.
GS What sound or noise do you hate?
AT “Oops,” as it means something has gone wrong. I prefer an ordered life.
GS “Blindfolded Innocence” seems a story about a woman and man falling in lust.
AT It’s a love story. I was writing about two people falling in love. I was writing a story about my husband and me falling love.
That said, I think love is a difficult idea for most readers, of “Blindfolded,” to grasp, especially since the courtship is quick. The typical reader, I think, is accustomed to instant love in romance novels. Yet, I know Julia and Brad, they will fall in love, but, by the end of “Blindfolded,” that hasn’t happened, yet.
When I met my husband, it was instant attraction. I knew, within a month, he was the person with whom I wanted to spend my life. In “Blindfolded Innocence,” Brad and Julia are falling in lusy. There's not a chance for them to fall, fully in love, yet.
No one knows enough about a person in a week to know if you should trust your heart, your life, with that decision. “Blindfolded Innocence” is the story of Julie and Brad falling in lust; I agree. It’s the first step of them falling in love.
They don't reach that point in “Blindfolded Innocence.” They don't say, “I love you.” They will.
GS For Julia and Brad you think falling in lust is necessary for them to fall in love.
AT Yes, for Brad DeLuca to fall in love, he needed a lead up, which was lust. That drew him to Julia. She was the right woman to draw him to the point where he was vulnerable enough to fall in love.
AT I think, for the story of Julia and Brad, lust brings them together. It keepS them together long enough for them to fall in love. Without lust, I don't think they ever would have fallen in love.
GS What is your favourite ice cream flavour?
AT Peppermint gets me in festive mood because it’s yummy.
GS Evelyn is a small character in “Blindfolded Innocence.”
AT Yes, she’s an older woman Brad helped out, sometime before the story begins.
GS I wonder if she doesn't show the potential for Brad to love.
AT Evelyn shows different sides of Brad. He’s known Evelyn for five or six years. She's as a mother to him.
GS She plays her role well.
AT Without Evelyn, all you see from Brad is lustful competition and aggression. Brad loves Evelyn and she loves him. Their relations are selfless. She helps reveal the depth of Brad De Luca.
GS It's interesting that Evelyn is an investor in Saffire.
AT Yes, they own Saffire, a club for men, in Las Vegas. It’s a going concern. Evelyn is doing well by Brad.
His well-hidden business dealings, with Evelyn, reveal the depth of Brad. He’s honest, sincere, protective and loving, in a different way, with her. Julia can now see him as multidimensional; this helps to lay the basis for love.
GS Your portrayal of Brad de Luca reminds me of Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey, without the girth.
AT Brad is big and strong, but not overweight or flabby. Christie has the same strong force and personality.
I see the likeness in Christie. He has the fierceness in his features, a smile that makes me wary. Christie is not far off.
I have yet to find a photograph of anyone who I can say, “That’s Brad de Luca.” Since each reader has her or his own idea of Brad, it doesn't make any difference what we think.
GS What is your favourite movie?
AT “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is my favourite movie because it’s a light-hearted comedy, a great diversion.
GS Have you sold the movie rights for any of your books.
AT Not yet, though much is happening for “The Girl in 6E,” which is interesting. I self-published the book, but It wasn’t a huge hit. Perhaps five thousand copies sold from the self-published edition.
The story, about the girl in living in apartment 6E, is sexual, without any physical contact. For that reason, the story could easily adapt to mainstream television, but, so far, we’ve only pitched for film. We, my agent and I, are fielding interest for the USA film rights.
Foreign interest in “6E” is even stronger than in the USA. I think “6E” has sold in six overseas markets. We’re working on more, now.
“Dumont Diaries” might make a solid miniseries. I haven’t discussed that with my agent. That pitch is for the future.
GS What city might you lose yourself in or explore for hours?
AT Miami, South Beach, specifically, because of the Cuban food as well as for watching people. The city has such energy. The water is beautiful.
GS “Sex, Love, Repeat” is another of your books.
AT Yes, but I can’t talk much about that book. Madison, the protagonist, has two lovers. The lovers know of each other and don’t mind. The triangle thus doesn’t involve cheating. That’s the most I can say.
There’s a huge twist, roughly forty per cent into the book. That twist changes the entire story. That’s why I can’t talk too much about “Sex, Love, Repeat.” I think knowing too much about the plot spoils it for readers.
GS What book are you reading, right now.
AT “Fear Nothing,” by Lisa Gardner, I go through her books like candy.
GS Who are your favourite writers?
AT My favourite author is Gillian Flynn, author of “Gone Girl,” among other novels. I’m one of her gazillion fans. I don't know that I am similar to her. That would be putting me at a level much greater.
GS Why do you enjoy the writing of Gillian Flynn?
AT She's unexpected. She writes thrillers or suspense, fearlessly. I never know what is going to happen in her books.
That, for me, is what makes the reading experience: caught off guard, not seeing the ending before it comes. Flynn is incredible, she writes the darkest novels and, if you see a photograph of her, she looks so sweet and innocent.
GS That might be a talent she learned writing for “Entertainment Weekly.”
AT Maybe, it’s as if every character in her books wants to kill people. If there are ten characters, in her book, each them harbours the darkest fantasies, often aimed at the other characters. Everyone should read “Gone Girl.” It’s been on the New York “Times” list, for two years, I think.
I also love what Lisa Gardner writes. “Instinct to Kill” is a great book as is her romance novel, “At the Midnight Hour.” Flynn and Gardner aren't erotic authors.
I read Jennifer Crusie, author of “Crazy People” and “Maybe this Time,” among others. I like how she blended amatory with mystery.
Normally, I don’t talk about authors that write the same content as I do. Readers often say my writing is different. This, I think, is because I don’t read writers that write about the same topics as I do. I guess I don’t know what mistakes not to make.
GS Yes, smart move.
GS What book do you urge readers read?
AT My number one recommendation, to everybody, is, “On Writing: a memoir of the craft,” by Stephen King. It’s must reading. I have given copies of this book to at least twenty of my readers. Even if a reader doesn’t intend to write, King helps him or her get more out of reading.
GS How do you promote your books?
AT Roughly a month before release, I send finished review copies to thirty to fifty bloggers. I sign up for a blog tour; this usually involves ten to fifteen more blogs, which also get an advance copy. The result is a flurry of reviews and blog comments on release day.
GS Do you send advance copies to other successful writers, say, hoping for a positive comment you can use.
AT No, although I do send books to any author that asks. There's a great community of independent authors; that is, self-publishing authors. The Indie Author Community (IAC) is not too competitive; everyone helps everyone.
I'm also part of a group of ten authors. We formed a group. We cross promote each other’s books.
Many times a member of IAC will say he or she can’t wait for my next book to come out, can I send a copy. I do. I would send every author a copy of my books, but I don’t want to push my books too hard.
Yes, I push bloggers all the time, but other authors are busy. None of us reads as much as we’d like. I don’t want to increase the burden.
GS Do you enjoy promoting your books?
AT It is a giant, bottomless bucket of time, that’s what I don’t like about book promotion. I need to be better at promotion. I have a full-time assistant, but I still must talk with my readers.
GS Pressing the flesh is good for sales.
AT Yes, good relations, with readers, are the bread-and-butter for a writer. If a reader can meet a writer, even for a moment, shake hands or get an autograph, the next few books are presold. Book promotion is a blessing and a curse, a love and hate duty for me.
I love networking, making banners, posters and chatting online. Yet, when I’m doing those tasks, I’m not writing. If I'm on a deadline, promotion is hard because I get so easily distracted by fans.
I’ve read all my life. Yet, I never look at the website of an author; never think to do it. I don’t seek out favourite authors on Facebook, say; I never e-mailed an author.
It surprises me how many readers do all that and more. It's cool, but it just never occurred to me as a reader to do that. Even if I read a book and found it exceptional, I might tell two or three people to read the book; that would be it.
Yet, there are readers who spend hours, each day, online, promoting my books. They promote the books of other authors, too. I don't know why they do it, but they're a gawd send. I appreciate their efforts so much.
GS Steven Tyler, of “Aerosmith,” says fans want to hear them perform the hits, mistakes and all. In your case, readers want to see you or listen to you talk.
AT As my husband tells me, all the time, if I recognize that my readers are part of my success, which they are, they will do anything for me. That is the case. I wouldn't have any success without bloggers, reader assistance and reviews.
GS What advice do you have for new writers?
AT I would like to say, to anyone who's considering writing, do it, now. I didn’t. It was only after E L James started making gobs of money from “Fifty Shades of Grey” and its sequels, did I seriously consider writing.
I had recently quit my job. Why not try writing. What did I have to lose?
I would suggest to anyone that’s even thinking about writing, to read “On Writing: a memoir of the craft,” by Stephen King. It’s the greatest book on earth. I'm trigger-happy about pushing women and men to write.
“On Writing” is so intelligent and helpful. It led me to decide to try writing. If it works, that’s great. If it doesn't then it doesn't.
Also, don’t shy away from self-publishing. The age of the vanity press is over. Readers crave high-end e-books. They’re eager to spend five dollars for a good read. E-books are often a much better deal than high-priced hard- or paperback books.
GS Elmo Leonard, in his little book, “Ten Rules for Good Writing,” says to throw out the boring parts.
AT That’s a good rule. I try to do that.
GS Leonard also suggests one tag, said, for all dialogue, as in “He said.” “Mary said.”
AT Yes, it's because circumstance and the dialogue should allow the reader to know who is speaking. That can work. Sometimes, though, I sense the reader needs more, maybe as a reminder of the emotion at stake.
GS What do you collect?
AT Shoes, as I said, it’s a sickness. I also like to collect gnomes, but I must hide the gnomes from my husband. Gnomes are my way of driving my husband nuts. Joe hates gnomes and thinks they’re creepy. This increased my passion to collect gnomes. My family has given me a gnome as a gift, to tease my husband. He can see a caravan of gnomes, bouncing down the street, next time we move.
GS No one expects fiction to be truthful, that would be ridiculous; a roman-a-clef blends some truth with much fiction. Must a writer of fiction be accurate? If your fiction is not accurate, in fact or depiction, do you believe readers will not pay as much attention.
AT I think it depends on the topic. Given what I write about, readers often don’t have much idea about what’s accurate, say, as for fetishes. Many writers describe circumstances that would never happen. It’s obvious she or he hasn’t done much research.
I think research is important. Some readers know about what you write. If you write about a fetish, certain content or clinical disorders, some readers will know. If the writer is off base, it takes the reader out of the story. You can’t assume all readers have no knowledge of what you’re writing. The lack of accuracy is a distraction. It disrupts how the reader thinks.
You can’t be one hundred per cent accurate, all the time. Over accuracy may take away from the plot. It’s much more exciting when you can make up your own rules.
GS You’re after a mix of fact and fiction that doesn’t take the reader out of the story.
AT In a way, yes, my goal is to be as accurate as possible within an exciting, entertaining storyline.
GS Does over accuracy lead to dumping information.
AT Yes, when I read a specialist author, such as John Grisham, she or he may dump too much technical information. There were moments in “Sycamore Row,” WHEN Grisham went in depth about the finer legal points. I didn’t care about those details. I wanted action and well-developed characters.
Even lawyers find Grisham goes on about the law, sometimes. About Grisham, a lawyer friend says, “For me it’s not interesting because he does so much explanation, sometimes, of the legal details; that’s boring to me, I know about the law.” Readers don’t want to know everything involved in everything. At some point, there’s too much information and the reader disappears.
A writer must find a delicate balance between dumping and providing enough background for the reader to understand what’s what. With “The Girl in 6E,” my first version had much less information about camming, her setup and the virtual world where she worked. The editor, at Redhook, said, “We want more. We want to know more. This is a new realm for ninety-nine per cent of America.”
Again, there might be readers who say, “This is too much.” They might start to squirm and put the book away. It’s a delicate balance.
GS What is your favourite article of clothing?
AT My leather jacket because I’m constantly cold.
GS How fitting and ironic is that?
AT It’s a regular leather jacket, not a motorcycle jacket or some such.
GS Thanks, Alessandra.
AT Thank you, too.
*James Lipton, of “The Actors Studio,” made the twenty questions, scattered throughout the interview, popular, whereas legions of Social Psychologists gave meaning to the answers.
E L James (2011), “Fifty Shades of Grey” published by Random House.
Katy Waldman (2013), “Amazeballs,” in “Time” magazine.
Interview edited and condensed for publication
dr george pollard is a Sociometrician and Social Psychologist at Carleton University, in Ottawa, where he currently conducts research and seminars on "Media and Truth," Social Psychology of Pop Culture and Entertainment as well as umbrella repair.
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