Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Roman a Clef -- Let's do Lunch

People always like romans a clef -- you know, novels about famous people with the names changed. Because everybody likes to get an inside view of the rich and the famous.

But the concept has come to have a different spin for me since a set of conversations I had with some old friends from where I used to work -- call it BiFi, for Big Important Financial Institution.

As day jobs went, I pretty much liked working at BiFi. The pay was ok, the benefits excellent, the management fair-minded, and my fellow workers smart, literate, and supportive of my writing. I still go to lunch with groups of BiFi and ex-BiFi folks once in a while.

And so, about a year ago, I went to a luncheon and told Sarah, who's also retired, that I was writing full time now. She was really excited about it and so I gave her the URL to my web page. A few months later at the next luncheon, Sarah sat down next to me and told me that she and her book group (some members of which still worked at BiFi) had read my book.

"Great," I said. "Which one?"

She looked at me as though I shouldn't even have to guess. "Oh, Carrie's Story, of course."

Of course. The one I wrote (as Molly Weatherfield) with whips, chains, ponygirls, slave auctions, and equal-opportunity wall-to-wall kinky sex. The one where I dreamed up a motormouth twenty-year-old bike messenger to play out a lifetime of my inmost fantasies.

Who wouldn't chose Carrie's Story? Especially among the people I thought I had a basic business casual workplace relationship with.

Appalled and abashed, I hid my face in my tortellini, but my curiosity finally got the better of my befuddlement.

"So, Sarah, what did you and the group think of Carrie's Story?"

"Well," she said, "we liked it ok, but we were really mostly interested in how you know all that stuff, like where they have the slave auctions."

Right. I've heard this before. I've tried to explain that everybody who has that kind of fantasy life pretty much comes up with the same details. I don't understand why, but it's been true ever since the Marquis de Sade invented Sodality of the Friends of Crime, in Juliette. For some reason, the idea of a secret society, based on excesses of unequal power, really ups the fantasy.

I often like to speculate why this is true, but I wasn't going to get any help from Sarah.

"See, it's a fantasy," I said. "A shared fantasy. Kind of a sociological thing. You know, it's really interesting how..."

Sarah winked at me. Nodded. And winked and nodded again.

I tried to explain again and she interrupted me. "But it must be a true story," she said, "because there was this movie that Stanley Kubrick made, with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman..."

Right, Eyes Wide Shut. Because everybody knows that if something is in a movie it's gotta be a true story. Especially if they used CGI to hype the orgy scenes.

"So what we really did," Sarah said, "during our book group meeting, was try to guess who Carrie really is, among the people who work at BiFi, you know. And we think we've got it narrowed down..."

And I have to confess to you that I was afraid to find out who they thought Carrie at BiFi was.

Just call it a compliment to my story-telling and world-building skills. I guess.

Gulp. Wink. Nod. Gulp again. Because none of you readers out there would ever make such assumptions, would you?

And for you other writers of hot-and-heavy stuff out there, has anything like this ever happened to you?


Kate Pearce said...

oh yes, it has happened to me.
Last time we bought a car the sales guy was very chatty and it somehow came out that I wrote erotic romance and he immediately hopped on my website and had a good look.

Later in the car buying process when Mr Kate was signing his life away, sales guy turned to me and said, "I hope you don't mind me asking you but do you think you have to have a filthy mind to write that kind of stuff-I mean you look so classy."

I smiled and suggested that everyone has filthy minds and that some of us are just better at putting those fantasies down on paper :)

And as for people reading my books-a book club comprised of women between the ages of 45 and 70 are just about to start reading "Where have all the Cowboys gone?"-and I've been invited to the meeting-wish me luck!

Celia May Hart said...

Oh Lord, yes. I get the "so your hubby helps with the research then"?

My comeback is would they ask a similar question of mystery authors?


Hey Kate -- have fun at the bookclub meeting!

Pam Rosenthal said...

I hate it when they ask whether my husband helps with the research, because of course he does. I mean, I should hope he had, and continues to have, something to do with my erotic imagination.

The thing is, the specifics of my erotic books are made up or taken from things other people made up. But there's a way in which they're the truest books I've ever written, because I had those fantasies and that's the truth. I think the act of giving it literary form was a way of making something tellable that would otherwise be entirely secret and untellable.

Colette Gale said...

Oh dear...I hope it doesn't happen to me. But it very well may, now that my hot and heavy book is out.

(I do know that my husband's friends think it's so cool that he's married to an erotic novelist...they figure he gets it all the time. Little do they know.)

And LOL, Pam. Great story.

Pam Rosenthal said...

My husband's friends think the same thing, Colette. Hey, at my age, I say let 'em.