Ask M.J. Rose: Dear Sexy Author Lady

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July 26, 2004

Today is the day not to tell me how good my coffee is.

Buy my book!

As I discussed last week, is pleased to take part in the Virtual Book Tour for author M.J. Rose's new book The Halo Effect. Today she comes to answer your questions.

Dear Sexy Author Lady

Dear sexy author lady,

I've read every line you've written and I'm curious--can you talk about the period between when you finish a book and when you start another? Do you have an idea brewing for a new book before you finish the one in progress?


Dear Caroline,
Every line I've written! Bless you. Not even I have read every line I've written. No, seriously. Thank you. And as for that time between novels. It depresses the hell out of me. I hate it. It's important to take down time, but we writers tend to write out of passion not because it's our job. So when I'm not writing I'm depressed. But I force myself to take two months off and read a lot. (Recently in one of those breaks I read a wonderful novel called Girls In Trouble by Caroline Leavitt - any relation?)

And yes, I keep a list of ideas and need to start thinking about a new one when I start on the third draft of the one in progress. I panic without having a novel to think about.

Dear Sexy Author Lady,
As part of writing your book what research did you do on Sex Therapists? What if anything surprised/fascinated you about the world of the Sex Therapist?


Dear Matt,
I have done a lot of research on Sex therapists. As a matter of fact, on this Virtual Book Tour, I'm stopping at Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind and am talking about that research. Why don't you pop over and read it there. It's
too long to put in a letter.

As for what surprised me was how really caring they all were and how they all told me the same thing - no one can believe we don't look like sexpots - but just normal people.

Dear SAL,
When we read something and can identify with a character--it's an amazing experience. Those realizations of, "I have had the same thoughts, feelings, desires, emotions..." are wonderful on one hand, because they make you feel less alone and isolated, and maybe a little less crazy. You feel a connection. On the other hand, as a writer, one might wonder, "Am I not unique? Are my thoughts, feelings, emotions and desires just all repeats of someone else's who already wrote about them, and maybe wrote about them better than I could or would?" With so many great writers out there, how can an aspiring writer find and keep a fresh and unique voice?

Thanks much,
Katy Pieters

Dear Katy,
With so many great writers out there - how can any of us find and keep a fresh and unique voice? No one knows, but its sort of the way no one has the same fingerprints or same face. The permutations and variations are so vast that it
just happens.

One thing I learned early on. Don't worry about or even thick about voice. Concentrate on your characters and being honest to them and telling their stories. John Gardner wrote a lot of this in The Art of Fiction - which is my favorite book for writers.

Voice is what other's will identify about you. To the writer, it's just the way you write. So relax, and just love the process.

Dear The Best Erotic Thriller Lady in the Business,

I was wondering how you work so fluently on sometimes difficult feelings and themes. Do you put yourself in the same place as your characters and let yourself imagine their circumstances? Do you often feel afraid of the dark sides to existence you must explore through them? Or, perhaps, in creating Dr. Snow do you strike a comfortable distance in that Dr. Snow is also an observer? Your depiction of erotic fantasies is so convincing, so real, as are your descriptions of violence and murder-- I often have asked myself: how you get there?


A fan

Dear Wonderful Fan,

What praise! Thank you. And great questions. But I'm afraid my answer is going to make me sound like a nut. I go into a sort of trance when I write. I disappear. I'm not aware of what I'm writing. When I come out of it - I know the gist of the scene I just wrote - but I have no idea of the words I used or the details I included. When I reread my first draft - I am not surprised by the story - but I have no memory of any of the details and do not remember having written any of them -not the sex - not the fantasies - not the crimes.

Each morning I go walking or swimming and plan out the "idea" or the "part" of the book I am going to tackle that day. So it's in my head. Then when I sit down at the computer I start to consciously work on that idea. But within three or four minutes, I'm gone. The book is playing out on some other level of my consciousness and my fingers are transcribing. I'm not thinking - or stopping to think - it just pours out for about two hours without stopping.

I am often horrified and surprised by what it is that pours out.

I even once went to a therapist after writing a horrific crime - I was so upset I could write something like that - and thought I must be evil. He explained that we all have the ability to feel a wide assortment of conflicting emotions all the time but our defenses protect us from many of them and our consciousness keeps us from acting them out.

He said that a lot of writers somehow let go of the denial system when they are writing and can travel into strange, brutal, erotic, wonderful places that they would never dare to go in their personal active lives.

At least I hope so. I don't want to wind up on the news for murdering prostitutes.