Q&A with M.J. Rose by Jennifer Campaniolo
Content Manager of NuvoMedia, Inc. a division of Gemstar.
M.J. Rose is the author of the erotic thriller Lip Service - the story of an affluent journalist, married to a respected psychiatrist, who risks her marriage and her life when she gets involved in a phone sex operation. I asked M.J. about her forays into web publishing, the effects of marriage on a womans sex life, and just where she came up with all those red-hot phone conversations.
Your bio says that Lip Service is your first novel "in the public eye". What do you mean by that?
I wrote a novel before Lip Service, and it was that novel that got me my agent. We got very serious interest from two publishing houses on that book but ultimately the marketing departments of both houses felt it would be difficult to sell as a first novel. So we are now holding it back and will publish it in the future.
I understand that Lip Service was sold on the web before it went into print. Tell me more about that.
When my agent tried to sell Lip Service in 1996 we got two offers on it from the NY publishing community but ultimately the marketing departments of those two companies nixed the deals because the novel didnt fit into a genre or niche. (Can you believe it happened to me twice?). My agent suggested I write a third novel since editors liked my work so much so I started to research yet a new novel.
This one took me to the Internet and while I was doing research, I started thinking that the net would be a great place to sell original fiction via electronic downloads. (This was in 1997 and no one had heard of e-books yet.). It took me till the late summer of 1998, but I worked out all the kinks and came up with a marketing plan and started selling Lip Service from my own website. Only a few months later Erika Tsang, an editor from the Doubleday Book Club and The Literary Guild, discovered the book. It was the first time they had discovered a book on line or bought a self-published novel. A few weeks later Pocket Books bought the print rights.
Lip Service is now available or will be soon in England, Australia, The Netherlands, Germany and France.
Pocket Books releasing Lip Service as an e-book is really bringing it full circle.
Lip Service is an interesting mix of mystery, psychological thriller, and erotic novel. When you began working on the manuscript, did you have in mind to write one particular genre or a mix of the three?
I didnt think about genre when I started to write the book. I just had a story I wanted to tell. That hurt Lip Service when we originally tried to get it published but now its one of the things my fans say they love about the book. Its not quite like anything else theyve read.
Julia Sterling is a journalist and generally a smart woman, and yet she asks very few questions of Sam Butterfield when he gets her involved with his clinic and the phone sex research shes required to do for his book. Even her friend Jack notices this. Why do you think she is so naive?
Good question. Julia is at a very bad place in her life when she goes to work for Sam shes become naïve in order to prevent herself from facing the truth about her life with her husband. You cant be like that in one relationship and not in all your relationships, so it spills over into how she deals with Sam.
Books like The Erotic Silence of the American Wife explore a womans potential for adultery and her struggles trying to be the perfect wife while repressing her sexual urges. Do you believe that a majority of marriages are bad for a womans sexuality? Is it possible to be a woman in a fulfilling monogamous relationship for many years?
A psychiatrist I know says that passionate marriage is an oxymoron that the very things that make a marriage work best make it the least sexual. So thats one issue. I also think women are expected to be good wives and good moms once they get married and it is very hard to reconcile those roles with being hot in bed. Not on the womans part but on the mans part.
So many women have told me that their boyfriends or husbands stop seeing them as sexy once they settle into a solid relationship. And yes its possible to be in a fulfilling monogamous relationship if you are very lucky and work very hard at making the relationship work.
Many people --particularly women-- have a negative attitude toward phone sex, equating it with prostitution. What do you think about this? Is phone sex with a stranger a healthy and safe expression of lust? Should married couples feel threatened by a partner who engages in phone sex on the side (like the partner who enjoys cybersex with strangers)?
I would never give advice either pro or con. And I hate to use words like healthy or unhealthy in regards to relationships because I think one persons dream can be anothers nightmare. But I dont think phone sex goes quite as far as prostitution for one thing its not physical. And I cant speak for other couples, but if my partner was engaging in phone sex regularly, or cybersex for that matter, I think I would be concerned.
There are a lot of secrets in this book. Is it possible to have secrets from your partner and still have a good relationship?
I think you have to be honest in a relationship but logically honest. I dont think you need to talk about your fantasies if you dont want to but sometimes its great fun. I also dont think its necessary to discuss details of past relationships or experiences if you dont want to. I think that can be not much fun at all. Something said in one moment can live on and linger in your lovers memory and become much more important to him or her than it ever was to you.
I also think being honest out of guilt is not a good idea. Ive heard of many stories where one partner did something and was so guilt ridden he or she confessed. And the recipient of the secret had to act on the knowledge. For instance, I know one woman who was on a business trip, had too much to drink one night and fooled around with but did not sleep with a business associate. She had no particular interest in the guy it was just late and she was feeling good. She had no plans to repeat the evening or take it further. But she was so shook up by it that she told her husband. It took him quite a while to get over what shed done. Im not advocating lying but since there was no real harm done, and it wasnt something that mattered to her, I think she unburdened herself unfairly.
I wouldnt want to know if my husband or lover had an episode like that if it was meaningless. Intellectually it wouldnt bother me at all, but emotionally, Im sure it would.
OK, I have to ask
how did you come up with all those spicy fantasies used by Julia and the callers in Lip Service?
Like most writers I have a good imagination. Did you really think Id give you a different answer?
Who is your favorite erotic writer?
I consider myself an author of novels, not an author of erotic novels. I like to write about someones whole life of which sexuality is a part. Its the same with what I like to read. There are amazingly erotic parts to Alice Hoffmans books, early Anne Rice, Marguerite Dumas, certainly D.H. Lawrence. I could go on
I read a lot.
Whats next for you? Where and when can we find your next project?
My next full-length novel will be published by Pocket Books early next spring. And a non fiction book I co-authored with Angela Adiar-Hoy, entitled How To Publish and Promote Online will be published by St. Martins Press in both print and ebook formats this winter.
What does Paradise represent for you?
Floating on the water, music in the air, a certain man waiting for me on the
What does Hell represent?
Physical pain or anxiety that does not abate.
What are the depths of misfortune for you?
Losing someone I love.
What is the quality you prefer in a man?
The quality you prefer in a woman?
Your favorite virtue?
What do you appreciate most in your friends?
For what faults are you the most indulgent?
Spending too much time dreaming.
What is the main feature of your character?
Your main defect?
Your main quality?
Passion and nicotine. I can accept the former and am working on getting rid
of the latter.
Your dream of happiness?
A long life writing well and loving well and dying quickly when I choose the
time has come.
What would be your greatest misfortune?
To lose my curiosity.
Where would you like to live?
In Paris in the winter and Capri in the summer.
Who would you have liked to be?
What is the gift of nature you would like to have?
I've always wanted to be able to paint. But I'm abysmal at it.
Do you have hobbies ?
Whatever free time I have, I love to indulge in books written by other
people. And to travel. When I'm home, in the spring and summer, I like to
garden. And I like to go to museums. And to listen to music. But I don't really
consider all these hobbies as much as feeding my soul.
Your favorite first names?
Names that begin with J or G
Which is your favorite color?
What is the flower you like best?
Delphiniums, foxglove and old roses all planted too close together.
Your favorite bird?
Your favorite authors in prose?
Your favorite playwrights?
Your favorite poets?
Your favorite composer?
Your favorite painter?
Monet's Water Lilies and the Pre-Raphaelites
Your favorite film maker?
Your favorite film or one that you would recommend?
My current favorite is Milk and Money by Michael Bergman
Your favorite actor / actress?
Cary Grant Audrey Hepburn
Your heroes / heroines in real life?
Doug Scofield and my mother - for the courage they showed in dealing with
Your heroes / heroines in fiction?
Howard Roark in The Fountainhead/ Lady Chatterley in Lady Chatterley's Lover
Your heroes / heroines in history?
Michaelangelo /Ayn Rand
The historical characters you hate the most?
What do you hate above all?
The reform you appraise the most?
Giving women the vote.
The military event you admire the most?
The Nuremberg Trials
What is your current state of mind?
Do you have any regret?
Yes, for all the days I have wasted worrying.
How would you like to die?
In my sleep.
What is you motto?
"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and
listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and
solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no
choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. "