Tag Archives: sex

What’s that Freud guy doing in my book?

29 Aug

 

freudI’ve been asked quite a few times about the quotes from Sigmund Freud which start each chapter in ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ so finally, at the urging of the lovely Kate Belle I have decided to share.

 

‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ is all about sex, love and intimacy. For me, the process of writing it was not only one of telling a story, but of meditating on these themes and what they mean. I wanted to explain in psychological terms, but in a subtle and humorous way, why Edie acts the way she does. Why does she feel so heartbroken at the beginning? Why does she feel like a failure? Why does she fall so deeply in lust with Professor Brownlow? And why, when she eventually falls in love, is it so obviously right for her?

 

Giving Edie her best friend Sally who is a psychologist of sorts was a way for me to explore these themes in a fictional way. And when I researched (Googled) sex, love and intimacy all roads led to Freud. Although he was sometimes a bit of a crackpot, the impact of his radical theories on childhood, sexuality and relationships are still with us today.

 

Initially I put my research into the story in the form of university essays on Freud from Sally. Sadly, in the editing process it became obvious that this wasn’t working. So, in order to keep this theme going I introduced the little Freud quotes.

 

It soon became apparent that Freud and I were on a similar wavelength. For every chapter in the book, he had something totally appropriate to say. I never had to try too hard to find a relevant quotation. Take ‘One is very crazy when in love’ (chapter 2); Love and work…work and love, that’s all there is (chapter 4) and ‘Everywhere I go; I find a poet has been there before me’ (chapter 11). Absolutely perfect!

 

I’m sure many readers just skim over the quotes and that’s totally fine, but for me they are the frame for the story and an extra little layer to ponder. For those who are so inclined.  You can check out ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ in this preview.

 

 

Book review – ‘Losing February – a story of love, sex and longing’ by Susanna Freymark

17 Feb

Losing February is the debut novel by Susanna Freymark. As advertised on the back cover blurb, this is a story of love without sex and sex without love.  Bernie, a journalist, lives in the small fictional town of Repentance Creek, not too far from Byron Bay. Recently separated from a husband who didn’t love her in the way she needed, Bernie tries to find her way again in the world. When she makes contact with an old university friend a lingering passion reignites. A flurry of emails, texts and frustratingly sexless encounters draw Bernie into an obsessive love; ‘…there is a moment… starting in the month of February when I felt so deeply loved, I thought the world was mine and anything was possible.’

But this is no fairytale romance – Jack is married and guilty as hell about their involvement. Although Bernie and Jack search for a way to stay together, the end is inevitable. When Jack calls it quits Bernie’s love implodes in a binge of risky sexual behaviour. In an effort to pull herself out of depression, Bernie makes mistake after mistake with a series of unsuitable, predatory and uncaring men she meets over the internet. Most of these men seem almost as sad as Bernie herself. The plentiful, varied and explicit sex in this book is only sometimes erotic. More often it lends itself to the depressing conclusion that there is a whole lot of bad sex going on out there. The close first person voice of the story makes this an almost voyeuristic experience for the reader.

I was gripped from the first sentence of this book as Freymark skilfully captures the emotional rollercoaster of an adulterous affair. The highs, the lows, the guilt and shame – it’s all there. While the story is grim in parts, this is tempered by some beautiful writing on the transformative nature of love; ‘It spins you around and changes every cell in your body. … you’re never the same once you’ve been in love.’

Losing February could be read as a morality tale – no good can come from adultery – but it is more about the inevitability of love when it strikes. I found it a raw and honest portrayal of the grief that comes from loving the wrong person.

This is my second review for the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge 2013losing february.

You know what they say about sex – what’s in a name?

9 Jan

I have terrible trouble with book titles. My first novel, ‘Liar Bird’, started off being called (ahem) ‘Toading – a tale of lies, lust and feral pests.’ Yes, it’s quite embarrassing, but I feel better for having shared. Clearly it was never going to make it to a bookshop near you with a title like that. My good friend Jane Camens came up with the title ‘Liar Bird’ and I never looked back.

So, you are now asking no doubt – what title did I used to have for ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’Sex Lies title before alighting on this one? Well, it used to be called, ‘The Greatest Child Failure in History.’ The protagonist, Edie, believes she is a terrible failure because she doesn’t surf, unlike her surf-champ dad. The trouble was that as the story grew; this particular theme didn’t feel quite as central as it was in the start. Some folks also gently suggested that it was not a very good title. In fact it was a bit of a downer.

So, I had a powwow with my publisher and she suggested ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’.  Just off the top of her head in a coffee shop. Just like that. It totally fits with the story. It looks great on the cover of the book. It’s easy to say. And of course it has that magic word – sex.

But is sex a double-edged sword? It has been suggested that the key to a good cover is that people should not feel embarrassed reading it on the train in the morning.  Hence those dreary grey covers that have proliferated in bookshops this year. Anyway, there’s no mistaking my cover for one of those. It’s bright, it’s beautiful and I couldn’t love it more.

I now suspect that the duller the cover, the more suspicious your fellow commuters will be as to what lies within. What do you think?

The Shy Erotic Writer (how do you explain to your mother that it might be best to skip a page?)

23 Nov

Monday was a very exciting day. A box of my new book ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ arrived on my doorstep. So excited, so very, very excited. I felt like a kid on Christmas Day. And – this is probably going to sound a little pathetic – I took myself off to bed to read it. Yes, I have read it before… But not in a book!

 

So, there I was in bed, happily reading away until I got to page 34. And then I encountered a word that stopped me in my tracks. Here is the strange thing, the whole time I was writing the book, and even editing it, I somehow managed to convince myself that no-one else was ever going to read it. It’s funny the games your mind plays.

 

Because if I’d been thinking of all the people who might potentially read this book, I never would have left the ‘c’ word in. Yes that word. Only once. On page 34. And there is a context – it’s not gratuitous. But still.

 

And now, of course, I am thinking about my mother. And my mother-in-law. And all my mother-in-law’s friends who are going to get a very poor impression of me because I used that word. Not to mention the neighbours. And my kids’ teachers…

 

I’ve had a few people tell me that my last book ‘Liar Bird’ was a bit raunchy. That worries me because if ‘Liar Bird’ was raunchy, that would make ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ the new ‘50 Shades of Grey’. Which it totally isn’t  Really, there’s just the odd bit of sex here and there and it all advances the plot. As much as I might like to get on the erotic fiction bandwagon I think it’s taken off without me.

 

I’m open to suggestions from anyone as to how to tackle this delicate issue with regard to my mother and my mother-in-law. I could:

 

a.. pretend that the book never got printed due to tough economic times.

b. get out the whiteout, or

c. add a note with an apology from my editor, explaining that she made me do it…

or perhaps

d. flee the country never to return.

 

What do you think?

Writing about sex is hard – but not as hard as stand-up comedy

14 Jun

Well…

Monday night was the big night. After six weeks of baby steps we comedy virgins took the stage at the Byron Services Club. It was pretty packed, especially considering that it was raining torrentially. I must admit that for a while there I was hoping a flash flood might cut Byron off, or a tornado rip through the town, or at least a tree bring down a power pole leading to the event being cancelled.

But no, there we were. And there they were. Ready to be entertained.

                Learning comedy has been enlightening. A good comedian looks like they’ve just popped in to share their thoughts with you. But in fact, developing  a routine is a rigorous process from ideas to writing to rehearsal to learning to performance.

I have learnt about the importance of the premise, the illusion of spontaneity and finding a comic persona which is a reflection of your authentic self. And then, having found your authentic self, you need to lay it all bare to a room full of strangers and hope to hell they have the same sense of humour as you. Because comedy is not a monologue, it is a conversation. It is something that happens between the performer and the audience. It takes two to tango.

                Five minutes is not a long time. But it is way long enough for a lot of things to go wrong. As our esteemed leader Mandy Nolan said on the night, ‘Tonight we’re going to find out whose chutes aren’t going to open.’ Five minutes can be an eternity if you’re in free fall.

We started with a group of fifteen, but as we came closer and closer to the day, several of my classmates discovered other pressing commitments. On the big night only ten remained. In the interests of getting it over with quickly, I went up first. And what else would I talk about, but writing.

It was a fun night. What struck me was the diversity of the performances. It seems obvious, but people really are so different! There is something very warming about seeing others share their struggles in a comic way.

I don’t think I’ll be back for more, but I’m pleased that I pushed my boundaries and gave it a go. And, did my parachute open? You can be the judge because here it is…

Finding my Mojo (and other serendipitous events)

28 Feb

I think every writer has them – moments when life imitates art in a way which raises hairs on the back of your neck. Coincidences multiply until you start to feel that the act of writing is almost magical – a prediction of events to come.

I have been struggling away for over a year now, on a novel about a woman who loses her mojo. I feel like it has been the hardest of my novels to write (I have written five previously), but perhaps I always feel like that. Perhaps the act of finishing a novel is like childbirth and you instantly forget the pain that came before.

Yesterday, to clear my head, I went down to the beach for a swim. I threw down my bag and noticed next to it an abandoned dog collar. The tag on the collar read – you guessed it – mojo. I FOUND MY MOJO. Perhaps I have been on the north coast too long, but I find this, like, totally amazing.

This is not the first time I have had this type of rather woo woo experience. Another scene in this novel requires my mojo-less heroine to visit the Big Redback in Brisbane. I wrote this scene before I went there, adding a garden gnome, which I described in some detail, to serve the needs of the story.

I got to the Big Redback, had a bit of a look around, and was just about to drive off when I saw it – hiding shyly among the ferns – the gnome just as I had already described it.

And wait, there’s more! Those of you who have read Liar Bird – check out this link. If you haven’t, hold off so you don’t spoil the story.

Have you had any similar bizarre cases of life imitating art?

 

I am running a workshop called ‘Beyond Sex and Shopping: Writing fiction that sells’ on the 17th of March in Byron Bay. If you are interested, contact the Northern Rivers Writers Centre.