To continue my month of interviews, today we have the wonderful Laura Roberts and her sexy, sexy FREE book.
That’s right. I said FREE.
And again FREE.
A little about the author.
Laura Roberts is the author of a collection of sex columns, The Vixen Files: Naughty Notes from a Montreal Sex Columnist, and the novel Ninjas of the 512: A Texas-Sized Satire. She is also the micro-press publisher behind Buttontapper Press, and the founding editor of rebellious literary magazine Black Heart. She lives with her artist husband and their literary kitty, Nedward Carlos Nedwards, in a house strewn with paper, art supplies, and catnip. You can also find her on Twitter @originaloflaura.
And now…to the interview!
What got you into writing in the first place?
As far as writing for fun, I’ve always been the type to scribble in journals, and was first encouraged to do so by my junior high school English teacher, Mrs. Goodman, who assigned all of her students to write a certain number of pages each week. My best friend and I also started a little National Enquirer-esque rag we called “Gossip World,” which was full of gossip and straight-up lies about our friends and family. We typed it on a couple of typewriters her mother had bought at a garage sale, and distributed a few copies to my sister and parents before we realized that was going to get us grounded for life if we kept it up. After that we started storing our copies in a locked filing cabinet. This is probably good advice for anyone else with poison pen aspirations; after all, look what happened to Truman Capote!
After that, we switched to writing “updated” versions of fairy tales and classic stories, such as “The 3 Punk Piggies,” the musical duel of Apollo vs. Pan, and John Steinbeck’s novella “The Pearl,” with an aim of corrupting children early on with our warped sense of humor and genre mash-ups. We also wrote an original script entitled “1, 2, 3 Go,” which has hopefully been lost to the sands of time, but may still be on an ancient VHS in the bowels of my friend’s parents’ basement.
So, yeah, I was a teenage cannibal of classic literature, rewriting great works of literature to my own bizarre tastes. A real Kathy Acker, if you like.
Why your genre? Do you plan on branching out or do you feel at home in what you write?
I write in a few different genres, the main one being erotic humor, which is something I enjoy because I think a lot of erotica is way too dark and uptight, and forgets that sex and fantasy are supposed to be fun. I’ve also written a few noir/crime pieces, which I enjoy because it’s the opposite of my humorous stuff (plus killing off characters and thinking of new ways to torture them is a cheap thrill), and I dabble in haiku.
I think I enjoy writing in a lot of different genres precisely because all the so-called marketing gurus try to tell you that you CAN’T, that this is somehow detrimental to your “brand.” I say fuck that. If readers like my writing, they’ll come along for the ride. I’ve read things in genres that I don’t normally read, just because I enjoy the author’s work, so I think that’s some pretty unhelpful – maybe even hurtful – advice. Sure, I’d like to concentrate on a few key areas, because I think that people who are drawn to them will be happy to see I have several books in that genre, but my view is also influenced by the so-called “literary fiction” side, which happily writes about anything and everything, and claims to be its own genre. Good writing is good writing, and I’m not going to market research the hell out of an idea before I write about it. I’m going to go ahead and write about it because it’s fun for me, and hope that readers will come along for the ride.
Are you a pantser or plotter?
I used to be a pantser, but converted with evangelical zeal to plotting when I did the 3-Day Novel Contest in 2011. Before, I would start stories with enthusiasm, and zoom through until BLAM! I would hit a wall. I wouldn’t know how to proceed, having backed myself into some sort of corner, and not really knowing what my ending was supposed to be, I would just remain stuck and abandon the story. My aversion to outlining made me think that plotting would kill my creativity when inspiration struck, so even though all the writers I liked said that they had outlines – however loose, or often cast aside – I refused to do it. I didn’t want to know all the pieces before they happened on the page, because it felt to me like being the person who does paint by numbers and calls it art.
When I decided to do the 3-Day Novel Contest, I realized I was just being hard-headed, and that writing an outline really would help at those moments when I lost the plot. Instead of just writing from Point A to Point B, I would be able to see the whole story at a glance, as well as all the scenes I needed to hit on the journey. So outlines are now something I embrace.
I try to write the main idea of the book in one sentence at the top of the page, as something I can reference when I start to get too tangential, and then I write the gist of each scene I want to include. I like to use notecards, so that each scene has its own card, and then I can move them around once I’ve got everything on paper and I know where I’m going. I also like to jot down any concrete images that go with each scene, and a list of items or characters to include as well. Then, when I’m floundering around for something that makes sense, I can scan my list and grab the right thing. It’s kind of like those quest games where you have a sack full of items, but you don’t know where to use them until you journey to the right part of the quest, and then you say “AHA! So that’s where I’m supposed to use the Sword of Doom!”
Not that I have ever seen – or used – a Sword of Doom. But maybe I will in my next ninja novel.
Do you have a writing room or place that you go to write?
I work from home, so I do have a home office that I use for writing. However, I do also find that I will get tired of just sitting in the same chair all day long, so I may move to the couch or even take things out to a coffee shop or the library for a change of scenery. I do typically like my space pretty quiet when I’m writing, so I am more of a library writer than a café writer. For a while I was part of a group that met up at a local coffee shop in the mornings on Sundays, which was a “Sit Down, Shut Up and Write” group, so you had an hour to mingle, and then everybody sat down at their computers and wrote for 2 hours. Lots of people brought headphones, to drown out the coffee shop’s unusual musical selections, and I found that was also really helpful, particularly when I had planned something out the night before and had a certain word count in mind.
I definitely think that switching up your routine helps your writing, so I try not to get too stuck in one way of doing things. I’ll bust out pen and paper and do some scribbling by hand, or get on the iPad and use an app called Daedalus to write flash fiction. I always keep pens and notebooks in my purse, too, because you just never know when inspiration will strike or lists will need to be made.
Take me through your writing process. How do you begin?
The writing process is different every time, but the beginning is always the same: I have some line or character or idea that I am burning to write about, and I just start scribbling. If it’s a short story, I’ll just go, write it all in one shot, and leave it for a while before I go back and edit. If it’s a book, sometimes I will have to start and stop and go away and come back. Sometimes I can just write it all at once (like with the 3-Day Novel Contest), but usually I need to make a schedule because I have a lot of other stuff going on. But at the heart of it all, I have some story that I feel like I MUST tell, at that moment in time, and I do my best to make that story feel whole and complete, even if it makes no sense to anyone but me.
Tell me about your book. Why could only YOU have written it?
Naked Montreal is a book that came out of my experiences as a sex columnist. I often felt like an outsider looking in on the whole sex work scene, which is a very broad space, but I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of very interesting, intelligent people who were not afraid to talk about the fact that they worked in this sphere, who shared some of their experiences with me. Since I was writing a weekly column, I had to supercondense those things into 750 words, which means a lot got left out, and that’s where Naked Montreal comes in. All of the good stuff that I couldn’t fit into my columns has been turned into a series of stories, told from the perspective of a particularly type of tour guide, who entertains locals and tourists with her “sexy Montreal” guide to what she calls the Real Underground City. (This is opposed to the literal Underground City, which in Montreal is actually a mall that connects to the metro.) As far as I know, this job doesn’t really exist, but it’s loosely based on the “Sex and the City” tours they have in New York, where you visit places that have been seen on the show. But in this case, you’re visiting all of the places that *aren’t* in the guidebooks; you’re getting the underground tour.
One of my friends said it sounded like my tour guide was the Virgil to Dante’s travels through hell, which I thought was fitting, although I prefer to think she is more of a Beatrice leading readers through Montreal’s paradise of sexual delights – it’s Paradiso, not the Inferno! But I guess it depends on how open-minded you are when it comes to things like sex shops, strip clubs, and burlesque.
Tell me what makes your book(s) special. Why should I read them?
Naked Montreal is a comedy, as well as a quirky, kinky travel guide to a city that holds a special place in my heart. You’ll get some insider perspectives on the city, plus special behind-the-scenes access to the places that are decidedly off the map. You’ll also meet plenty of colorful characters, including boudoir photographers, indie porn filmmakers, drag kings and queens, artists, wannabes, strippers, burlesquers, dominatrixes, and the people who love them, all jostling for space on the page. If you’ve never been to Montreal, this is a great way to experience the city from the comfort of your favorite couch, and if you’ve lived there all your life, the book still has plenty of surprises for you.
Writers say that reading is important if you want to write well. Keeping that in mind, what kind of books do you read?
I definitely support this idea, and try to read as widely as I can. I read stuff by fellow erotica authors, including erotic classics (Belle de Jour’s book, The Happy Hooker, etc.), as well as lots of humor and satire (my favorites being The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and anything David Sedaris has written, but particularly his French exploits in Me Talk Pretty One Day). I also read classic literature (usually of the romantic variety: Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, Lolita), cozy mysteries (I am hooked on the “Dead-End Job” series by Elaine Viets and the “Tattoo Shop” series by Karen E. Olson right now), crime humor (I think this may be limited to one writer, by the name of Benjamin Sobieck, who writes the hilarious Maynard Soloman series of short stories, but I am definitely on the look-out for more of this), literary fiction (Coetzee, Auster), popular fiction (anything featured in the Tournament of Books is now on my To Read list, and I just finished Gone Girl), cult literature (the oft-stolen Bukowski, etc.), Can Lit (Beautiful Losers), flash fiction, blogs, Twitter feeds… anything that catches my fancy.
I’ve always got at least one book in process, though usually my nightstand is cluttered up with three or four, plus a stack from the library, plus another virtual stack on my Kindle.
I love reading, and have always devoured books. I am the kind of book nerd that thinks men are literally asking “What are you reading?” because they want to get the book I am so engrossed in, not because they’re trying to hit on me. So, yeah, I always have my nose in a book, or an e-reader, and my favorite books are pretty varied.
I like being surprised, I like authors that play with words, and I like very strong voices, very bold moves. If you find yourself thinking “This is genius,” I want to read it. And hopefully some of that genius will eventually rub off!
My motto, as a former book reviewer, is “Life is too short to read bad books.”
You’re in a coffee shop. You get two authors to have coffee with. Which ones and why GO.
Ooh. Difficult decision here. It’s hard because I hate meeting my idols and finding out they are just normal people. So I will pick some dead writers and hope that you also have some kind of magical reanimation juice that will make them return to their graves properly dead after our discussion, but have them smelling minty fresh and not trying to eat my brains, zombie-style, during the coffee.
That being said, I think I would like to pick Anaïs Nin’s brain. I forgot to mention her in my “classic erotic literature” section, even though she is pretty much the godmother of modern erotica. I haven’t even read half of her diaries yet, but I am fascinated with them, and the idea that she devoted most of her life to this multi-volume autobiography. I have a lot of questions for her about her relationships, both literary and personal, and about her globetrotting lifestyle. She’s definitely a fascinating character, particularly because of (or despite) the fact that she has bared most everything on the page, yet is still so very mysterious and misunderstood.
My other coffee mate would have to be Oscar Wilde, who would certainly have some bon mots to toss off over tea. He would also be impeccably dressed, so I would ask him for fashion tips, because I’d like to one day be a dandy myself. Or whatever the women’s equivalent would be. A dandina? A dandelioness? Anyway, that. Plus I would try to get him to be serious for once in his life, but that would probably backfire, so I would just pepper him with questions from the Proust questionnaire, watch him flirt with all the men in the coffee shop, and get his autograph on my copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Do you wear mismatching socks? It’s okay if you do. Don’t be shy.
I actually prefer matching socks, but in extremely loud colors. I recently purchased a 5-pack of bright neon socks in yellow, orange, electric lime, and screaming pink variations, to give you some idea of my sock choices. I am also a fan of the knee-high sock, which tends to come in zany colors and patterns, and comes in very handy during Montreal winters. My husband, however, is a proponent of mismatched socks, which puzzles me because most of his socks are black, so you would never be able to tell that they were mismatched.
Want more? Of course you do! An excerpt from the book maybe?
Or how about links to the author? You’re in luck! I have them, too!
Amazon page (US) for Naked Montreal: http://www.amazon.com/Naked-Montreal-Novel-Underground-ebook/dp/B00BSH8VIC/
Why? Because I love you guys so much.