When people find out I’m a writer, they say often say, “I’d love to write if I had the time/discipline/talent. I have a story/a million stories/a great idea.” While I’d love to claim hours to spare or uncommon discipline or a blazing innate talent, the truth of it is more mundane.

Lyra Byrnes

Lyra Byrnes

I have no other marketable skills.

I’ve been scribbling since I could hold a pencil—stories, poems, pastiches, doggerel song parodies—and after leaving college at 21 took an internship at a newspaper, whereupon I fell into the writing rabbit hole full time. I worked my way up, as good girls do, with a stop at nearly every newspaper job short of delivering the damn thing.

But the interlude that has haunted me ever since was the year I spent as Music Editor and the subsequent stretch as a freelancer at a time when women were sparse in rock journalism. Our talents were dismissed—“I thought you were a guy”—confessed one editor by way of turning me down for freelance work after he’d called to rave about the excellence of my clips. Sometimes we were shuffled aside by quotas. I was told, “We already have a female music writer.” We were undermined by men, certainly, but often by other women. There’s only so much room on the tiny platform above the glass ceiling; many thought it prudent to pull up the ladder once they got there.

As much as I loved writing about music during such a vibrant time for the genre, it all got a bit dispiriting. And since I had no other way to alchemize these complicated feelings into something manageable, I turned my story into, well, a story.

Thus a 20-year career in journalism that spanned from Rolling Stone to The Washington Post became a cathartic dirty book.

I can’t say any one thing led to the writing of “Domination,” a short erotic romance novel from Totally Entwined Publishing. The determination to buckle down and churn out novels to take my mind off a divorce, certainly, and the image of glowering British stud in leather trousers, a sort of dark rock god, and all the naughtiness he could conjure. But much of the impetus was anger—at the sexism I’d encountered, at my ex-husband’s admission that all he really wanted was an ambition-free geisha to clean and get naked while he did the writing. If smoldering Bram Hunter was the perfect hero, then Josie Arrington, a good girl strengthened by her career adversities, was the perfect heroine: me in a brown wig.

The writing went quickly, as did the rewriting, which is where the real work takes place. I burned out (okay, spilled wine on) two laptops within four days, running to the very happy computer store and buckling down once more. I ate more gas-station fried chicken than I’m proud of. I poured my heart and soul, and a few disguised real-life characters, into the book.

“Domination” was the most satisfying thing I’ve ever written. Of course writing about sex is fun, and I entertained myself dreaming up ways in which the innocent Josie encountered Bram’s spanking or whipping hand.

But something strange happened along the course of this journey. The book is a romance at its core, and what had begun as a genre requirement became a revelation. Each chapter, each page, each word directed me toward something I never spotted when setting out to write. Through these characters, I burned through all the resentments from my past, all the roadblocks, all the frustration. My story, the one I’d set out to tell because there was no other outlet readily at hand, revealed itself as not one of anger but one of love. Left amid the ashes like a shining pearl was a connection between two people who had found each other among the vagaries and slights of the world. I’d found something greater—that a lifetime of writing was not so limiting after all. Words have the power to turn ideas into action, secrets into exposure, anger into love.