What can you tell us about your new book [email protected]?
What do you do when you've been told you have all one could ever wish for, but you know there's still a hole in your life? You do something about it. If you have the courage to. Virginia Mendes has the courage to. And she has the moral support of her independent, educated, outspoken girlfriends who accompany her on the road to fulfilment. [email protected] is a novel about self-determination. It's about daring to question the options available to one, and being prepared to pay the price. As such, I don't consider it only a book for women, or simply about a woman's fight to escape from a numbing marriage by seeking cyber love in the first instance, then a more 'hands-on' experience once she's into the swing of it. [email protected] has been written for the militant mind, irrespective of gender. The reviews written by male readers have been just as positive as those written by female readers
How autobiographical is your book?â¨
Ah, that would be telling! Of course some of my own experiences have motivated me to write this book, but it is not totally autobiographical.
The book has a very unusual layout, so tell us about the development of this.â¨
[email protected], as the title suggest (mutation; change) is about development, and that is reflected in the structure of the book. I was careful to write a book that crosses literary genres, as all forms of development entail moving from one space to another. The book is a mixture between the epistolary novel and the play. When writing it, the stage was always in my mind. I'd love to see it performed in a theatre. Virginia's best friends double up as a chorus in the Greek sense, commenting on her development. They are like midwives, assisting in the birth of a new life, a new consciousness. The email format is the epistolary novel as it would appear today, and as readers, we also feel as though we are peeping in on someone else's very intimate self-discovery. Who has never been tempted to open someone else's email? So the novel's style positions the reader in a virtual zone, too, where our identity in relation to the events shifts.
How difficult was it to write in social network utterings?â¨
If it were up to me, I would have used more jargon from social media networks, but I decided to limit my use of this as such terms may well change as quickly as these platforms themselves, thereby rendering the literary style of the novel outdated.
What is your favourite novel?â¨
At the moment, my favourite novel is The Testament of Mary, by Colm Toibin. I'm also studying this novel for my thesis. brilliant, brilliant brilliant is all I can say. Not a particularly eloquent book review, but I going into much more detail about it in my thesis.
Which authors do you feel have influenced your work?â¨
Reading the work of Penny Goring has changed me for life. Penny is the most audacious writer I have discovered. Her book, Zoom Zoom, made me abandon all my comfortable, conventional notions on the art of writing. Hot on her heels in Matthew Temple, whose depiction of voice in his novel Things Said in Dreams so fascinated me that I contacted him and now plan to take a closer look at his work in my thesis too.
What is your personal view of meeting someone over the internet?
I have tried, but it hasn't worked for me! I use the internet for research purposes and increasingly for sharing my work and meeting people with similar interests.
If you could have dinner with any author who would it be?
Oh, Penny Goring, definitely! She's intelligent and sexy and I'd be tongue-tied all evening trying my best to impress her. But she'd see through me. I love her lips.
Which was the hardest part of this book to write?â¨
The hardest part to write were those passages where my girlfriends kept saying: you can't write that? But that was the whole point: to dare to say what everyone wants you to smother. There's the passage, for example, where the protagonist, Virginia Mendes, chafing under the marital bliss(ters) of her mediocre, middle-class life, tells her online lover what he would need to do in order to make her come, and why her husband never manages to. And there are bad sex passages. Most erotic authors go to great lengths to write explicit sex scenes they assume fill our fantasies at night. Who goes to the trouble of writing about the lousy sex so many of us have to put up with every day? I do. Virginia says at one point: 'every heard of Erectile Dysfunction? Well, I hadn't. Till then. But they remind me of Sunday morning marital obligations washed down with a champagne breakfast'. Or when she does a 'post mortem' with her girlfriends and they analyse the time her husband pulled a dildo out from under the pillow and shoved it up his own... you get the picture:
TALA [email protected]: You wanna hear my theory about Erectile Dysfunction?
GINI: I’m listening…
TALA [email protected]: It’s him saying No.
SHY [email protected]: Yes, but to what?
TALA [email protected]: Either to you as a person, or to women in general.
SHELLEY [email protected]: Are you saying he’s gay?
TALA [email protected]: Nope, I’m saying I reckon you’re too much for him.
GINI: But he’s the one who keeps insisting!
TALA [email protected]: Because he wants to prove a point. He wants to prove he’s man enough to master you, but it’s not your body he’s not man enough for. C’mon, at the end of the day it’s your m-i-n-d. Hell, anyone can fuck! You just have to feel good about yourself. Confident, know what I mean? Cos if you don’t, you can’t. And he can’t feel confident about himself no more cos he’s not worth the half of you, and he knows it. And the more he comes to realize this, the more his friend goes on strike. En même temps, you, my dear, are waking up to the beautiful, intelligent, powerful, celestial woman you are. You’re tuning in. And this destabilizes all of them. He didn’t have this problem when you first met him, did he, or was he Mr Soft from the start? Well then! Anyone can make love. And now you know why he can’t.
TALA [email protected]: And the more his friend goes on strike, the more he’s got a point to prove.
BILLY [email protected]: We’ve all been there, Gini. Take it as a compliment.
(Snorts all round)
LUZIA [email protected]: You talking about Tilmann or Egon?
TALA [email protected]: Tilmann, Egon, what difference does it make? N you know what? I reckon Maurice will join their ranks, too. One day…
YO-YO [email protected]: That one’s into anal sex too much for my liking…
LUZIA [email protected]: Are you saying he’s gay?
YO-YO [email protected]: I’m just making an observation.
GINI: Til and I were almost at the end of our foreplay once —
SHY [email protected]: He managed to get that far? Well, congratulations…
GINI continues, unoffended: …when he pulled out this dildo from beneath his pillow. I thought, when did you buy that? But then again, why not? Only…
TALA [email protected]: Only what?
GINI: He didn’t use it to gratify me, but… to… to… well, to gratify…
BILLY [email protected]: You saying —
YO-YO [email protected]: He shoved it up his own ass?
LUZIA [email protected]: And then?
BILLY [email protected] to herself: That sounds like a pretty loud No to me…
GINI: And then he came, like, buckets, all over the place. Over my face, the sheets…
BILLY [email protected] shaking her head: …
LUZIA [email protected]: And then?
GINI: I went to the bathroom. And threw up.
BILLY [email protected] shaking her head: ….
LUZIA [email protected]: And then?
GINI: I sat there for, like, I-don’t-know-how-long. And when I came out, he had gone.
TALA [email protected]: Did he take his ‘utensil’ with him?
YO-YO [email protected]: ‘Where’s my dildo, darling?’
SHY [email protected]: ‘Oh, I put it in the laundry, dear…’
Sex isn't always glorious, and it's hard to write intellectual erotica; erotica that's not primarily about sex, but about the body and mind as both battlefield and playing field in the odyssey to the self. I'm delighted that reviewers have picked up on this, on the artistic and philosophical heart of the novel:
"This is some luscious prose. This goes beyond erotica, beyond the culturally censurable. It is sheer beauty as was Henry Miller at his most liberated."
"Its prose, like its subject matter, leaps to life off the page. Dark, disturbing, and forensically brilliant at dissecting twenty-first century sexuality. It has everything Anais Nin and Brett Easton Ellis have, wrapped up in the same incredible package"
"The prose is rich and honeyed but hidden beneath it are so many sinister, complex, and insightful layers that you could spend a lifetime peeling them away and still be no closer to exhausting this book's possibilities"
As said, I paid a high price for writing intellectual erotica. My work was used in court against me and played a role in my losing custody of one of my daughters. But so many people have thanked me for daring to say what I say; for giving them the courage to take their own lives into their hands. And although my children haven't read this book, they know what it's about, they know who I am, and they approve.
What is next for you?
Right now I'm working on a new novel, Verses Nature. Once again, I write about people with strong views, and I do so in a way that I hope will be entertaining and intelligent. I share insights into how this novel is progressing on my website, in the rubric Writer's Kitchen. The novel is a literary and academic project, as it will be submitted for a PhD in Creative Writing. I'm also working on a number of other literary projects. I guess I'm wedded to the word!
Female First Lucy Walton