When Dead Men was published in 2012, and after my publisher’s miniscule marketing budget had run out, one of my hobbies became carefully placing Dead Men advertising cards into other people’s books in local supermarkets, or even supermarkets and bookshops further afield. That was fun; adrenaline, subterfuge and not a clue as to if it would actually get people to buy my book. Anyway, that’s where I first came across Fifty Shades of Grey, and that’s where I first read couple of pages of it, and they weren’t the first pages of the book. I thought the middle bits might be more interesting, so to speak.
I didn’t actually much like what I read. I thought the writing was not really of a very high standard, thought, too, that the relationship being portrayed was not just bordering on the abusive, but actually dangerously and disturbingly abusive, and primitive. What I found really frightening was the analysis of a female friend of mine, my oldest female friend, in fact, who said that of course women would want to read a book where a very rich man came and swept a young woman off her feet and dominated her, because that’s what all women dream of. I think I changed the subject at that point in the phone conversation because I didn’t really want to have an argument with my friend.
Weeks passed. I’d just finished writing anther historical fiction novel, the yet-to-be-published A Fear of Heights, and nanowrimo 2013 was coming up. What if, I said to myself, what if I could write a superior literary erotic thriller in four weeks, just to prove to myself, and to other people, that men could write decent erotica, erotica in which, like in all my books, there was a strong female character who would refuse to be abused, dominated, walked all over, by the male protagonist? So that’s what I decided to do.
Where to start? I must admit that I was a touch bereft of ideas, realising that, by now, lots of people would have jumped on the badly-written erotica bandwagon, and, as I do, pouring most of my libido into poetry not fiction. And then I remembered that I’d written a short story in the early Nineties about a young man travelling round Europe and falling in lust and in love with a mysterious woman he meets on the train from Milan to Rome. That short story was called Voices, and you can download a pdf of the original draft for free here. And don’t worry, the novel turned out totally differently to the story, so no need for a spoiler alert.
In the end, it took me seven weeks to write The Failed Assassin (31 Days of Shade), which was three weeks longer than planned, but I wanted to get it right. What I realised, after I’d put the book up on amazon as a kindle offering, was that people are quite reluctant to review erotica, which is a shame.
As you can imagine, my wife and children were quite cross with me that I’d written and published an erotic novel under my “serious” author name, and, to date, none of them have read it, which I suppose I should be grateful for, because it does get pretty intense quite quickly and throughout. However, I think it speaks of some universal truths, and the feedback I’ve had from fellow writers and from the few public reviews has been hearteningly positive. The ending has surprised and moved many people, and the device of not giving the two main characters names has also been successful. The most rewarding thing is that the first public review I got was from someone who acrtually got it straightaway, who understood why I’d decided to make the characters nameless.
And now we’re reached the point where Fifty Shades is about to open in the cinema, and where I’m cynically asking myself why people would want to go to watch a film made from a badly-written book, and, more to the possibly belaboured point, a book about an abusive relationship. So I’ve decided to make The Failed Assassin free for this Valentine’s Day weekend, across all Amazon platforms. I know there’s always an argument about if it’s really a good idea for a writer to give a book away for free, and I’m never sure which side of the argument I’m on.
However, in this case, I want to give readers the chance to compare what I’ve written with other erotica novels that I, now in my confident writer’s mode, know are not as well written, that don’t have this core of hope and love at their centre that The Failed Assassin has, because I believe that life has no meaning without hope and love, because I believe writing has no meaning if it can’t reflect on how we hope and we love, if it can’t reflect on how even pure lust can be a force for good, how it can burgeon into something more kind and nourishing than the type of lust portrayed in Fifty Shades.
Get your free UK copy here.
Get your free US copy here.
And let me know what you think. As always, you can email me at rps(at)tettig(dot)com. I try to respond to all reader emails I get.