Tuesday, April 17, 2007
M.J. ROSE - International Best-Selling Author Of Psychological Suspense, Mystery, Adventure, & Erotica Novels
Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing her views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.
Today’s interview is with International Best-selling Author M.J. Rose. She is arguably one of the world’s most successful, dynamic ‘genre bending’ author. She is known not only for her unique blend of thriller erotica, but also as a pioneer in electronic publishing. She has published eight novels: Lip Service, In Fidelity, Flesh Tones, Sheet Music, The Halo Effect, The Delilah Complex, The Venus Fix and Lying in Bed. Plus she has co-authored two non-fiction books: How to Publish and Promote Online and Buzz your Book. In the course of her successful career she managed to rewrite the book on self-publishing.
Her novels mix psychological suspense, mystery, adventure, and erotica. What sets her apart is that she works the twisting plotline and surprise ending in her thrillers with the same mastery as the ‘big boys’, but her devoted readers contend that gets an extra jolt from the erotic element. .
In 1998 several publishers rejected MJ Rose’s novel, Lip Service. Several editors loved it, but did not have the vision to market the author’s unconventional style. Frustrated, but undaunted, MJ Rose was confident there was a viable market for her fresh approach. So breaking new publishing ground, she reached directly to the erotica readers, whose presence on the Internet was well established, by setting up a site where they could download her books for a fee of $9.95. The online response was as she predicted; Ms. Rose sold over 2500 copies in paper format.
Lip Service became the first self-published novel chosen by the Doubleday Book Club. It was also the first electronic book to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house. She has been called the ‘poster girl’ of electronic publishing by Time Magazine, and has been profiled in Forbes, The New York Time, Newsweek, New York Magazine and Business Magazine.
MJ has contributed to several publication such as Wired.com, Oprah Magazine, Poets & Writers, Pages, Salon and other popular magazines. She has been featured in dozens of newspapers all over the world. Also she has appeared on half a dozen television show’s: The Today Show, Fox News, The Jim Lehrer News Hour, The Diane Rheims Show, and CNN.
During the 80’s she worked in advertising as the Creative Director of Rosenfeild Sirowitz and Lawson.
Clearly it can be said that MJ Rose has left her mark on the publishing world. Her books have been published in more than nine countries. They have been praised by The Chicago Tribune, Cosmo, January Magazine, and The BookReporter to name a few. It is also clear the she is only mid-stride in what will certainly be a long courtship with erotica readers.
M.J. Rose graduated from Syracuse University. She lives in Connecticut with Doug Scofield, and Winka their dog.
E. I. Please tell us more about M. J. Rose - - the woman behind the author?
M.J. It’s not that interesting, all the good stuff happens in the books.
But if you must know you can find it at mjrose.com or in a nutshell the key words to my life: Books, NYC, art, reading, movies, Paris, husband musician, dogs, shoes, mojitos, shoes, advertising, everything in my closet is black, Buzz, Balls & Hype, Backstory, ITW.
E. I. Do you express your inner self in your writing, or do the personas you create exist only in your imagination?
M.J. Both. But you’d have to know me better than I know myself to find me in my work.
E. I. What is your response to the public perception that writers’ creative insight and energy is frequently the product of personal conflict?
M.J. I don’t know about the public or other writers. I only know that I don’t write out of personal conflict. I like telling stories. I like figuring out why people are the way they are. If I wasn’t a novelist I’d be a therapist. When I was a kid, I got in trouble for always telling stories. Or lying as my mother called it. Writing fiction is getting paid to tell lies about the truth.
E. I. What was the inspiration for your series “Dr. Morgan Snow-Butterfield Institute tales?”
M.J. Dr Sex Will See You Now
I sat in the therapist's waiting room, magazine in hand, nervously turning pages but not reading a word. I had just come up with a great excuse to leave when the door opened and Dr. M. welcomed me and invited me into her office, the inner sanctum where we were going to discuss the one thing I didn't want to admit I needed to talk about with a professional: s-e-x.
Like most New York City therapist's offices that I'd seen -- and I'd seen a few -- this one had the ubiquitous leather couch, big comfy armchair for the doctor to sit in, a whole wall of books and some innocuous artwork. Nothing that announced that her specialty was sex therapy.
I took my place, sitting on the couch. Dr. M lowered herself into her chair. This was my first good look at her. And if you have any preconceived idea of what a sex therapist looks like, she didn't fit it. In her early sixties, with silver gray hair, she wore gray slacks, a white turtleneck sweater set and a strand of Barbara Bush pearls.
"It's nice to meet you," Dr. M began, "Can you tell me a little more than you said on the phone about why you're here?"
At some point in our lives, many of us find ourselves in a romantic relationship that doesn't work as well as it should at every level, yet something pulls at us to stay and try harder.
For me what wasn't working was the sexual component.
At first, I hadn't wanted to admit anything was seriously wrong in the relationship that time wouldn't fix. Then once I had no choice but to admit it needed help, I resisted the idea of examining my sex life under a microscope. The question I kept asking myself was: If I have to work this hard at sex, am I turning sex into work?
But wasn't it work just dealing with the problem on my own? Wasn't I obsessing over it, nervous about it and feeling like I was hiding some dirty little secret.
Okay. You want to know. I don't blame you. What was the issue I couldn't deal with? It's only fair that I come out with it. So despite my feeling that I am undressing in public, here goes.
Ten years ago, in between my ex-husband and my current live-in boyfriend, I entered into a dating situation with T, a talented man who I found attractive and interesting. But despite everything we had in common. T was addicted to porn and it was either watch a triple x-rated videos with him or nothing was going to happen.
Now, I'm no prude, but I couldn't respond to what T found erotic.
So first, T tried to cut back while I tired to be more open minded. But neither of us moved closer to a middle ground.
Finally, instead of just breaking up with him I asked him if we could go to therapy together. When he said he didn't want to, I decided to go alone.
According to several sex therapists I've now talked to, it is very common that the person who takes the step to go into therapy is not actually the one who can benefit from it the most. But one partner in therapy is still better than no one in therapy.
I'd been in garden-variety therapy three times previously but sex had never been an issue for me.
Now much to my surprise, I found I was embarrassed to talk about it. So much so that I lied in order to get recommendations for a sex therapist concocting a story that I needed to meet one because I was doing research for a novel in which the main character was sex therapist.
I kept up the charade with Dr. M for quite a few sessions. Instead of talking about T or myself, I made up a fictional character who was a sex therapist caught between wanting to help the police and at the same time honoring her commitment to her client's confidentiality.
Was I working on that book?
No. I hadn't even thought about doing a book like that. It was pure fiction to get me onto the couch.
Dr. M was no fool and used my fictional idea to get me to talk about the problems I was there to discuss.
"How do you feel when you are writing sex scenes? Are they based on what has happened to you or do you write about what you wished would happen to you? Do you write about sex that frightens you?"
Every question led to my coming up with more ideas about the imaginary book. And eventually Dr. M somehow helped me -- through all that fictional conversation -- to accept that it was ok if I never enjoyed watching porn and that T was never going to give up his addiction without getting help which he had no interest in pursing.
But equally important, as it turned out, was the character of Dr. Morgan Snow who came to life in Dr. M's office.
A thirty something sex therapist - Dr. Snow is much more interested helping her patients than herself. Caught up in a world where she sees everything from the abused to the depraved, from couples grappling with sexual boredom to twisted sociopaths with dark, erotic fetishes.
I didn't write THE HALO EFFECT right away. In fact it took 8 years before I was ready to work on it- and then in 2002 I started on the first in what has now become a series.
And yes, I broke up with T. Luckily, since I'd only been with him for a relatively short time, I didn't have a long mourning period after I broke it off. Much more important was what I learned about the process itself and how it changed my attitude towards sex therapy.
If sex in a relationship isn't working going to a trained psychologist is making an good faith effort to learn about yourself and your partner: what your needs are, what you expect, what you can live with and what you can live without, what you want to give to someone else and what you don't.
And that working on sex does not mean you are turning sex in to work.
In her last book, Against Love, Laura Kipnis, says that there is a lot about how our society is so work oriented and so "fix it" oriented that we are doing damage to our sexual selves.
But I'm not sure she's right. A careful and sensitive therapist can help you look at this dance that humans do in a way that makes it more lovely without taking anything away from it's magical, life affirming potential.
My experience with Dr. M. didn't cheapen sex nor did sex therapy prove to be a quick superficial fix. I didn't take a pill and wake up the next day all better. It was instead, like most therapy is, a process. Sometimes complicated, some revelatory, sometimes breakthrough.
Before I went to the therapist, I was a little lost.
Dr. M. was the one with the map and the compass. During our time together she never gave me directions, but she showed me those tools and taught me how to use them.
The more we try to keep sex in the dark, the more secret we make it and the more likely we are to do damage to ourselves. As with many other things in life that we choose to hide under the covers, the worry itself can become a bigger problem than the issue.
And that's something I try to keep sight of as I write these psychological suspense novels featuring Dr. Morgan Snow's stories.
E. I. What are your favorite books? What qualities in them appeal to you?
M. J. Too many to list. But here are a few. The list goes on for about ten pages. And the same thing appeals to me about all of them. The perfection of the fictive dream. The way the author has pulled me in and with a combination of great writing, wonderful storytelling, unforgettable characters, keeps me captive.
Possession: A Romance - A.S. Byatt
Damage - Josephine Hart
When Nietzsche Wept - Irvin Yalom
Perfume: The Story of a Muderer - Patrick Susskind
Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
Diana of the Crossways - George Meredith
The Lockwood Concern - John O'Hara
The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand
The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald
E. I. How do you choose which chapter or pages to read from your book when you do a book signing appearances?
M.J. I don’t read. I talk about the book.
E. I. For those just discovering your work, could you briefly summarize your back list, highlighting as you see fit?
M.J. Lip Service (1999), In Fidelity (2001), Flesh Tones (2002), Sheet Music (2003) & Lying in Bed (2006). All stand alones.
The Halo Effect (2004), The Delilah Complex (2005), The Venus Fix (2006) - the three books in the Butterfield Institute Series
My work is psychological suspense that winds up in the thriller category for lack of any other category where it might fit better. There are varying degrees of erotica in the books. With Lip Service and Lying in Bed being the most erotic of them all and my new book - THE REINCARNATIONIST coming out in Sept 07 being a new stand alone.
Plese link the new titlte to http://www.reincarnationist.org
E. I. When you look back on your enormously successful career, is there anything you would have done differently? If so, what and why?
M.J. Change anything? Nothing major. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve gotten to write everything I’ve wanted to write and gotten every one of those books published. Every author wants to be a bestseller – but what I’m proudest of is in a world where less and less people read every day, I’ve managed to survive as novelist for almost ten years.
E. I. Ms. Rose, thank you so much for contributing to my blog. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know you, and your work a little better. Would you like to close the interview with any advice you have for beginning novelists?
M.J. Here’s my always answer to that – it’s a quote by Franz Kafka
"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet."
Posted by E. I. Johnson at 3:00 PM