No context…if you have any questions simply ask in the comments. Enjoy,.
‘I’ve looked over the children’s’ material. Some of it is quite impressive. Bit too euro-centric for here, maybe, but this could be altered. You write well, Amanda.’
Amanda smiled demurely at the compliment. ‘Thank you,’ she said quietly.
‘Oh, there’s no need to be modest,’ Stephanie replied. ‘You should see some of the material I receive.’ She rolled her eyes. ‘Ideal for reading while sitting on the toilet. And many a manuscript unfortunately stays there too. But your other work. Ah, that has real potential!’ Stephanie smiled at Amanda’s confused expression.
‘Er…what other work?’
‘Oh, come on,’ Stephanie teased. ‘It was on the flash disc.’
Oh, no, thought Amanda. Her expression was easily readable.
‘Yes, Click. I think it has great potential. That opening scene had me squirming in my seat. In a pleasurable way of course,’ she grinned.
Samantha laughed. ‘What? Just because I’m gay you think my pants won’t occasionally get wet reading about straight sex? My, god, Amanda. You are still stuck in the laager, my girl.’
Amanda realised there was little point in arguing. Samantha would merely wring out even more mileage merely to add to her embarrassment
‘That wasn’t supposed to be on the disc. I thought I’d taken it off. I only put it there in the first place as I’d run short of space. I meant to buy another flash disc, but forgot.’
‘Just as well you did, then. Oh, and I’ve already pitched it very subtly to Joan Mirsky at Penguin and Karen Wilander at Struik. They both seem keen, but would want to see the whole manuscript, of course. When can I read it?’
‘There is no book, Samantha. That was just a small piece I wrote as a dare.’
‘A dare? What do you mean a dare?’
Amanda sighed. ‘I was pondering certain aspects of writing with a friend. We were wondering how some of these so-called bodice ripper novels ever got into print and my friend suggested we try to write something steamy.’
Samantha took a sip of her wine, picked up the sheets of A4 from the coffee table and waved them at Amanda. ‘Bloody good start, I’d say. What happened to your friend’s attempt? Perhaps we could be onto something?’
‘She backed out. By the time she confessed to reneging I had already drafted the first chapter.’
‘And you left it at that? What for?’
‘Because, it was just an exercise. I am a children’s author, not a writer of soft porn.’
Amanda was beginning to feel put upon. She honestly thought this visit would be about introducing her and her children’s books to editors of local publishing houses.
Although Samantha had been complimentary about her children’s books she now seemed hell bent on sidestepping this area of her writing in favour of some stupid piece of smut she’d written merely as an exercise.
Immediately she stopped that train of negative thought dead in its tracks. There were millions of books and goodness knows how many thousands of authors and a dearth of genres. She might have dismissed her own attempt at writing erotic literature as nothing more than smut but who’s to say that others would agree with her assessment? Granted, there would probably be plenty who would think it was smut, but that still left loads of readers who might lap it up. She realised she was getting lost in her own daydream.
Samantha noticed the slight change of expression. She smiled. ‘You don’t have to publish under your own name of course.’
‘Hmm? Sorry. I was miles away.’
‘I said, you could still finish it and publish under a pseudonym.’
‘Oh, and had you a name in mind?’
‘Well, considering the nature of the material, how about Katia Dikov?
Amanda burst out laughing. ‘Cut your what off!”
‘Not Cut anything. Katia. K.A.T.I.A. It’s Russian. She’s an Olympic athlete. Russian, I think. And Dikov; D.I.K.O.V’ she enunciated, ‘is a fairly common name over there. It’s no more double entendre than Smith or Jones I expect? Plus it gives it a certain Doctor Zhivago air about it, too. It’s just an idea.’
Even though she had reservations, there was no doubt that she was intrigued. ‘You seem quite confident that it would sell?
‘Are you suggesting that because I only publish periodicals I haven’t the acumen to know what sort of books will sell?’ There was no anger in Samantha’s tone but rather mild amusement.
‘No. No, of course not,’ Amanda quickly replied, sounding flustered. ‘What I meant was…’ she faltered, not sure if this was in fact what she meant or merely a sign of lack of confidence in her own ability as a writer.
‘Listen to me,’ Samantha began as she uncrossed her legs, leaned forward and poured more wine.
‘Oh, no more for me’, Amanda began vaguely, making a gesture as if to cover her glass. But Samantha waved away her half-hearted protest.
‘You’re not driving anywhere so stop fretting. Amanda moved her hand away from her glass. ‘Where was I?’ Samantha asked. ‘Yes, right.’
Samantha crossed her legs once more, leaned back in her chair and appeared to ponder on the business of publishing for a few moments before taking up her train of thought.
‘Sex sells. It’s as simple as that. Whether it’s porn or poetry. Lady’s Chatterley’s Lover had to wait until the early sixties before it was considered “acceptable” in the UK,’ Samantha made the common hand gesture dropping in the speech marks to show derision. ‘Yet, it’s probably Lawrence’s best known novel. The controversy always adds spice. Did you know that after the obscenity trial, Penguin even included an acknowledgment in the book to the “brave jurors” who delivered a ‘not guilty vote.’ She shook her head briefly and smiled. ‘I wonder how many women of that era owe their first sexual encounter to Lawrence. For god’s sake, even the Song of Solomon has raised a few eyebrows in its time. So if I say you can write and Click will sell, then it will. All right?’
Amanda appreciated the sentiments, even if Samantha seemed to be getting a bit carried away. And a quick glance at the wine bottles on the table suggested Samantha was probably a little drunk as well.
‘I hadn’t intended to do anything with it,’ Amanda continued. ‘It never crossed my mind that it might be worth publishing and I’m still not really comfortable with it. Besides, it’s probably derivative.’
‘Derivative! Samantha threw back her head and laughed. ‘Oh, for god’s sake. Half the books in print are probably derivative, to some extent. Even more in a genre like this. Though critics and reviewers might say things like, “Reminiscent of Miller”, or some equally pithy platitude. Have you ever read Tropic of Cancer? No? You should. And if you haven’t read novels like this before how the hell could your work be derivative?’
‘I suppose,’ Amanda shrugged.
Samantha leaned forward again and she said in a conspiratorial tone. ‘So, what was your inspiration for those first chapters, then? Personal experience?’
Amanda blushed to the roots of her hair. ‘No, of course not! It was just my imagination, that’s all.’ She tried to sound shocked but was not very convincing.
Samantha laughed once more. ‘So Roger’s little wife harbours some naughty fantasies, does she?’
‘No she does not!” Amanda protested. ‘It is just a story.’
‘Oh, come on, Amanda. Don’t be such a prude. Are you saying you’ve never even read or watched anything even vaguely risqué? What about Basic Instinct? God, back in the day everyone must have watched that.’
‘Yes, Roger and I saw the movie, but then, as you said, didn’t we all?’ she said. But revealing this innocuous piece of information to Samantha, even with the added qualifier, felt more like a guilty confession. And if truth be told, Amanda found the film was quite disturbing, in fact. Especially the opening scene. She struggled to sleep for a few days after seeing it.
‘And did Roger make you tie him up in bed?” she grinned wolfishly. Now Amanda realised she was being baited.
‘No, he did not. And he didn’t check to see if there was an ice pick under the bed either.’
This broke the tension that had been building over the past few minutes and both women laughed.
Thumi wandered out onto the patio, smiled briefly at Amanda then bent to whisper something in Samantha’s ear. Samantha smiled in return and pulled Thumi’s head round so she could kiss her.
Amanda stared. In that moment she couldn’t help herself. It was the first time she had ever seen two women kiss in such an overtly sexual manner. Although it certainly wasn’t her first direct encounter with lesbianism….
For a moment a flash of memory took her back to her school days.
Copyright©Douglas Pearce 2011