Author: hermione

Toxic Divide

OK so the last rant was a bit negative and I’m still at a loss but the focus has to be on finding hope. I’ve been reading articles that argue that we shouldn’t be focusing on dialogue with fascists; we have to repudiate them.

For me this has an interesting dynamic. For my sins, since I retired (fired the boss, see last blog) I decided that I’d always loved woodwork cos my father had a workshop, basically focused on his venerable 48-foot plus bowsprit wooden yacht that had the distinction of coming second in a transatlantic race sometime in the past, sorry I was never that interested but all our summer holidays involved crossing the channel and stopping in at ports along the Brittany coast and then sailing back again.

So, here we are in the twenty-first century (blimey, really? seems only yesterday) in 2009 and I decide to make bespoke furniture. Never made furniture in my life before apart from a thing that supported the telly for a long time and – since the telly now hangs on the wall – still supports various hi-fi & video accoutrements anyway this thing was made from MDF painted black and done with very rudimentary tools back in the mists of time…Pasted Graphic.png

My father had, as I recall, one power tool. It was an electric drill, which doubled as a paint stirrer. One of my emotional/diplomatic successes was when I was asked what I wanted for my 21st birthday and I said I would like a power drill please. Subsequently I discovered they were particularly proud of that.

But in 2009 I was introduced to Axminster Power Tools and basically bought the shop – a bandsaw, a table saw, a planer/thicknesser, the H&S stuff and so on and discovered birch plywood which is THE most wonderful material for making furniture.

Oh dear, but this is good background. Fast forward. My husband keeps telling me I need to get a lathe. WTF is a lathe?

Brown and round. And I see the Berkshire Woodturners at various fairs and join them in 2011 and I’m now their treasurer, membership person, newsletter editor and now website updater and zoom host. At last I’d found my spiritual home, a bunch of guys who love their craft and treat me like a real human being.

But in June 2017 I went on the People’s Vote march in London which coincided with a local craft fair we took part in, with a lathe under the gazebo turning spinning tops for the kids. So I help set up on the Saturday and then go off to the march. Then I turn up on the Sunday and get the democracy lecture and with that pall you get when something drops out of your world I realise that these people, my friends, the bunch of guys that I felt safe with, were predominantly Daily Mail readers who ipso facto voted Brexit! They are on the other side of the toxic divide and that makes them, in a very real way, orthogonal to what is obvious to me.

So, what is the way forward? To try to persuade them to change their mind? I can see the activists trying to change the minds of total strangers with facts and figures and cast-iron logic but you soon find that even logic is by no means universal. My obvious isn’t the same as your obvious. 

The truth cannot be spoken. Three-word slogans can appear to encapsulate it but as anyone who watches tabloid headlines will have seen, they carry a value judgement. Value judgements are orthogonal to truth. No dimension in common. I’m screaming into the void: WHAT DOES IT TAKE?

So, while the individual who made the mistake of giving me the democracy lecture will never be forgiven – although I can mitigate his error by the usual (reluctant) ploy of assuming his intellectual faculties are deficient – I have settled on the gentle project of listening, and learning not to intervene when ‘better in my day’ and ‘young people nowadays’ comes up in our zoom coffee mornings. And I was pleased with a success the other day when I ventured that the UK’s vaccine rollout was very impressive. It shows them I’m human. And at the same time I was delighted that someone else ventured that it was good to be rid of Trump and everyone else joined in in agreement.

Whether they will speak for me when I’m taken away is still something that I would not venture to try to establish, but with COPD I wouldn’t last long under torture anyway.

Encounter with Activists

When I landed my first and only Technical Author job writing manuals for telecoms software applications, my husband mentioned in passing that TAs are famously weird. There was a joke that went: a TA rubs a lamp and the genie says you have a choice: you can have all the money in the world, or all the knowledge in the world. The TA hesitates barely a moment and plumps for the knowledge. Well, wouldn’t anyone?

The deed is done and the TA blinks, stunned. The genie asks: well, what have you learned?

The TA says: I should have taken the money.

I sacked the employer, in his capacity as my employer, nine years later and subsequently got the autism label which would have helped immensely at the time.

Where was I? Activists. So one thing you can count on is that a truth-bum ex-TA will be a passionate Remainer. So there’s a pile of pro-EU pages on Facebook and I stick my oar in occasionally. After a while I end up joining one of them and holding a placard saying FULL LORRY PARK = EMPTY FRIDGE in a car park somewhere.

But despite over a million of us turning up in London for what was dubbed ‘the longest Waitrose queue in history’ and SIX million of us signing a petition to revoke Article 50, it is all batted aside. Something that matters, so desperately matters, is batted away with barely a second thought. 

The powers that we are facing will not respond to marching and placards and signing your name here. What we are facing does not respond to the screaming frustration, the searing grief and gnawing anger in the well-spoken Waitrose set (although at least some of us are also patrons of Lidl and Aldi). The point is that the powers that we are facing know very well how we feel and they demonstrate their contempt with comments like ‘They’re now British fish and they’re better and happier fish for it,’  and the canonical ‘Fuck Business’. All in a day’s work and our noses are rubbed in the sheer orthogonality of it.

Orthogonal = irrelevant. Those of us who did a bit of maths at school will know that orthogonal = at right angles, perpendicular. It’s on another dimension that simply doesn’t figure in their scheme of things. Ordinary people are ‘potted plants’. Their suffering can be dismissed in the way that we discard a plant that didn’t thrive. Oh dear, I forgot to feed it. People’s suffering simply doesn’t matter to them.

So being exhorted to write to John Redwood to appeal to his humanity feels like an insult. He bats it back because he can. He doesn’t even try to answer the question.

We are not dealing with people here. We are dealing with something that is deficient, in a way that an autistic ex-TA might understand, but from the other side. I doubt myself constantly. It never crosses their mind. Dunning-Kruger writ large.

So, placards and petitions don’t do it. However well worded, they come from the usual suspects and their susceptible audience, and boy! do the Tories understand susceptible audience.

Because the Tories are the enemy. That has finally been established. Many of their followers may not understand it yet, because of the zombie effect (of which more in another blog). And as a pre-emptive strike, I would point out that if you are a victim of the zombie effect it’s not your fault. You only buy it for the cartoons/sports pages/fashion section/lifestyle/health and recipes/crossword and Sudoku. The shouty headlines are almost subliminal. But what reputable news outlet shouts a value judgement, with underlined words, in the headline? Only one that despises its readers.

So, what do we howling inside, grief-stricken truth-bums do next? Petitions don’t work. Marches don’t work. Placards don’t work. Across the Channel we see the gilets jaunes setting fire to vehicles and they get concessions but that’s not what we’re looking for. We’re not looking for concessions in an existing negotiation. We’re looking for a wholesale review of the process of government and the way it has been eroded and played in the last couple of decades. We need a review of democracy itself, which incorporates a deep understanding of the way social media allows targeted adverts that the susceptible see and the rest of us have no inkling of. We need a re-establishment of the value of truth. And I hear you say fuck that for a game of candles and I’d agree. The horse has bolted. 

So stop sending me emails asking me to ‘add my name’ or ‘pledge some money’. I am simply deleting them.

Long time away

Not so much a case of writer’s block, although that’s a part of it.

The thing is, the trilogy was written (I might say it wrote itself) in 2014-15 – before Brexit and Covid were in the language. I just sat down for eight months with no formal training beyond O-level English and found out what was going to happen next. Like practically all first novels it is very personal, doesn’t have a wide appeal and is certainly idiosyncratic, but a few people really loved it and that was encouragement enough to put it up, at very little expense, on Kindle.

Now five years later we have a country divided by Brexit and, yes, now we have a virus. It’s fun for me to see what I got right and what I got wrong. The only thing I got completely wrong about the virus was that I predicted that the networks would all shut down within weeks. On the contrary, we’re all going online even more than before and beyond the occasional glitch it all still works!

But anyway, I thought I’d leave the first edition up there just to ‘prove’ that it wasn’t informed by hindsight. But I do have it in mind to update it and tighten it up, take out the really quirky stuff and focus on the love story with the various emergencies as backdrop.

In the meantime got myself seriously tied up in knots dealing with people whose job it is to help me, at my own expense, to write a novel and it’s been both rough and paralysing. I’ve learned about the hero’s journey, the three-act graph, the mirror moment, saving the cat and a whole bunch of stuff that really I didn’t want to know. If you’re looking at a novel with a checklist in hand, that’s fine if you’re Stephen King because you’ve developed a genre and the formula works.

I also learned that the constant refrain to ‘never underestimate your reader’ didn’t work for me. The questions people raised, the wrong end of the stick being grabbed, the odd reactions from people that I thought were friends who clearly didn’t understand it at all – and the delighted reaction from some really unlikely sources including some who don’t know me. So all I can say is, if you don’t ‘get’ it, I’m not going to go to great lengths to spell it out – you’re not going to like it any better. Try reading Neal Stephenson and you’ll see what I mean.

I wanted to say some things that were important to me – in particular what it’s like to be weird, and the idea that the free public service (which I now discover is referred to in academic circles as Universal Basic Services) I’m convinced could be made to work in the right circumstances.

I’m going to try to get something out before December 31st. It will be much shorter – all in one volume – and the timeline will have changed a bit. And yes, the new version will be informed by the last four years, but only in the little details.

And ultimately, it’s really just for me. There’s no possibility of making any money out of it; the great thing about Amazon Kindle for me is that it doesn’t cost me anything to have it up there, and I get less than a quid when someone buys a copy.

Would be glad of comments, and will try to look in regularly. I’m not sure WordPress notifies me properly when someone posts a comment. So bear with me if it takes a while for me to respond.

Encounter with an editor

I’m rewriting Flaming Sword; it won’t change a great deal but there are some things in there that need updating and clarifying. Any changes will then percolate through to the other two books in the series. Self-publishing is great for that!

So I went to a literary services company on a personal recommendation for some paid-for mentoring. I was fully prepared for the red pen cutting through whole swathes of it, and steeling myself for some well-informed criticism.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the way the mentoring was done. First of all the expectation management was nonexistent. I had no idea when or whether I would hear from the person I was assigned, and a typical wait was ten days for an hour or so’s work. Then out of the blue I get an email saying can you talk this afternoon. The whole feeling is, well, I’ll fit you in when I’m not doing something more important.

She emailed some questions, all of which were answered well enough in the text. I answered them, but my answers were not acknowledged either by email or even in the conversation.

The second thing I wasn’t prepared for was being treated like a GCSE student. I had this fantasy that mentoring was about a person figuratively sitting beside you, listening to you, trying to understand what you’re trying to say and then giving feedback about how best to do it.

So I got a ‘plot structure 101’ and some suggestions of mixed value. Some were very good points; others, I’d say 80%, were a firm grasp of the wrong end of the stick. All useful, if only flagging up what needs clarifying. I learned more from what she didn’t say than from what she did. There was a whole pile of assumptions she brought to the book, which were simply wrong.

The underlying point of the book, the sense of being born spiritually disabled, was first ignored, then dismissed as ‘very sad’, and then finally answered in a brain dump that came in the time it took her to write it, with no salutation or signoff.

And I quote the first paragraph of a long stream of consciousness:

The only aspect of the central POV I find “uncomfortable” (or as I said “very sad”) is Paul’s apparent belief he’s inherently spiritually inferior due to his autism, rather than mystified and neglected by a world not set up to understand autism.  I think the issue may be that Paul is relatively young, appears to have known about his autism for all of his adult life, and to live in a world that, despite the dystopian setting, recognises autism relatively easily. Therefore the idea that he is “spiritually disabled” comes across perhaps more as a fact about him as an autistic person than a feeling resulting from years of misunderstanding and exclusion.  If I were reading this from an author who was not autistic I would be worried they were expressing a prejudiced view of autistic people – I mean, “spiritually disabled” is a very harsh thing to say about anyone!

She goes on to mention a couple of autistic students of hers who are doing fine, so the whole thesis is inconsistent and I need to change something about either his diagnosis or the society’s understanding of autism.

Now, I know that my own emotional reactions are non-standard, I need a reality check from my friends, and I try very hard to be honest with myself, but all roads seem to lead to my mind screaming YOU COULD HAVE ASKED ME! It was clear enough that she found it offensive, which would also explain the responses I’ve had from a couple of people who know me but not all that well. That was why I went to the agency in the first place.

So I got my answer, but in a way that reminds me of the square root of minus one.

First of all, it’s not about being inferior, or unworthy. Do we call a person inferior or unworthy if they’re born blind?

Secondly, yes it’s a fact about him, or at least a deeply personal question he is asking about himself. And it’s got a name: autism. It doesn’t follow that it applies to all autistics – see my blog Remark about Scoundrels.

And thirdly, it is not a harsh thing to say, unless you assume that by ‘spiritual’ I mean ‘moral’ or ‘ethical’. Even then, it’s, yes, very sad but it’s not a judgement. For me, ‘sin’ and ‘spirituality’ are technical terms, not judgements. Different things are obvious. But if she has autistic students, she should be aware of that.

So I’m putting in a disclaimer at the start of the second edition. There are two very important points, which I would have thought are obvious and what is really depressing is that I don’t think this person even wants to try to understand it so there is no way I can begin to explain it to her. She’d rather drown the book in blood than face this question.

The first point is: all autistics are different. This book is not a comment on all autistics. It is a comment on one particular autistic’s blind spot and the grief and bitterness it has caused him. The theme of the story is the way he gradually relinquishes the old bitterness and as the country comes back into the light, so does he.

The second point is: getting the autism assessment is a great help, it gives it a label, but it doesn’t make it go away, any more than a diagnosis of blindness restores your sight. It provides a framework to learn to manage it, but the question remains: is the disability, for this particular autistic person, a spiritual one?

I still don’t know the answer. The project was to come to terms with it.

Oh, as a postscript. I went back to the agency to try to tell them that I don’t feel this editor can help me any more. I got an email back three days later, saying sorry it didn’t work out, we can consider some other options. Eight days later I haven’t heard any more so I call him. He makes no attempt to understand my point (fair enough, he needs to support his staff) and agrees to take on the remaining 100 minutes himself. But it has to be out of office hours, he says, so he’ll look at it tonight. That was four weeks ago.

I’ve decided that if I can manage it, I shall stop holding my breath. He’s probably already forgotten.

By the way, when the second edition comes out, any of you kind people who have already bought the book and commented on it will receive, on request, a signed copy, on me, as thanks for your support. Watch this space.

Remark about scoundrels

I remember reading, years ago, that Samuel Johnson’s famous comment about patriotism being the last refuge of the scoundrel is not a definition of patriotism, it is a remark about scoundrels. I’ve been trying to search for it to find an attribution but couldn’t find it.

Anyway, I think the two main points of my Poor in Spirit trilogy are in a similar kind of vein, in the sense that they are very easily misunderstood. To say that my autistic protagonist thinks he might be spiritually disabled is not a definition of autism. It’s not even a remark about autism. It’s a lifelong puzzlement about spirituality.

Similarly, the discovery that ‘consciousness is sin’ is not a value judgement about consciousness, it’s a definition of sin. That needs a lot of unpacking, and results in the suggestion that, at least in the Eden story, God didn’t give us morality but rather punished us for it!

The Daodejing (aka Tao Te Ching) has a similar theme – cleverness and intelligence are repeatedly denounced as the root of all evil.

In our pristine state, we were not yet conscious. To return to this state, by meditation, prayer or whatever, is to renounce our consciousness.

It is with this predicament that my hyperverbal protagonist is struggling.

Show don’t tell

I’ve been reading quite a bit about writing lately, while I wait for my Christmas present, which is time with a professional editor. When writers write about writing it can very easily get luvvy and incestuous and publishers and authors seem to appear disproportionately often in fiction, from Love Actually to Fifty Shades to Misery to Dragon Tattoo. And writers love ‘show don’t tell’. They will go into long, detailed descriptions and then in their seminars they will discuss the difficulty of balancing their ‘art’ with what they are trying to say.

I’m told that if I want to be a writer I have to read a lot, because that’s how I’m going to learn my craft. Thing is, I read slowly, and frankly there aren’t that many books I’ve encountered lately that really grab me. I’ll start one and get bored quite quickly, and the most frequent reason is the long, detailed descriptions, whether it’s of a scene, the intricacies of a piece of machinery, or the minutiae of a piece of action. It seems to me that if it takes a lot longer to read something than to imagine it happening in real time, then you are losing me. Milton lost me very quickly, as did Proust. Sorry, guys. And in Paradise Lost I really did want to know what happens next. Latest one is Banks’s Culture books, though I’m persisting with him for the moment.

As a reader, I don’t want to admire the brushstrokes; I want to follow what’s being communicated. I’m (speaking personally here) not desperately keen on thrillers with lots of jeopardy, and at the other end of the scale I can do without long descriptions of sexual encounters, which is fine if I can skip them without missing the next twist in the story. I’d much rather have a few clues (obviously there have to be enough of them to give the imagination something to chew on) and fill in the gaps myself, than to find myself waiting for the picture to unfold before I can ‘see’ it. That’s like buffering when you’re watching a video. Why aren’t we allowed to put in back story? Is it a fashion thing? If keeping your reader interested is to withhold information and just drop hints about what they need to know, then I’m not in your genre.

Just enough is enough.

New publisher?

Thinking about looking at some kind of professional self-publishing helper, not going to mention any names right now but thinking about what kind of audience I want to tell them I’m aiming at.

Thing is, everyone who reads it seems to see a different book. I suppose it’s at least three different books.

For me, first and foremost it’s the autistic spiritual journey, from the original predicament outlined in the rant at the end of Chapter 3 of Flaming Sword, to his much more laid-back persona at the end of Water of Life. That is the basic project that led me to write the trilogy in the first place. True, Vian already knew he was a bit weird; for me, I only got the validation when I was six decades old.

Secondly there’s the utopian ideal of how to organise a society from scratch – and you can only do it when everyone is at rock bottom to start with – and while it might look very bleeding heart leftie it does make room for people to get rich if they want to. It’s a model I’ve never seen anywhere else and I’m slightly surprised no-one’s actually commented on it, except one friend who said in an email that they wished we had people like that running the country. I don’t yet know whether it’s actually too naive for words, or whether those who might think so have axes to grind.

The third obvious thread is the romance, like a kind of reverse Pride and Prejudice/Pretty Woman. He’s reasonably secure in his limited lifestyle under the Theocracy, she’s high-born but not at all sure of herself because of her own limitations that also translate into high-functioning autism, which is why Vian noticed her in the first place.

What kind of ‘audience’ or ‘genre’ all that translates to is something I have to ask an expert. And I’ve had bad experiences with experts in the past, so we’ll have to see. Like Vian, I’ve mellowed a lot since I began my spiritual search (turning down the sacristan job at my posh boarding school for instance, and being ridiculed by all the loving and giving spiritual groups, Quakers included, that I’ve tried to join over many years since then, coping, not always very well, with the idea that I’m actually born spiritually blind and then finally getting the assessment of Asperger’s Syndrome). I’d better not say a lot more about that because it might constitute a spoiler.

But I think that the kind of people who would enjoy the book would include those who are bothered by the ‘Hard Problem’ (and if you’re not bothered by it you don’t know what it is) and those that are probably to the left in political thinking. People who are interested in autism might look at it but it’s not the kind of autism that most people writing about it recognise. For a start, it’s hyperverbal. But that’s well explained in the book.

We’ll see.

Editing your own work

Proofreading and editing your own work is not easy. You read what you know you wrote. I’ve found small typos months later, having read the work over and over again.

But there are a few tricks you can try. Here are some of them:

  1. Keep the spelling and grammar checker on. It’s wrong often enough but it’s a simple matter to overrule it, just (in Word anyway) right click and select Ignore. It flags up spacing errors and occasionally makes suggestions that are an improvement. A word or name it doesn’t know I usually add to the dictionary. If you’re still not sure about its and it’s and all that sort of thing, ask someone who is completely clear about apostrophes, see point 4.
  2. Give it a few days, even weeks, before you go back to it. Get on with writing new chapters instead.
  3. Put it in a different format. I use Calibre to convert the book into Kindle MOBI format and upload it to my Kindle. When the words appear in a different place on the page, in a different font and on a different screen, typos you’ve missed can jump out at you.
  4. Show it to a friend. I’ve read at least two books that clearly hadn’t been shown to anyone before being published. Big mistake. A friend can point out plot inconsistencies, implausibilities and sheer naffness that you wouldn’t have seen yourself, as well as pointing out typos and awkward turns of phrase.
  5. Well this is really 4a. Choose your friend carefully. It’s your heart and soul you’re asking them to criticise. They need to be confident you won’t be upset. Which just means you need to know how well they know you, and vice versa. There are people I can’t take criticism from, and others I’m quite happy to listen to and take it on board. Like my protagonist, my scorn and contempt detector is on a hair trigger. This is where a professional editor you don’t know can be a problem. Like finding a therapist, you don’t know until you’ve already committed yourself, and I’ve had very bad luck with therapists.
  6. well, 4b. If there’s no one in your entire circle of acquaintance that you’re prepared to show it to, then you probably shouldn’t publish it at all.
  7. Live with the odd typo. I found one in a William Gibson novel.

In praise of self-publishing

13592821_1267634033267823_948898492290551321_nSelf-publishing has been an ideal medium for me, and I’m impressed and astonished at Amazon and CreateSpace and how they’ve made it possible to publish work for Kindle and for print.

I’m no fan of the idea of unfathomably huge global corporations who treat their workers badly and don’t pay their dues, but I do see automation as inevitable and Amazon’s self-publishing setup is truly amazing. Anyone can publish anything (within reason – I think they put it through AI to check it for terrorist manuals and other nasty stuff) and people can buy your book, printed on demand and out the door within hours or simply downloaded on Kindle. No need for a garage full of unsold dead trees, no need for mountains of rejection letters from publishers. The only downside is that it won’t appear piled high in Waterstones.

Of course no publisher means no professional input, and that’s going to show. Editing, even proofreading, your own work is always going to be hampered by the fact that you know what you meant to say and that’s what you read when you go back to it.

Thing is, in my own case I don’t want to ‘be a writer’. I do write, but I’m not a writer. I wrote my trilogy as a project to sort out things in my own mind. I didn’t write for an audience and I haven’t done very much to publicise it. I’m working on a spin-off, but there’s no hurry. I’m also working on a non-fiction book, about woodturning. For me, writing is more of a hobby than a profession, because words are something I can do. This lends itself perfectly to self-publishing, because it’s all being done automatically, it isn’t inconveniencing anyone and there’s no unnecessary printing.

I should point out that after costs, the royalties are pretty pitiful – I get 65p for each book sold. If I were to set a higher price I would get more, but I think seven quid is as much as I would pay for a paperback.

I’m told I should use the hashtag #PoweredByIndie because Amazon are celebrating how wonderful they are this month. So I’m an indie author. Well at my age I’m happy to take on new terminology, and indie means independent, in this case independent of professional editors. Not that I kept the manuscript to myself – feedback is essential. I’ve seen at least one self-published book that had clearly not been shown to anyone before it was published.

And Microsoft Word, that entity that writers love or hate, has been a good friend to me, even if it does get its it’s and its muddled up.

Latest feedback – refreshingly honest and eloquent. Can’t be bad.

Fifty Shades of rant

The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy doesn’t take up valuable space on my bookcase. That’s because I got the Kindle version, and I loved it. I read it twice, and then dipped into it again, and again. And (well, I’m weird) I did and still do skip through the sex scenes – just keep an eye on them to see how they’re going but they’re not the meat of the story.

It’s a retelling of every woman’s favourite romance – the ordinary, normal woman we can all relate to meets a damaged (but very rich) man who needs to be rescued. It’s Pride and Prejudice and Pretty Woman. I think that it’s had enough coverage for me to be not too worried about spoilers, but the meat of it is that there is nothing submissive about Ana Steele, (or Vivian Ward or Lizzy Bennet) and that is precisely why Grey (or Lewis or Darcy) falls for her. So when I see a journalist say that someone ‘makes Anastasia Steele look like Boadicea’ I know that he hasn’t read the book. More than one friend of mine has said that she won’t read it because ‘it’s about a submissive woman who meets a dominant man’. It’s not. It’s really uplifting precisely because she doesn’t have a submissive bone in her body.

I don’t know why I feel so strongly about that. Perhaps because I wrote a trilogy of my own, albeit very different on all sorts of levels, but when I’m talking to a friend who hasn’t read Fifty Shades (and who might turn out not to be a friend after all in the end) and she can’t let me finish my sentence when I’m trying to say that the point of the story is (interruption, interruption), I think dammit you really don’t know what I’m going to say, why do people always think they know what I’m going to say when they don’t … the point is that he falls in love for the first time ever! The first time ever in his life! He has never known love. Well, he has, but he hasn’t seen it. His adoptive family loves him, but he’s so far unable to wrap his head around that. So, up to now, he’s dealt with relationships according to the code that a predatory older woman had foisted on him when he was a teenager. That was what Ana Steele walked into. The meat of the story is how she dealt with that.

But if it weren’t for the publicity about the dom-sub business I doubt if the trilogy would have ever had the success that it did. No problem with that – anything that sells a book is great. But, like Python’s ‘Life of Brian’, don’t settle on an opinion until you’ve seen what it’s about.