When A.R. Torre’s first novel became a runaway success, she was delighted – until she realised she’d have to come clean with her friends and family about the book’s explicit content. Though her decision for “full disclosure” has left some relationships fractured, with eight books under her belt, including her sexy new thriller The Girl in 6E, she says she has found contentment.
It is hard to keep a secret when you write a book. Hard to keep your inner thoughts and desires from spilling from the minds of your characters. It’s as if I , when picking up a pen to write, turn over the key to my soul. And there isn’t a way to get it back. My secrets will forever be broadcasted through the pages of my books. And, by secrets, I mean the dark parts of your soul, your thoughts, intentions and desires.
The thought of sharing those secrets, not just with strangers, but with those that you know and love… it is terrifying. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.
May 2012. Unemployed, I embarked on the frivolous path of my writing my first book. I could have written a thriller. Or a dystopian novel – or a contemporary romance! But no. Somehow, locked away in my overcrowded office, my dogs whining at my feet – an erotic tale emerged. Erotica. I don’t know where it came from. The recent success of Fifty Shades…? A hot fantasy in my head? Whatever the reason, over the next three months out poured Blindfolded Innocence.
I wrapped up the ending, cherry-picked a pseudonym, then digitally skipped my way over to a self-publishing platform, uploading the manuscript and making it available to the masses.
That night, over dinner and white wine, my husband and I vowed to keep it a secret. The words I’d written… the scenes on those pages? We couldn’t ever let those get out. What would our friends and family think?
No, we agreed with drunken nods. It would be our little secret. And we toasted my FIVE (how exciting!) sales that had already occurred. Maybe I would earn enough for us to go somewhere fun for Christmas, or redo the spare bedroom. Our naïve little selves guzzled wine, celebrated (look, now SIX sales!) my success, and went to bed happy, with no earthly idea of what was about to occur.
Blindfolded Innocence spread like a virus. So small, so unassuming at first. Five sales a day. Then ten. Then forty! I sat down once and calculated that if I had fifty sales a day, I’d make as much as I had in the job I’d just left! Perfect.
Forty sales grew to a hundred a day.
Five hundred a day.
A thousand a day.
Two thousand a day.
My husband and I just sat there and stared.
My phone started ringing. Agents. Publishers. And, at some point, I realized that I couldn’t keep this a secret anymore. This was not a hobby. This was a career. And I would need to tell my family. My husband’s family. Our close friends.
And THEN… I remembered what was in those pages. What, in the heat of night, with my libido urging me on, my fingers had typed.
SEX. Explicit sex. The kind that makes your ears burn and your face to flush – certain someone, somewhere, can sense your arousal. In those pages I had a girl having sex with two men at once! What would my mother think.
This was a decision I couldn’t take lightly. This was a decision that I couldn’t undo. So I shut myself away, reviewed my options carefully, and narrowed it down to one important question: How much do I care about what people think?
I mulled over it for three days before coming to a decision.
No secrets. Full disclosure. Tell them all.
Two and a half years later, my life is in a very different place.
I have written eight books. Have three USA Today Bestsellers, a hundred-thousand readers, over 25,000 social media followers. I have a literary agent, a film agent, a publicist, assistant, and team of editors and formatters. My hobby is now a full-time job, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
My work has succeeded. My relationships… some have suffered. Suffered in the sense that I have discovered my true friends. I have lost a lot of casual acquaintances. Some family members don’t returns calls. I’m now often, at social events, given a wide berth, especially by women.
I don’t always share my occupation outright. “Romance novelist” is my most common answer. I don’t say erotica. I don’t mention that my latest book had a cybersexing psychopath as its lead character (The Girl in 6E). But if strangers push, I answer honestly. I am not ashamed of what I do, but I recognize that it makes some people uncomfortable. I always warn acquaintances away from reading my works. I’ve tried to forbid my family from picking up any novel with my name on it. But the safeguards never work. Curiosity picks at them all, and it’s only a matter of time before a ridiculously awkward interaction gives away the fact that someone has cracked open one of my works.
Every book that I write exposes more of my secret desires, my fantasies. Rips back more my skin and exposes my heart. Pushes away some while endearing others.
With my family and friends, there are no longer any secrets. I love sex. It is part of who I am and it pours through my writing. They’ve gotten over it, loved me through it or disappeared from my life. With strangers? There will probably always be an awkward divide, their personal levels of comfort pushing them one way or the other.
I think back, to the hours I spent agonizing over the reveal of my writing and I don’t wonder if I made the right decision.
I only wonder what took me so long to find the answer.
This is who I am. This is what I do. And… with the greatest job in the world, I can honestly say, it is worth it.
The Girl in 6E is out now in paperback, eBook and audio.
A.R.Torre’s follow-up Do Not Disturb is out now in eBook and on 30th July in paperback and audio.
This article originally appeared on the Waterstone’s blog.