When I first conceived of the Dirty Girls Book Club at the beginning of 2011, I'd been in a book club for a number of years. We took turns choosing books and we read literary fiction, non-fiction, and commercial fiction. But a lot of other clubs, at that time, were more pretentious. If a book wasn't literary fiction, and preferably a prize winner, it was beneath consideration.
Nothing against literary fiction, but it's not always a lot of fun. And we deserve to have fun sometimes. That was my "aha" moment. Imagine a group of women sitting around discussing the latest weighty, yawn-worthy tome, and one asks, "Is there a rule that says a book club can't ever read anything fun?" Another chimes in with, "Or sexy? What's wrong with sexy?" Well, of course the club votes to read a sexy book every now and then.
And, because I write romance, what if each time the club chooses an erotic novel, one of the members has a personal sexual - and romantic! - journey that in some ways parallels that in the book? I pitched that concept to my editor at Berkley Heat, and the series was launched.
The setting was obvious: Vancouver, B.C., the perfect place for women to chat about books while enjoying great drinks and intriguing ethnic cuisine. Next, I had to figure out who belonged to the club. For me, the magic number is four (for example, the four friends in the Awesome Foursome books (w/a Susan Lyons) and the four sisters in the Wild Ride to Love books (w/a Susan Fox)).
The next decision was what books the club would read. Should they be erotica classics or contemporary bestsellers? No, neither, because I wanted to quote from the books. That meant I had to create books and write the excerpts myself.
In terms of the story structure for each book, I would therefore have to juggle and interweave excerpts from an erotic novel, the club's discussions of that novel, and my heroine's sexy romance with her hero. I do love a challenge!
In the first book, The Dirty Girls Book Club, young widow Georgia Malone doesn't expect to meet a second soul mate. The figurehead of her new marketing campaign, cocky hockey star Woody Hanrahan, couldn't possibly be that man. But as the club reads historical erotica about the sexual education of a repressed widow, Woody helps Georgia explore her own sexuality and together they write their own happy ending.
The second book, Dare to be Dirty, features Kim Chang, an art student and confirmed city girl. The club's choice of cowboy erotica leaves her cold - to her, the words "cowboy" and "erotic" don't go together - until the women take a field trip to the rodeo and she meets Ty Ronan. As the sexy rancher in the club's erotic novel seduces the photojournalist heroine into the cowboy way, rodeo star/horse trainer Ty shows Kim a new vision of the future.
At the beginning of 2013, I started the third book, Bound to be Dirty. As the heroine, I chose Lily Nyland, the oldest club member and the only married one. I was intrigued by the idea of a marriage that started with teenage passion, but now, in its tenth year, is falling apart.
Attraction of opposites is, of course, a romance classic - but does that attraction always work out in the long run? When Lily meets Dax Xavier, she's a well-educated society girl, a rule follower, a workaholic, and she's determined to be a family practice doctor. Dax is the guy from the wrong side of the tracks, headed for trouble. His love for Lily turns him around. He gets a college degree through the ROTP, serves his country overseas, then seeks the solace of nature as a bush helicopter pilot. At the ten year point, Lily has established a practice in Vancouver, while Dax is more comfortable flying in the wilderness and living in remote mining or logging camps.
They're still opposites in many ways, and that's now causing problems. But sometimes spouses' similarities can also cause stress - and Lily and Dax are extremely independent people who both want to control their own lives.
Sometimes as a marriage develops, it seems that rather than grow together, the spouses are walking parallel or divergent paths. That was how I envisioned Lily and Dax. And yet, because I write romance, I knew that deep down, even if they weren't consciously aware of it, they truly loved each other and had what it took to build a happy marriage.
The bottom line, for so many couples in trouble, is a failure of communication, sharing, and trust. That's particularly true for Lily and Dax, since they're each so independent and they've lived such separate lives that they've never had much opportunity to develop those things. And neither has good family role models to assist.
So, knowing those were the issues they'd have to confront, what kind of "dirty book" should the book club be reading that might help resolve my couple's marital woes?
Or, looking at it from a different angle, what type of book would the club likely choose next? The answer was obvious. They'd never read BDSM. Since the huge success of Fifty Shades of Grey, they might well have been the only female book club in North America that hadn't. In the name of research, they needed to understand the immense appeal of these kinds of books.
How might the club's choice of a BDSM novel interweave with Lily's marital issues and somehow facilitate her and Dax reaching a happy romantic ending? Well, a number of women in long-term relationships have said that their sex lives have been spiced up by reading BDSM, so that's a nice start. But obviously sex isn't all it takes to save a marriage. On the other hand, if a little experimentation in bed raises issues of trust, communication, and sharing . . . Yes, I could definitely see the possibilities.
Having decided that the club would read BDSM, I of course had to write a few excerpts. The book I made up follows the now-classic formula of the powerful dominant man and the successful woman who discovers the pleasures of submitting in the bedroom. This is definitely not the kind of relationship I usually write, so it was an interesting experience as I researched and attempted to understand and respect the dynamics.
Writing Bound to be Dirty offered a great opportunity to explore how different women think about BDSM novels and about dominant-submissive relationships. Why are these novels so popular now with women readers? Does BDSM verge on abuse - or can it be liberating for the submissive partner - or does that depend on the nature of the specific relationship? If two consenting adults choose a certain type of sex life because each of them finds it sexually and emotionally fulfilling, does anyone else have the right to criticize? As you can no doubt imagine, the book club has some very thoughtful and often heated discussions!
I really hope that some real life book clubs choose Bound to be Dirty and have their own stimulating discussions. I also hope that each reader enjoys Lily and Dax's journey as the two of them slowly lay the foundation for a loving, long-term marriage.