An Interview with Lucie Novak, author of A Woman with (no) Strings Attached
At first you were only a doctor, but now you are also a published author of the book titled A Woman with (no) Strings Attached. You have certainly come a long way. How do you feel about that?
Writing and publishing the book was exciting. But of course, I only wrote a book because my life has changed, and became very exciting even before I started writing it. Publishing the book, hearing from readers, realizing that they find the story interesting and positive, giving interviews and getting my author profile on Goodreads has opened a new world for me. I started interacting with other writers, and having a whole new alter ego, the writer Lucie Novak. I am trying to keep those two identities-the old me, the doctor, and the writer Lucie Novak – separate. That created some problems, hiding my real identity provided an obstacle for my publicists. It seemed everybody wanted my photo. Well, I am not a model or an actress, I am a writer. I keep my real name secret to protect people I love, and that has to be more important than the success of my book.
Give a short synopsis of your book A Woman with (no) Strings Attached so that the readers of my blog can understand the substance of the book.
The book is a semi-fictitious memoir of a divorced middle-aged woman, a successful London GP who has always tried to be someone other people wanted her to be. Women do that. Trying to be good mothers, wives, daughters, even if it means suppressing their real personality. Lucie tried to be someone else mainly for her husband. She is lucky. After her husband leaves her for another woman, Lucie falls in love with a rather unusual man, Tom. Lucie, a keen skier, always thought skiing was much more exciting than sex. With Tom, she realizes that she loves good sex even more than skiing. Tom encourages Lucie to live “in line with her personality”. He claims that “trying to be someone else is too much work”. For the first time in her life, Lucie feels she can do and say what she feels. Tom loves her the way she is, bold, sometimes outrageous, adventurous. There is a glitch. Tom lives in the USA, and works all the time. Their relationship depends on their Internet connection and infrequent meetings. But Tom is also not sexually jealous. In fact, he has a voyeuristic streak. So together, they create a profile on a website for “married dating”, and an alter ego for Lucie called Adrienne. The names have significance. Lucie means Light, Adrienne “the dark one”. Lucie starts having casual sexual relationships with married men, and writes to Tom about each of them. Lucie learns a lot about sex, the men, herself. They are all having fun. Tom, reading about it and providing male opinions, Lucie, who loves the excitement, the men, who can have a friendship and sex with a smart exciting lover who is not going to endanger their sexless marriages. A win-win situation. On top of that, Lucie becomes a better doctor, being able to understand her patients’ sexual problems better. The book also describes Lucie’s past, growing up in a communist country, and immigrating to England. There are twists in the plot. The book is explicit in some parts, but it is not erotica, despite what some readers thought. In my opinion, it is mainly a love story between Tom and Lucie. It is a book about courage to break taboos and living life to the full. Shocking? Maybe. Liberating? Definitely.
You consider ‘A Woman with (no) Strings Attached’ to be your memoir. How have your family, friends or lover accepted or not accepted this memoir? Not all in the book is a complete memoir.
My lover encouraged me to write it after I wrote him an email about my red dress, and how it represents the change in my life: “you should write a book from the perspective of the dress”. So I did. My lover liked the book, but he is also in a position where being recognized could harm his career. He is the main reason I am keeping my true name private. Lucie is me, the story is mine, mainly, but Lucie Novak is a pen name, and will remain so. My adult children read and liked the book. I was warned that they would be shocked: “All children think they were brought to life by immaculate conception, parents do not have sex”. Well, my children do not seem to think like that, they were fine. Some of my friends were a bit shocked, but most of them liked it. I did not let my ex-husband read it. We remained friends, reading my book could change that. When I wrote the book, I thought my readers would be mostly women. To my delight, male readers, straight and gay, liked “Woman with (no) Strings Attached” even more than women. There was criticism. There are a lot of breaking of taboos in the book. The “reports” Lucie writes to her partner reminded one reader of “Dangerous Liaisons”.
Quote from review:
“At this point the novel acquires the epistolary form and mood of Choderlos de la Clos’ great eighteenth century novel Les Liaisons dangereuses In this arrangement Tom plays the role of the Marquis de Valmont while Lucie is the surrogate for the Marquise de Merteuil.
In a stunning act of virtuosity, the author presents correspondence with between 19 contacts from the site and the bicephalous Adrienne (the Web Site Alter Ego of Tom and Lucie). Everyone corresponds with distinct voices and styles so the reader scarcely ever needs to be reminded who is writing.
The reader is then led through a delightful sequence of sexual encounters described in highly prurient and richly comical terms. The innocent Anglo-Saxon clods never realize that that they are mere playthings in the hands of a nefarious bicephalous predator. “
Some of my other readers felt Tom and Lucie’s actions were immoral, because Adrienne’s lovers do not know to what extent Tom is part the arrangement. But as Tom says when Lucie has some doubts, “All those men are unfaithful to their wives”. Lucie does not lie to them, well, only by omission.
I do not feel I was dishonest. All my lovers knew about “Tom”, even about the fact he was the one creating Adrienne’s profile. If they asked questions, my answer was a polite version of “That is none of your business”. They were happy with that. We had exciting, completely “no strings” relationships. Some of them became my real friends. When there was a danger of someone falling in love, I moved on. Lucie only loves one man, Tom.
The concept of your book is revolutionary in many ways and challenges the way people think about ‘sex’. Your comments on that?
Even I used to think the whole concept of “sex without love” was crazy. It all started in a conversation when I was telling my partner that I love sex because I love him. “Rubbish, “he said, “you would love sex even with somebody you don’t love, would you like to try? There are websites for that”. I did not believe him, but my intense curiosity made me try. I learnt a lot. I learnt that indeed, sex without commitment, as long as it is safe, has advantages. You feel free to experiment, you worry less. Of course, sex with love is different, it is magic.
But sex without love can be fun, too. I do not think women are that different from men, we were just told for generations that enjoying sex for the physical feeling only is not something a woman could or should do. We were also told many other wrong things. That women should stay at home, obey husbands and do as they are told. I always believed that women and men are equal, and not so different. I always had close male friends, long before I had my “sexual friends”. I also found, the hard way, that men will only respect me if I respect myself. As Adrienne’s letter to her lovers said: “My expectation is somebody who is fun to be with, who respects me, is interesting to talk to, and who would have a friendly sexual relationship with me. The “friendly” is as important as the “sexual”.
What according to you is the most incorrect notion that women have about sex?
Women often worry that enjoying the physical aspect of sex is not ladylike, that sex is more a gift to a man they love, something which is expected of them as a duty. It even used to be called “conjugal rights”. A woman often feels that asking the man to give as much thought to her pleasure as his own is selfish or even wanton and not right. I think the way sex is portrayed in films is partly to blame, too. So often, the couple kiss, get naked, and boom, orgasm follows very soon. As most women know, it rarely happens like that, and they start thinking they are at fault. So they give up on orgasm or fake. What they don’t do is communicate to their partner what works and what doesn’t. As Tom would say “guesswork is hard work.” Women of my age often feel that they are too old and not attractive enough for sex. And because they perceive sex as duty rather than fun, they often stop having sex altogether. The “married dating” websites are full of men and women with sexless marriages that they do not want to leave.
Having said that, I feel that things are changing. At least in Europe and the USA, there is a generation of women who feel easy about experimenting with sex, leading independent lives, lives not so different from the lives of men. I think that is the way to go. My book is telling women readers of my generation, or from more restrictive cultures that we are all the same, whatever race and gender, and all equal. Like in life, bold is good. And in sex, anything enjoyable with consenting adults involved is OK.
You published A Woman with (no) Strings Attached in 2014. How much of change has taken place in your life since then?
My life carries on to be exciting. Last summer, I stopped working as a GP. I loved my job, but I am ready to do something else. Having hundreds of grateful patients telling me what a great doctor I was could almost go to my head. Well, I think I was up to the task. My next task is to make it as a successful author. Will it happen? We’ll see. I am having fun, writing.
What made you title your memoir as A Woman with (no) Strings Attached? Explain the significance of this title to my readers.
“No strings “is what we call relationships with no long term commitment. People always think that only men are interested in that. I disagree, women like “no strings”, too. Quoting again from Adrienne’s letter to her potential lovers: “Respect, affection, consideration, intelligent conversation, fun – yes. But no commitment, both sides can stop any time, no demand on time, no need to be there in a crisis.” But there are always some strings, so I put the “no” in brackets. Of course, the main “string”, or more of a thick rope is Lucie’s commitment to Tom, and if it will cause problems. The reader will have to find out.
Who are your favourite writers in fiction and nonfiction? Have any of them inspired you where your writing is concerned?
I have many favourite authors, some of them writing in Czech- my native language. From English written literature, it is probably Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie. But I have many. Robertson Davies, Sinclair Lewis, Terry Pratchett, Amy Tan, Ernest Hemingway, so many it is hard to name them. I like Skvorecky, Kundera, Hasek, Capek from Czech authors, Russian Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, Babel, Gogol, German Lion Feuchtwanger, E.M.Remarque, many more. I mostly read fiction. My main reading languages are English, Czech and German. The best nonfiction books I ever read are Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt and Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans After the Second World War by R.M. Douglas.
What comes first to your mind when the following are stated:
- Pornography – Boring but instructive.
- Tom – Major catalyst of the changes in my life, and the love of my life, whatever happens in the future.
- Prague – My home town, a place I love to go back to. Home of many friends and family, no longer mine.
- England – My adopted home. They treat aliens kindly here. I will never be English, but I feel accepted and loved. But I lost my roots and I feel I could live anywhere, it is people, not country that matters.
Are you working on the sequel to your memoir or on another book altogether? Give my readers a few details on what are your future plans where writing is concerned.
I am writing a sequel, much less of a memoir; the characters stay, but I am playing with “what if”. The book is almost finished. The structure is a bit different, chapters alternate in two voices, Tom’s and Lucie’s. I need to decide on the ending and then edit. I would like to spend more time on editing. I will hopefully learn from my mistakes. Most books would benefit from ruthless culling.
After that, I’d like to write something completely different. A book about the Holocaust, based on lives of my family and other Jewish friends’ parents. I’d like it to be a book about people behaving well, unexpectedly. I have many real stories waiting to be written.
How many books can you read in a week’s time? What is your most favourite genre?
When I am on a beach holiday, I read about three to four books a week. My favourite genre are novels. Otherwise, I read much less than I used to. I have many friends, and communicate with a lot of people via Internet: Friends, Goodreads, relatives. It takes time, but I enjoy it.
Do you think your book A Woman with (no) Strings Attached would have been accepted let’s say ten years prior to the year of its release that is 2004?
I think it very much depends on where. Attitude to the equality of women is different all around the world. I do not think readers in Europe or North America would be any more shocked by my book in 2004 than they were in 2014.
Do you believe in the institution of marriage or not and why?
I believe in long term commitment of two people, commitment to love, respect and support another, and of course, have a family if possible. I do not think that commitment is any longer lasting if one goes through the wedding ceremony. In Europe, almost 50% of marriages end in divorce. I believe in being there in a crisis for the other. And I believe in love and friendship in the relationship. Both are equally important.
Which book do you think is the most overrated book of the 20th century that you have read and give your reason for the same?
I would like to say something about books that are “underrated” first. There are many. The latest is Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. It was a book that was badly received. I disagree. It made me think, always a good thing. I even blogged about it: https://luciemuses.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/my-review-go-set-a-watchman-by-harper-lee/
Overrated? I am not sure. There are books I could not get into, but overrated? The only one I am pretty sure about is the very popular The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks which I thought was simply awful. I thought it was predictable, and presented as literature despite being chick lit. Well, no, I can read some chick lit. Not this. In my opinion, simply awful. Meant for women. Does he think we are all stupid? I met women who liked it. Invariably we had nothing to talk about. The other one is The Alchemist by Paul Coelho, in my opinion false and pretentious. I like magic realism, but only if it fits in the story.
Thank you Lucie for enlightening insaneowl.com and its followers, about your work as a writer. Continue the good work and all the best for your future ventures. I do hope that we may be able to speak through the medium of my blog once again in the near future. Warm regards from Fiza Pathan.
Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Waterstones / Goodreads
Twitter / Blog /
Couple of interviews and reviews:
Articles and interviews
Lastly my review of the book, and first interview with the author.
Copyright © 2016 Fiza Pathan