An Interview with Author Lucie Novak
Lucie Novak ( pen name), a practising GP, has written her first novel ‘A Woman with (No) Strings Attached’. She was kind enough to take time out from her busy schedule to enlighten my audience about her latest book. Her answers are incisive and erudite. Over to Lucie Novak:
What made you want to write your latest book ‘A Woman with (No) Strings Attached’?
About five years before I wrote my book, I was going through a lot of changes in my life. My husband of over 30 years left me for another woman, I felt old, unattractive and despite having many good friends, lonely. Then what started with talking about my problems to an old friend developed into a new and rather unusual loving relationship. After years of thinking that sex was not really important, I discovered what I have been missing all those years. I became confident, more in line with my personality, happy. I had an unusual, full sexual life. My relationship was a long distance transatlantic one, so lot of the communication with my lover was on line. I like writing long emails. One day, I wrote a long note musing about one of my dresses, what later became a chapter in my book,” The Red Dress”. “You should write a book” wrote my partner. I don’t always do what he tells me, but I always wanted to write a book, so I did.
Did you think that many reviewers will agree with the statements & confessions about sex that you have made in your memoir?
No, in fact I have always been aware of the fact that my book is rather controversial. It is breaking a lot of taboos. Women, especially older women are not supposed to enjoy sex just for sex, without strings. My heroine Lucie is not following conventional morality. Yet, she is not breaking anybody’s marriage. In fact the marriages of the men she meets are much less threatened by Lucie than they would be if those husbands had a conventional mistress. Most of those men love their wives and look for no strings sex mainly because their wives are, unlike Lucie, no longer interested in sexual relations. There were occasions when the man was starting to fall in love with Lucie. When that happened, she left. That was the deal from the beginning. Many of those men became her friends. But even the love of the two main characters of the book, Tom and Lucie is controversial. I see it as a loving relationship with Tom enabling Lucie to have her private sexual revolution, holding her hand, but letting her do what she wants to do. Some readers might disagree. They might see Tom as a manipulative Svengali-like figure and Lucie as a hapless victim to his voyeuristic tendencies. Or they might see it as a Pygmalion like story. But Tom and Lucie are both adult, intelligent people who follow their own instincts.
How can an Asian audience be liberated by reading your book?
Love is love, sex is sex, pleasure is pleasure. And despite various differences, respect is respect. My book talks about equality and respect between men and women. I do not believe Asian men and women are that different.
Did you at any time feel that you should stop writing your book as it was too personal?
The book somehow flew from my fingers. At first I did not really think I was going to have it published. I wrote it for myself. Lucie Novak is my pen name. The reader will never know what is true and what is fiction. This is a memoir of Lucie Novak.
Describe some of the reactions that readers have had on reading your latest book.
My book was only published last week, so I only know what my friends said. Lot of my friends liked the message that an older woman can start again, explore boundaries, break taboos, have fun. Life does not end after 50. Some people liked the humour. There are funny moments as well as some serious ones. A gay friend told me he liked it partly because Lucie is behaving contrary to what society expects of her.” Like gay people”, he said. Several readers liked the fact that I strongly believe in equality between men and women. But Tom in the book said something to Lucie when they were discussing the fact that unlike Lucie, he will not have sex with other women, because Lucie would feel hurt by it. Tom said: “Equality is not symmetry”.
Erotica is a topic that many authors are uncomfortable to write. How did you feel writing your book which would be labelled by people as ‘a shocking sexual revolution’?
I do not believe my book is Erotica. It was not written with intention of making the readers sexually aroused. The descriptions of sex in the book, although often graphic, have a reason; it shows the transformation and liberation of Lucie and her relationship to Tom.
Many people feel that sex cannot be enjoyed without love. What does your book have to say about this notion?
Lucie used to feel the same. “I love sex because I love you, Tom” she said. “Nonsense, you would enjoy sex even without love”, Tom said. He was right. But there is a difference. Sex without love can be liberating, with less pressure. But sex with a man you truly love, especially if you both know what you are doing is one of the most amazing things in life.
What would be your reaction if a reader described your book as ‘voyeurism at its best’?
Tom freely admits to his “dark side” what he calls voyeurism. It is not a true voyeurism. I believe there is term- candaulism. He would never want to do it with a woman he was not in love with, or without her consent. But of course, I suppose the men could be seen as victims-Adrienne- a combination of Lucie and Tom deceive the men by not telling them about the reports Lucie writes to Tom. The reports which, maybe surprisingly, make them love each other more.
Many feminists would not agree with some of the material that is described in your book. What would be your reaction to them?
I would agree that my heroine often does things which go against feminist principles, but that is the way it is. I would tell my feminist critics that we are all entitled to our own opinions, but my book is about the most important feminist principle- equality between men and women.
Can you term your book as ‘a memoir of true selfless love’ in spite of you having casual sex with so many men as mentioned in your book?
Yes, most definitely. Tom is the love of Lucie’s life. He is the one for her. And he shows he feels the same, in many of his actions. He protects her, and cares for her.
Describe the personality of the character ‘Tom’ in your own words.
He has an extremely smart brain with wit and tendency to sarcasm. He questions his and other people’s opinions, actions and beliefs, and never presents his opinions as facts. He is confident but not arrogant; He is unconventional and often tries to “push the envelope”. He is rather tough and very direct. In his own words he “Does not do things he doesn’t want to do and does not say things he does not want to say.” But despite his toughness, he is also kind, tolerant and generous. Lucie thinks he is invincible, in fact, although he would deny it; he is more vulnerable than he seems.
Do you think that many people who will be reading your book will be reading it as an ‘epitome of love’ or just to read it as erotica & miss the ‘love’ part in your book?
I really don’t know. It is a prerogative of the reader to form his or her own opinion.
What is better, casual sex or sex with love?
Oh there is no comparison. Nothing beats sex with a person you love.
Are you currently in a relationship which has its foundations on ‘true love’ or only ‘sex’?
I would rather not answer this question.
Which was the most difficult part in your book that you have managed to pen down despite the repercussions?
I think the most difficult part to write was the beginning, Lucie’s past. Writing it, I realised not only how naïve I was, but also how I lacked confidence and self-respect. Before my sexual revolution, men treated me badly because I let them. If you don’t respect yourself, other people do not respect you either.
Writing the first part of my book made me feel angry with that old Lucie, a submissive woman who believed that what she thinks or feels is not as important as what other people think or feel. Unlike Tom, the old Lucie often “did what she did not want to do”. I am not that person any more.
What was your target audience that you were aiming at to read your book?
Men and women who like books about bold unconventional people. Men and women who like sex, giving and getting pleasure, not just one or another. Men and women who have their secret fantasies, taboos they are afraid to break. But it is also for people who experienced life in a totalitarian regime or, like Lucie, live in a foreign country.
In which genre should a book store place your book in?
I am not sure I believe in genres, a good book is a good book. I hope it is literature.
Why do you describe this book as your ‘sexual revolution’?
Like my heroine, I only found out late in life what good sex can mean. It was a true revolution for me.
What is the hypocrisy about sex in a married state according to you?
Sometimes society hypocritically presumes that once the children are born, sex should no longer be important in a marriage, but I disagree. I think at least one of the couple, and it is not always the man, is always interested in sex. I think sex should be mutual, giving and getting pleasure, that without communication and feedback, you cannot find out or know what works for you or your partner. In a loving marriage, sex should be good. But I also believe that sometimes one of the partners loses interest or cannot have sex for some reason. And that does not necessarily mean loss of love. But there are dangers to the marriage if sex stops. Married dating internet sites are in my opinion less dangerous to a loving sexless marriage than people finding lovers among colleagues, friends or relatives. And we all know that happens, too.
Why did you choose to hide your identity while writing this book?
I am a practising family doctor, respected in my community. While I do not believe that writing this book should cause loss of respect for me, it might. The book is not exactly conventional.
Are you ashamed of your book or only being cautious?
No, not ashamed. I am cautious and want to protect my and other people’s privacy and anonymity.
What advice would you give to a young girl who is about to enter into a relationship with a boy?
We are of course talking of a girl of sexually legal age. If it is a sexual relationship, only do it if you want to, do not get manipulated. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do. The most important part of the relationship is not sex, but love, respect, equality. Ask yourself: Does he treat me with respect; can I talk to him almost about anything? Is he listening? Or does he put his needs, opinions and wishes before mine? Does he care what I want or like? Does he treat me as an equal? But I am a doctor, I would also warn her about the pitfalls.
What advice would you give to a wife who has a husband who is not faithful to her?
There are ways of infidelity. The short, only sexual, opportunistic fling, soon regretted by him might not be that terrible. What is more important is emotional involvement, time, and intimacy, not just physical. My advice would be to communicate, talk about what can be changed, if you love him, tell him. Tell him you would like him to be faithful and ask him what you both can do to help him to do that. Unlike my heroine, if you want him to stop, ask him to stop. Don’t make scenes, but try to start a constructive dialogue. Make changes. If you love each other, it will work. If it doesn’t work, why stay? Lucie stayed in her marriage with her unfaithful husband for far too long.
In your experience, what is the most over exaggerated point about sex?
I am not sure what to say. Sex is important in life. I did not believe that earlier, now I do.
How long did it take you to write this memoir/book?
More than a year. I re-wrote it several times.
Who is more important in a sexual relationship, the man or the woman?
Both are equally important, although when you love the other deeply sometimes you think he or she is more important. It is a mistake in my opinion. What you feel should be as important as what the other feels.
Have you any regrets about writing this memoir?
You have mentioned in your memoir that you are an avid reader of books. Which is your favourite genre when it comes to books?
Novels. But I have a rather varied interest in books. My favourite English writing authors are for example Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Ernest Hemingway, Terry Pratchett among many others. Very different books.
Which is your favourite book?
Not sure, probably Miracle Game by a Czech author Josef Skvorecky.
Many feminists regard pornography as something which lowers the dignity of a woman. What is your take on pornography?
I never read any pornography. Apart from maybe “Story of O” and I did not like it although it affected me.
Describe your book in one sentence.
It is a love story between two people who are not afraid to be different.
Describe yourself as an author in one sentence.
A curious woman of many words, writing with a Czech accent.
In your book it is mentioned that you travel a lot. Which is the best place you have visited & why?
I like cities, New York, Montreal, Rome. I ski, so I like the Alps in the winter. But I also like a beach holiday, swimming and reading, not really talk to anybody. I prefer beach holidays on my own.
What books are you planning on writing in the future?
I am already writing a sequel. But I might write a book of humorous short medical stories. Stories of a GP surgery,
Describe what will you be doing as an author for the next ten years of your life time?
It very much depends on the success of my books. I might retire from my medical practice. Live, love, travel, write, and enjoy my family and friends.
What does the colour ‘red’ mean to you?
I like red, it means life, courage to step out of the crowd. Red is very visible.
How has your sexual revolution helped you in your practice as a GP?
I feel that sex is important in life. So I ask, tactful open questions. Leaving my patients space to tell me about their problems or not. I know more about sex, so give better advice. And I make patients comfortable discussing their intimate problems with me.
How has your sexual revolution developed your personality?
I became more confident. I stopped worrying I am “too much”, and trying to curb my personality. To my delight, I found out people like me the way I am. I am a bit “too much”- talk too much, write too much, I multitask, I am always on the go. I get enthusiastic about things. My life is fun.
What is your favourite quote which describes you the best?
I really don’t know. It is an interesting question. But my book has a motto which might come in handy if my cover blows.
Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is. –Margaret Mitchell novelist (1900-1949)
Copyright 2014 Fiza Pathan
You can download her book from Amazon