Hi Lilah, thank you for doing the interview. 'Asking for it' is such a captivating read, and not just for the subject matter (Note to the reader: The book deals with fantasies of non-consensual sex). I have to say that I really liked the two main characters. Both of them are smart and make rational and informed decisions, more reasonable than we often encounter in romance books. Did you take extra care modelling and fleshing out these characters considering the challenges they will have to deal with throughout the plot?
Thanks for asking me. It's so great to hear that you liked ASKING FOR IT, as well as Jonah and Vivienne as individuals. While the subject of rape fantasy definitely required some special handling, I don't feel like I took more care or attention with Jonah and Vivienne's characterization than I would with characters in any other book. The romance novels I've loved best have always grounded their fantasy elements in characterizations that felt three-dimensional and real. And given their issues, it seemed realistic that the characters would have thought about this a lot, grappled with a lot. I wanted their story to reflect that.
Vivienne, the book's heroine, is also a rape survivor, and in the book her fantasies are discussed as a possible consequence of her rape. I found that a really interesting choice, but am also wondering whether this might be controversial. For example, the BDSM scene is quite wary of the narrative that their sexuality is a result of abuse and 'unhealthy'. Can you tell us a bit more about how you came up with the idea of the story and what inspired you to write it?
While Vivienne's rape fantasy has ties to her own past rape, I wanted to make it very, very clear that this book is not about demonizing what she wants. It's about giving her the freedom to explore that with a man who will absolutely respect her boundaries and make her feel safe. She is getting over the shame—not the fantasy itself.
In the narrative, both Vivienne and other characters acknowledge that (a) her response is hardly universal for rape survivors, (b) plenty of women (and men) have rape fantasies without having ever experienced rape themselves, and (c) it's entirely possible that Vivienne might have these fantasies even if she hadn't gone through this terrible event in the past. Hopefully it's clear that ASKING FOR IT is not pretending to be the one and only explanation of rape fantasy; it's about this specific woman's fantasy and what it means for her given the person she is and the experiences she's had.
Ultimately I think readers of the duology will agree that the fantasies Jonah and Vivienne explore together haven't been destructive for them—quite the opposite. But now I can't discuss more without spoiling the sequel, BEGGING FOR IT.
Throughout the book Vivienne is having conversations with her therapist, and those conversations are also really informative for the reader. I imagine that you did a lot of research before writing the book.
If "being very neurotic and spending a lot of time in therapy" counts as research, definitely.
On the one hand, 'Asking for it' is a steamy romance book in which the main protagonists engage in hot sex, living out their shared fantasies in a safe and consensual way. On the other hand, this is also the story of two people whose sexuality is shaped by a traumatic past. In terms of being respectful of these experiences, was it more difficult to write their sex scenes compared to other books you have written? Were there things you were especially conscious about?
Actually, the most difficult thing to do when writing their sex scenes was not being overly conscious of that trauma in the past. For Vivienne and Jonah, these encounters are where they set aside all the conflicts and guilt, all the inner doubts about why they want this and whether they should, and just go for it. Because they've thoroughly worked out their boundaries and established mutual trust, they're able to let all those protective walls tumble down. So the sex scenes themselves had to be pure id.
The negotiation scenes, however, required a lot more care. How do these characters communicate their boundaries with this? It's so intimate – even more so than most conversations about sex, I'd guess – and neither Vivienne nor Jonah is someone who opens up easily. But they both know it's important to be completely honest. So they fight for that honesty, work to get there together, and in the process wind up discovering so much more about each other than they'd ever dreamed.
About the author:
Lilah Pace is a pseudonym for a New York Times bestselling YA author. This is her first adult novel.
'Asking for It' will be released June, 2nd and is available here
. Stay updated with any news at her website lilahpace.com
and on Twitter