In lesser capable hands, Amy Hatvany’s A CASUAL ENCOUNTER, an upcoming novel about a suburban couple who ups the ante in their sexual relationship by inviting another man to their marital bed, could have been either straight porn or straight out boring. Trust me, it is neither. It is sexy and riveting and you should order it right now. Yes, yes. There are plenty of books out about “the secrets of married couples” editors try to pass off as literary works despite their marketing department’s winking suggestions otherwise. And a scroll around Amazon’s self-pub world of erotica – the modern-day equivalent of strolling down 42nd Street back in the day – has plenty of naughty housewives who mix and match in menage, if that’s what you’re into. (Shower not included.)
But A CASUAL ENCOUNTER is different not only because of the well-crafted tension, sexual and otherwise, that had me tearing through the book, but mostly because Amy writes with heart and honesty. No stranger she to the dark fault lines deep-sixing us humans. Take, for example, BEST KEPT SECRET, Amy’s bestselling novel about a woman whose love of wine (and, perhaps, budding alcoholism) nearly costs her everything she holds dear. You’ll find some of the same themes of risk, impulse and pain here, only, I gotta say, so much hotter and more fun.
Jessica and Jake are smart and hardworking parents. They are family-oriented and caring. They have principles and apply them in their daily lives. They also like sex with other people and by that I mean men. He doesn’t, but he likes to watch his wife – or hear about it afterward. They are careful and prudent. No children are around when they’re fulfilling their fantasies. Hookups are virtually anonymous thanks to the handy dandy internet where no name is real, the only addresses provided lead to hotel rooms and call-back numbers fizzle on burner phones. You know if the internet is involved nothing can go wrong, right? Riiiiight???
I asked Amy about some of these themes in the Q&A below.
Q: You mentioned that for some time you’ve been eager to write a book about a loving couple engaging exploring this type of sexual relationship. Why? And what were some of the challenges in crafting these characters, plot, etc?
Amy: I wanted to write about this particular subject for a couple of reasons. One, because my educational background is actually in the sociology of human sexuality, so I tend to be curious in general when it comes to how our society treats what goes on behind closed doors. And two, because after writing IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME, which is about sexual assault, I realized that until we are better able at having honest and graphic discussions about sexuality, until we lose the shameful stigma attached to this very basic and natural human experience, we will never be able to develop proper and effective language to resolve complex issues like rape culture and consent.
The biggest challenge I faced was making Jessica and Jake relatable, fully-rounded characters. I want my readers to feel empathy and understanding of the choices they make.
Q: Can you briefly describe how you researched this book and your most unexpected/surprising discoveries in the process.
I spoke to many different couples who live some variation of this lifestyle, and the men who enjoy being the “visitor.” How did I find them? Online chat rooms and Craigslist ads that I put up in several different major cities. I was somewhat surprised by the flood of responses I received, and pleasantly discovered that most of these couples seemed incredibly gifted at communication and were readily able to share with me the why’s and how’s of engaging in these experiences. Of course, everything was shared with me under a shroud of anonymity, which I feel like speaks to the point of the book. There is still so much shame about how we indulge our sexual desires, despite that as a culture, sex is used to sell everything from breakfast cereals to cars. I found it liberating to talk with these couples, and the men who enjoy being the outsider in the relationship, the different rules that work for different people, the total and complete discretion that is expected and given by all. I was impressed at the level of emotional intimacy and intelligence everyone possessed. And I think what is unexpected is how variable all of their rules and experiences are. Some engage in this behavior weekly, some monthly, some yearly. It all depends on what worked for each individual couple. Health and personal/emotional safety were always at the forefront of their concerns. I found the research process incredibly fascinating.
3) This book is racy, to put it mildly. You don’t hold back from describing sex scenes. (I can’t call all of them love scenes, per my old romance editor.) More importantly, you bravely reveal a suburban working mother’s deepest sexual fantasies. Were these scenes difficult to write? Do you have any qualms about running into the PTA members at the grocery store after this is published?
I wouldn’t say those scenes were difficult. My goal was to write the scenes that don’t typically appear in commercial fiction—where the proverbial “screen” would fade to black and the reader is left to imagine a specific act. If we’re going to speak graphically about sexuality, why shouldn’t it be written about in the same way?
And no, I’m not embarrassed by what I’ve written at all! I’ll look my PTA members square in the eye. Sex is a beautiful, meaningful thing. I say let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about women having positive, empowering sexual encounters. Let’s allow women to be the agent of how they satisfy their own desires as opposed to framing them as objects or victims of men’s.
4) What do you hope people take away from A CASUAL ENCOUNTER?
I usually say that I hope my books encourage people to think, but for this book, I hope it encourages people—women and men alike—to talk. Open up with your friends or your partner about how you learned about sexuality. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, ask yourself why? How were you conditioned to think about sex and how it relates to pleasure? Self-examination and self-expression are key to developing healthy attitudes when it comes to sex. I hope this book can start important conversations about slut shaming, female empowerment, and the shifting definitions of monogamy.
5) Finally, I don’t know you except through your writing and FB, but you seem to me like an exceptionally “healthy” person, especially in your attitudes about female body image and sex. It’s wonderful that your writing is as honest as your perspective. Where does that come from?
Well, I’d have to say that in order to develop the healthy attitudes, I’ve had to wade through years of UNhealthy experiences, thoughts, and feelings. I was lucky to be born a voracious reader, so I learned a lot about sex through fiction, and then later, in college, my interest in sociology naturally pinpointed on human sexuality, so I was exposed to loads of studies and information that many people go their entire lives without hearing. I’m a naturally curious person. If I read something about peoples’ behavior, I immediately want to dig deeper and understand what molds and motivates them. Over the years, especially the last fifteen years or so, I have applied this same curiosity to myself. I think I’ll forever be peeling back the layers of my psyche. Writing is just one of the tools I employ to figure out the reasons I think and feel the way I do.
A CASUAL ENCOUNTER, published by Simon and Schuster will be released (no pun) August 14th. I cannot wait for you to read it ~~~~