Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Author Interview: Dying in Pleasure by Lady Ristretto
About the Author:
Lady Ristretto spent the beginning of her career writing under her real name and as a playwright. She has a BA in English from UCLA and an MFA in playwriting from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Her plays were produced in Illinois and Texas, and her most popular work, Wonderland in Alice: The Uncertainty Principle was produced in New York off off off Broadway.
Her first book, Dying in Pleasure, had been a full length play that was rejected as her thesis play: the professors on her committee felt it was too misogynistic and violent for undergraduates to stage. Always stubborn and obsessed, Lady Ristretto spent years rewriting the play into a novel and has recently published it as an ebook on Amazon and Nook. Lady has recently become obsessed with cricket and deeply wishes America would form a formidable team which is worthy to compete in the World Cup.
Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
I let the story flow. If I plan I feel too constrained. I feel like I'm in a cage, and I push against it. I get surly and petulant. I'm not happy unless I can roam free. It's how I learned to write anyway: I was 16 when I started and I didn't know anything. I let my mind go and let everything come out. Most of it was crap, but it didn't matter. Ultimately it was all helpful.
Do your characters ever want to take over the story?
If they don't take over I'm doing something wrong. My imagination has to be inhibited in some way or I haven't thought the story through enough. I can think a story through without planning it. During that process the characters sort of "get into costume" (I don't know how to explain it) and when I start there they are ready to go.
What is your favourite food?
My own spaghetti sauce from scratch. It's my ultimate comfort food. I grew up having spaghetti at least once a week. If I don't have it routinely I get wonky.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I'm writing this at 1:30 AM. I probably won't go to bed for another few hours. I've had this schedule for almost a year, despite all my attempts to become regular. I think I have to face the fact that I'm a night person.
Where do you dream of travelling to and why?
Right now I'm watching a cricket game broadcast from India. It's India versus South Africa. The game will probably go on another three hours, but I'll be awake anyway. One day I'd love to go to South Africa (they're my team), and I'd love to go to India (they're my team, too). I'd also like to go to New Zealand (also my team) and the West Indies (my last team). I'd love to see matches in all those countries, especially India. Indian fans are completely nuts.
Do distant places feature in your books?
Dying in Pleasure takes place in Pompeii. Other books I'm working on, such as Medusa Gets Her Hair Done on Tablo, takes place in various cities across America. I have another novel that takes place on Mars, Europa and Io. I'm all over the place, always somewhere exotic to me in some way. I've never had an interest in writing books set in typical cities or towns in America. I'm too restless for that.
Do you listen to music while writing?
Sometimes. About ten years ago I would have all the time. Funnily enough, I started listening to music again while writing yesterday. It's always rock music, something with a strong beat that gets my energy up. For Dying in Pleasure it was the Gladiator soundtrack. I guess that seems obvious as to why.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest release?
Dying in Pleasure in set in Pompeii in the years before the eruption of Vesuvius destroyed the city. The daughter from the most prominent family returns to Pompeii after having been missing and presumed dead for over twenty years. She believes she's been brought back by her goddess because something terrible is about to happen, and she's determined to discover what it is.
The novel has ghosts, black magic, appearing gods, gladiator combat, necromancy, Bacchanal orgies, murder and lots of sex. And historical accuracy.
What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?
Money is hugely important when self publishing, mostly for advertising and obtaining quality book covers. But money is important in any art form. In theater it seemed more important than talent. But with publishing, I think talent and ability is huge, and those manifest differently for everyone. I think what surprised me the most was discovering how many incredibly talented self published authors there are. It's like a publishing revolution, seizing opportunities to get our work out there.
Is there anything you would do differently?
With DIP, probably, but I wouldn't know what for at least another year. I'd need that much time away from it. I haven't gotten far enough along to know yet what I should be doing differently.
Who, or what, if anything has influenced your writing?
I had an English teacher in high school who writes under the name Stark Hunter. He encouraged me to write unlike anyone before him. He shared his novels with me (which are now available on Amazon) and invited criticism. In fact we argued and he never discouraged it. He never pulled rank to get me back in line. By allowing me to debate him it forced me to own my opinions and value them. I became very strong willed and stubborn with him. Without those qualities, I couldn't have been confident enough and brave enough to push forward as a writer.
He gave me a reading list of books and plays which took me to a level beyond what was taught in class. He introduced me to Tennessee Williams. That blew my mind and caused me to have Freudian nightmares for a couple weeks. He treated me as a peer and I never had that before. He wasn't just a teacher who believed in me: he was my friend who was honest with me and truly liked the work I produced. And he really believed I could succeed.
Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft?
Don't stop working no matter what. Don't pay attention to how other people are succeeding; focus on your own successes. Do creative things like coloring. Read constantly and read everything: it's exercise. Write without the intention of publishing. Just write, because most likely you will produce a lot of crap. I did. Then I got better. Let yourself write crap and move on from it. Be okay with marketing yourself: it's a healthy form of egotism. You're an interesting person: people will want to get to know you. Be entertaining. Be crazy. Crazy is entertaining. Above all, and this is the hardest, don't be afraid. And write about the things that frighten you.
What are three words that describe you?
Creative, empathetic, loving.
What's your favourite book or who is your favourite writer?
Jealousy by Alain Robbe-Grillet. It's an avant garde novel about a husband's obsession with the conviction that his wife is having an affair. There are only three or four scenes in the book and he narrates them over and over, adding in detail and searching madly for any scrap of proof of her infidelity. It's a wildly unusual and creative book that blew my mind into little pieces and showed me the possibilities of writing.
Blurb of your latest release or coming soon book
Twenty years before the eruption of Vesuvius, Lucia, the daughter of the richest family in Pompeii goes missing. When she resurfaces in the city, it's on the precipice of disaster, and only Lucia has the dark powers to save the city. Told in rich historical detail, and with characters lush with sexuality and passion, Dying in Pleasure is a pansexual, paranormal ancient Roman adventure.
Genre: paranormal/historical erotica
Publisher: Lady Ristretto
Date of Publication: April 1, 2015
Number of pages: 385
Word Count: 102,000
Cover Artist: Ebooks Covers Design
Lucia, the daughter of the richest family in Pompeii, disappears one night. The mystery goes unsolved and life moves on. The lives of Pompeii's citizens intertwine: Ibis, a prostitute running the whorehouse owned by the Aedile, a city official, gets murdered by his wife Lucy. Lucy falls in love with Narcissus, the most treasured gladiator in Pompeii. The Aedile's daughter, Julia, marries Rust, the man suspected to have murdered Lucia. Maro, Lucia's slave, holds the families together and eventually discovers Lucia when she reappears in Pompeii twenty years later, and as a witch.
The events in Pompeii converged and lead to its ultimate, inevitable destruction. Only Lucia can help the city and save lives. In a ceremony requiring possession by a god, murder, and necromancy, Lucia discovers what is going to happen. But not everyone manages to get away.
Dying in Pleasure brings to life the long dead city of Pompeii, showing its citizens as vibrant, eccentric pleasure seekers. History, pain, violence and ritual blend in a pansexual orgy that is both exciting and extreme from beginning to end.
Available for Nook and Kindle
LUCIA REFERRED to her patron goddess as Father. It was more respectful, a gesture insisted upon to mirror and mock Lucia’s upbringing: the Roman father is the family’s absolute authority. His power is unquestioned. The lives of his family are to do with as he wishes. In essence, he is the god of the family.
Lucia howled in rage on the hills; it wasn’t a wholly unique incident, but it wasn’t uninspired by Rust and Maro either. Lucia had grown accustomed to venting her rage in loud spectacles in nature. Her Father was pleased and Lucia could hear Her approval. She liked Lucia to explode: to remain pent up, repressed, and quiet not only kept the emotions in, it kept her power in.
Lucia wanted to wander the fields and find Father in the wilderness, but she was nervous to stray too far from the villa. On the edge of the woods, now darkening in dusk, Lucia could smell Bacchus out there; He was running toward her at full speed, like an animal galloping toward its prey. She could hear blood engorge His Penis, and the sound was a storm in her ears. If she stepped into His wilderness, He would fall upon her. Father would think the action, the willingness to enter the realm of another god, as disloyalty, a kind of cheating, and give Lucia up to His angry hunger.
Walking the opposite direction, Lucia started on the road back toward the city, to the necropolis she had visited during the night. The trip had been fruitless—the dead shrinking in terror from her like beaten dogs. She was used to fear, but nothing this intense or reckless. The dead were insulting in their terror, shrieking silent obscenities at her. Rather than taking it badly, and snuffing out what little power their trapped souls possessed, she walked away silently and curious.
Lucia returned to the entombed urns, and felt them quake from her approach. Normally, having received such hostility and unwillingness from the dead to be helpful, Lucia would respond with threats and violence. Perhaps seduction was more in order.
In the language of the dead, Lucia said, “Don’t be afraid. I need your help.”
In their language (with Latin accents from the freshly deceased, who still retained memories of Latin), they replied in an overlapping, echoing gaggle of sounds: “Keep away.”
“I only want to speak with one of you.”
“Away,” they whimpered dusty, silent heaves.
“One of you approached me. One of you has been haunting my dreams. One of you brought me back to Pompeii. I want to speak with her. If you help me find her so I can speak to her, I will do you no harm. I swear by my Father.” Lucia, of course, didn’t use the term Father to the dead—she used one of her goddess’s real name, the name in the language of the dead. It made the dead shake, the necropolis stones tremble. Her seriousness startled them; she was trapped by her oath, and they knew her Father would make her keep it.
They had no choice really but to answer her, for by refusing would bring her wrath down upon them. They echoed and reechoed, chanted one word which became for them a plead for peace: Ibis.
Repeating the name to herself, Lucia let Ibis bring her to her. There was a small entombment on the east side where the dead poor lodged. The tombs were less than tombs, less than places for remembering, inhabited by people who were hardly regarded in their lifetimes; but these were ghettos for ashes also thought too powerful to allow in the city, or cast aside in a rubbish heap. Dead beggars, madmen, slaves, whores, and gladiators there trembled at Lucia’s approach. Her voice thundered Ibis and the souls swept aside as if by a blast of wind, leaving Ibis alone to face her. Invisible, but a clear, solid form to Lucia herself, Ibis stood facing this woman she knew in life only as a legend.
Lucia glared through Ibis’s formlessness and forced the soul of the dead prostitute to assume a physical form. Only so Lucia would have something to look at and speak to. Even Lucia preferred to have a face when having a conversation: Lucia treasured the luxury of normalcy and insisted upon it whenever dealing with the dead—no matter what pain it caused. Ibis winced in the cramped confinement being in her former shape.
“Tell me what you want.”
Ibis’s mouth moved, and Lucia knew it would require a few moments for Ibis to accustom herself to her form again. She sighed impatiently: she had no patience for the dead, and their suffering, struggles, and pain angered and annoyed her. At first, speaking with the dead had been a horror. Repetition made it an annoyance, and sometimes Lucia wondered if her severe irritation was only self-protection.
Ibis was especially bothersome to Lucia. In form and in formlessness, Ibis was stained as murdered souls are.
“Help. Julius,” Ibis said with trembling lips. She spoke not normally, but in a shrieking rage. The stones quivered.
Lucia sighed. “Julius who?”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“Tell. Him. Go. To. Rome.”
“I have no time to be running errands for you,” Lucia said.
“I have been begged by more pathetic souls than you and if you annoy me more I will extinguish you.”
“Then why speak to me at all?” Ibis asked.
She advanced on Ibis but Ibis didn’t move. Lucia found herself staring closely into the pained face struggling to hold itself together. Lucia could see how Ibis’s pale cheeks swarmed in flesh colors like millions of bees. There was even a small buzz of energy. It was more disturbing that Ibis didn’t flinch. Lucia wasn’t accustomed to seeing the dead this close. Lucia arched her eyebrows. It was rare to find a dead soul with the ability to think quickly. “You brought me to Pompeii for a reason. I thought it was for something more important than carrying messages.”
“I didn’t bring you,” Ibis said. “You came on your own. You wanted to come home.”
Lucia opened her mouth to argue, but couldn’t find anything to say. She felt shame, as it was entirely possible it was true.
Ibis said, “Help Julius. Something horrible will happen to him.”
“I don’t care about the Aedile.”
“Something horrible. Something horrible.”
Lucia stepped back as Ibis began to cry. Ibis’s tears were bloody.
Normally, this would not be enough to move Lucia. She had heard more virulent entreaties and extinguished these souls who asked for less. But as Ibis cried—an unusual occurrence for a soul—the other dead echoed her “Something horrible”. Then it became a chant of “horrible horrible horrible”, not just in this necropolis, but all over Pompeii. As if all the dead were chanting to Lucia.
This had never happened before, and Lucia felt afraid.