Okay, so there's this has-been porn star named Angel Dare who gets tied up and thrown in a trunk, see? —Left in a parking lot in the San Fernando Valley to die.
What gives? Little Miss Angel only showed up for a film shoot where everything went VERY wrong.
But Miss Dare's enemies are in for a surprise. Our plucky heroine gets out of that Honda trunk like Houdini, and is determined to find WHO screwed her over and MAKE THEM PAY.
That's the opening of a new audiobook, "Money Shot," that I just recorded for Audible.com's British Empire division!
It was my first time reading a book— this one by the Edgar-nominee Christa Faust— where I was the "actress" rather than the author!
It was fun to play all the characters, from mobsters to anorexic crackheads-- with feeling! Now YOU can do me the great favor of listening and telling me how I performed! If you like fast sleazy pulp mysteries, I am sure you will enjoy it.
After my three-day recording session in London, I did an interview with AudibleUK to talk about the "behind-the-scenes" of voice actors and "playing porn star."
1. What do you like about Money Shot?
It's an ex-porn star turned Avenging Aphrodite... all without the help of a plastic surgeon.
2. What do you think of Angel Dare as a heroine?
She's part of a lively scene of new pulp-noir protagonists who shake up the usual scenario of private-dicks-with-a-chip-on-their-shoulders... in this case, setting the mystery in the San Fernando Valley porn biz, with a woman who both calls and delivers the shots.
3. What do you think you bring to the narration?
I'm an honoured member in the elite "X-Rated Hall of Fame, 4th Estate Division"-- seriously, I have the plaque! I covered the porn business since its pre-VHS, 35mm days, so I know the turf well.
4. What is it that you love about hard boiled/ noir crime fiction?
My audiobook dream would be to recreate "Red Harvest" by Dashiel Hammett with all the bells and whistles - one of the most devastating portraits of American violence and perverted justice ever written. It's our bloody version of existential angst, and I was raised on it!
5. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Movie star, ballerina, Joan of Arc, Studs Terkel, braless hussy!
6. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Both my parents happily quoted poetry on long car rides, sang every lyric ever written, edited and taught languages all their lives. The apple fell real close!
7. How did you find the narrating experience different from your own shows?
I had to discipline myself - I wanted to go off the reservation! I'm going to host one of my own In Bed With Susie Bright shows next month, where I'll talk about my own experiences with "true crime" in the porn biz, and how they stack up with Angel Dare's! That will be fun.
8. Do you do any exercises to warm up your voice before a reading?
Ha! When I was a teenager and got my first acting job, we had a director who made us enunciate, at the top of our lungs: "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins, my sin, my soul, Lo-Leeee-TAAAA!" Seriously, I just do everything I can to prepare the text beforehand, and then protect my vocal cords. My secret weapons: ibuprofen and pear juice.
9. What do you like about listening to books rather than reading?
Oh, the theatre of it! In the right hands, it's as much of a creative production as any stage show. I worked with producer Stefan Rudnicki on 15 editions of The Best American Erotica series, and we went over every story and actor like it was our Oscar moment... I know how much goes into these productions when you're working with the best people.
10. What are you listening to on your iPod right now?
Books? "Hardtime," Jean Smart reading one of Sara Paretsky's "V.I. Warshawski" novels.
This month I'm broadcasting my 500th episode of In Bed With Susie Bright, the longest running sexuality podcast... ever! It's thanks to my smarty-pants, endlessly erotic and perceptive listeners that I've lasted so long.
Call me and leave me an anniversary message by this Thursday! Seriously, just be spontaneous and go for it: 831 480 5110.
This video is from this past spring, on my memoir book tour. I'm the special guest for the Audible staff lunch break! I think I went beyond the baloney sandwich.
I'm interviewed by Beth Anderson, EVP and my publisher at Audible, who's been there since I first came on board.
I was a little nervous... Audible is staffed by all kinds of people, every stripe of politics, religion and personal interest— as it should be, since they publish every sort of audiobook under the sun!
But we read these verses to our little beans again and again, and you think to yourself, “One day I shall miss this.”
I don’t remember when my mom stopped reading to me at bedtime. With my own daughter, I think it was around second grade, when she could certainly read to herself, but still loved being read to. She liked my narration so much in “Eloise” that I once recorded it on a tape cassette so she could hear it while I was on book tour. And Charge It, Please!
I think I lasted until Junior High before I started requiring unending variety in my reading habits. Until then, I was happy to read “Harriet the Spy” or “To Kill a Mockingbird” or Paul Zindel’s “The Pigman” one. more. time. The familiarity of a great novel is one of the most sensual pleasures I know. You never stop gleaning from it; it cradles you in your blanket.
This summer, my 53rd, I discovered repetitive novel reading again. Two things happened: I went to see the Coen Brother’s revival of “True Grit,” loved the dialog, and resolved to read the novel. I also went on a book tour for five months where insomnia in a new hotel or guest bedroom was my constant threat.
What a discovery. I could not get enough of Mattie Ross’s opening lines—
“People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day.”
—as told by author Charles Portis. When I discovered Donna Tartt was reading "True Grit" on an audio edition, I completely lost interest in everything else and became as maniacal as any three year old who will only listen to “The Cat in the Hat.”
I would say I have read or listened to “True Grit,” and another Portis title, “The Dog of the South,” about twenty times each this summer and I am not yet REMOTELY sick of them. I will never tire. Furthermore, their stickiness has raised the bar on my standards— I don’t want to read another new book unless it warrants repeated incantations; I want to be that insatiable child again, every time I lay down with a new tall tale.
How did reading get to be such a faster-pussycat-hurry-up activity? We listen to favorite songs over and over without apology or distraction. They make us feel good, no explanation necessary. The same is true of movies— no one in the family complains when you want to watch "The Big Lebowski" or "Lost in Translation" or Season 1 of "Law and Order" over and over again. It’s understood.
But with books, there’s this myth that it takes a "long time" to get through one, and that you have to gather speed and keep moving, keep turning the pages, ever-new, ever-seeking, in order to read all the classics, all the must’s, all the new year specials, all the awards. If you pause to linger, you will MISS OUT, lose your rank, become some doddering old fool who hasn’t moved on since Margaret Spoke to God.
But it really isn’t like that, is it? I can read most novels in a bedtime or two; if they’re entertaining, you don’t want to put them down. Why do I then cast them aside, if they were memorable? Ever-lasting enchantment shouldn't be so quickly tossed. Why not linger in your bubble bath if the water’s still warm and no one’s pounding on the door?
This realization has made me think differently about my own writing. I wonder if anyone has read one of my books more than once— that would be the greatest praise. My YA author friend Jill Wolfson heard out my theories, and she said, “You should write books for kids. There is nothing like getting a fan letter that starts out with, ‘I have now finished your book for the tenth time…’”
I looked at her with slobbering envy— yes, yes, that’s what I want! I want my poetry in people’s dreams, I want to stick around like a spell! I want fragments of my novels blurted out by fifth-graders and people in comas.
Justly, the key to writing page-worn novels is reading more of them, I’m certain of it. Typing them out is my new sugar snack. I dare you: sit down at a keyboard and type the entire first chapter of something you adore. I’ve been returning to my youthful pleasures with a vengeance. Right now I’m listening to Dashiell Hammett’s "Red Harvest," which I first read in high school and within whose pages I also apparently cleaned a lid of pot— I keep finding all these little seeds. I’m tilling it for second time in four days, and it’s a beauty.
I was once a virgin when it came to audiobooks, too.
Now I love them as much as I loved being read to as a child.
I've produced 30+ audiobooks on Audible, including all of my anthologies, which included hundreds of actors and every conceiveable kind of character and dialog. It's been such a treat to work them and hear these stories come to life!
If you subscribe to Audible.com (like a book-of-the-month-club) you get a certain amount of "free credits" every month to spend as you wish— plus deep discounts on anything else you like, if you can't get enough!
But even if you don't have an account, you can listen to samples of everything in the store, download the freebies.
You can also buy titles "a la carte" without being a subscriber.
Here's a few samples from my favorites, which were all produced by Audible's studios:
Hard to believe, but I've dismounted from my Big Sex Little Death book tour. I am now having a quiet, discreet little nervous breakdown but it's really not that bad— I still have a smile on my face.
It all began in Detroit on March 16th and culiminated with my Grand Marshall cape flying, at the SF Pride Parade on June 26th.
Here's the reviews my memoir has garnered, if you'd like some critical snap!
Like any author who undertakes a massive book tour, I relied on the kindess and euphoria of strangers who hosted, promoted, fed, bathed, and delighted me all over the country. And, to all of you who subscribe to my blog— without you, this financially would have been impossible. Thank you so much.
I am so grateful to all of you— please consider yourself welcome at my house anytime. The chili is ON.
Aside from the sheer "animal husbandry" of keeping a touring author alive, the conversations, books, and political insights I shared with all of you are a valuable book in themselves.
*Thank you, ALL OF YOU, so much.
So What's Next?
I'm writing an illustrated guide to the erotic, political, pharmaceutical, and culinary highlights of my tour— details to come. I hope to publish that by August.
Upcoming Tour Dates
I'm doing a couple college lecture and book club dates in October this year— I have a two dates left on the calendar if you're interested. I'll post the plans by Labor Day.
There's so many places I didn't get to; like Canada, for instance.
Or Miami, Austin, New Orleans, Portland-Maine, Denver-Boulder, San Diego, Kansas City— I've received all your letters and I am pining as much as you!
My plan is: Let's plan a spring tour, next April-May. This is the time to start scheming, because it takes money, brilliant scheduleing, and willpower to pull it all off.
Do I have an audio version? Of course! I even have a new page on Audible with all thirty+ my books listed.
What about my sex-postive parenting workshops? Well, for those of you who were there, I think we all left in a little bit of a daze— it was unforgettable. You could have heard a pin drop the hours we spent together. I definitely want to write about this: how raising kids changes your sex life and foretells/impacts how their sex lives will develop.
If you were there, I need your help! If you attended one of my workshops, can you remember what you said in our discussion? Send it to me!
Do you remember some of the other stories you heard? Email me what stuck in your head!
I tried in vain to remember everyone's history, but as we weren't recording or taking notes (which I'm glad of) my recollections are incomplete.
I began to daydream my own version of a Portis novel, an homage to his great narrators.
In my pass, the first-person is going to be a cranky bulldagger of the first water— on a great improbable journey, of course.
If you know Portis' work, I can imagine you're cackling with glee at the prospect; if you don't know what I'm talking about, just pick up a copy of anything he's written and hang on to your hat.
I realize I've been living among Portis-heads all my life and didn't know it. I once cared for a quixotic cat named "Norwood" without knowing his credentials. Hunter Thompson used to quote entire Portis passages to me, laughing up his nose, and I didn't realize he wasn't quoting himself! Okay, the jig is up, you sneaks; I'm in all the way now.
* My Special Thank You's
Detroit: Mary Lee Hannington, Leopold’s Books, Jane Slaughter, Mimi Gonzales-Barillas
New York: Devera and Michael Witkin, Beth Anderson, *Everyone* at Audible, Veronica Vera and Candida Royalle, Bluestockings, Kate Black, Erica Jong, Doug Henwood, Michael Letwin, Strand Books, Wil Snape and Jennifer Bassuk, Barbara Winslow
Pride Parade, San Francisco: SFPride.org, Marsha Levine, Veronica Garcia, Jay Remick, Honey Lee Cottrell, Closet Capers, and everyone who voted for me for Grand Marshall, what a great people's parade it was! PHotos here.
Speak, memory! I'm in the studio this month to record my entire backlist — seven audiobooks, with a Christmas deadline. It's an honor to complete my literary history in audio— 30+ titles in all.
It's also been a tough ride through the Wayback Machine— to sit at the mike and perform, out-loud, every story I've penned since I was 22 years old. Humbling? Uncomfortable? I did... fucking WHAT? Yeah, all that. Sometimes I'm touched by my dewy talent and daring adventures— other times I wince.
I can see from my early work that I always had sweet moments; I knew how to tell a story and make an argument. I could throw the ball. But like a kid with "athletic ability," I needed someone to exploit and train me.
Like a Minor League pitcher, I couldn't always sustain my control through an entire show. I needed more editing than I got— although by editing others, I absorbed the lessons I taught my pupils. Maybe that was the best way.
It's odd to consider that I was paid so much, commercially, when I was a young writer— and now that I'm a consummate pro, the bottom has fallen out of publishing's paper cup. I'm nearly 53 now, just wrote my first memoir, (out in March!), and I've never hustled harder.
Still, any deprivations I face today do not lessen my satisfaction of having control over my ball.
The ball is your story, and your story is an argument that must be pitched and resolved over the plate.
With apologies to Elmore Leonard and Timmy Lincecum, I would like to present the following writing guidelines composed with the happiest of hindsight:
The closer a pitcher gets his body and arm to the target, the easier it is to control the ball.
Writing well takes unfailing honesty. You might be a lying bastard in your off-hours, but when you pick up the pen, face your enemy. Find the heart, the meat of your story— and you will connect with your reader.
I work as an editor. I coach writing students; I give my daughter unsolicited advice on her college essays. My advice to all concerned is to perform one's work out loud before you publish.
I do mean loud— no whispering, no rushing. You will hear every one of your faults, and if you've been a dedicated reader all your life, you'll have a clue how to remedy your errors.
Warm up. Once you're good and loose, begin to move around your pitches.
First drafts are your friend— they are DESIGNED to lead to second drafts, and thirds. There is no such thing as a cold first draft that couldn't be beaten. You need a second set of eyes, you need to feel the words in your mouth, you need to shake it off and do it again. One end of the writing process doesn't exist without the other.
If pitchers want to improve their velocity, they must improve their momentum.
The missing ingredient in boring stories and weak arguments is lack of action. Even rhetoricians build their arc with dramatic movement.
Stop telling me about the weather, your clothes, your inner emotions. —Pull a trigger, step on the gas, come on my face. I'll find out everything I need to know about the rain and the hem of your skirt.
Be glad you were born with the natural ability to throw a ball.
This is a bit of parental advice— what's "natural" about ability is the exposure to great talkers and storytellers since infancy.
Start reading to your own kid before they can talk. In utero! Tell them stories, sing them songs, show them picture books and poetry, over and over again, like mantras.
Fairy tales, ghost stories, your family history, songs your grandparents sang— it's all Shakespeare to the young mind. When I meet students who say they want to be great writers and don't know where to begin, I tell them to read rhyme and sing their guts out for a year. You'll learn all you need to know about drama and timing.
Gaining consistency is going to be a challenge.
There's only one shortcut: eliminate every adverb in your second draft. One day you'll wake up and realize you've kicked the habit.
It's a simple editors' tool, yet baby writers fight it every step of the way. Fine, keep sucking your thumb— you will never grow up.
Play a quick, focused game of catch— where your partner never has to chase one of your throws.
The reader should never be aware they're "reading"— you want them in a trance. Afterward, they can watch the replay and marvel at your skills.
Every time you pick up a ball, you should have a purpose.