Jen: Today we welcome debut author Spencer Dryden to Romancing the Book. Spencer, will you share a short bio with us?
Spencer: Some men are born great, others strive for greatness; still others have greatness thrust upon them. Spencer Dryden is none of these men. In fact, he is so unimpressive, he leaves no footprints on newly fallen snow. He was trained in fiction writing on the job with the many sales reports he produced for his managers, winning the coveted “keep your job contest” three years running. His expense reports are still considered masterpieces of forgery by the bankruptcy trustee of his former employer. He lives an unremarkable life in a suburb of a northern city. His friends and family would drop dead in horror if they knew of his secret life as a writer of erotica. He hates the family cat but still loves to pet his wife.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Spencer: Bliss is a novella about a woman’s struggle with sexual shame. The idea came from somewhere out in the universe. I really don’t know. It is very different from all my other work. I did some ‘smashing’ to refine the idea. By that I mean I started with this notion of a woman who is experiencing tremendous career success but fears her success is coming at a terrible price. Her husband has lost interest in her. The smashing was about putting in additional factors in her way. In this case it’s a misogynistic pastor on a purity kick among the men at the church where Christina McArdle and her husband, Ben, belong.
Here’s the official blurb:
Christina McArdle must cast out the demons of her past and present or lose the love of her life.
In the prosperous community of Bliss, New Hampshire, in 1995, Christina McArdle is living a feminist dream. In short order she has become the first female partner of the venerable, male dominated CPA firm of Driscol, Ryan, Jensen and Palmer. The honor followed by her selection as the first female member of the prestigious Maplewood Country Club.
But Christina fears that her career success has come at a terrible price. Her husband, Ben, has lost sexual interest in her. Unable to ignite his passion for her and desperate for understanding of her own inhibitions, Christina turns to Dr. Rachel Morrisey, a sex therapist, who helps her uncover dark secrets from her past. Christina’s path to recovery is blocked by a misogynistic pastor who traps her and many other women of her church in a shame bind that serves his purulent interests.
Her path to freedom requires Christina to break bonds from past and present or lose the thing she loves most in life—the love of husband and family.
Dr. Rachel Morissey touched Christina’s arm gently and handed her another tissue.
“Mrs. McArdle, I’m a sex therapist and not a family doctor. I find that I need to speak about sex bluntly in order to get through people’s resistance.” She searched Christina’s eyes to see if she was tracking. It had been a hard first session. Taking the first steps in breaking down resistance, confronting demons, bringing up painful personal memories always brought tears.
“Sexuality is a hard discussion topic for couples. I don’t mean to diminish your pain, but so far it’s like so many others. When you’re young, sex may be clumsy, but quantity is a quality all its own. So is time. Now you’re thirty-five, a working professional mother of young twins, with an at-home husband. You’re both living in a different world from your parents, and there are a lot of demands on your time that sap sexual energy. In this phase of life, you have to be much more intentional about sex.” Dr. Morissey paused again, waiting for Christina to process. “Lying in bed in the dark, waiting for your husband to initiate sex, isn’t a good strategy for fostering intimacy.”
Christina wiped away another nagging tear.
“But there’s something else I need to explore,” said Dr. Morissey. “I am wondering if you were ever raped or sexually abused?”
“Why? Is that important?” asked Christina.
“Very. It often creates problems with intimacy years later. You seem almost fearful of sex.”
Christina hung her head. “I was nearly raped once,” she whispered.
“So you were assaulted.”
“Mrs. McArdle, I’m sensing a lot of guilt here. Physical contact without your permission is assault. It’s another person’s crime, not yours. You said nearly raped. What happened?”
Christina shuddered as she recalled the forbidden memory. “We had a boy in our neighborhood that was a bully to the boys and terror to the girls. Nobody would do anything about him. Our parents told us to stay away. But he would hide out and grab girls, rip their clothes off, and grope them. It happened to many of my friends.”
“How old were you then?”
“Did he actually do forceful penetration on any of his victims?”
“You sound like the police now.”
“It’s an important distinction, especially with a minor perpetrator.”
“No. He didn’t.”
“What happened with you?”
“I was taking a shortcut home across the athletic fields one evening. No one was around. He jumped out from between the outbuildings, threw me down to the ground, and jumped on top of me. I tried to fight, but he had his hand on my throat.”
Christina unconsciously reached for her throat and pulled on her necklace.
“Sometimes I can still feel him squeezing my throat,” she said through closed eyes. “I couldn’t breathe. I tried to scream but couldn’t. He was pressing down on me with his crotch between my legs.”
“Were his pants on?”
“Yes, but he was humping me like some kind of animal.”
Christina gasped as if she were going to scream. “Finally, he leaned down and put his cheek next to mine. I was hysterical with fear, that’s why I did it.”
“I bit off a big chunk of his ear.”
Christina rolled forward, put her head between her knees, and sobbed.
“Now we’re getting somewhere. What happened after that?”
Christina rose up, brushing away tears with a clenched fist. “He ran away screaming and told his parents that I had attacked him.” She had to stop to catch her breath. “The police came to our house and asked me a lot of questions. Nothing happened to him. I got suspended from school. Can you believe it?” The rage faded to sorrow. Christina wept softly again. “I got so much grief for that, Dr. Morissey. Did I do right? I was just so scared and desperate.”
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Spencer: I am a panster, which is why I have been doing shorter works. A novella was a real stretch for me in that it took plotting. I can’t see myself writing long novels, not at this point in my career.
Jen: Describe your writing in 3 words.
Spencer: Adult malefantasy (a triple oxymoron)
Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Spencer: My goal for this year is to write every day. Not there yet but doing better. I write either at home on my PC or at the local coffee shop with pen and paper. Caffeine and doughnuts being the essential food groups for writers, I do my best writing early in the morning.
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Spencer: I have had to get out of bed and spear that fish with a pencil. I have actually pulled my car over to the side of the road to get something down. I carry a little note pad at all times. Most of my ideas come in the early morning while I’m drinking my coffee, looking out the picture window of my refrigerator box dwelling. I start by asking myself, ‘what if….’. Many of my stories begin as dialogue between characters.
Jen: How do you come up with characters names?
Spencer: Strange as it sounds, characters often tell me their names. I also name minor characters with names of friends who have passed away. The character may have no resemblance to that person, it’s just my way of remembering a friend.
Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book? Do you do anything to celebrate a sale, new contract or release?
Spencer: Bliss is my first book contract. When I accepted the offer I cued up the YouTube video of “Dancing on the Ceiling” and danced around in the living room.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Spencer: I have another novella I hope to publish—a mermaid story. I have several short stories and I’m working on a series in Scifi/ fantasy realm about the Gueschtunkina Ray Gun—one blast from this gun renders a woman into a high state of sexual arousal. It’s fun, funny and wild.