The Rumpus Book Club talks with Alissa Nutting about issues of gender and consent, and her novel Tampa, which depicts in relentless detail a female teacher sexually preying upon young male students.
This is an edited transcript of the book club discussion. Every month the Rumpus Book Club hosts an online discussion with the book club members and the author, and we post an edited version online as an interview. To learn how you can become a member of the Rumpus Book Club, click here.
This Rumpus Book Club interview was edited by Lauren O’Neal.
Stephanie: Have you pondered how and when you will discuss Tampa with your daughter?
Alissa: It’s a good question. It’s a very adult book, so while I don’t think I’d want her to read it until she’s pretty mature, I think it will be a conversation I want to have with her pretty frequently. That topic…it’s easier for parents to talk to their children about adult sexual predators than to talk to their teens about them in a lot of ways, I think. What parent wants to be thinking about the fact that their teenager might find an adult authority figure attractive? But not having that conversation leaves teens vulnerable, I think.
Stephanie: I agree. You have to make them comfortable with the big concept early.
Alissa: I want her to understand the difference between attraction and consent, and the reasons for boundaries between attraction and action, particularly with adults and minors.
Stephanie: Good point. The body has feelings, but we have reasons for not acting on them all.
Alissa: Right…and that’s often a time when those feelings are new, overwhelming, confusing.
Brian S: Top of the hour is here, and though we’ve sort of started already, let’s open it up to questions. Who wants to start?
Rebecca: I’m sure I was very attracted to a few teachers when I was a teen—and I’m so thankful none of them preyed on me.
Alissa: Thanks for bringing that up, Rebecca.
David B.: I was surprised how many men told me they were hit on when I told them about this book.
Rebecca: Let me first say that I loved this book, not as characters I love and cherish as you’d normally think of when loving a book—but I loved how committed you were to actually going there. How hard was it to sell this book? Were publishers afraid of the risks?
Stephanie: That makes me sad. I’m a middle-school English teacher. I see all these kids as my charges; I am there to protect them and prepare them for the world.
Alissa: Stephanie, I’m glad our children have you there for them in the classroom! David, did they say how the advances made them feel?
David B.: They were okay with it. One got married to the teacher years later.
Alissa: I was really lucky to find a publisher who completely understood and committed to the book.
Brian S: That’s so weird to me. I’m uncomfortable when professors and grad students hook up, and both sides are consenting adults in that case.
Rebecca: I’m really glad. I already see the conversations—and confusion—going on on Goodreads over this book. It’s a conversation we all need to have.
Brian S: Did you have trouble finding a publisher? I mean, more than usual.
Alissa: Brian, I didn’t. I guess publishing agreed it’s a conversation that needs to be had as well.
Stephanie: I was seriously nervous to read this and have my principal find out. 😉 But all my fellow teachers are dying to read it.
Rebecca: There was a teacher in my high school who was 25-ish, and he’d start dating students the minute they graduated. I know he wasn’t that old so he thought it was okay, but it was creepy. Then, I think he eventually had an affair with a student—if the rumors were true—but didn’t get fired. Now he’s married to a former classmate of mine. I do not understand how she could still be married to him and have children with him.
Alissa: Brian/David, it’s weird to me too, but I think makes sense in terms of our culture. Do you think young males are somewhat socialized to see being hit on by a female teacher as a compliment in a way that young women aren’t?
David B.: I think boys can be traumatized by advances as much as young women if they are not ready for it.
Brian S: I think that’s certainly part of it, Alissa. Before I read the book but after I’d gotten a sense of the subject matter, I spent a long time thinking about how the only molestation scenario that isn’t immediately taboo is the heterosexual older woman/younger man one. And it bothers me that that’s the case.
Rebecca: When women hit on young boys, of course it’s not taken seriously most of the time. Women wouldn’t do that. Women aren’t that sexual! Of course. And especially not a beautiful woman.
Alissa: I think it’s traumatic and problematic for young men and young women, though I think that trauma might be received/perceived in different ways sometimes, due to the gendered perceptions our culture has.
Brian S: And no doubt the fact that I was abused as a four-year-old by a female babysitter has something to do with my perspective on this. When I see men—it’s mostly men—talk about wanting to be that boy when these news stories pop up, I can’t help but think, You don’t know that.
Bobby: I’m going to add on to Rebecca’s question about how committed you were to “going there.” In a lot of the reviews (particularly on Goodreads), a lot of the praise is around your dedication to the voice. How hard was it to get into that voice and stay there?
Stephanie: I saw a comment that the erotic scenes seemed too good for such an ugly act, but I felt that they were meant to make us see how it wasn’t ugly for Celeste.
Rebecca: That’s true: you never, ever broke the voice of Celeste. I never thought, This doesn’t ring true. Even in her darkest, darkest moments, even when she was letting Jack’s dad die.
Stephanie: I know you said you had to step away from the book for a bit to digest how awful Celeste became, but do you have any sympathy for her?
Alissa: It was very difficult to get into her voice initially, kind of like stepping into a very cold pool…had to stop and take lots of deep breaths, then go a little further, and a little further, but once I was all the way in, I was able to shut off everything else I needed to in order to write her character.
Rebecca: Did you in some senses feel like a method actor? As in, did you have to write huge chunks of it together so that when you broke the character and got out of her mindset, you could be yourself again?
Alissa: Rebecca, yes; it wasn’t uncommon for me to write for seven to eight hours at a time, because it took a lot to get into her voice initially. Once I was in, I felt like I had to stay there, make use of it.
Cytochic: In the beginning, I wasn’t sure I wanted to or was brave enough to read a novel about a female sexual predator of boys. I put the book down for a while. I picked it up again, and your prose seduced me.
Stephanie: What a lovely phrase for this book: “Your prose seduced me.”
David B.: I was surprised that Celeste never seemed to wonder if she needed help.
Melissa: My husband, a writer, kept asking, “You’re reading a book about what now?” and seemed very disinterested, but the more I talked about how much you nailed the voice, giving him examples, the more he was fascinated by the accomplishment and has asked to read the book. It’s amazing how well you captured that character, and I’ve got all my friends on board to read it.
Alissa: Thank you, Melissa and Cytochic. I felt like it was important to mirror the fetishization these cases receive in the media.
Stephanie: Did you worry that writing her so well would make people question your ethics? Not let you hang with teenage boys?
Rebecca: I echo Stephanie’s question: I wondered if you worried that those reading the book would assume you had some of Celeste in you. (By which I mean: I do not think this at all. But I’m already bracing myself for those people—sort of by proxy.)
Alissa: Stephanie, not until I saw some of the Internet comments and realized that some people were totally questioning my ethics! Which saddens me, as a mother.
Rebecca: I’m saddened, too, by some of the response on Goodreads.
Brian S: NEVER READ INTERNET COMMENTS!
Rebecca: Someone on Goodreads said something like, “If you liked Fifty Shades of Grey, you’ll like this.” WTF.
Melissa: But I think what the discussion proves is how real you made the scenario. Some people just have a hard time separating fiction from life, and too bad for them. They’re missing out on some amazing writing.
Stephanie: I think the squirming the reader does is from the feeling that this lady exists.
Alissa: Stephanie, exactly—and thank you, Melissa. That’s kind of catch-22 here…if you make it credible, you’ll get some ignorant comments conflating author and character!
Bobby: Had you not braced yourself for those types of comments though?
Alissa: Bobby, I guess in the back of my mind I’d prepared myself for the possibility, but it still hurt when I actually saw it happen for the first time. Naïve, I suppose, but I when I’d worry about that, I thought to myself, But they wouldn’t accuse me of being a murderer if I wrote about a murder—why is this any different? So that’s interesting: that for some reason, people feel like writing about sex has to be autobiographical in a way that writing about violence doesn’t.
Melissa: That’s such a good point.
Rebecca: Alissa, that’s very true. I think in the case of sexual deviation, though, we always need someone to blame or be suspicious of.
Alissa: Why do you think that is, Rebecca?
Rebecca: Maybe everyone assumes that they don’t live among murderers, but everyone secretly suspects—or has been around—someone with deviant, illegal, “immoral” (by which I mean predatory) sexual desires.
Brian S: I think it has to do with the fact that so many of us in this country are just bound up in knots over sex and we’re afraid to talk about what turns us on because of the social opprobrium that can follow certain sets of desires.
Bobby: I think we were conditioned a long time ago re: murder, and there’s been barely any conditioning at all re: females with sexual agency, much less female predators.
Stephanie: I know personally, sex has been both dirty and awesome in my mind, but people have trouble making the two things work together. So they think anything “kinky” is wrong and that once you go one place, sex with minors is inevitable.
Bobby: Which is sad as hell.
Rebecca: Yep, Stephanie and Bobby: “sad as hell.”
Brian S: Have you spent a lot of time in south Florida? I lived on the opposite coast of Tampa for six years, and it felt exactly right to me.
Alissa: Brian, I lived there from thirteen to eighteen, and again for a bit in my early twenties.
Rebecca: I definitely squirmed. I squirmed because the sex was explicit and sort of erotic, especially in the beginning, when I was trying to find some way to sort of like Celeste. But as I got deeper into the book and saw again and again how psychotic Celeste was, it was no longer the least bit erotic and just sickening.
Stephanie: I’m with you, Rebecca. At first, my body reacted naturally to the mention/description of sex. But then it was easier to turn that off as Celeste and her harmful addiction grew. I think this mirrors a young person’s reaction to sex. At first, it can be good just because physical needs get tempted, but if the connection is false or wrong, it gets less beautiful.
Alissa: Yes—I wanted the reader’s trajectory of disillusion to mirror Jack’s, somewhat, although the reader is always privileged.
Rebecca: I definitely felt that. I think the biggest turning point for me was Jack’s father dying. And then it became easier, every time you alluded to Celeste’s behavior, to pick out the psychotic bits, and I was so disgusted (and disgusted with myself).
Melissa: But the fact that Jack had family problems also made me think about what he was lacking, desiring, needing from her, too, which is what made the relationship that more complex.
Alissa: Melissa, yes. If Jack’s father had been more present, more concerned about his son, less concerned about his own libido, much in the story could’ve been prevented.
Stephanie: It made me so sad for Jack. I have a son named Jack, so it really hit me. That poor kid.
David B.: I wondered how I would have reacted had a female teacher hit on me. I have no idea.
Rebecca: It was complex. I think adults get themselves in similar situations of looking for what they don’t have at home, but to see it in someone so young who was being preyed on made it that much more complex. And by “don’t have at home,” I also mean “didn’t have at home growing up.”
Brian S: The turning point for me was actually right after Jack and Celeste have sex for the first time, and he seems like he doesn’t want to touch her or look directly at her afterward. Like he recognizes on some level that something wasn’t right, but he didn’t have the knowledge or experience to figure out what it was.
Stephanie: Good point, Brian, about Jack sensing this was not right. At fourteen, it is too hard to take the time and think it through when presented with golden opportunities.
Ana: I was interested in your choice to make Celeste beautiful. How did you end up making the decision to portray her that way?
Alissa: Ana, when I was looking at the cases of this happening that blew up in the media—really received a lot of attention—it was the cases where the teacher was rather sexually attractive. Those were the cases that really got the airtime. And I think there’s this underlying implication in our society that for young men, if it’s a beautiful teacher, there’s no harm done, she doesn’t really deserve to be punished with jail time, etc. So that was something I wanted the book to react against.
Melissa: There’s some effed up shiz going on with Mary Kay Letourneau. Those two actually host a night out called “Hot Teacher Night.”
Rebecca: The fact that Celeste was so attractive added a whole other layer to this. So it’s no longer just a conversation about predators, but also a conversation about what we let beautiful people get away with.
Brian S: I liked a lot that you had such a difference between Jack and Boyd, and that Boyd had more agency in the story.
Rebecca: Me too, Brian! Boyd was so different. I didn’t feel like I was reading the same thing again. And I loved the complexity of feelings Celeste had, where it was so much easier when she didn’t have to do the work, but at the same time she didn’t like that she wasn’t in control. Very much in character, in line with Celeste.
Ana: I agree, Brian. There is one point where Celeste mentions how Jack has no ability to control what’s going on because of his physical arousal. “Bereft of all resistance.” Which kind of made me sick.
Alissa: It was important to me to reveal that slippage. I really wanted to show that this wasn’t something Jack was able to be prepared for or understand.
Stephanie: Boyd acted as if it wasn’t hurting him, but Boyd seemed desensitized by violence. Maybe that’s how it was easy for him to accept sexual advances inappropriate to his age.
Alissa: I thought it important to show two different reactions, because there’s the argument in our culture that if the boy doesn’t seem affected/abused, no crime was committed.
Melissa: Boyd represented her example of what she was avoiding when she targeted Jack, and it felt right for that side to be explored.
Bobby: I’m gonna ’fess up that I kinda did the “blame the victim” thing with Boyd.
Brian S: I wouldn’t call it “blame the victim.” And this is where the whole discussion gets tricky. Some kids are sexually active at fourteen because they want to be. But when these stories come out in the press, if it’s anything but older woman/younger man, it’s always a predatory story. But there are teenagers who are sexually active at that age who are willing. It’s the adult’s job to say no to those advances, and I’d say it’s wrong in every circumstance, but our conversation on the subject as a whole is very reductive, it seems to me.
Rebecca: Because boys are assumed to be more in control of their sexuality at that age than girls are. So with boys, no big deal—that’s how it’s framed.
Brian S: Or they’re completely out of control sexually and will fuck a knothole, so it’s a step up if they get to nail a hot teacher.
Ana: I think it’s interesting the language we are using to talk about all the sexual activity in the book, like “sexual advances” or being “hit on” and avoiding rape and molesting. If the genders were flipped, I feel like we may not being saying the girl was “hit on.”
Rebecca: Ana, that’s absolutely true.
Alissa: I don’t think minors are able to understand the ways that what they want sexually can be harmful, or what the long-term psychological consequences of engaging in such a relationship might be…so to me, saying, “But he liked it,” or, “He seems fine” isn’t a logical argument. I wanted to include a case where the boy did “seem fine.”
Cytochic: And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson. Another attractive predator, but with a college grad.
Rebecca: That’s true. I think the long-term effects are pretty serious.
Stephanie: Yeah, we see Boyd as being okay, but that will color his future in many ways. Liking it at fourteen is simply biological.
Rebecca: And I think sexuality at that age may not be inherently wrong. It’s different when a teenager has sex with another teenager. There’s hopefully not a predator aspect.
Alissa: Right…as Brian mentioned earlier, I really think that even legal student/teacher relationships, like professor/former student, are tricky territory because of the age difference and power dynamic.
Rebecca: When there’s a power dynamic at play, I’m always, always uncomfortable.
Melissa: So were you writing this while you were really pregnant?
Alissa: I was editing it while pregnant, which was interesting…I kept feeling like I should apologize to the baby!
Stephanie: I put it away quickly when my five-year-olds came in the room. Like this book would interest them…no pictures, no car facts.
Melissa: I’m impressed. I didn’t do much more than eat tacos on my couch and cry while I was pregnant.
Brian S: Your piece in the New York Times about going off your anxiety meds while pregnant makes me wonder if you saw this book differently while you were editing it.
Melissa: I loved that piece so much. Thanks for sharing that, Brian.
Stephanie: I loved it too. I’m a medicated worrier myself.
Rebecca: I liked that piece, too. Thanks, Brian. And Alissa, I’m even more impressed that you edited this while you were pregnant.
David B.: Were you influenced by anything in your reading history in particular? Even from a psychological standpoint?
Alissa: David, books and stories with confessional/deplorable narrators were really important influences. Norman Mailer’s An American Dream, Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me, a lot of Poe’s short stories like “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado.”
Bobby: JUST taught The Killer Inside Me last semester. Students loved it.
Cytochic: Alissa, thanks for sharing those literary influences.
Bobby: I felt guilty when I caught myself not sympathizing with Boyd, because his focus on violence and a sort of “more advanced perversity” (though that might be a bad way to put it) made him seem less young, i.e., I felt like part of the culture the book was commenting negatively on, because he is clearly still ultimately a victim.
Brian S: Bobby, on top of that, the fact that he came from a very strict religious family was a nice touch. If we’d found out his daddy was a pastor, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
Stephanie: Bobby, I agree. I didn’t even see myself making those connections. How subtle some things can be when they’ve been in your brain unconsciously.
Alissa: Right, that tendency, I realized, was inside my head too when I was reading some of these cases. I was so trained not to see the female as the predator that at times, I found myself looking for predatory clue information about the male minors. At times I had to consciously catch myself doing it. Because those details were included in a lot of the cases. For example, that the male student had brought alcohol over to her house. Can you imagine if the gender roles were reversed? “The sixteen-year-old girl had brought alcohol over to his house, so clearly, the male teacher can’t be faulted for getting drunk and having sex with her.” The argument would outrage people! Yet it gets made with male students.
Rebecca: I think that’s probably true for me, too, Bobby and Stephanie. In our culture, for someone to truly be a victim, he/she cannot be aggressive or like sex. Or at least, that’s how it seems to be in rape trials. A true victim who we can feel sorry for is innocent all the time, never sexual.
Stephanie: That’s it, Rebecca. A belief we may have even if we’ve never expressed it or think it sounds absurd.
Alissa: Rebecca, absolutely—and that cultural message, that a victim can’t have sexual feelings, contributes to the disbelief that male students can be sexually victimized by female teachers, and perpetuates slut-shaming tendencies in our society. The logic then follows that if you want to prove a female wasn’t sexually victimized, you prove that she’s not sexually innocent. It’s horrifying.
David B.: I think Stephen Elliott should make a movie of your book!
Ana: Agreed, Rebecca. I think there’s something very intimate and painful about sexual violence that makes us want to explain it so we can feel as if we can control it, that it’s not random.
Brian S: Hell, the To Catch a Predator shows always use a teenage girl as “bait.” Has there ever been a boy as bait?
Rebecca: Brian, I don’t know. I never watch that show—I think it’d make me too sick. But now you’ve got me curious. Probably not.
Brian S: I’ve never watched the show either. I’ve only read about it.
Alissa: Great point about “bait,” Brian.
Rebecca: I really enjoyed the fact that this book was right at 250 pages; there was no fluff. We got right into it. I think that the page length allowed me to invest in the book without feeling like I was going to read too many sexual acts that started to make me feel sick. Was this the original length in the first draft?
Alissa: The original draft was actually shorter. There were scenes I needed to gain a little bit of objective distance from before writing, like the scene where she has sex with Buck, actually. I really only did a skeleton outline of that scene at first. I’d gotten into Celeste’s head in terms of what she wanted to do, but then I had to think carefully about the way she’d describe these depictions of things she really didn’t want to do.
Rebecca: Alissa, that’s interesting, and I can see that being the case—the parts where Celeste gets what she wants were probably easier to write once you got into her head. But I wouldn’t have thought about it before you explained.
Melissa: We haven’t talked about her husband, and him being a sort of Celeste victim too—man, that was a sad situation. And yet he was in such a place of power, as a police officer, which made that dynamic so interesting.
Ana: I loved that he was a cop.
Brian S: Celeste did such a good job of demonizing her husband that I had a hard time feeling sorry for him until the last scene in the holding cell.
Rebecca: I also had trouble feeling sorry for Celeste’s husband. He was a victim, and yet in a lot of ways he wasn’t at all.
Cytochic: Ford and Celeste were picture-perfect (no Photoshop needed), but she had no use for him other than cover. I loved the pre-crumbled Ambien to refresh his wine. Duped and doped. Another victim.
Rebecca: The things Celeste’s husband did, the way he sort of manhandled Celeste. What he expected. I might’ve felt sort of sorry for him in the very, very end. But for much of the book, I was rooting for Celeste over Ford.
Stephanie: I don’t know, I didn’t see him as manhandling her just because of his personality, but as not being good at expressing his anger of her treatment of him. He shouldn’t do that of course, and he was being wronged too. Ford’s crime mostly was being duped by a pretty girl who threw him a bone now and then. And being smarmy and a bit cheesy.
Ana: I feel like we’re conditioned to see females as the victims a lot—or as the ones being objectified—in sexual relations, and the Celeste/Ford relationship seemed to really play to that. Even when it was consensual and Celeste was manipulative, I still felt a bit like Ford was violating her.
Brian S: You also have to accept that Celeste is an unreliable narrator when it comes to her husband. She’s going to make him look as horrible as she can so she can justify her actions.
Ana: That’s a good point, Brian.
Stephanie: Yeah, her disgust at his physical appearance when he slept was funny but very telling about her feelings.
Rebecca: Ana, that’s probably it. Good point, Brian.
Alissa: One of the things that interested me with Ford was his blindness. I didn’t necessarily want to clearly come down on one side or the other with whether or not he was conscious of Celeste’s true desires, but I wanted it to seem clear that he didn’t want to fully know, because Celeste is his trophy. He didn’t want to lose the social value having her on his arm gave him.
Rebecca: That’s true. It didn’t so much matter what Celeste did in private so long as he could show her off in public. In Ford’s blindness, because Celeste was so attractive, do you think of Ford as representing most people when they encounter great beauty?
Alissa: Rebecca, yes. I think this happens equally with men and women. Our culture teaches both genders to idolize beauty in women (above all other traits, I would argue). I’ve been conscious of meeting another woman for the first time and automatically feeling less than her because she’s more physically attractive than I am. A strange thought, and not one I put into my head by myself.
Rebecca: Oh god, yes, Alissa. I struggle with that all the time.
Alissa: There was a question earlier about sympathy for Celeste, and it’s odd, because in some ways, it was actually very hard for me to write scenes like the one with Buck or with her husband where she’s being repulsed by the sex. Even though she’s a monster, I felt bad for her. I don’t know that I can say she was victimized since she was in control and consciously choosing to do what she was as a sort of checks-and-balances move to get what she wanted ultimately. But just being in her POV, I will say I was aware of her discomfort in an empathetic way during those parts of the book.
Rebecca: I think your sympathy for Celeste, as much as she was a monster, was what made this book readable. You went all the way with her, but I never felt like you hated her. And she was so incredibly funny in her meanness.
Ana: Regarding sympathy, was that something you considered in deciding to start with a mention of her losing her virginity? Not that it was a bad experience, but it does remind us she was a child and humanize her a bit in the beginning.
Alissa: Ana, I didn’t want to, in any way, try to assign a “why” to Celeste’s desires. I thought that would be factually irresponsible, but also beside the point…but I thought one quick subjective detail into her past was okay. It was also a bit of a nod to Lolita, the way Humbert opens by describing a young love that he believes still haunts his libido.
Charlotte: Hi Alissa! It was interesting how one of Celeste’s students had the tools and intellect to reject her…even with the uneven power dynamic. Celeste was incredibly manipulative. She abused her husband Ford, too. What I liked about Celeste’s character was that she was never delusional, always knew how utterly bad she was.
Alissa: Thanks, Charlotte. I really felt that because of the gender-role reversal, it was important for me to stress that she is ruthless. No possibility of reading her as benign in any way, or as being well-meaning but disturbed. She’s as predatory as they come, but due to our culture’s worship of beauty and thoughts about formative male sexual experiences, she gets a pass on her behavior.
Rebecca: Even when she’s caught with her pants unzipped next to Jack!
Brian S: The little detail that she’d never gotten a ticket was a nice touch.
David B.: I wonder about he rest of Celeste’s life. What will become of her?
Brian S: I like the future she imagines for herself at the end of the book. It’s a bit pathetic.
Rebecca: I also like that she doesn’t apologize to Ford. At that point I hated her, but I liked that she never apologized. It was very true to Celeste.
Brian S: I got the sense in that scene that she had finally come to grips with how much she loathed Ford, and that even if he could get her out of this, she wasn’t willing to do what had to be done to make it happen.
Rebecca: True, Brian. It has to be a relief to just let all that hatred out, I guess.
Ana: I liked that too.
Stephanie: I, too, felt satisfied when she turned away from Ford in the cell. It was so true to character.
Melissa: And having her live in squalor at the end really drove home the point that her desire was so deep within her, that it wasn’t some rich girl hobby but a sad, horrible thing that she was willing to do anything to satisfy, even if it meant giving up everything else. Except her beauty treatments, of course.
Stephanie: Yes, Melissa! That got me too.
Rebecca: I agree, Melissa. This goes beyond the “I can do what I want” attitude. It’s a perversion worth risking your life on.
Stephanie: Her desire was to the core, and I bet that’s what scares us the most.
Alissa: Right…it was interesting to strip her wealth away and see what would be most essential to her character to preserve in terms of purchases/spending.
David B.: Did your old high-school chum who inspired this book in part read it?
Alissa: David, we weren’t friends, just both attended the same school. She was a year ahead of me, I believe. I only remember passing her in the hall.
Brian S: Five minutes to go. Any lurkers want to get a question in?
Melissa: Well, bravo, Alissa. I haven’t read a book with a main character who had such a strong, solid voice in a long time.
David B.: Thanks, Alissa, that book was a mind-bender!
Rebecca: Have you heard any censorship talk? Or much of it?
Alissa: Rebecca, there’s been some. I’m hoping to generate enough dialogue around the book that even opponents can understand it has necessary conversational value.
Stephanie: You have to read the whole thing to get why the sex scenes need to be like they are. That’s the thing.
Alissa: I agree completely, Stephanie.
Rebecca: I keep trying to loudly voice my enthusiasm of the book and direct others to your Cosmo interview, at the very least.
Stephanie: Me too! Teachers in Texas are on board. 😉
Rebecca: I keep trying to say this book is great! But you’re going to have to suffer through some discomfort and you’re going to have to think about why that is.
Brian S: Are you working on anything else yet? And will you be touring with the book?
Alissa: Brian, I’m working on a novel now inspired by Ted Bundy—I am drawn to studies of the monstrous! I’ll be doing some readings and traveling as much as I can without disrupting the infant’s schedule too much.
Ana: Good luck with the traveling/all the readings!
Brian S: That’s the hour. Thanks for joining us tonight and for writing such an intense novel.
Rebecca: Alissa, I would definitely read that book!
Alissa: Thank you, Rebecca! Much appreciated. Thank you, David.