Argh! Must arise to move car, which I was forced at 1.47 in the morning to park nose-to-tail with the one at the end of the road, with my boot sticking out into the next street. Shall refrain from territorial rant about alien cars and campervans on my (well, Sophia and Vincent's) patch and allow my country readers to gloat.
As I walk in the door, hear alarm blaring from bedroom in manner of pantechnicon reversing. Hmmm. Thought I'd switched 25-year-old clock-radio to off, not pantechnicon reversing.
Back in the kitchen, preparing myself a pick-me-up of the dregs of the juice cartons in the fridge, I'm aware of an urgent quacking from the bedroom, as if a Canada goose is about to invade the duck's nest. Honestly. Lily! Up to her mischief again with my iPhone alarm tone.
Up I go once again to switch off the alarm, then down again to feed the dog, and up again to bed, to read the hilarious reviews of Vagina by Naomi Wolf. Dimly in my consciousness I'm aware that we were talking about it last night. Oh yes. Oh yessss!!! At dinner! It's coming back to me! I was sitting next to none other than the editor of the Erotic Review!
Let the wavy vision commence as we wind back in time to yesterday evening...
'Tell me,' I say to the editor, fluttering my few remaining Maybelline-enhanced eyelashes seductively. 'What are your top five erotic books of all time?'
He looks a tad alarmed. 'I'll have to think about that... but one of my favourites is Fanny Hill - it's probably the first erotic book I read - at school. I started reading it,
strangely and appropriately enough, in a biology class. I love Fanny's
indomitable spirit and optimism. And the cheerful ending.'
I am making mental notes. Cheerful ending. Indomitable spirit. 'And what is the secret to writing brilliant erotic fiction?'
'Knowing your market,' he says. How disappointing! I was banking on a surefire formula here, such as sex every three paragraphs. 'Everybody has a subjective view as to what is erotic,' he adds. 'One person's erotica is another's pornography.'
'But 50 Shades is basically pornography, isn't it?' I blurt before I can stop myself. The thing is, I'm not really your ideal candidate for writing an erotic novel, given that anything more graphic than a Jackie magazine romance, circa 1975, makes me feel squeamish.
'I think people would take issue with you if you called it pornographic,' he frowns. 'I prefer the term, "sexually arousing material," and the question is, is it good sexually arousing material or bad sexually arousing material?'
Hmmm. I used to find Jackie sexually arousing in what I'm sure must have been a good, wholesome way. 'So if it just has to be sexually arousing, could it be just lightly romantic with a bit of kissing?'
He coughs, as if something just went down the wrong way. 'Well... of course, some people do find that sexually arousing...'
'Exactly! What I'd like to see is a return to Victorian-values erotica...!' I cry, breaking off a partridge leg.
The editor is looking slightly pleadingly at his wife.
'Or would I be laughed off stage in the world of erotica?' I ask.
'I think you might...' He takes a gulp of red wine, clearly relieved that I'm showing such a profound understanding of the market. 'To write anything that's going to make a splash, you have to do something fairly radical. Because so much exploration has gone on...' He changes tone. 'But erotica is a genre.... and genres are always victims of their own success.'
'So,' I clutch this lifeline, 'I might be better off just writing a romantic novel with a bit of sex in it?'
'But romantic novels are a genre...'
'How about a drama with a bit of sex in it?'
'How about fiction with a bit of sex in it?' he laughs, 'and possibly a romantic interlude or theme?'
'But,' I ask, 'Would Erotic Review Books only publish serious erotica?'
'No,' he says, 'we're very keen to break out of genre writing and into literature that happens to have sex in it, or perhaps tackle an issue or theme that has sex in it... Like Wetlands. We'd have published that because it was quite a daring book. It utterly and totally and completely decimates the feminine mystique.'
'I must make sure no gentleman I know reads it,' I say primly. It's time I made my pitch. 'What do you think of 50 Shades of Eliza Gray as a title?'
He laughs. 'I think it's a brilliant title and it'll go far! Mind you there have been precedents... People have written books called The Bible and Gone With the Wind .... it's worth a try.'
Hmmm. Is he laughing with me or at me? 'I was here before 50 Shades was a twinkle in EL's eye!' I protest. 'I've been Eliza Gray for practically 25 years!' I shall not be put off. My spirit is indomitable! 'The question is, will you publish me?'
'Of course we will!' he says, wiping his mouth with his napkin and edging his chair back. 'But only in ebook form unless of course it's an instant bestseller, in which case we'll rush it into print.' He's tapping his watch and raising his eyebrows frantically at his wife, who is deep in conversation with the QI elf to her right.
'And is there anything you'll be particularly looking for...?' I ask.
'All the signs of a classic bestseller,' he sighs, going back to his wine glass.
'We'll know it when we see it.'
'You're being very evasive...'
'An unputdownable plot line, exotic locations, a wonderful sustained pace, sympathetic characters.... is that enough?'
'Oh I can do all that,' I say. 'It's just the erotica....'
'Well maybe you can get a technician to do that,' he says, finally catching his wife's eye and getting up from the table. 'Lovely to meet you,' he says, holding out his hand to shake mine. 'I'll email you that list of my top five erotic books.'
I flash him my Bestselling Author's Smile. Eureka! That's the answer! An erotic technician.