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.
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.
Did you always wanted to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
When I was in third grade I wanted to be a baker. I don't remember why. I think I really liked cake. Then in high school, I wanted to be a florist for a while, because it was artistic. I had taken a career test and a florist came up as well as a journalist. The results really confused me. My junior year I became obsessed with Indiana Jones and decided I wanted to be an archaeologist. But at the time I graduated high school, I decided on English. I had had my first one act play produced by a professional theater and I think that motivated me to change my major.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
I always made the distinction between being a writer and being a professional writer. I decided to be a writer with serious determination to become a great writer when I was sixteen. But I didn't start calling myself a writer until grad school. I figured that once I got my MFA in playwriting, I was officially a writer.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
I started out as a playwright actually. At sixteen, I was writing all kinds of different things, but plays were the easiest. At seventeen, I had a one-act play produced by a professional company. It was an awful piece of crap and I don't even have the script anymore. But it was incredible encouragement and kept me from giving up. As far as novels, I didn't have my first published in April, 2015 and that was self-published.
Do you do another job except for writing and can you tell us more about it?
At the moment, I'm unable to work (I'm living in foreign countries where I'm not legally allowed to work), but for about ten years I worked in coffee. I worked for Starbucks and Barnes & Noble cafes that serve Starbucks coffee. I loved it. I love the performance elements, helping people choose drinks, then seeing the incredible pleasure a drink I made gave them. I always worked with fantastic baristas and luckily I'm still friends with many. If I could work right now, I'd hit all the coffee houses I could. The jobs never pay well, and I shouldn't really work them because of it, but I ADORE them so. There were terrible elements, but the job taught me how to deal with stress and to learn, deeply learn, that there are things which are out of your power. There's only so much you can do. Crap happens. And really, it's just coffee.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?.
It took me ten years to write Dying in Pleasure. My other projects, such as full length plays which is comparable to a novel, could take as short as a month. Each is different and I try really hard not to freak out if it takes a while to polish a piece.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
I've recently developed a genre called Action Figure Erotica. The only rule to the genre are that the main characters must have been made into an action figure at some point. Minor characters can have been figures as well. History and location aren't important. For example, I'm currently have a novel in progress on Tablo called Medusa Gets Her Hair Done. Medusa and the goddess Kali are traveling through contemporary America to find someone to remove her snakes. They meet Cthulhu and a zombie H. P. Lovecraft, Kali describes a relationship she had with former president Howard Taft. It's supposed to be a mix of time, historical characters and myth in fun, erotic way. Imagine an adult playing with toys. I have a novella which is to appear in November called Lincoln Eats Pie at the Kali Cafe. I have a third novella which is to appear at the beginning of 2016 about Marie Curie on the Titanic.
What genre would you place your books into?
I think primarily erotica. But I branch out dramatically: historical, supernatural, science fiction. And now Action Figure. I still adhere to realism. By that I mean, I still have somewhat linear chronology with characters based upon traditional psychology.
What made you decide to write that genre of book?
It was what naturally came out. I'm completely fascinated by sex. The stories which interested in me most involved relationships with vivid sexual dynamics. In plays, my characters had eccentric sexual lives, but I was never able to stage them completely. But in novel form, I can do whatever I want without worrying about how actors are able to handle doing certain acts or audiences walking out during a performance.
As for historical, sci fi, and supernatural: those are the genres I experienced the most as a kid and learned how to write in. My father, brother and I would watch Star Trek and Twilight Zone and analyze the writing. My dad was also into UFOs and ghosts and all of us loved history. It was only natural that I would dive into those genres.
Actually, my mother got me involved in soap operas as early as pre-school. I remember coming home and eating lunch and watching General Hospital. The romance of Luke and Laura was profoundly important to me at that young age. That was probably the beginning of my interest in erotica.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
I think my favorite character from Dying in Pleasure is Maro, the slave of the Holconia family. He is so intelligent and wise that the Holconias refuse to make a decision without him. He was the tutor to two of the main characters, and he has sexual relationships with both. And both relationships are twisted (yet erotic). In the world of the Roman Empire, he has red hair. This would have been very rare. He's very formal and composed, yet engages in spontaneous sexual activities with a gladiator in a back alley. He has power, yet with Lucia Holconia Polla, his true owner, he is her subservient dog. His contradictions and impulses fascinate me. I listen to him and everything he says interests me. I must admit also that he is based upon someone from my past. That must add to my love of him.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
In theater, I was taught never to read reviews during performance. Bad reviews could cause us to second guess our choices and make changes. Actors are notorious for this. It is better to respect our choices and not allow other people, who may in fact be wrong, to dictate what we do during performance. I've adopted this philosophy with novels. I don't want to be motivated by an outside opinion to write in a certain way. There are people I trust to criticize my writing in an effective way. That's all that matters to me.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
I'm terrible with titles. I hate them. I choose them after I'm finished and usually come up with a dozen before I choose one. There's so much riding on a title. And there are titles I hate such as one word titles, which are so vogue right now. Summing a novel up in one word is lazy to me. I could easily have named my book Vesuvius or Pleasure, but I don't feel those do them justice. At least Dying in Pleasure has interesting word play in it.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
With this book I had to do extensive historical research and pick authentic Roman names. The main family in the book, the Holconia family, is based on a real family in Pompeii. They had a statue at a crossroads of an ancestor. The location appears in the novel, and the ancestor is one of the main character's dead father. All the locations are actual places in Pompeii. I've been to Pompeii and walked the streets my characters would have walked. It wasn't easy. The streets are steep and made of cobblestones. When I was there it was raining and the stones were slippery.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
These are all organic choices. Very rarely do I decide a character is going to have particular attributes. When I first started writing in high school, this process really frightened me. I would write and get caught up in what was going on. I would let go completely and let my mind take control. I felt like I stopped writing and started taking dictation. It really scared me. I thought I was going crazy. It almost seemed like a spiritual experience, as if I was traveling out of my body or my body was being taken over. It's no wonder the ancient Greeks and Romans believed in artists becoming possessed by Muses. It's as good of a description as any to explain the artistic process.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
Yeah, and it shocked me: sexuality, religion and sadomasochism are all forms of the same thing. That thing is pleasure. It also leads inevitably to destruction, that we are too wrapped up in pleasure to save ourselves or we march headlong into destruction because it too is part of pleasure.
That was entirely unintentional, yet it's so present it's embarrassing.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
Ebooks are easy to transport, hardbacks look great on shelves, but with paperbacks you can have a true physical relationship with a book. I love cracking spines and establishing physical points in the story that were important to me. I love folding down the corners of pages and having a faint record of all my stops along the way in the book. I love the way the spines of thick paperbacks start to spread and curve with age and no longer are flat. They seem to be living creatures that absorb the actions of a reader.
What is your favorite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
Alain Robbe-Grillet's Jealousy. It's a very avant garde novel about a man's obsession with the idea that his wife is having an affair. There's only two or three scenes, and he describes them over and over and over searching for details. When I finished the first time, I turned immediately to the first page and started it all over again. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. The novel blew my mind open to the possibilities because it's so out of the box. It's nothing like contemporary novels and few people would like it. All of my books are in storage because I'm traveling, but I have a copy of Jealousy with me.
Your favorite food is?
My homemade spaghetti sauce. Italian food is my comfort food, and my sauce is perfect. It doesn't always come out as perfect, but the idea of it is perfect. I always feel soothed when I have it.
Your favorite singer/group is?
Linkin Park. It's wonderful angry white boy music and their most recent albums have had wonderful political ideas.
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.