Trust is absolutely precious, and its betrayal horrifies me. I do want readers to trust me. And yet I don't want to offer them a safe, predictable ride. The literary scene seems to be divided between "trustworthy" authors who give their fans a Big Mac that's totally unchallenging, and more ambitious authors who treat their readers with high-handed indifference. I want to earn the reader's trust while remaining unpredictable. I take the reader to some dark and emotionally uncomfortable places but never just for the sake of it. And I do care about how you're feeling on your journey. Many people have remarked on how readable and engaging they found The Crimson Petal despite its great length. That wasn't accidental. I thought very carefully about how to keep the reader intimate and awake.
I've studied Ulysses in depth and still think it's a great and ground-breaking book, a brave and sincere trail-blazer — but also massively self-indulgent, baggy, and irritating. Joyce was a wonderful liberator, but his approach is dangerous for a writer to emulate, since he had a massive ego and was convinced that every word he wrote was sacred. Have you seen his annotated proofs? He scarcely ever deleted a word, just added screeds and screeds more stuff in the margins. He also believed that people should, and would, read novels with the same slow, studious pondering of every word and phrase that they bring to ancient scripture, which I think is a stupid thing for a storyteller to expect.
Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city I am bringing you to is vast and intricate, and you have not been here before. You may imagine, from other stories you've read, that you know it well, but those stories flattered you, welcoming you as a friend, treating you as if you belonged. The truth is that you are an alien from another time and place altogether.
First lines, Ch. 1
Let's not be coy: you were hoping that I would satisfy all the desires you're too shy to name, or at least show you a good time. Now you hesitate, still holding on to me, but tempted to let me go.
The main characters in this story, with whom you want to become intimate, are nowhere near here. They aren't expecting you; you mean nothing to them. If you think they're going to get out of their warm beds and travel miles to meet you, you are mistaken.
What you lack is the right connections, and that is what I've brought you here to make: connections. A person who is worth nothing must introduce you to a person worth next-to-nothing, and that person to another, and so on and so forth until finally you can step across the threshold, almost one of the family.