“I sit in front of the monitor and pray. When my prayers are answered, I type away furiously until I tear a tendon in my hand.” Manola Lushinski, author of the fantasy saga The Fallopian Chronicles
“So many stories to tell and so little time. I will never give up on finishing the sequel to the prequel.” Matt Lieber, author of the psycho-sci-fi Intergalactic Stalker, Vol. I-IV
“It’s there. I know it’s all there. I mean the plot. It can be a painstaking process to put the pieces together, like eating alphabet soup with chopsticks.” Les Bateux, author of the mystery adventure The Missing Loophole Incident
“I let the narrative flow through me, like rays of light through a crystal chandelier. I am the interior decorator of my plot, and seek the golden ratio of statuettes and spots of blood on the wallpaper.” Caitlin Lundgren, author of the thriller False Notes of a Deranged Melody
“I use formalin to preserve the body parts of my characters so I can give accurate descriptions of them. It is, of course, a virtual preservation technique used in my mind. I don’t get physical with others’ body parts.” Eric M. Oakely, author of Incubus Unbound
“There are a million directions the plot can go, and sometimes I lie awake at night and make a few turns here and there. But most of the time I just follow the signs toward a romantic climax, usually on a beach with a dog or a horse, where all paths seamlessly converge.” Jill McVannaugh, author of Temptress On Bail
A recent article in The New York Times discusses a psychologist who succeeded in making two perfect strangers fall in love under laboratory conditions. His ingenious technique used only 36 original questions the subjects had to ask each other to lay bare their innermost feelings and produce a functioning blueprint of their relationship. A road map to love.
I couldn’t finish the article, I was so excited. Why? I had been working on a fresh draft of The Chauffeur’s Rut, a potentially explosive novel about money, passion, lust and the ruthless quest for higher oil prices. By flexibly applying the rugged Stanislavski system to the fictional characters, I organized a face-off between the two protagonists: Butch, the macho, plainspoken limo driver, and Amanda von Halifax, his employer, the seductive lady of the Bell’Amore Estate and skillful chairwoman of P.E.T. Corp., with a genuine air of encyclopedic knowledge. Their honest and, at times, blunt answers are provided below.
My aim was to test the chemistry between two people of very different backgrounds and sexes, and see whether they “have it in them,” and are worthy of a nine-volume series. I’m not sure. I can safely recommend this methodology to other authors who are worried about character mismatching in their fiction, but caution is advised.
Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Amanda: Mother Theresa.
Butch: Definitely not Bruce Jenner. Maybe Zorro.
Would you like to be famous? In what way?
Amanda: Fame is something I can already identify with. But I wouldn’t mind getting an Oscar for being the woman I am. I was the first woman to do a backflip without spilling my Martini cocktail. And that wasn’t such a long time ago.
Butch: I know I will one day be famous to have my own gym and my own limousine service. VIP customers would get door-to-door shuttle service. I will greet them at the entrance in an Armani suit.
Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
Amanda: I don’t have to. I had all the dress rehearsals I need before my prom. If someone has the nerve not to pick up my call after two rings, I have two things to say to them I know by heart. I’d rather not quote them. Rehearsals are for amateurs.
Butch: Before making a call I have to keep reminding myself to say Miss von Halifax and not Amanda. The government and others could be eavesdropping. I sometimes make calls in the heat of the moment and forget what I want to say. So, yeah, rehearsing is not a bad idea.
What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Amanda: A perfect day for me is to wear Louboutins and have the world at my feet.
Butch: My perfect day was when I bodyguarded Amanda from a gang of beggars on the street who were collecting donations for the Salvation Army or whatever before Christmas. She slipped on the ice and I caught her in my arms. That was like perfect.
When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
Amanda: I was asked to sing “The Time of My Life” with Michael Bublé at a private party, but I had to turn it down because Taylor Swift spilled red wine on my dress. Bitch.
Butch: I usually sing “Iron Man” in the shower. On sadder days I sometimes hum Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose.” I once sang “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” to my grandma, when she was released from hospital after cataract surgery.
If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Amanda: Why have it only either way? People always settle for less. Not me. Look at Cher. She’s almost 90, but looks 40. When I’ll be 90, I’ll look 30. No problem.
Butch: I don’t get the numbers. Could you ask the question differently?
Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
Amanda: In heaven, on a cloud.
Butch: Under silk sheets. You know. Doing it.
Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
Amanda: We both have a passion for limousines, root beer and waving good-bye at the airport.
Butch: It’s no point denying it, Amanda. We love love and sex. And root beer. That’s three, I think.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Amanda: I am grateful for the things I deserve and that I’d have time to take yodeling lessons in the Bahamas if I wanted to.
Butch: I’m grateful for my body and my dance moves. But I didn’t get it for free, you know. It’s hard work.
If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
Amanda: My mother borrowed my clothes without asking. I didn’t say anything. It was a mistake.
Butch: My dad secretly drunk up the beer I was hiding under the bed. We two pretended not to know about it. We should’ve been honest about it.
Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
Amanda: Butch is not my partner, but my chauffeur. I tell him where to drive me.
Butch: I told Amanda things I haven’t told anyone before. Even the time I was hiding in the closet of my parents’ bedroom and saw what my dad did with the cable guy through the keyhole. She hardly ever listens to me, just keeps swiping her phone.
If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Amanda: I wouldn’t mind being able to stretch taffy with my hands like a professional confectioner. I find it fascinating.
Butch: To become invisible and trip people who think they are superior to me, but are not.
If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
Amanda: I want to know what the American government’s next move is in connection with Swiss bank accounts.
Butch: I would really want to know whether Amanda’s serious about investing in my gym.
Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
Amanda: I have a recurring dream of killing someone with a hatchet, who wears black with brown, or makes at least two grammar mistakes in a sentence. I haven’t done it because it’s against the law in most countries.
Butch: I’ve been having a weird dream about walking naked into an old and dusty RadioShack store. It’s not an uncomfortable or nervous feeling, though. Someone told me that this might mean that I want to be accepted the way I am? I’m not sure.
What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
Amanda: Being who I am.
Butch: Having the courage to dream and having gotten so far.
What do you value most in a friendship?
Amanda: That I don’t have to actually live with friends.
Butch: A friend is there when you need him. I borrowed navy blue slacks from a friend the other day to go with a brown shirt because I know for a fact that Amanda can’t stand black with brown. He said I can keep them.
What is your most treasured memory?
Amanda: I helped comfort a dolphin washed up on the beach. It was amazing.
Butch: When Amanda had a mock RadioShack installed in the basement of the mansion and she stood behind the counter with only a RadioShack name tag on her.
What is your most terrible memory?
Amanda: We made the dolphin breathe and utter some squeaks. But as she swam back into the ocean enthusiastically, a shark came from nowhere and tore her to shreds. It was awful.
Butch: I couldn’t do it there, in that staged basement. Well, the ignition under my hood didn’t ignite, if you know what I mean. It was too artificial. But the second time around we had wild sex and broke a lot of vintage 8-track players.
If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
Amanda: I would contact my cryonics company to make the necessary preparations. Why? Because the world needs me.
Butch: I would work more to perfect my abs. I would also put an ultimatum to Amanda: Either she marries me or I don’t know what.
What does friendship mean to you?
Amanda: Didn’t we have this question already?
Butch: It means what buddies are about. Amanda’s my buddy, too. In a sense.
What roles do love and affection play in your life?
Amanda: Love, I can never have enough of it. I love the reflection of moonlight on my outdoor pool and my smile when I loot into the mirror.
Butch: I truly love Amanda and nothing will change that. My love is like a rose without a thorn.
Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
Amanda: Again, he’s not my partner. But for the sake of this experiment, I’ll pretend he is. He’s a good driver on dry roads. On wet roads he’s a disaster, a nightmare. He doesn’t overdo the after-shave he got from me for Christmas. I can’t think of anything else now.
Butch: Amanda’s beautiful. She’s gorgeous and generous at the same time. She’s smarter than most men and she’s brutally honest. But as the saying goes, what doesn’t kill me, makes me live longer.
How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
Amanda: Members of my family always argue over money and they even get physical. I don’t, so I’m an outsider. My childhood was definitely worse than most people’s because my nanny had a moustache and she used to kiss me all the time. I had asked for two ponies for my fourteenth birthday and only got one that was practically blind.
Butch: I used to have a close family. But my parents divorced early on and my brother overdosed in a public toilet. On special occasions, we could get really close. So I decided early on to have a big family and love everybody equally.
How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
Amanda: She kept taking my clothes and looked ridiculous in them. No wonder dad cheated on her.
Butch: My mom loved me. I know she did.
Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “
Amanda: We are in a room with plastic plants. We should be doing something else. We will never read the same books because he has never read one.
Butch: We have similar chemistries. We both like to play in the sand. Liz Taylor also married Larry Fortensky, so I don’t see why we can’t marry? I don’t mean to say you’re anywhere near as old as Liz Taylor. What, she’s not alive?
Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
Amanda: … my secret of never having been ticklish.
Butch: … my softer, cuddly side.
If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
Amanda: There’s a strawberry patch behind the tennis court, where some of my friends are buried.
Butch: I think Amanda should know that I’m not gay in any way.
Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
Amanda: Butch, those driving gloves look good on you. You don’t always have to take them off.
Butch: Oh, Amanda, I’m in love with you. Seriously.
Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
Amanda: I had just come out of a Dior boutique and some friends I no longer call friends mistook Butch for my fiancé. He wasn’t wearing his uniform. That was quite embarrassing.
Butch: Once I was doing community service for some weed possession in a trendy retirement community, talking about the importance of physical education and showing some simple exercises, when I got this hard-on that wouldn’t go away. I don’t know why it happened. It was really embarrassing.
When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
Amanda: I cried in front of my dad when my mother bit me once.
Butch: I had to cry when I saw the movie Philadelphia the second time.
Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
Amanda: Next one, please.
Butch: Amanda, your eyes twinkle in the dark.
What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
Butch: I think the Pope should be left out of jokes. Pope jokes are just not funny.
If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
Amanda: At college I once had a roommate called Brenda. I could’ve afforded a penthouse, but my dad wanted me to socialize or whatever. She wore my clothes without asking and put them back wrinkled into the wardrobe. And she would immediately try to flirt with any male I had on my side. Her right leg was an inch or two shorter than the other, so she walked like she always wanted to mount stairs. I had always felt a little sorry for her. I should’ve told her what a menacing bitch she was. I’m looking for her on Facebook and LinkedIn. She’s not there. Yet.
Butch: I would tell my mom not to cry.
Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
Amanda: It would have to be the swordfish I caught off Sicily.
Butch: I would try to take anything combustible out of the house, like cooking oil, to slow down the fire’s spread.
Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
Amanda: The death of our parakeet, Winslow, would definitely freak me out. We grew up together.
Butch: If my grandma passes away, that would really hurt. Everybody else is gone or in detox. I supposedly have an aunt in Bulgaria, but I don’t have her address.
Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
Amanda: Have they ever measured the number of separations this questionnaire resulted in?
Butch: Would you like me to mix you a Martini, Amanda?