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Shades of Yellow – Author Interview

80 days yellow, fifty shades of grey, 50 shades

Eighty Days Yellow is a new erotic-fiction novel, in a similar vein to the worldwide bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey. It was written under the pseudonym “Vina Jackson” by two authors, one of whom is a Kiwi living in London – look out for the New Zealand references in the first few chapters. In a Weekly online exclusive, the writers who make up the mysterious Vina Jackson reveal their plans for a trilogy, what’s it like to co-write a novel and those comparisons to Fifty Shades of Grey.

Q: Tell us about your new novel Eighty Days Yellow.

A: Eighty Days Yellow tells the story of Summer Zahova, a passionate violinist caught in an unsatisfying relationship with a man who can’t accept her for who she is, and Dominik, a wealthy academic with a dark side of his own. Dominik is powerfully attracted to Summer when he hears her play her violin in London’s underground, and together they embark on a romantic love affair set against the background of London’s glamorous and sometimes dangerous fetish scene. The story is ultimately a romance, however it covers broader themes of sexuality, desire and the sometimes darker side of love.

Q: It has been compared to Fifty Shades of Grey – how does that make you both feel as writers?

A: Neither of us have read Fifty Shades of Grey, so we can’t comment personally on the writing. However, we are of course aware of the popularity of the series, and we would be delighted if Eighty Days Yellow is appreciated by the fans of Fifty Shades. The EL James novels have been criticised for the quality of the prose, but praised for the page-turning romance. We hope that with Eighty Days, we have retained the same sense of a thrilling love story, but we also hope that the quality of the writing will be appreciated.

Q: Vina Jackson is a pseudonym for the two of you working together on this project. How do you go about your writing process with two authors?

A: Fortunately, throughout the process we have shared similar thoughts about the direction of the plot, themes and characterisation. We begin by brainstorming an outline, and then we each write a chapter – one of us in Summer’s point of view, the other in Dominik’s point of view. We are in constant contact via email to discuss any tricky points and the direction of each chapter and, so far, we haven’t fallen out over any major points.

Q: Why did you decide to use a musician and professor as your two central protagonists?

A: The story was inspired by an actual musician, however, music can be read as a symbol which represents a number of things: Summer’s violin is the one thing she really loves, and playing music is both a way to express her emotions and a retreat from the world. It’s how she responds to the world physically. Music, and particularly playing an instrument, is an act with strong erotic possibilities, which added to the “racy” nature of our romance. We chose a professor as we wanted to move away from the traditional (and perhaps cliched) idea of a wealthy entrepreneur or businessman. We wanted Dominik to have extra depth and realism as a character.

Q: What can we expect from the two follow-up novels in September and October?

A: In Eighty Days Blue, the story moves to New York, where we continue to follow both Summer and Dominik as they struggle to accept themselves and their desires. But, will it last? We don’t want to give too much away. In Eighty Days Red, the action moves back to London and all over Europe, introducing a variety of new, sexy characters and obstacles in the path of Summer and Dominik’s romance, and finally we learn whether or not two such passionate characters can ever make it work.

Q: How difficult is it to write sex successfully?

A: It’s not always easy. All strong human emotions – happiness, grief, love, etc – are difficult to write about successfully. And sex is really just another expression of a human emotion. But the writer is faced with a number of obstacles that exist in the readers’ minds. Will the language used be too shocking, too euphemistic, or too anatomical? As each reader has their own, very specific and personal ways of relating to sex, will they find a scene that is intended to be erotic a turn on, or a turn off? In Eighty Days Yellow, the sex is an integral part of the story. It’s not just there to titillate, it’s there as a natural result of the plot and the characterisation.

Q: How did you develop the sexual tension between Summer and Dominik effectively?

A: In many ways, the sexual tension occurred naturally as a result of the structure of the books. Tension is created by the push and pull between the chapters. As we move from one point of view to the other, the reader is left hanging, wondering what Summer or Dominik will do next. We tried not to race into it, but rather to leave the reader with doubts, wondering what would happen to the main characters and waiting and hoping for the moment that they (might or might not) end up together.

Eighty Days Yellow (Hachette, $19.99) is available now.

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