Alison Tyler: The Words Please My Mouth
I invited Alison Tyler over to mine for scones served by hairy men as part of her month-long blog tour for Dark Secret Love. I asked if she’d chat about William Blake or choosing titles. To my great delight, she decided to do both. Here’s Alison:
There are certain poems—or lines of poems—that I know by heart. I’m not bragging. I forget almost everything else on some days. Why I came into a room. Where I put my coffee. If my glasses are on my face or on my head. Yet in trying times, I repeat certain words to myself for comfort. You’ll find me saying:
This darksome burn, horseback brown.
His rollrock highroad roaring down…
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam.
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.
—Gerard Manley Hopkins
The words feel good. I have no clearer way to say that. The words please my mouth.
I’ve known this one for decades:
The fowles in the frith.
The fisshes in the flood
And I mon waxe wood
Muche sorwe I walke with
For beste of boon and blood
—Anonymous, 13th century
My understanding of the translation is: “The birds are in the wood, the fishes in the flood, surely I go mad, all the grief I’ve had, for best of bone and blood.” I wanted to call my publishing house Waxe Wood at one point. (One must be a little mad to be a publisher, yes?)
Robert Herrick is another one of my go-to writers. Both his words and his images can soothe a troubled mind:
Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
I appreciate everything about those lines. The “then, then” the “(methinks),” but especially the “liquefaction.” Say that word out loud. Caress the “l,” the “q,” the “action.”
Blake is another poet I admire, and The Sick Rose has always lingered:
O, Rose thou art sick
The invisible worm
That flies in the night
In the howling storm
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
Yes, I took that line for the title of my newest novel. Originally—seven lifetimes ago—I almost was allowed to use Crimson Joy as a title. But that was nixed in favor of something else. Titles are funny like that.
My sultry Victorian-esque The Belles of the Ball became The Blue Rose. Flash Fucking was traded for Frenzy. Two Weeks in Venice transformed into Giving In. A Waste of Chi became A Taste of Chi. Some working titles are better (in my opinion) than the ending ones. But in the case of Dark Secret Love, the final title wins the war (in this case, of the roses).
On the pitch, this novel was called Under My Thumb. Later, we tried The Beginning. Then: Kink. Then: Confessions. There were so many one-word suggestions I can’t even begin to list them. But ultimately, we landed. And the title made perfect sense. Total sense.
The poem is even referenced in the book:
I watched Nate as he prepared, realizing that he wasn’t going out so often with other women now. Not devouring a soul a night. Had he chosen me? I didn’t dare ask. I simply took what he was offering—a deal. Ten pages for the pain I craved, and the pleasure that always, always followed afterwards.
Nate knew what I needed. He understood that my fantasies went far deeper than a simple hand spanking before sweet sex. He accepted my demons and my desires and he worked through the night to make each of my darkest dreams come true.
Afterwards, I’d feel limp, demolished. But oddly, Nate had figured me out. Even after he had whipped me, or cropped me, or fucked me until my body felt liquified, I could still manage to slip out of the bed, grab one of Nate’s T-shirts, and head back to my room. A glass of chilled white wine at my side, or even a shot of tequila, and I was off. Writing. Lost in a new world. Ten pages—2,500 words. The count came easily to me. I have never had a fear of putting words on a page. And I always made sure that I knew what would happen next before stopping, printing off the fresh pages, and sneaking them back to Nate’s room.
I got less sleep than I might have needed, but I’ve always been an insomniac. My mind is clearest around 1:30 in the morning.
Sometimes when I was finished writing, I climbed back into bed next to Nate, and he’d stir in his sleep, wake enough to cuff me into place, or tie me back down. Sometimes, I put my head down on my desk and slept there. Six weeks went by in a hazy blur.
This is what I can say about my first novel… it was short (barely 200 pages). It was fierce. And I wrote it in several weeks.
Nate gave me everything I needed. Total support in the form of X-rated inspiration, and a vicious hand as an editor, cutting parts he didn’t like, suggesting scenes he thought would be more appropriate.
The original title of my book was Dark Secret Love.
But back to me and my love affair with lyrical lines. I use words like worry stones. I trace serif fonts on my thigh with my pointer finger in times of stress. (A useless aside—I happen to love that sans-serif fonts are called “Grotesque.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serif Grow up in a house with a publisher and you learn your way around fonts.)
Do you have a favorite line or two? Please share.
Alison Tyler is the author of Dark Secret Love and the soon-to-be-released The Delicious Torment (which takes its title from another poem). Her novellas include Those Girls (Go Deeper Press), Tied Up & Twisted (Harlequin), and Banging Rebecca (Pretty Things Press). Visit her at alisontyler.blogspot.com for updates, down dates, and everything in between.