11 Mar 2011

This Much I Know Is True - An interview with Betty

I am very, very excited about tonight's guest on my sofa. We've had a real mix of lovely people so far, but I am delighted to introduce to you blogger and published author (and dare I say it, sexpert) Betty Herbert of The 52 Seductions blog!

The blog - and soon to be published book - details Betty's attempts to to re-seduce her husband after 10 years of marriage, which some people (me included) found alternately funny, endearing, eye-opening and, above all else, inspirational - particularly for her confrontation of many of the issues that can plague a long term relationship! As before, I am honoured to have her sitting on my virtual sofa and to be interviewing her!

Betty would like me to tell you that she is 33, and lives on the Kent coast (Southern UK for non Brits) with her husband Herbert and her cats, Bob and Elvis. She likes knitting, cooking, drinking cocktails and swimming in the sea (but not in the winter. She is not one of those hardy types). 

So, we are munching thin crispy pizza with anchovies and olives mmmm and she's slurping away at the red wine, I'm on the white! Betty asked me to pick the music so we're listening to a random combination of 80's cheese (Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Laura Brannigan) and some bits of the Tron soundtrack with a dash of Arcade Fire! Get comfy and we'll get on with the show...

**** Small alert,  we will be talking about sex. If you are likely to be offended by this, or if you are under 18, perhaps don't read it****

Me:  Well firstly, as I ask everyone, what is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
BH: Oh god, I'm so terrible at taking advice. I have no respect for my elders and betters. But my Dad delivered a much-resented lecture on not burning my bridges when I was a teenager, and actually it turns out he was right. I've learned suppress my urge to have the final say in all matters, just in case it turns out I'm wrong.
Me: I'd say that's pretty sensible, even if it involves biting one's tongue some what. Let's try another tough question; What is your favourite book?
BH: It's a toss-up between L'Etranger by Albert Camus and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend. 

Me: Aww I love Adrian Mole, great choice! So, tell us, how did you get started with writing + how on earth did you come up with the 52 Seductions?!
BH:   I've always written since childhood, but I turned to it more seriously in my mid-20s. It was Zadie Smith's fault - she was a year above me at university, and the success of White Teeth made me insanely envious. I decided that it would be better to take my own writing more seriously rather than starting a hate campaign. I published lots of short stories and a novel (none of which anyone read) before I became Betty.

The idea for The 52 Seductions was a bizarre flash of inspiration. We'd had sex after a long drought, and I felt like we had to do something about our flagging desire. I'd just watched Julie and Julia, and it struck me that turning sex into a project would keep us on-task. I also realised that I'd be more likely to stick to it if I wrote the blog. At the time, I was in the middle of writing my second novel, and I thought it would be light relief. Of course, it turned out that everyone wanted to read me talking about my fanny, rather than my sensitive literary offerings. The novel is now languishing in my bottom drawer.

Me: And what have you learned about yourself on the 52 seductions journey?
BH: I learned how scared I was. I felt so much pressure to be this sassy, modern woman who was a demon in the bedroom. When I couldn't live up to that, I avoided sex altogether, rather than admitting that I didn't feel competent around penises. I also learned so much more about what I found sexy, and often surprised myself. For example, I was terrified to watch my first porn film, but it turns out I rather enjoyed it.

Me: I certainly identify with that a lot - and I suspect many others do, speshly judging by the popularity of the blog. How would you hope that your blog + book has helped or reached out to others?
BH: I really hope that people can read it and be relieved that someone's telling the truth about sex in long term relationships. There's so much nonsense around - people feel like they have to pretend that everything's perfect. But most of us suffer from terrible doubts and insecurities. It's been wonderful being able to start a conversation about grown-up sex. Lots of people have written to me to say that they've used the blog as a means to talk to their partners about sex. It makes me well up just thinking of that! But I should also say that I've had so much help from readers of the blog. They practically coached me through the first few months!

Me: For me, it was just a relief to realise I wasn't alone in some of my feelings. I have so much respect for you being so open and honest about it. On to the er, nitty-gritty ....what was your favourite/least favourite seduction? Were there any seductions that you decided not to - and if so why not?!
BH:  My favourite was seduction #2, in which H tied me up, blindfolded me and then did all he could to pleasure me! I loved it because I'm lazy, but also because it was the first moment that I realised he was going to be brave, and really engage with the project. 

Least favourite: so many to choose from! I hated trying to be a dominatrix. It just wasn't authentic to how I felt, and I was rubbish at it. Ones we decided not to do: let's just say I vetoed rimming.
Me: I have to ask, although you're semi-anon online, do your friends + family know - and what have they made of all of it all? (does your mum know??!)
BH: ha ha, yes my Mum knows and is ridiculously proud! She keeps saying, 'You know you can always come to me for advice, don't you?' I've declined her offer so far! We gradually told all our friends when it became clear it was going to be published. The vast majority of people have been delighted and fascinated. Some are now regular readers and commenters. Strangely, it's brought me closer to some friends. I think I used to give out the impression that I was too perfect in the past; the blog's made me more human. It's been good for me.

Me: Aww, your mum is too cute! I think it's great that it's had such a positive effect more generally for you. Finally, what's next for you and the blog - when is the book out?
BH: Lots! The book comes out in the UK on 7th July, and then in 8 other territories (and counting). I'm hoping to work on a follow-up to The 52 Seductions later this year. In the meantime, I'm really enjoying building up my new blog, broadening what I write about, but also still trying out the odd seduction. I'm hoping to add some more ways to contribute to the blog in the very near future. My friends keep teasing me that I'll end up bringing out my own range of sex toys - the Buzzin' Betty could sell well, I think! 

Me: Okay that's the last of the serious questions  What would be your last meal?!
BH: Spaghetti Bolognese, but only if I'd cooked it myself. I might consent to let my Mum cook it at a push. 

Me: What really annoys you?
BH: Most things. But in particular, I hate intolerance. Different people like different things. I can't believe that we don't accept that as a society.
Me: Absolutely, I find intolerance difficult as well, it's learning to accept it that makes us all unique. Tell us a secret about yourself
BH: My great-grandmother tried to axe-murder my great-grandfather. True story.
Me:  YIKES! That's a story and a half - wow - I want to know more but I'm afraid we're at our last question - what do you know to be true about life?
BH: It's short, but it's beautiful. I'm a great lover of the memento mori - I think it's vital to remember that we'll die one day. It sharpens one's resolve, and prevents me from spending hours in front of the telly. 

That's very true and I agree whole heartedly. Thanks so much for being a fabulous interviewee, let's finish that wine shall we?!! 

Well that's it for the interview. You can find out more about Betty on her blog (and contribute), find her on twitter, on Facebook and of course, pre-order her book online!
I'm really looking forward to hearing your comments on this interview, I think 52 Seductions are so interesting so would love to hear your POV. In the meantime I'll be back on Sunday with a Top 10 fave movie soundtracks list, a food-based photo essay on Monday plus WoTW next week and another exciting interview *next* friday!

Thank you and goodnight,

Stupidgirl has left the building


  1. Author interviews are great. make 'em tell how they hooked up with an agent or publisher. Enquiring minds want to know. Good choices as always!

  2. Great interview! I'll check out the site. I think Betty is brave for putting herself out there.

  3. Fab interview between two of my favourite writers :) Great post.

  4. great interview :-)even though I had to look up the meaning of a word!

  5. Glad you guys liked it - I think Betty is inspirational.

    GiW - dare I ask what you had to look up? Was it Rimming? (for everyone else, GiW is actually MY MOTHER!!!)

    Thanks for reading and the compliments :)

  6. Yes it was :-) I might know action but have absolutely no idea of terminology!

    But why have you 'outed' me?
    but hey guys, stupidgirl gets her talent from me not her father ;-))

  7. Oh motherrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Do you know the expression TMI?