The urge to write a racy novel seizes otherwise normal Americans with some frequency, particularly when newspapers report million-dollar paperback or movie sales of apparently trashy books. How easily, we tell ourselves, we could write a fast-paced novel whose characters have the depth of a wading pool but the life of a sybarite. How witty we'd be on Johnny Carson, how shrewdly we'd handle sudden wealth.
One Washington lawyer did more than daydream, and the result was so shocking that he wouldn't let his name appear on the book cover, won't tell his three children -- including his son in law school -- the title of his book, and won't reveal his secret life as an author to the judges and lawyers with whom he works. But he did have a wonderful time last summer at Martha's Vineyard, thanks to the check Zebra Books sent him for his paperback called Sarah's Awakening.
"I wrote two nights a week for 20 weeks," says this Farragut Square lawyer who spoke only with a promise of anonymity. A friend, Washington-based literary agent Audrey Adler, dared him to write a book. Divorced, he wrote during the two evenings a week his youngest daughter spent the night at his apartment.
The result was the explicit saga of a young woman's sexual adventures -- some of which takes place in Washington -- that led the author to use a pseudonym, Susan V. Billings. (His first choice of a nom de plume, Paige Turner, was nixed on the grounds it was silly.) Today the reluctant writer, a fourth-generation Washington, son and grandson of lawyers, is afraid that going public would be considered unseemly by his gray-suited colleagues whose imaginations might not be a vivid as their brother of the bar, the closet author.