Thursday, July 22, 2010

A detective addicted to sex?


From Kelli: BOULEVARD is an amazingly gritty look at an addictive personality—and not the usual-suspects kind of addiction, either. What inspired using sex addiction as a key part of your protagonist’s character?

Stephen: I made the decision to be honest about this topic from the start. I first opened up about it when I did the TV interview with Connie Martinson, just as my tour for Boulevard began. I also discussed it on the recent Spinetingler interview with Eric Beetner. I also shocked a room full of authors and readers when I discussed it during my Left Coast Crime panel, called “Sex and the Author.” I think I even managed to shock Christa Faust, if that’s even possible.

The reason I wrote about sex-addiction is because I struggled with sex-addiction myself. I never knew sex-addiction existed until I had a marriage counselor tell me to go to a Twelve Step meeting. My life turned around after that, especially since my wonderful wife was willing work with me in an effort to fix our relationship. Boulevard was a catharsis for me, for both of us, really. I realize now that, if a “Boulevard” had existed years ago, if I had read a popular novel about a character struggling with this issue, I would have seen myself in the pages. I would’ve known there was a name for it, and I would’ve sought help. I’m hoping that others out there will see themselves in the book and learn there are places they can go for help.

Sex-addiction is like any other addiction; like alcoholism or drug addiction or addiction to cigarettes. There’s a hole in someone’s life and they fill that hole with the thing that sets off the dopamine in their heads. I wanted to present a character who exists right in the middle of his addiction, facing it every day, and trying to do the right thing. Hayden goes to the Twelve Step meetings, he has a sponsor, he gets his thirty-day, sixty-day, 90-day chips. He succeeds and falls and he gets back up again and tries harder. But, when there’s pressure in his life, like when a serial sexual predator and killer is targeting the people Hayden cares for, well, Hayden falls. He falls hard.
We’ve all seen the alcoholic detective. But, Hayden’s addiction is probably just as common, if not more. I’ve met surgeons, rabbis, priests, policemen, politicians, actors…it runs the gamut. This is a very common problem and it’s rarely taken seriously in the media. I figured I was the right guy to bring a character like this to life.
What is really interesting and unique is that my wife and I became so much closer after my disclosure. Many marriages break up. Few partners get closer. She is a fantastic story editor and reads every sentence I write, too. She gave me a hundred typed pages of notes on BEAT. And she’s very, very good. I agree with 95% of her comments. And she’s the one who pushes me to go darker, reaching into the memory of things I used to do. It’s a fascinating dynamic.

11 comments:

Rebecca Cantrell said...

We've seen a lot of alcoholic detectives, and I think readers do lend them more sympathy than they would an alcoholic in real life. Do readers tend to respond to Hayden with sympathy? Or do they tend to dismiss his addiction as a psychological weakness instead? Has having Hayden as a main character changed how people view YOU as a person?

Heading home today, BTW! And one of the highlights of my trip was hanging out with fellow criminal minder Shane Gericke, even if the Mars Cheese Castle was closed and I never got to eat a cheese curd.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

On the plane in Denver. Surely I'm not the only one with the only one who has questions about the sex addict topic?

Shane Gericke said...

Cheese curds are god's gift to those of us who love cheese, and I was saddened to not have been able to introduce Rebecca to the timeless joy of the curd. When they're fresh, they squeak as you eat them. Nirvana!

Thank you for going public with your addiction, man. That's brave as hell, and I admire you for it. Do you think Hayden's character will change as you become more comfortable in your new role as recovered addict? And how did breaking it make you feel closer to your loved ones?

Shane Gericke said...

Cheese curds are god's gift to those of us who love cheese, and I was saddened to not have been able to introduce Rebecca to the timeless joy of the curd. When they're fresh, they squeak as you eat them. Nirvana!

Thank you for going public with your addiction, man. That's brave as hell, and I admire you for it. Do you think Hayden's character will change as you become more comfortable in your new role as recovered addict? And how did breaking it make you feel closer to your loved ones?

Terry Stonecrop said...

I think if you find something in your life is causing you problems, it's good to deal with it, whatever you call it. So, I'm glad you turned your life around:)

Stephen Jay Schwartz said...

Hi guys! Thanks for the comments and questions. I'm on the road today, so my comments will be intermittent.

The whole disclosure process has been great. It was absolutely frightening at first, of course, when it was happening in real-time with my wife and our marriage counselor. But it became freeing as the months went on, as trust began to build again in our relationship.
I've received only the best feedback and support from readers and authors alike. Most people have had a friend or relative that has faced some sort of addiction, and many people are aware of what it takes to confront the addiction and work towards recovery. I think Boulevard has been a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and to the people who understand addiction it has been a place of honesty. A place where they recognize the truth, in fiction. The experience of opening up about my own history has been a good one.
I don't know if this has changed how people view me, as a person. I've always been an open book. The first film I made was a very personal look into my life with my father before he killed himself. That was twenty-five years ago already. I'm used to opening up, to being vulnerable. I feel that is what life is about, that's what art is for.
By the way, the best thing that ever happened to me was that I ended up disclosing to my wife. Because she was willing to work it out with me, because I was willing to do the hard work as well, we ended up saving our marriage and our family. We are a very close family now and we are all working toward the same goals.

Kelli Stanley said...

Wow, Stephen--congratulations on your courage, not only in overcoming a relationship (and potentially life)-threatening addiction, but in using your own battle to craft great, meaningful fiction that can reach out and help others!

You are a hero, my friend.

And yes ... I don't know if I can imagine Christa shocked! ;)

BTW, Becks, cheese curds are awesome. I buy organic "Fire House" cheddar curds from a Sonoma County dairy, and they're wonderful. I'll try to have some on hand for Bouchercon! ;)

Stephen Jay Schwartz said...

Thanks, Kelli! And, guys, please save a cheese curd for me, okay?

Shane Gericke said...

You got it, Stephen. Cheese curds for everyone!!

Stephen Jay Schwartz said...

Nighty-night, folks. Talk at ya tomorrow.

audreygeddes said...

Boulevard looks like an excellent book. Thanks for this great interview. It reminds me of another good read on the same topic by author Judith Sagé called, "FREE SEX. EXPENSIVE THERAPY." The author does a great job of tackling a heavy subject in an easy to understand way.