Today I'm showcasing the author of the Secret Series, L. Marie Adeline and her final novel in the series Secret Revealed.
A Conversation with L. Marie Adeline
Author of the SECRET Series
Q. How does it feel to be publishing SECRET Revealed, the final book in the SECRET series?
A. Exhilarating, satisfying, quite sad. I can hardly believe it’s over. I remember working on the
first draft of book two, SECRET Shared, and thinking, I will never be able to do this. When I
was almost done with that draft, there was talk of a final book three, and I was filled with
self-doubt. And yet, I knew I’d need the time to tell the whole story of Cassie’s sexual awakening
and romantic evolution. Looking back to the end of SECRET Shared, of course she wasn’t ready
to take the risks she takes in book three. She wasn’t ready for real love. She is now. But to be done?
The way it ended floored even me. And brought tears to my eyes—of joy, of course!
Q. What was the process of writing a trilogy like for you?
A. It was so much fun, but complicatedand super challenging. I had written two novels prior
to this trilogy and never outlined my stories. Now, I can’t imagine starting a book without an
outline, or having a sense of where it’s going and what’s going to happen. You must with a trilogy.
You have to pace out the action and the character evolution. Invariably you veer off course,
but I’ve come to rely on having a charted course to begin with. Writing this trilogy will change
how I approach my next books.
Q. How were you able to keep the story line exciting and unpredicatable over the course of
A. It sounds so cliché and a little alchemic, but it’s not so much about the choices I made as the
author but rather the ones the characters made. I just had to pay attention. When Cassie banked
wildly to the left, I followed. If you’ve read the books, you know about the cliffhangers for the
first two booksand the critical reaction some readers had to them. But after reading book three,
I hope it will all make sense why things had to be that way! Love is unpredictable. That is part
of human nature. Life careens wildly, and so does the life in my books. My new character,
Solange, really pulls all the parts togetherand I knew I needed a wise, curiou,s and confident
character to complete the trilogy in a meaningful way.
Q. Now that the series is complete, as you look back, is there anything you would have
changed or done differently?
A. You know, I was talking last week with a friend of mine about the cliffhanger endings,
asking myself if I would have ended the first two books on happier notes. And I have to say, no.
I wanted my books to better reflect real life, where real-life fears and anxieties interfere with love
and threaten to ruin everything. That’s what really happens. I am writing a fantastical story about
a make-believe group of women who grant sexual fantasies to one lucky woman. But it takes place
in a real city, and it involves real people, living real lives. It involves love, one of the most
unpredictable of emotions. I needed that juxtaposition between fantasy and fact to make this world
work. I think it’s what makes the SECRET books so compelling and delicious to some readers.
But real life has to interject. Some readers found it jarring. I hope with book three, they will see
my reasonings and why I felt some “happily ever afters” have to be hard earned. And why they’re
worth the pain and the wait.
Q. As an author, is it difficult to say good-bye to the characters you’ve been writing about for so
A. Yes. Terribly so. And it never fails to shock and awe me how sad I feel when something is over
and done. I miss them like real people. I can see why some writers resurrect old stories and characters, giving them new life.
Q. Do you foresee any characters making their way into future novels?
A. Funny you should ask. Matilda has to retire some day. You never know who might replace her.
Q. The women of S.E.C.R.E.T. are of very different ages, races, and backgrounds.
Was that an intentional choice? How do you write from such different perspectives?
A. When you set a book about women and sex in a place like New Orleans, you have to paint
an accurate picture of what it looks and feels like to live there. So, naturally, like the city itself,
I have characters of every race and age in my book: male and female. That’s been my experience
of New Orleans. It’s a largely African American city, so Tracina and Dell at the café are African American, as are Angela and Bernice and others on the S.E.C.R.E.T. Committee. And Willand
his niece are mixed race. My new character, Solange Faraday is a high-profile African American
news anchorand a divorced mother of one. Her ex-husband is also African American and so are
most of her fantasy men, since that’s the race she’s most attracted to (except where it made sense
to the plot to include other races). As for writing from an African American woman’s perspective,
which I do with Solange, I could be accurate—but only to a point. I mean I could relate to her workaholism, her perfectionism, her tension with her ex, the love she has for her son. Things like
that. And like Solange, I’m a bit of a control freak who has a hard time letting go and trusting.
So, of course, I get her. But I needed help with the details. So I asked my close friend Lisa, an
avid reader and an African American woman, to go through the draft with a fine-tooth comb
to make sure I was depicting Solange’s reality with accuracy and integrity. She caught a few
things that had escaped me as a white woman, and I changed those details. Solange doesn’t
represent every African American woman’s sexual experience, but she more accurately represents
her own, and I am very grateful to Lisa for helping me get there.
Q. What do you hope readers of the SECRET series will take away with them?
A. The women, in particular Cassie, Dauphine and Solange, have a lot of sexual agency in
these books. They love men, and each of them falls in love in very different ways, but they also
get a real charge from their female suppport network. I like to think these books also put the fun
and adventure back into erotic novels. I’m a big fan of the more popular erotic novels right now,
but I wanted to show that female protagonists over the age of thirty (Or forty! Or fifty!) can also
be terribly sexy, and that hard-earned “happily ever afters” are sometimes all the more satisfying.
And think of Cassie’s journey, from broken, accidentally celibate waitress, to alluring, successful entrepreneur, with a daring sex-life. I loved that part the best, her growth. I hope readers feel that
change is possible but not without risk.
Q. SECRET was your first erotic novel. Was there anything that surprised you about the
process during the writing/editing stage or after publication?
A. What most surprised me about writing erotica was how much sex tells you about your
characters. What they like, what they don’t like, how far they’re willing to go–it all informs
their actions and propels the plot. My other novels dealt with the repercussions of sex, but not
so much on the actual act. My early books weren’t prim; they just weren’t explicit. But one of
the strangest parts of writing erotica is breaking down the sex scenes with my editor to make sure
they make sense, uh, choreographically. The editing process has yielded some of the funniest conversations I’ve ever had as we read parts back to each other, cleaning up sentences and
Q. SECRET was an international sensation, published in more than thirty territories.
Did knowing that readers around the world would be enjoying the story in different languages
and countries affect how you wrote SECRET Shared and SECRET Revealed?
A. This last book, SECRET Revealed, was the most fun to write. I had the ending in mind for
a while, so I was as excited to get there as some readers. I’ve said this before. I’m forever grateful
that I had NO idea how popular these books would become, or how widely they’d be published
when I began writing SECRET; I might have choked. I had only written a half-dozen chapters
when it was sold, so I completed it in a tense haze, under an incredible deadline. Book two,
SECRET Shared, was written directly after that, with the knowledge that it would be widely
published. But by then my characters were fully formed, and they knew what they wanted to
do and where they needed to go. I just had to follow behind them and guide them. So the pressure
was less intense by the time I sat down to finish the trilogy.
Q. Cassie is such a strong, multidimensional character. You captured those qualities again
in Dauphine in SECRET Shared and Solange in SECRET Revealed, though they had
completely different personalities. Where do you draw the inspiration for your female
A. While my characters are very much their own people, I tend to pull parts of them from parts of me.
I think most writers do. That’s where writing becomes a lot like acting. Though an actor isn’t really
the person they’re playing, in order to pull it off, you do have to pull from the source, your own psyche. But once that character’s fully formed, I back off and see what they want and what they need, madly following behind them. As a writer, you tend to know intuitively what your characters will and will not
do. A great editor also helps. It’s like introducing a new friend to an old and trusted one; at least that’s
the relationship I have with my editor. I also add elements of my friends to my characters. Solange, my newest character, is quite alot like the friend who helped me really nail her key qualities, especially the way she parents her child. For other characters, sometimes it’s hair color or a particular issue, like
self-consciousness or sarcasm. When I can hear my friend’s voice resonate in that character, I know
I’ve struck a chord. (And, yes, I’ll tell my friend that I’ve “borrowed” something from them and given
it to my character. They’re usually flattered, thrilled even.)
Q. Do you see parts of yourself in the women of SECRET? Is there a character you particularly identify with?
A. In SECRET Revealed, I really identify with Solange’s ambition and single-mindedness. I
was a journalist for many years, so I know what working in a newsroom feels like, and that sense
she has of always observing the world, sometimes with a gimlet eye. I share that with her. But I
think a writer’s DNA is in a little bit of each of their characters. I think I share Cassie’s reticence,
Will’s simplicity, Tracina’s survivor mentality, and some of Matilda’s hard-earned wisdom (I like
to think!). Dauphine, from SECRET Shared, is a bit of a workaholic, and that’s something I
definitely share with her. I can really lose myself in my work, which I’m lucky to find so edifying.
Q. If you could place a “wanted” ad seeking male candidates for S.E.C.R.E.T.,
what would it say?
A. “Do you know how to make a woman feel desired? Is giving pleasure one of your greatest
turn-ons? Ever wanted to make someone’s sexual fantasy a reality? An organization dedicated to
female pleasure is looking for a few good men (and perhaps a couple of women!). Open to all races
and ages but must be fit, sexy, smart, and personable. Funny, charming, talented, and daring are bonuses. Prefer those who are unattached, or in an open relationship. We provide no-strings
encounters with attractive women needing a sexual boost, the only requirement being a desire to
please. You’ll be paired with those whose pleasures match your own abilities and proclivities.
There is no pay, but all expenses are paid for in each encounter, which may involve exotic travel
and incredible adventure. Fully bonded and insured. (Just thought of this!) Must be prepared to
submit to tests, both physical and psychological. Discretion is an imperative, anonymity a policy. Nonprofessionals only.
Q. In addition to Cassie, readers will recognize many other characters from SECRET in both SECRET Shared and SECRET Revealed. Did you always know who you wanted to bring?
Or were there some characters you found you just couldn’t say good-bye to?
A. Like a lot of readers, I couldn’t say good-bye to Jesse, and, spoiler alert, Pierre Castille makes
a dark cameo in the final installment as well, something I knew would happen after his shocking
reveal at the end of SECRET Shared. Recurring characters allow me to rip back the curtain even
further on how S.E.C.R.E.T. operates; new ones add new elements to this mysterious group.
Especially Solange, a journalist who is experiencing S.E.C.R.E.T. on a very different level than t
he previous candidates, Cassie and Dauphine. She’s savvy, and she’s looking to uncover more
than just her own desires. Plus being a mom added a whole other layer to her sexuality that’s rarely explored in this genre.
Q. In the SECRET series, your characters push their boundaries—both sexually and emotionally.
Did you find yourself pushing your boundaries as an author?
A. Yes, naturally. As the sexual appetites of my characters evolve, as each candidate becomes more confident, more adept, that meant I had to up my game, erotically speaking. So the sexual stakes
get even higher in SECRET Revealed, I think. I know I’m having more fun with the material.
I hope that shows on the pages!
Q. Your writing has been described as having a theme of female empowerment. How do you feel about that description?
A. I love it. I think powerful women are also sexy, and S.E.C.R.E.T. is just a natural extension of
what I have always believed. Thinking back, it all started with the same question that’s central to
a lot of the more popular erotica/romance books: What would happen if someone who is sexually
repressed is offered the opportunity to change that? What would she do with that gift? Cassie
sprung from that question and the rest is history, as they say. If my books carry the mantle of “empowerment,” that’s just great—because I hope I demonstrated that empowering people,
not just women, is sexy.
Q. What would you say to a reader who has never read an erotic novel?
A. I hear from a lot of people that erotica wasn’t for them until they read the SECRET trilogy, so
that’s nice. But for me, a good novel is a good novel, whether it’s erotica, romance, fantasy, or
thriller. I don’t get tripped up by the label or category. I can’t believe, for instance, that I resisted
George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series for so long because I had a prejudice against
“fantasy” books. I had never been drawn to stories with dragons and kings and had no interest,
until a particularly persuasive friend suggested I give them a try. I lost months in those books.
I just got swept away. For me, a good book is about the plot and character development. I no longer
turn down a potentially great book because of the so-called genre into which it gets slotted.
For further information, please contact
Dyana Messina at 212-572-2098 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
L. MARIE ADELINE is a pseudonym for the bestselling author Lisa Gabriele. SECRET, her first novel in this trilogy, was an international bestseller. Visit her at www.secretnovels.com.
The books in the series