Interview with Laura Roberts, author of Naked Montreal: A Novel of Sex and the Underground City

Publisher: Buttontapper Press

Publication Date: March 10, 2013

Book Links:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Meet Francesca "Frankie" Parker, Montreal's only guide to the real Underground City. It's not just a mall - it's the people and places that the guidebooks don't want you to see. Sex shops, strip clubs, burlesque festivals, and much more await in the Sin City of the North.

Curious? Let Frankie be your guide in part one of this new series from Laura Roberts, author of The Montreal Guide to Sex and The Vixen Files: Naughty Notes from a Montreal Sex Columnist.

Interview: Q. How did writing this book affect you?

A: Writing ‘Naked Montreal’ has been an ongoing project for me, as I try to process my time as a sex columnist in a very sexually permissive society. I learned a lot about the many ways in which people express their sexuality, whether openly or in more closed, secret spaces, and I enjoyed talking to people about these self-expressions. So the book is a fictionalized take on some of the people I met in Montreal, as well as some of my imaginings about what goes on in those secret spaces, based on interviews and research that I did at the time. For me, the book has been really fun to write, because it allowed me to incorporate stories that either didn’t fit into my column or were too off-topic to be worked in, and I can also play with the characters and the realities of sex work a bit more because it’s fiction and meant to be more of a lighthearted approach than a documentary.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

A: The hardest part of writing is trying to strike the right tone. With ‘Naked Montreal’, for instance, I did want the book to fit into the erotica genre, but I also wanted it to be more than just a series of sexual encounters. It’s a guide to the Underground City, as I describe it, and that can mean more than just sex. But, at the same time, I didn’t want to paint my Underground City as a dangerous, criminal place. Montreal is often referred to as the “Sin City of the North,” and I think that’s fairly apt. You can certainly find trouble if you’re looking for it, but there are also a lot of up-front and legal things to do that strike the average American as fairly debauched. It’s like Las Vegas: you can go to strip clubs and see showgirls, and they don’t hide that from the tourists. But they also offer Broadway plays for the kids and lounge singers for the older folks, and of course there’s the gambling. So, to me, finding that tone of “This is a fun place to explore, not a seedy underbelly” was important, because I do feel like writing about sex can fall down the rabbit hole of moralizing or preaching, and I try to avoid that. If my characters are moralizing or preaching, it’s more because they’ve seen it all and they’re jaded.

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

A: I still have plans for parts 3 and 4 of ‘Naked Montreal’ in the works. I am writing new stories and bringing in new characters with those parts, and eventually I’ll release an omnibus edition with all 4 parts together.

I’m also working on a sexy murder-mystery called 'The Case of the Cunning Linguist', and I’m releasing a book of dirty poems called '69 Sexy Haiku' on Valentine’s Day.

Q. What are you currently reading?

A: Currently I’m reading a half dozen assorted "call girl books", as my mother might call them, to give me more ideas for my own stories. I’ve got Nelly Arcan’s Whore (an English translation, since my French is pretty terrible), Xaviera Hollander’s The Happy Hooker, Tracy Quan’s Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, and a nonfiction book by Kelly DiNardo called Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique. I also just finished Belle du Jour’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl, so there’s plenty of inspiration in those pages.

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!).

A: My latest non-book news is that my husband and I have adopted a new cat! His name is Percy, and we rescued him from the pound and certain death. My other cat, Ned, is still not too sure about the new guy, but they have been spotted sharing the 3-level cat condo relatively amiably, so that’s good news.

In book-related news, my new book '69 Sexy Haiku' is in pre-release and will be available in all online bookstores as of February 14!

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

A: I have lots of writing quirks, but I guess the most interesting (or odd) one is that I prefer to write in total silence. I know most writers really love writing to music, but I always find myself getting distracted by whatever I’m listening to. Sometimes I do need a little musical inspiration to keep my fingers moving, in which case I will turn to lyric-free music (and in that case, I like to listen to classical music on Venice Radio or more ambient, abstract music by artists like Hauschka or Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto), but most of the time I really like to keep things quiet and block out all distractions. If you see me with headphones on, it’s usually because I’m just blocking out the noise, not because I’m listening to anything!

Q. Please tell us a fun-fact about yourself!

A: I have a brown belt in tae kwon do, but I haven’t practiced in years, so please do not attack me with a roundhouse kick to the face to test me or I might bust out my castration move on your punk ass.

Q. Is there anything you haven’t written about that you would like to in the future?

A: Oh, man, I have a million things I’d love to write about. The only problem is finding enough hours in the day to do so! I took on a “story a week” challenge for 2014, issued by my writing friend Jessica McHugh, so I’m currently writing weird little flash fiction pieces every week, either based on a prompt or for anthologies that catch my interest, so hopefully I will be able to publish my own anthology of these pieces sometime next year. I’d also really like to write another ninja book as a sequel to Ninjas of the 512, which I wrote for the 3-Day Novel Contest in 2011. There should be more ninja books in the world, in general, I think.

Q. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

A: I’d love to learn how to make wine and goat cheese, so I could start a little cottage industry selling wine and cheese from a little farm somewhere. Ideally in Italy, so I guess I’d also need to learn to speak Italian. And hot air ballooning, because that just seems like fun, especially if you had your own wine and cheese up there.

Q. What gives you the most joy in life?

A: Reading probably gives me the most joy in life, even when the books I’m reading make me cry. There is just something so simply delicious about getting lost in a brilliant book. And it’s even better if my cats snuggle up with me, my book and a nice cup of coffee while I read.

Q. Which of your characters would you want to be and why?

A: That is a tough question, since most of my characters are little bits and pieces of me to begin with. I really like Frankie from ‘Naked Montreal’, because she’s created her own unique industry and she’s the master of her own destiny. She’s a sexy tour guide, showing people where to find everything pleasurable in Montreal. She’s been inside the sex industry, and now she gives outsiders a little glimpse of that. I like that she’s an independent businesswoman, and that she’s not afraid to try new things. I think these people do already exist, but they’re typically called escorts, and they are paid to have sex with clients, but I envision Frankie more as a “fixer” or madam, who’s setting up kinky activities for her clients, but not necessarily engaging in them herself. I suppose she’s both on the inside and the outside at once, and I really like that duality about her character.

Q. How do you like to spend your spare time?

A: I love to read, so I usually like to be reading on the couch with a cup of coffee, petting a cat, or hanging out with my husband and reading aloud the good parts of the book I’m reading. I also like cooking, so sometimes you will find me creating an overly elaborate meal in my kitchen, with a glass of wine. And then, to make up for all the eating and lounging I do, I like to hit the gym and lift ridiculously heavy weights that make the guys gawk. (Okay, technically the heavy lifting is only with my legs; my arms are like puny little matchsticks, but I can leg press 400 pounds.) And, when I’m not writing my own stuff, I am typically reading and editing other people’s work to put in my online magazine, Black Heart ( In the little bits and pieces of free time I have daily, I also like to write postcards to people in faraway lands through Postcrossing, and I’m also a bit of a stationery addict, so I am probably drooling over notebooks and pens either in an office supply store or online, and fantasizing about how to completely organize my desk in the cutest and most efficient way possible (which will never happen, because I am the type who organizes in piles, and the piles just grow and grow).

Q. How did you come up with the title?

A: ‘Naked Montreal’ just seemed appropriate for a book about a sexy tour guide. She’s showing people places where physical nakedness occurs, along with a “naked” view of the city, with all its warts and potholes. It’s not sugarcoated like a guidebook, and it’s more stripped down. I liked the double meaning, and figured the word “naked” would catch most people’s attention, et voila!

Q. When did you know you would be a writer?

A: I think I always figured I’d be a writer, but at first I wasn’t sure how to go about doing that. In my late teens or early 20s one of my friends suggested I write for the school newspaper, and I was kind of like, “Why would I do that?” I wasn’t interested in journalism or writing about things that were happening on campus, so they suggested I write some opinion pieces for the alternative paper, which I did in my typically offbeat style. I’m not sure what the newspaper editors thought of my stuff, but they published it, so I guess they enjoyed it. I kept an online journal for years before people started calling it “blogging,” and started publishing my own online magazines where I would force myself to produce work on a deadline and then publish it every few months or so. When I was doing all of that, eventually I realized that I didn’t really care whether people would read my work or not, I just was happiest when I had a writing project that I was working on. I still feel that way today. I hope that other people enjoy reading my work as well, but mostly it’s something I do to entertain myself.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

A: Thank you for reading my work, and I really do hope you like it. If not, I hope you take the time to write me a personal email explaining what you didn’t like about my writing. Preferably without using the F-word or resorting to schoolyard name-calling, but sometimes passions run high, so these things can’t be helped. In any case, please be sure to use the “sandwich” method of offering criticism in between two compliments, as I prefer to receive 2 compliments to every negative comment, particularly if the negative comment is a personal attack. Finally, I hope you’ve found at least some of this interview amusing, and I encourage you to quote parts of it on your Facebook wall to attract new readers. But, you know, only if you’re cool with that.

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