"It's your manuscript," Eileen Whipple said before Gayle's backside even touched the seat. She hesitated only a microsecond before letting her sweet cheeks compress the leather. The chair gave a soft sigh, reminiscent of a former lover.
Gayle was more used to waiting while Eileen ploughed through a sea of phone calls. Indeed, the best way to catch Eileen was on the phone. To receive an invitation to the inner sanctum, rather than have to scale the walls, meant either incredibly good news or more likely bad.
"I called you here to talk about your book." Eileen stated the obvious a second time, so it did not bode well.
The woman's gaze roamed the surface of her desk, spotting an errant stapler. She reached for it and put it away in the drawer. She turned the photograph of her children, and then turned it back as though she preferred its previous placement. Lights blinked on and off on her phone, but it appeared she was letting her assistant answer calls. The sound of traffic three storeys below rose up muffled by distance. Odd muted sounds of life filtered through the walls. Inside the office, it had become strangely, almost eerily silent. Gayle began to like this less and less.
"It's..." Still words eluded her. Eileen finally tamed her wandering hands by clasping them together in front of her on the desk. "It lacks..."
"It lacks something?"
"Yes!" Eileen shouted in what sounded like relief that Gayle had said it for her, though Gayle didn't yet know just what it was she had said.
"Is it the main character's background?" Gayle suggested helpfully. That she could easily fix. "I can include more detail. I just didn't want to bog the reader down with facts." Often writers had whole histories worked out for their characters though they might only use a fraction in the story. Sometimes it helped Gayle to get inside a fictional person's head.
"No, no, it isn't that." Eileen waved the suggestion aside and Gayle's heart sank. As a comparatively successful author, she had worked especially hard on this book and felt certain it was her best. That Eileen should call her into the office like this was disastrous.
Gayle slumped in her seat. The leather complained, gave what sounded like a quiet fart and her face warmed, though she felt unsure if it was because of the noise or her work. She waited for the noose to tighten, for Eileen to tell her that if she didn't pull up her proverbial socks, they could no longer work together. It was difficult to tell what she feared more, whether to be stricken over the idea that the book sucked or the loss of a great agent. Eileen was the best.
"There's nothing wrong with it," Eileen said.
Huh? Gayle only stopped scowling when it began to hurt. She made an impatient gesture. Why was she here?
"That is to say there is nothing wrong with it, precisely."
Crap. This was when Eileen would tell her the story didn't quite hit the mark, that she couldn't represent this book in its current condition. Gayle wasn't exactly facing a deadline but she had wanted to kick back. Summer loomed. She wanted to write some letters, short stories, kick the characters for her next novel around in her head and up the metaphorical backside. She had thought she was finished with this one; it was done!
"It's just..." Eileen searched for the words somewhere in the universe, apparently. For the first time ever, Eileen Whipple was beginning to piss Gayle off.
"Just come out and say it." She refrained from adding she was an adult and she could take it, not certain in that moment that she could. Eileen looked her in the eye, and set that determined look on her face that Gayle knew and usually loved so well.
"It's the closed bedroom door," she explained, although that didn't explain anything at all. Gayle searched her mind and her heart. She couldn't for the life of her recall a closed door, bedroom or otherwise.
"You always stop at the closed bedroom door," Eileen went on. "Your books are marvellous. They're snappy and vibrant. The characters are adorable, funny, and lush. Readers sympathise with them, hurt when they hurt, laugh when they laugh, but I think it's time you picked up the pace. I think these good books could truly be great if you weren't so, so..."
"So?" Gayle prompted.
For a writer, it could be especially exasperating to find oneself truly lost for words. After impersonating a fish for several seconds, Gayle finally managed to say, "I am not shy. Neither is my writing. My reviews never say anything of the sort." This felt like a good argument on her part. Reviewers and readers alike called her books many things, including steamy.
Eileen lifted a hand and smoothed back her hair. Gayle inwardly sneered. No hair came loose on that honeyed head; they wouldn't dare. Despite loving Eileen, Gayle had to admit the woman took power dressing to a completely new level. A new book title spun through her mind: Eileen Whipple's Nipples and the Immaculate Conception. What type of books did Eileen want her to write?
"That's not what I meant. I meant you..."
"You just stop before the action gets started. You..."
Her face no longer felt warm, but as if it was glowing; her blush was one of embarrassment and Eileen saw it.
"You see this is what I'm talking about. Gayle, you're an adult. Sex shouldn't embarrass you. It should be a highly valued part of your life."
"I have a sex life," she protested, wondering if Eileen had some vision of cats and knitting when she looked at her. Her sex life didn't actually... include anyone else participating at this moment in time but that wasn't the point.
"I wasn't implying you're abnormal in any way." Eileen sat back in her seat, and amazingly, her chair didn't make a sound, though Gayle couldn't see where the seats differed. Perhaps Eileen had broken hers in long ago or, like people, inanimate objects just didn't dare disobey her.
"You take your readers on a wild jaunt of the senses. Take them along with you in this as well. Let them feel what your characters feel when they get to the end of the ride. Your characters are sexy. Let your readers feel sexy too. Let them share the climax. Your books so far have been great foreplay..."
Where Gayle whimpered the word, Eileen stressed it.
"Foreplay is great to a point, but if you want to keep your readers you have to promise them something. I'm not saying completely change your style, just let them reach fulfillment some of the time."
She tossed Gayle's manuscript across the desk. "Now take this home with you and see what you can do with it. It's good and we'd be happy to present it, but I want you to make it great."