Monday, May 21, 2007

On Our Best Behavior for Barry Eisler

We at LustBites are all dressed up to meet our latest guest author: Barry Eisler. It would be enough for us that Eisler is the author of The Rain books, featuring half-Japanese, half-American assassin John Rain. These titles have won the Gumshoe Awards; have been included in numerous "Best Of" lists; have been translated into twenty languages; and have been optioned for film by Barrie Osborne, Oscar-winning producer of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Say it with me: Oh, my god.

But Eisler is cooler than that. Before becoming a best-selling thriller writer, he worked in the CIA's Directorate of Operations.

Yes, the CIA.

And if that’s not enough, he then lived in Japan, where he earned his black belt at the Kodokan International Judo Center.

So what all this means is that you’d better behave yourselves and read the following sexy excerpt from his latest book, Requiem for an Assassin, out tomorrow. Then stick around for a little Q & A. We’ll choose a commenter from today’s post to win a signed copy of Requiem!

The back of her thighs bumped against the side of the bed. She was barely thinking now, she just wanted him naked, his skin against her, his weight on her, all of him inside her. He broke the kiss to lift her sweater over her head and was back before he had even tossed it aside, his tongue, his teeth, the taste of whisky and his own taste, too. She managed to get his belt open, then his pants. She reached inside, and when she felt how hard he was, it excited her even more. She squeezed and felt his breath catch.

She pushed the jacket off his shoulders and tugged it down over his arms, then got his shirt off and threw it aside, never once letting him stop kissing her. He pushed her back on the bed and stepped out of his pants. She realized her bra was gone, she hadn’t even been aware of his doing it. Her groin ached and she was panting. Without thinking, she put her hand on herself, over her jeans, and rubbed. “Hurry,” she said.

Then he was naked, leaning over her, unbuttoning her jeans. He hooked his fingers inside the waistband and peeled the jeans and her panties down over her legs and flung them away. She scrambled back on the bed, spreading her legs and raising her knees, and Rain moved on top of her. She took hold to guide him and she was so wet that he didn’t stop nor even slow but buried himself inside her with one violent stroke.

She gasped with the mixed pleasure and pain of it and he moved back and thrust again and this time she cried out because she was coming, her back arching, her body shuddering, her hands moving involuntarily to his ass to pull him deeper, deeper. She felt his arms go under hers and he took her face hard in both hands and spread her legs wider with his thighs, his weight on her now, holding her, pinning her to the bed, kissing her hard again, fucking her like some primitive natural force she’d conjured but could now no longer control. He was moaning in her mouth, she could hear it and feel it both, and his movements grew faster, more brutal, and she felt another orgasm welling up from the depths of her. He groaned and squeezed his eyes shut and hammered at her harder than ever, as though enraged, or enraptured, or punishing an enemy he didn’t know how else to kill.

Then the groan grew wilder and his body tensed and she felt him coming and she came, too, a shock wave of pleasure reverberating from her groin to her toes, her breasts, her fingertips, her mouth where he was kissing her still.


Lustbites: How do you decide whether to include an explicit sex scene or fade-to-black?

Barry Eisler: Mostly I prefer more of the full monty approach, driven as I am by my enduring inner 14-year-old. But here's the right rule of thumb, I think, at least when your inner 14-year-old isn't calling the shots: does it only matter *that* the characters had sex? Or does it matter *how* they had sex? If the only thing that matters is the fact of the sex itself, showing it is unnecessary and will add nothing to the story. But if the way the characters make love is what matters in the story, then not only should you show it, you actually have to show it, or the story will suffer.

One thing an explicit sex scene automatically has going for it in this regard is the way it can reveal character. Few things reveal character as immediately and profoundly as the way someone makes love. Another, by the way, is the way someone reacts to violence, whether as victim or perpetrator. To me, the best stories, really the only worthwhile stories, are always about realistic, memorable, affecting characters. If you're writing genre and don't have all the time in the world to allow your characters to develop over the course of a thousand mundane behaviors, subjecting them to the extreme stress of violence, and seeing how they make love, are two good shortcuts.

LB: Do the sex scenes always have to drive the thriller plot?
BE: They do if the thriller is any good. In a good book, there shouldn't be a single scene that can be removed without the whole story unraveling. If you can pull out that single thread without unraveling the story, you didn't need the thread in the first place -- and there's no exception to this rule for sex scenes.

I suppose it comes down to a question of emphasis. In romance, readers expect good sex scenes, so romance writers have more of a tendency to make the scene the objective and work backwards to plot and character. In a thriller, where action might be the objective, it's more the action that will drive plot and character (actually, I tend to think of sex as just another kind of action scene... see my thoughts in response to question #1...). But regardless of how you arrive at any scene, sex, action, you name it, that scene has to be both the result of and the catalyst for other forces in the story. In other words, it ought to be some kind of turning point: emotionally, thematically, or logistically. If it's not, it'll by definition be gratuitous, and will have far less power than it otherwise would have.

LB: You are a male writer and (seem) to have a male POV character. Have you ever written a sexy or romantic scene from a female POV? If not, why not? If yes, how was it for you?

EB: Up until Requiem, which is the sixth Rain book, all my sex scenes were from the male POV -- naturally enough, because the books were primarily told from John Rain's first person perspective. But in the fourth book, Killing Rain, I started adding segments told from the POVs of other characters -- most particularly Delilah, the seductive Israeli agent who becomes Rain's lover. As the lives and actions of these characters became more intertwined, not just their behavior, but their impressions and interpretations of each other's behavior became increasingly integral to the plots. In Requiem, I realized the reader could best understand the changes in Rain's character, and the chemistry that bound him to Delilah, if those changes were told from Delilah's POV. Naturally enough, that led to a sex scene from Delilah's perspective.

How was it? Awesome. The research was a blast: a lot of imagination, a lot of interesting Q&A sessions with my wife, a lot of "I get paid to do this?!" moments. And the result, for me, was one of the hottest scenes in all the Rain books.

LB: Do CIA agents wear uniforms?
EB: Only the security guards at Headquarters in Langley. For the undercover people it would be a dead giveaway...

LB: What are you wearing?
EB: LOL! You wouldn't believe me if I told you...

LB: Oh, try us, Barry. We'll believe anything...

For more about Barry Eisler, visit his web site or be his friend!


Nikki Magennis said...

Hi Barry,

Thanks so much for visiting! Congratulations and good luck with Requiem.

- And see, I never cracked any jokes about your weapon, honestly. It was Kristina. You're not going to put us on some kind of list, are you? Are you? ; )

Lilla said...

I’ll admit (bushing), it’s the first time I’ve heard of this series. I think I’ll head over to Amazon now, and check it out.

kristina lloyd said...

Wow, I just got lost in Barry's website. Not only did I see pics of Barry wearing not many clothes, I learned that if you're out walking in the woods with a friend and you get chased by a bear, you don't need to outrun the bear, just your 'friend'.

I also discovered that Barry once used a stun gun on himself to check whether it left welts (it did). I admire that level of commitment - it's the kind of research I'm always doing for those hardcore S/M scenes.

Great interview and good luck with the book. It's interesting that you think about writing sex in much the same way that we do - the scenes have to work to develop plot and character. Gratuitous sex is a no-no. Those inner 14 year olds do make a mess though, don't they?

And I swear I didn't make jokes about your weapon. I'm far too mature. It was Nikki. In fact, I bet she's got lots more up her sleeve.

nikki magennis said...

Hey Barry,

Is that an erection in your pocket or do you just want to shoot us?

nikki magennis said...

Hey Barry,

Is your weapon always loaded?

nikki magennis said...

Hey Barry,

Wanna go undercover with me?

Gwen Masters said...

Oh, my. What a great excerpt to read first thing in the morning! And that interview is great. Thanks for taking the time for us, Barry.

(, I suppose it be deliciously inappropriate to ask Barry to describe his weapon, huh?)

-scampering away now-

Nikki Magennis said...

Listen, Barry, that is an imposter there. I never made any of those jokes. Seriously, you can strap me into a lie detector.

That would be fine, actually.

Stacy S said...

Great interview. I've never read any of your books, but think I'm gonna have to start now.

Alison Tyler said...

Nikki, I think you've hit on the start of a new story, haven't you?

And Kristina, you do your research, don't you?

I like Barry's books a lot... (don't I sound like the gushing school kid). If you get a chance, Barry's touring right now to promote the book. His schedule is here.

Smut Girl said...

Oh my...what an excerpt...why has no one told me I could find stuff like that in a thriller? None of the thrillers I have read have excerpts like that. I have, apparently, been reading the wrong thrillers.

V. nice website. Great interview and I never spent a second looking at his picture (seven or eight times...) ;)

Alison Tyler said...

I'm with you, Smut Girl.
I never did that either.

stephanieb said...

WOW!! Can I say WOW again?? Great excerpt!!! Will definitely have to get this one!! Great interview also!!Yummy!!

Smut Girl said...

Kristina said:I also discovered that Barry once used a stun gun on himself to check whether it left welts (it did). I admire that level of commitment -

I also admire that level of commitment, but I would like to know why when he does something like that it sounds all manly and sexy. However, when I tell people I once did that pressure point behind the ear trick (as seen on "Cops") and damn near knocked myself unconscious...they said I was nuts.

That seems like a double standard or is it just me. Ah well, either way, I think I'll go back and (not) look at that picture again and read that excerpt one more time just to be sure I didn't miss anything...

Again--great interview ;)

Murray Suid said...

The Barry Eisler interview is amazing throughout, but I find one sentence especially memorable: "Few things reveal character as immediately and profoundly as the way someone makes love."

Although the focus of the interview is on creating fiction, Mr. Eisler's comment sheds light on real life.


Kathy K said...

I've been a fan of Barry's John Rain from the beginning and I've come to enjoy each new Rain adventure more and more.
Barry's characters are getting stronger and the action is getting more addicting; best of all is knowing that much of what he writes is founded on his experiences. What more can a reader want?
Certainly this excerpt and interview with Barry Eisler is absolutely wonderful! And now that I've found Lust Bites, I'll be back!!

Antonia Pearce said...

Excellent interview Barry!

I am going to check out the entire series. I love thrillers, love Martial Arts and obviously, love racy love scenes ;-) Think I'll have to move these to the top of my TBR pile!

Good luck on the tour!

Antonia Pearce

Jessica B. Burstrem said...

I got into the Rain series in the middle, was surprised - pleasantly surprised - by the sex scene, by chance encountered his thoughtful politics on his MySpace blog, and have since either read or bought the rest of the series. (I'm intending to read the first book - the last one that I haven't read yet - before I get to meet Barry in Scottsdale, Arizona, early next month.)

What I do appreciate about the sex scenes in the Rain books is that they're always different (unlike many romance novels, which I have mostly had to discard now that I'm an academic, just to keep my eyes from rolling out of my head) but always consistent in their representation of the same character. They also give the books a totally-forthright feel - the "full monty" approach that Barry referred to - which is obviously appealing to someone with a low bullshit quota, as I have. That shows what an incredible author he is: totally capable of achieving what he intends.

I enjoy his fiction for more than the sex scenes, though - there's usually only about one explicit one in each book - but also for the intelligent style and language that have developed more and more as the series has progressed. I also like the hints of his politics, which I know better from following his blog, that appear there as well.

The books are true to the author. I thus have high expectations for the fifth one.

Best -


Alana said...

Wow. Attractive, and a writer too.

Nx, Listen to you and your cute one liners. :-)

Alison, thanks for interviewing Mr. Eisler, who I'd never heard of until this moment.

Mr. Eisler, thank you for participating at Lust Bites. And for giving us all an opportunity to act as if we've never seen a live man around here. :-)

Good luck to you with writing. And congratulations on your success.

Kate Pearce said...

thank you for visiting our blog, Barry. As you can see you have got the lusties all a-twitter!

I have to admit I haven't read any of your books but I'm certainly going to start-they sound wonderful.

And I totally agree with you about the notion that sex shows people as they really are. I always try and remember that when I write and have been told that some of my sex scenes resemble therapy in progress for my characters!

thanks for coming!
to the blog I mean (shut up Magennis!)

Anonymous said...

This was one of the most interesting author
interviews I've ever read, perhaps because
Barry's comments about writing erotic scenes
were so well-thought out. I do like the mix
of erotic and adventure in thrillers. My other
favorite character in thrillers, Reacher, never
has the erotic moments that Rain has. I've
read Barry's books and I'm happy to see
he is finding great success!!!

tetewa said...

Hello Barry, loved the excerpt! It's great to get a males perspective to his side of righting. Your a new author to me and the series sounds like something to be added to my TBR pile. Good luck on the release.

Shanna Germain said...

Three cheers for crossing genres, and for having a wonderful male writer on our purposefully girl-heavy blog (no, Jeremy, I haven't forgotten you -- you're practically a LustBiter by proxy), and for such great thoughtful comments!

Wonderful interview on both sides, and one else noticed that I actually dressed up for this event, right? I mean, I really would be wearing these thigh-high boots and black leather skirt even if it was just us girls around here...I swear.


Alison Tyler said...

Oh, god, Shanna,

Does that mean you bought those Big Ruth boots?
Please say, "Yes!"


kristina 'pussy galore' lloyd said...

I fully confess it was me that made all the jokes and lowered the tone. I'm sorry, Barry. How can I make it up to you? Polish your weapon for you, perhaps?

kristina lloyd said...

Hey Barry, this place is full of double agents. Trust no one.


Irwin Hill said...

What an accomplished piece of erotica. The power of prose is in the details, and Barry certainly is a master, as exemplified in the brief but critical observation:

She was barely thinking now...

This is a writer who obviously cares about his characters, and can make us care.

Thanks, Lust Bites, for publishing this excerpt and the interview. I definitely plan to read the whole book.

Jeremy Edwards said...

However, when I tell people I once did that pressure point behind the ear trick (as seen on "Cops") and damn near knocked myself unconscious...they said I was nuts.

That seems like a double standard or is it just me.

There may be more to it than just a gender-based double standard, Smut Girl. I get approximately the same reaction when I tell people about the time I tried faxing myself from New York to Los Angeles as part of the research for my article on "Technology and the Individual."

Jeremy Edwards said...

P.S. If my voice sounds like it's coming from an odd direction, that's because I'm currently dancing on the ceiling as a result of that "practically a LustBiter by proxy" remark. : )

Emerald said...

What a beautiful, insightful interview -- complete with a hot hot excerpt!! Thanks, Alison and Barry. And thanks also to all the commenters who quite further the already-impressive entertainment value of this lovely place, lol.


Barry said...

Wow, this is a fun place to hang out! Thanks for all the comments, everyone, and for making John Rain's tough guy creator blush...

I hit the road tomorrow for the tour, so I don't think I'll be by here for a while. But I'll be back -- you're all a lot of fun and you have great taste in sex scenes, too.


Nikki Magennis said...

Hey, guys, WE MADE A SPY BLUSH!!!!!!

I think that's the biggest compliment I've ever had.

Good luck on the tour, Barry, and thanks again.

(Jeremy, sweetie, did you manage to fax yourself?)

Jeremy Edwards said...

Jeremy, sweetie, did you manage to fax yourself?

The experiment was only moderately successful. I arrived in a rather illegible state, not to mention cranky because of the time difference. "That Jeremy Edwards is unreadable," the critics cried. I would give further details, but my brief career as an illegible fax is a bit of blur.

The funny thing was, the entire incident turned out to have been based on a misunderstanding. I had really thought the supervising editor said, "Go fax yourself," but evidently I misheard.

Madelynne Ellis said...

Good luck on the book tour, Barry.

Portia Da Costa said...

Yeah, good luck on tour! Hope it goes well...

kiki said...

ooooh! gosh. no, i haven't come back 12 or 13 times to see the very handsome Mr. Eisler! *swoon*

alison - it's another mighty fine interview. but tell me, was it "the taste of whisky" line that really put you over the edge?

and i haven't ever read any of his books. he is next on my MUST READ list!!


Janine Ashbless said...

I'm going to have to use Eisler eyes in a future story...

Madeline said...

What a fun and informative post. The comments are fun, too, and (mildly) informative. Jeremy, you make me laugh! I also didn't know thrillers could be sexy, because the thrillers I've read usually star cardboard characters, especially the women. So John Rain
just made MY list (a to do list, not a hit list.) If this is LB on its best behaviour, I shudder to imagine us on our worst...

Alana said...

Jeremy, a.k.a. Lust Biter by Proxy, would you please scan yourself into a My Pictures file then attach yourself to an email and send yourself to me. Thanks.

Janine, I have first dibs on Eisler Eyes in a story. Sorry. You probably didn't hear me when I thought it out loud to myself, but the eyes are mine. :-)

Smut Girl said...

I'm happy to say that Barry is on my dining room table. And he's wearing nothing but...erm...sorry. Got caught up in a fantasy there. What I meant to say is, I enjoyed the interview so much I went and snagged one of his books yesterday on my way home. The book is on the dining room table, not Barry, which is really a shame if you think about it...

Can't wait to dive in ;)

Alison Tyler said...

This is from Tessa, who couldn't make the comments work yesterday:

"I guess based on Barry Eisler's constructive process you ladies in this blog are blessed for you get the chance to exploit the turning point
and show with your work that gratutious can be special, central and meaningful.

Cheers to all enduring inner 14-year-olds!


Jackie said...

Terrific excerpt, and a wonderful interview!

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

I agree that the "how they had sex" says so much - great blog!

Amy S. said...

Great interview and great excerpt!

Justin said...

LB: What are you wearing?
EB: LOL! You wouldn't believe me if I told you...

LB: Oh, try us, Barry. We'll believe anything...

Combat thong?