Saturday, December 2, 2006

Thrill of the chastened

While those of you who have commented here about my Radar interview have been overwhelmingly encouraging, for which I thank you, I've read observations from two people who have said that it was indeed "too much information."

One of the dissenters is an aunt of mine, and the other is a writer on a Catholic blog who does not appear to be very familiar with me or my writings apart from that interview. They make similar points — that in the interest of modesty, I should take the high road and not pander to an interviewer who is baiting me with questions that are unabashedly prurient.

I can see their points. I am new to interviews, and the Radar one was in many ways a learning experience. The biggest thing I learned from it is that I should, if it is at all possible, refuse to answer questions about subjects that are not covered in my book. The problem with outright refusal, however, is that it could make me come off as rude, snobby, or like I have something to hide; nobody likes an interview subject who just says, "Next question." With more experience, I hope to find a way to deflect such questions without irritating the interviewer or readers more than necessary — but there may be more rocky interviews before I master the technique.

With regard to the dissenters' main concern — what they see as unduly explicit answers — I know why I answered the way I did. It was a similar interview that I did for Gawker in August 2004, where I spoke somewhat salaciously of my journey from rock journalist to Christian blogger, that caught the attention of the New York Observer's George Gurley. And it was Gurley's article that in turn caught the attention of W Publishing Group, which is how my book came to be.

In other words, if I hadn't painted Gawker a graphic picture of a woman who found fulfillment in chaste Christianity that she never attained when living a sordid secular lifestyle, The Thrill of the Chaste would not be making the news right now. Perhaps I might have gotten it published by a small publisher who could get it into specialty Christian stores, but it wouldn't have been the exciting, countercultural news story that it now is to mainstream publications like Radar (and many more media outlets to come).

I can guess that the Catholic blogger who dissented to my interview would here interject that by now, I should know better than to feed secular reporters' sexual curiosity; I should never "do evil that good may come."

There is certainly merit in such a viewpoint. To anyone who holds it, I ask for your patience, and especially your prayers. It is very important to me that I bring my book's message to a secular audience. Even if its audience is overwhelmingly Christian, most Christians get far more of their news from secular outlets than they do from religious ones — and secular outlets aren't interested in an interview with yet another buttoned-up, Suzy Creamcheese abstinence advocate with a pasted-on smile and unspotted past. Not that the world doesn't need more Suzy Creamcheeses; however, I don't believe many viewers identify with a woman who knows how to make the perfect jello salad for every occasion but has never in her life worn an outfit intended to show off the contours of her butt.

I believe that in The Thrill of the Chaste, I successfully display the more colorful aspects of my experience and my unusually salty brand of chastity advocacy without dipping too deeply into my blue material. Certainly, respected Christian writers like Maggie Gallagher and Christopher West think so, otherwise, they wouldn't have endorsed my book. The challenge is to accomplish that in interviews, where there is a great deal of pressure to perform. Again, I ask for your patience and, most of all, your prayers.