Today I’m joining the ladies of Passionate Reads as a regular blogger, about two years after I won a Passionate Reads Pitch Contest with the pitch for my first story, then entitled Project NSA. A couple of months ago, I sold that story to Ellora’s Cave. It’s called Illicit Impulse now, and I’m working on my first round of edits right now. Pretty exciting, right?
My first novel has been a long time in the making. The journey to publication includes at least two rewrites, one terrible day job, one desperate search for employment, and quite a few less than productive days. I also have to blame some of the delay on research. Writing Illicit Impulse required me to learn a thing or two about biochemistry, and that can be a fascinating place to visit, once you get comfortable with it.
Biochemistry is the source of so many things we take for granted. It’s the reason we listen to a new favorite song hundreds of times before we get sick of it. It’s the reason the food we adored in childhood might taste horrendous to us in adulthood. And then there’s oxytocin, a particularly sneaky hormone responsible for bringing people together, whether we want it or not.
Oxytocin is released whenever we touch other people or pet an animal or engage in various other types of other casual contact. But when oxytocin is released in a woman’s brain at the moment of orgasm, it creates an emotional bond between the woman and her sex partner. If the two of them are already together, that bond leads to the deeper intimacy that makes the postcoital buzz so pleasant. But if they’re just two people looking for some no-strings-attached fun, oxytocin starts building that bond anyway. That’s right. Upon orgasm, a woman’s brain chemistry can essentially start creating a relationship where none exists.
The bottom line is that oxytocin is the reason that most women struggle with keeping casual sex casual. So far, society has responded by encouraging women to avoid casual sex altogether. In order to steer clear of the heartache that comes with breaking the oxytocin bond, we women are being told to forgo purely recreational sex and wait for relationships.
Okay, I get that. No one wants the heartache. But the solution, if we must call it that, seems unfair. I’m a child of the 80s. I was taught that women could do anything men could do, even if we ultimately chose not to do it, and so I cringe at the idea that we should just deny ourselves this sort of pleasure because oxytocin might get in the way. Sure, the questions of morality and health might weigh heavily on this decision for each woman in her own way, but I don’t care for the idea that our biology should be making this call for us.
But what if we could just take oxytocin out of the picture? What might happen then? How would it feel to play on a level field?
That’s the tantalizing thought that led me to my first novel.
Illicit Impulse is the story of Grace Foley and John March, two best friends who have wanted more from each other for years but have been hesitant to pursue their desires for the sake of preserving their friendship. While John’s focused on his career and the experimental drug, Impulse, that suppresses oxytocin, Grace spends long, sensual nights with her friend with benefits, Tal Crusoe. John hopes Grace will help him test Impulse’s effectiveness, and she’s thrilled to experiment with oxytocin-free sex. But before long, all three of them discover that the bonding hormone isn’t the only complication they have to deal with.
You can find the first chapter of Illicit Impulse right here on Passionate Reads. The rest of it is coming out soon from Ellora’s Cave. I just need to get those edits done first.
**Alexa Day promises not to spend two years finishing her next book. You can keep her honest by following her on Twitter, liking her on Facebook, or keeping up with her blog at www.alexaday.net. All you have to do is send frequent but gentle reminders that she ought to be working. She’ll take the hint.