Author Elisa Lorello wasn’t always a novelist, but she has been a writer and teacher throughout her life.
Elisa grew up on Long Island, the youngest of seven children, as a bona fide member of Generation X. After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees (psychology and professional writing) at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, she taught rhetoric and writing at the college level for more than ten years. In 2010, her debut novel, Faking It, catapulted to the top of the Kindle Store bestseller list. Since then, Faking It has sold over a quarter of a million units worldwide in multiple languages.
To date, Elisa has written and published ten novels, a memoir about her lifelong love for the band Duran Duran, and The Writer’s Habit, a book about storytelling, the writing process, and rhetoric. Elisa calls her genre “Romance Rhetoric”—novels about relationships infused with crack dialogue, characters that are flawed but likable, and a story that keeps you thinking and feeling well after the last page.
In addition to guest posts on Jane Friedman’s and the Writer’s Digest blogs, Elisa has been featured in the Montana Quarterly magazine, the Rachael Ray Every Day magazine, and the Charlotte Observer. She has also delivered numerous presentations and workshops at writers’ conferences and seminars.
In 2016, Elisa moved to Montana to be with Craig Lancaster (also a best-selling novelist), whom she married in October of the same year. They plan to relocate to the northeast coast in late spring of 2018.
Here is an excerpt from Faked Out.
I knew it was going to be a hellish night the moment I saw all that gold lamé. Her dress. Her clutch. Her shoes. I wouldn’t be surprised if her underwear was gold lamé too. And I hoped she wasn’t planning on showing me.
Of course, I complimented her as if she were wearing something that didn’t make me wish for cataracts.
Her makeup wasn’t much better. She had fallen into the classic trap of trying to look ten years younger and coming out looking ten years older. Swap out the gold lamé for a classic black cocktail dress and perhaps a costume gold necklace, get rid of the eyebrow pencil and all that fuchsia and use a soft lip gloss, and she’d probably be stunning. I hoped an opening would come up tonight where I could tell her in a way that she wouldn’t take offense. Some women were really accepting of suggestions; others took it as a judgment. Which, it probably was.
This was my first date with Laurel the Divorcee, who found me by way of her friend Carmella the Publicist, who was friends with Grace the Esthetician, I think. I tried to maintain my memory for such things—it was good for business—but in the last few years there were so many to keep track of.
Laurel the Divorcee needed a date for a charity dinner for—wait for it—the cure for the common cold. The nonprofit organization, named something like Health Engineers, distributed tissue packets with their logo of what looked like a pair of pliers embedded in the sun. They gave out Sucrets in lieu of after-dinner mints. The cake was in the shape of a nose. A nose, dammit. With chocolate sprinkles in the nostrils. I didn’t even want to know what the filling was. And they were as committed to and passionate about the cause as the National Cancer Society was to and about theirs. They debuted a PSA featuring the same kind of music used for starving kids in Africa or abused pets. People actually wept and had to break open their new tissue packets.
“Now remember, Devin,” Laurel said before we’d entered the dining room. “We met under the Magritte at the MoMA.”
“That’s actually not a bad place to meet,” I replied, seeing the famous painting of “The False Mirror” in my mind’s eye. “Did you know that—”
I was about to offer up a factoid about Magritte, but Laurel was too focused on her ruse to indulge me. “You asked me out to coffee, and we’ve been seeing each other ever since.”
“Right. And how long ago was that?”
“How long ago was what?”
“How long ago did we go out for coffee?” I asked.
“Oh,” she said, and deliberated on a plausible answer. “Three weeks?” she guessed.
“Works for me. Anything else I should know about you? Favorites? Which Starbucks you prefer?”
“We’ll play that by ear, I guess.”
I extended my arm, elbow bent, as an invitation for her to link into it with her own, but she insisted we enter with my arm tightly wrapped around her waist. So we did. And she got the reaction she’d wanted. Heads turned in our direction. Women looked envious. Men looked defeated. I was used to it by now, but my clients loved it. Craved it.
By the main course of dinner not only did I not give a rat’s ass about curing the common cold, but I was also hoping to drop dead on the spot from some random plague.
Thing is, the dates were increasingly resembling this one: Banal. Uninspiring. Ridiculous. My business partner Christian, long out of the field, had been progressively pestering me to resign as well and take on, as he called it, the more grown-up responsibilities of the business. At the very least, work part time. Or get out altogether, as he occasionally threatened to. Not long ago I’d thrived on the anticipation of meeting someone new or reconnecting with someone I’d been out with before, listening to their stories, learning about their occupations…I had come to know a little bit about a lot of things, and surmised that I’d make a killing on Jeopardy. And I loved the idea of bringing some color into a woman’s gray life for one night. It saddened me how many women needed me to tell them they were pretty, were so starved for compliments that their self-esteem was emaciated. How many women needed to feel pretty, even for just a couple of hours, so much so that they were willing to pay for it. A lot. How many women simply needed to be cuddled.
And lately I was starting to feel guilty about it again.
Or maybe I was just tired. I hadn’t been sleeping well. I stifled yawns all throughout dinner, and over-compensated by asking for a double-espresso.
Four hours later, even hopped up on espresso, I was ready to crawl into my own bed, and I was hoping Laurel would part company at goodnight. She asked me to take her home (not all are so trusting), and I obliged, as I always do. She lived in a four-story walkup just a few blocks away. When we reached her door, I cordially said goodnight and, without thinking, kissed her on the cheek. I’ve stopped initiating goodnight kisses; even cheek kisses. Now I wait for their cue. If they initiate it, fine. If they want more, then we’ll negotiate that, although the contract clearly states where things end, no exceptions.
A lustful gleam appeared in Laurel’s eye. Uh-oh.
She unlocked her door, thrust it open, yanked me inside, closed the door and pinned me to it, kissing me hard. I got a lungful of not only her perfume, but also her tongue. I guessed the PSA at the dinner didn’t persuade her to think twice about kissing someone with thirty-gazillion bacteria in his mouth.
Wow. She was strong. And taller than I’d realized, her lips meeting the bottom of my chin. She didn’t have far to reach, and for once I didn’t need to slouch. Then again, she was also wearing stilettos.
I unglued my face. “OK, hang on,” I said, taking a breath. “Let’s come up for air.”
Damn, she was quick too. She forced my coat off my shoulders, followed by my jacket, and began to unbutton my shirt. Someone didn’t read her contract.
I took hold of her hands. “Laurel, we discussed the rules. You can look, but you can’t touch, remember?”
“You were serious? I thought that was pretense. You know, in case your client turned out to be undercover vice or something.” She ran a lacquered gold fingernail along my exposed chest. Felt like a cold pencil.
“You might be, for all I know.”
She laughed, and pressed her chest against mine. I resisted and pushed back with as little force as possible.
“What are some other ways I can make you happy?” I asked. “We could make out a little. You know, first-base stuff. Or I could give you a foot rub or a hand massage or—”
Again with the dive-bomb kissing. Then she went for the jewels.
I was not enjoying this. I hadn’t been enjoying it at all lately. You just need a break, I told myself. Too overbooked. You’re trying too hard to please too many people. How ironic.
Once again I clutched her hands and unglued our mouths. “Laurel, if you don’t respect the boundaries, I’m going to leave, and our business ends here and now, forever.”
“What the hell kind of escort are you?” said Laurel, her frustration surpassing the sexual kind, I gathered.
“I thought I was pretty clear about that,” I said. “And I thought Carmella filled you in. No drugs, no guns, no S and M, and no penetration.”
“I swear to God, I thought that was all pretense. Well, the last part, anyway. You mean to tell me you’re not going to fuck me?”
“I am not going to fuck you,” I said. “There are other sensual options on the table, but not that.”
Most women held out for those other options and walked away satisfied. I didn’t specify which ones, however, given that I wanted to go home.
“Now listen,” she said, “We either get naked and you fuck me hard, or we’re done. And I want my money back too.”
“I’ll give you a twenty-five percent refund,” I said. That’s how badly I wanted to go home.
She folded her arms like a petulant child, and then caved. “Fine.”
I wished just one of them would be assertive enough. Some would haggle me up to fifty percent. But none ever went all the way, so to speak. Did I intimidate them, or did the contract? Or maybe they were taught not to be aggressive. That assertiveness equaled bitchiness. They were wrong.
Then again, I never gave them what they wanted.
I pulled the money she’d paid me earlier from the inner pocket of my suit jacket, unclasped the gold moneyclip, and counted out the bills for her. The room was still dark, lit only by the city outside her window.
“You know, you really shouldn’t carry that cash around with you,” she said. “In those clothes, you’re just begging to be mugged.”
“Hey, if someone really wants it, they can have it.”
“It’s what they’ll do to you to get it that you should be worried about.”
Great. I’m taking a cab home tonight.
“It was nice to meet you, Laurel,” I said.
“Thanks for nothing, Devin. This was a waste of an evening.”
“Not true,” I said. “You got those designer wet wipes and a piece of nose cake.”
And with that I found myself back on the other side of her apartment door as she slammed it on me.
As I stepped onto the Manhattan streets, I buttoned up my camel coat close to my neck. “Like stepping into a fucking meat freezer,” I muttered. I hoped the muggers would be too cold as well.
Maybe it was time for another line of work. Or just retire early and see the world. I’d lost count of the number of times that thought ran through my mind. And that was just tonight.
To learn more go to: http://www.elisalorello.com.