Sign up for our newsletter

Podcast with Holly Hill

Holly Hill is an author who gained notoriety after writing her controversial book, Sugarbabe. A book about her experience finding a sugar daddy.

Facing bankruptcy, Holly posted an advertisement online for a sugar daddy, describing herself as an "attractive, educated, well-spoken 35-year-old professional woman who LOVES sex, gives a great massage, can provide gourmet meals and above all requires a generous weekly allowance in return for all of the above of $1000."

Following on the controversial path blazed by Sugarbabe, Holly holds nothing back in her new book, Toyboy. This time, Holly advertises for a Toyboy to service her and she will pay him to cook for her in her own apartment, give her afternoon tea and sometimes have sex. In other words, she has reversed the roles.

Holly is now planning a third book, this time geared for women - about women.

Click play to listen.

iTunes RSS

Running time: 28.05



If you like the idea of writing fiction check out our Creative Writing course.


Transcript

NOTE: This transcript has been edited for your readability.

Valerie:
So Holly thanks for joining us today.

Holly:
Thanks for having me Valerie.

Valerie:
Now Sugarbabe has received hundreds of reviews and has been labelled as a 'social experiment', an amazing book. Do you agree was it a social experiment to you?

Holly:
It was really. Toyboy was definitely a social experiment. Sugarbabe wasn't nearly so deliberate. It was very much events as they occurred. So the word 'experiment' implies that I manipulated, I guess, the variables around me. And Sugarbabe wasn't like that at all. It was more like a rollercoaster ride that was so extraordinary that I felt the need to write down what was occurring.

Valerie:
Sure, and then you followed it up with Toyboy as you say, is a social experiment. Why did you decide to do that? Why did you decide to go through that experience with Toyboy?

Holly:
I guess as a journalist and perhaps even as a psychologist you need to look at both sides of the coin. I wanted to explore the other side of the equation. I wanted to see if it was possible for women to hire men for sex in the same way that men hire women.

There were a lot of shocks in that. My own experience was that women can't hire men for sex. It makes us feel quite uncomfortable as is told in Toyboy.

Valerie:
Back to Sugarbabe, are you glad that all that time ago that you took your friends recommendation and advertised for a sugar daddy?

Holly:
Absolutely, I don't have a single regret in my life because even my stuff ups have made me the person I am today.

I have a shattered leg for example. People say, "Well, you can't run." and "You can't jump." But I wouldn't undo my leg because out of that, being on crutches for two years, I learned things like empathy.

Even my mistakes have been very much learning experiences and so Sugarbabe was definitely that. I'm so glad that it happened to me because I think that I'm a much better person now for doing it.

Valerie:
What was the most surprising part of that journey?

Holly:
The most surprising part of the journey was what I discovered about men. Like many women I had always blamed myself for if they cheated on me or if relationships broke up I thought it was because I was too fat or too ugly or too something. Whereas usually it's not about us, it's about the man.

I discovered that men are far more chemically driven than women are. Even though they have been telling us this for centuries I don't think that women fully understand the extent to which men are driven by the sexual urge.

Valerie:
How did it feel actually the first few times that it all happened when you were providing services for men and by this I mean sex, cooking meals and just being there?

Then again, how did it feel when the roles were reversed?

Holly:
That in itself was amazing because I had the country girl upbringing. The first sexual experience that I related in Sugarbabe I had just received $1000. I had to take my clothes off with a man I scarcely knew. To be honest it was extraordinarily liberating. It was empowering. I felt gorgeous. I felt in control.

You don't often get those feelings in a normal ‘vanilla' relationship. It busted a whole group of myths that I think women are fed to keep us under their thumb.

Women have a very, very powerful tool between their legs. One of the reasons that men like us at home looking after the kids is so we aren't as powerful as perhaps sex workers are, and women that give away their sex more freely.

Valerie:
Then the roles were reversed, so how did that feel?

Holly:
That was the other surprise in that whilst I found it empowering to be in the sex worker role, I found it terribly disempowering to hire a sex worker which in fact my toy boys were.

As soon as I handed over the money I felt as if they were in control. They were the ones that had my hard-earned dollars and it was terribly disempowering. I certainly felt very awkward in that role.

Valerie:
Was it a surprise that it felt disempowering? Did you think you were going to feel empowered?

Holly:
Yes, it was a huge surprise. I think that every woman perhaps has a secret fantasy to be able to pay a man and to say, "Oh, I want you to do A, B, and C."

But it doesn't really work like that. I don't think that it is in women's natures to be that explicit perhaps about their needs. That is where we can learn from experiences like these and perhaps we should start being more explicit and try and break out of our conditioning a little bit.

Because we have been conditioned to be the takers as far as sex is concerned. Perhaps we should do some of the taking.

Valerie:
What has been the response? Firstly to Sugarbabe, you talk about men cheating just because that's their biological instinct.

Have you ever heard from any women thinking that this thought was actually a bit of a comfort? What has been the response generally for Sugarbabe?

Holly:
The response has been extraordinarily positive. I have hundreds of fan mail letters from women that have written to me and said, "Thank you so much. I thought our break-up of our relationship was all about me." Or I thought that his cheating was all about me when in fact it was all about him.

I had an extraordinarily grateful audience that felt liberated and empowered. They understand their partners a little bit more.

Valerie:
What kind of response were you expecting though? Were you expecting that response or did you not know? Because it is a controversial topic, what were you expecting?

Holly:
To be honest I was expecting - it is unsavoury to say that men are sex maniacs which is kind of what I said. I really expected to be spat on the street almost. It is hard news especially to women brought up to have expectations of lifetime sexual exclusivity.

When we discover that men aren't really hardwired to provide that, it is a horrible shock. I really did think that I would get a very negative reaction when in fact it's been quite the reverse.

I even had a look at a site on the nursing mothers' site and there was a big debate in one of the blogs about how they are not having sex with their husbands and their husbands are cheating. One woman suggested read Sugarbabe. It's not about you, it's about him and he has needs just like every other man.

Valerie:
Did you suspect this with your work with psychology before the experience and this just affirmed it or did you think something else?

Holly:
Absolutely not, I guess I wanted to think of men as these wonderful, loving creatures that would gladly offer lifetime sexual exclusivity. I had all of the fairy tales in mind. Whereas the fairy tales are all getting busted now even advertising are saying things like, "Forever is overrated."

Apparently some of the younger generation don't consider marriage to be a lifetime commitment at all. Which is quite sad really. I guess that is why I still am seeking a way to make lifetime relationships work and I suspect negotiated infidelity is one of the only ways that will be accomplished.

Valerie:
Really!

Holly:
Yes, there seem to be two types of views on this. You can either have lots of short-term marriages. Usually the time is about seven years. Even Germany is looking at making marriage contracts a seven year term.

Or if you do want a lifetime commitment, a lifetime relationship, which I still very firmly believe in. The way to do it is to negotiate some infidelity. There is a saying that I've coined that "If the dog is on a leash then let it escape through a hole in the back fence."

Valerie:
Okay, so by the end of Toyboy, you kind of have a situation where you chose Antoine who cooks for you, pays for you, seems to be your perfect man. Does it kind of mean that at the end of that journey you actually decided you did want that fairy tale?

Holly:
I guess that it isn't the fairy tale ending in that I'm still with the character that's called Antoine. It isn't the fairy tale ending. We are living the life of negotiated infidelity and there has been tremendous hurdles living that life.

So it wasn't the fairy tale ending but because they were true stories I didn't get to pick the ending. The ending found me. We've moved in together and we're living the life that I suggest because if otherwise I would be a hypocrite.

If I gave it any other ending, I would also be a liar. I think that my honesty in my work is one of the positives. It is essential that I am honest even though it may not be the ending that everyone would like.

Valerie:
Now you are researching a third book, I understand. Is this going to be a social experiment as well?

Holly:
Yes, it is definitely a social experiment. I guess my partner and I consider ourselves the groundbreakers of our generation really. We are putting ourselves through trials and tribulations perhaps so that his daughters, for example, get to have easier relationships than many women in my generation have had.

So we see ourselves as the trailblazers. Hopefully the mistakes that we have made and will continue to make can assist other people not to make the same mistakes. They can learn from our experiences.

Valerie:
Can you tell us what your third book is going to be about?

Holly:
The third book is very much about women. It's about how it feels to relinquish monogamy. Again there are some extraordinary myths that are being busted.

For example, a woman who controls who her partner does and doesn't have sex with is far more powerful than a monogamous woman waiting for him to come home. That in itself is an extraordinarily liberating, empowering thing.

Because men are such sexual creatures so a woman who has relinquished monogamy in the relationship and does ‘walk the dog on the leash' is a very powerful woman. I don't think that we are going to achieve true equality until women are prepared to do that.

Valerie:
Have some people spat at you on the street or have you received some negative feedback for what you have written?

Holly:
No, again it's something that amazes me. There has been some disappointment I guess in the ending of Toyboy in the fact that I did settle down with a man. But I needed to settle down with a man in order to fully test my hypotheses about the empowerment of women. Life gave me exactly what I needed.

The negative publicity has been very limited and surprisingly so I guess because it is an unpalatable message for many women that I'm suggesting.

Valerie:
But also for Sugarbabe, when that came out was there negative response that you were dealing with?

Holly:
Interestingly enough, no, or perhaps it didn't filter through to me. The most negative I received is "How can you possibly be a sex worker?" "How can you possibly be paid for sex?" I certainly don't want to charge my friends for sex, do I? I'll have to charge strangers.

But that was probably the only negative thing. People were surprised that a woman with a psychology degree would ‘debase' herself in that way. So that was the main problem, I guess, that people perceived with the books.

Valerie:
With Toyboy it was obviously premeditated in that you were going to write about it. But with Sugarbabe at what point in the journey did it occur to you, "Oh, I might, you know, actually write about this experience."

Holly:
I kept a diary throughout the entire experience. I wrote pretty much from the word go. Catharsis is huge part of my work for depression in particular in that if someone has disordered thoughts or ‘mind chatter' as some psychologists call it. It's better to write them down and that way you don't think the same disordered thoughts over and over again. You've set it in stone.

I would be a hypocrite if I didn't apply my own techniques for disordered thinking to myself. I wrote throughout.

There was actually a huge argument with my editor because the book was originally in diary form. She wanted to change it into the chapters that it is today.

I was very miffed about that. I didn't want to lose the diary format at all. But she ended up convincing me. I'm glad perhaps now that it isn't in diary form. But yes, it was something that I wrote throughout and I guess that is why it is so real. It's so extraordinarily honest.

Because I was writing it, the man would leave and I would get on the computer and just go, "Blah!" and spill it all out.

Valerie:
Why did you want to keep it in the diary form?

Holly:
I guess that I liked the personalised. It was me talking to the computer more than anything. I like a diary. I've always kept a diary in my life especially in the times when my life is particularly challenging.

I guess like a lot of writers you kind of have ownership of something so personal. I didn't want them to depersonalise it if you like.

Valerie:
When you first approached publishers with your first draft was there immediate appeal to them?

Holly:
Absolutely, that was one of the extraordinary things where I first approached agents. I really did select the two first agents within walking distance of my unit because at that stage I couldn't afford to drive or travel anywhere.

Both agents called me within three days of receiving my manuscript. That is very rare, but if you do have an exceptional story you will be contacted within days of submitting your manuscript. It's the ones who have been written before that get put on the pile and don't get processed for three months.

Valerie:
Had you submitted a book before or written a book before?

Holly:
Yes, I had gone through the process. My father was murdered and so I did the same thing. It was so extraordinary, going to courts and identifying the body, going through the whole experience that once again I kept a diary.

I tried to get that published but unfortunately people's fathers are murdered everywhere. It just wasn't a unique enough storyline even though it was very, very close to my heart. Perhaps that will be something that will be published later in my life anyway now that people are interested in my background.

Valerie:
Do you write full-time now or do you do other work?

Holly:
No, apparently, I was at a writer's thing for Random House not so long ago and I was told that only five Australian authors get to quit their day job. Yes, there is very little money in being an author. So unfortunately just like everyone else I have a day job and I am very grateful for it.

Valerie:
Is your day job in psychology?

Holly:
No, my day job is in, I do technical writing. Psychology, I try and stay away from a little bit. I'm almost a maverick as far the psychological profession is concerned in that I have a very different way of viewing relationships.

For example, I think that relationships don't fail. They just change. If I had a dysfunctional couple whose lives had changed I would probably suggest that they call it quits rather than flogging a dead horse in front of their poor children.

Valerie:
Was it always the intention from the outset to write under a pseudonym?

Holly:
Yes, I originally did the pseudonym to protect some of the gentlemen in Sugarbabe. One in particular had told his cousin or some person who lived in my home town and I didn't want to blow his cover so to speak.

The pseudonym was really to protect them, but since then I have become quite attached to it and so I use it in social circles quite often. I have a whole lot of new friends who know me as Holly and its kind of fun to have two personas. I enjoy having a pseudonym and I almost have two different personalities now which is a lot of fun.

Valerie:
Can you describe the two different personalities?

Holly:
Yes, well I guess Holly is outgoing and sexy and very flirtatious and lots of fun. Whereas Jenny is a professional who is very dedicated to her day job and would never be flirtatious at work. She's a lot more conservative than Holly so I get to be two people in one and that's a lot of fun.

Valerie:
So ten years ago, or a while ago, would you ever have thought that you would have done this?

Holly:
Absolutely not, ten years ago I thought I would probably be married by now with 2.1 children, a picket fence and a huge superannuation waiting for me when I die. Instead it's quite the reverse. I'm determined not to have the children and the collection of superannuation is very much to be desired. But collecting money for when you reach your old age is isn't really my cup of tea.

Valerie:
So is your plan to continue writing social experiment type of books or are you interested in exploring fiction or something like that at some point?

Holly:
No, I will continue to explore. I see myself very much as the representative for women in particular. Most women don't get to do the things that I get to do. I'm doing them on women's behalf and perhaps if there is a brave new world out there and women had true equality I may not have to continue doing this. But until women do become equal and until women are more empowered and not getting cheated on, I'll continue to conduct experiments on their behalf.

Valerie:
This desire to empower women, has that always been there in your own personal life for many years or is that only something that you have come to recently?

Holly:
I was very lucky to have a mother who was a very strong feminist. I saw the beauty of a powerful woman. She brought us up on a shoestring. She didn't take handouts. We were always encouraged to be independent. We were practically kicked out of home as soon as we got jobs.

It was something that I very much admired. When I compared my mum to say a woman whose husband is going out every night, perhaps cheating, I would feel sorry for those women. I think that its occurring a lot.

I was looking at some statistics the other day and I think that its 25% of all search engines' requests are pornographic. So even if men are being physically monogamous they're not mentally monogamous. We need to change the women's viewpoint of monogamy.

Valerie:
What was the best thing about basically discovering a new career as an author?

Holly:
I guess it was the fact that I can actually help people. I think that above all is such a wonderful feeling to have someone write a letter and say, "My book sits on my bedside table every day and because of it I am having better relationships. I'm stronger, I'm empowered. I feel beautiful and I love being a woman."

To help just one person like that is the most amazingly good feeling. It just blows me away that I can actually help people in that.

Valerie:
What is the most challenging thing about the writing process that you've discovered?

Holly:
I guess because I write, I keep calling it reality-fiction. It's hard. Sometimes I do wild things and there is this little thing in the back of my head saying, "Am I doing this for the book? If I was living my life normally would I be doing some of these things?"

The doubt as to why that I'm doing things but I guess the way I came to terms with that is it doesn't really matter why I would do things. The main thing is the results and the lessons that you get out of that whether they're good or bad. They shape you as a person and if one kept trying to puzzle out the whys you would probably go crazy.

Valerie:
Finally what would your advice be to other people who want to do what you have done and basically write?

Holly:
I would suggest writing something that is close to their hearts, to something that's real. But it has to be interesting and it has to be unique. It is very difficult to get into publishing these days.

Non-fiction does a lot better than fiction. In fact a lot of the agents I understand don't even accept fiction anymore. They're after non-fiction people. It's the age of reality when you have the internet and people pasting pornographic pictures of themselves and having blogs about their real lives.

We need to respond accordingly and people want to know the truth. They don't want to know fantastical stories anymore because the truth is so much more extraordinary than anything we can make up.

Valerie:
It comes back to the old adages, 'write what you know'.

Holly:
Yes, absolutely. Write what you know and live an interesting life. Be brave and be courageous. If you live a brave life and grasp every opportunity that comes your way you will probably end up with an interesting book in you.

Valerie:
Wonderful and on that note, thank you very much for your time Holly.

Holly:
Thanks very much, Valerie, thank you for having me.



If you like the idea of writing fiction check out our Creative Writing course.

^ back to top

Website terms of use | Privacy policy | Anti-spam policy | External links policy

Powered by eway

© Copyright Australian Writers' Centre, Suite 3, 55 Lavender Street, Milsons Point NSW 2061, Australia.