I stared at my computer screen, then out the sliding glass doors and through the dark winter leaves of the live oak trees. I’d spent the better part of the last ten years writing “true crime” books about real-life murder, sitting with the grieving friends and family of homicide victims, listening to their stories, memories, regrets, loves, and rages as they talked about the ones who had passed on too soon.

 I proclaimed that I wrote these books so that people could learn from what had happened—that denial of sexual, physical, emotional, drug, and alcohol abuse destroys lives and that mental illness is a real disease, not a weakness that can be healed by simply thinking positive thoughts. If we recognize these facts and deal with them rather than ignore them, we can prevent such tragedies from happening again. That’s what I preached over and over again. But I was worn out from all the tragedy. I needed to laugh—and talking about sex made me laugh.

 Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality

On Tuesday, July 31, 2012, I taped an interview for the Investigation Discovery network series “Deadly Sins” about the murder of Christopher Michael Hatton at the hands of stripper Stephanie Martin and her boyfriend Will Busenberg, a CIA faker. It is the basis of my 2000 book Wages of Sin. I consider that interview, which is scheduled to air in January 2013, to be my closing statement on true crime.

As I say in my next book, Secret Sex Lives, and as you read above, I’m worn out by all the tragedy. I want to laugh. I want to live. I want to be able to talk about my work and say the words with joy and a grin and maybe even crack a joke or two. And one can’t respectfully do that with true crime. That’s why I’m thrilled and joyous to talk about Secret Sex Lives.  

Secret Sex Lives Cover

Some people might say that’s an ironic statement considering their views of Secret Sex Lives. Kirkus Reviews described me as “pensive” and “lonely” in the book. (It’s a memoir.) And as I reflect back, I guess pensive is an accurate description because I’m certainly thoughtful in the book and sometimes I’m thoughtful and sad.

Perhaps lonely is accurate too, even though I don’t think of myself as a lonely person. But loneliness is a universal trait. I mean, don’t we all feel lonely sometimes? Certainly, my Secret Sex Lives sources did as they kept such important aspects of their lives – their sexual desires – hidden from the people they cherish most.

In fact, just the other day, novelist and blogger Joe O’Connell was interviewing me for an upcoming Austin Chronicle article on Secret Sex Lives and asked me what I found most shocking in my sex research. I may have told him the number of heterosexual, married men who want to have sex with other men. Indeed, that was shocking. But as I sit here and type, I clearly remember what I truly found most shocking – the unfathomable loneliness in America. It is deep, and it is profound. But secrets make one lonely because one has to build walls that isolate in order to keep those secrets secret. And I do know that from experience.

Still, that doesn’t mean I didn’t laugh a lot while researching Secret Sex Lives. In fact, whoever wrote the book’s description for the Texas Book Festival completely comprehended the gamut of emotions I experienced while researching and writing the book: “Her conversations and experiences are at times laugh-out-loud funny, at times gut-wrenching…”

I cannot tell you how much fun I had writing Secret Sex Lives. I laughed so hard and so many times with my “sex freaks.” They brought me such joy.

Yet I remain grateful for true crime: the people I met; the things I learned; and most of all that – perhaps and God-willing – I provided the public with some education about sexual, physical, emotional, drug and alcohol abuse; about mental illness; and about denial. Still, I am grateful to be moving on.

But as I move on, I want to say thank you to the literary agents who sold my true crime ideas; I want to say thank you to the editors, publishers, publicists, and sales reps who sold my true crime books; and most of all I want to say thank you to my true crime readers. You are the greatest. I hope you’ll follow me into the world of Secret Sex Lives. After all, my true crime books contained a heck of a lot sex, so it’s not that far of a trek.

Thank you all!

Suzy Spencer is a New York Times best-selling author and journalist.

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