Sunday, July 2, 2023

Interview With Literary Author Catherine Hiller

Finally, A Novel Written By & For The Mature Woman That Encourages Older Women To Seek Out Unconventional Relationships & Passionate Bedroom Behavior Without Guilt Or Fear

Author Catherine Hiller is provocative and entertaining in her newest book, Cybill Unbound, about a middle-aged woman who discovers the joy of having a unique marriage. See her interview below:  

  1. Catherine, Cybil Unbound is your 10th book. Why do you feel it is your best one? It’s best because it’s boldest, about a subject rarely covered: the sexual adventures of an older woman.  Its heroine, Cybill, is 42 when the book begins and 72 when it ends, during the pandemic. People are often uncomfortable with the idea that an older woman can be a sensual being, but Cybill is a sexual adventurer, meeting men through business trips, literary parties, environmental activism and a trip to Burning Man. For much of the book, she lives with Quinn, whom she adores. The idea that one can be a loving partner and still have passionate adventures with others, without guilt, is also unconventional. Philosophically and stylistically, it’s my best book. Cybill Unbound is more metaphoric than my other books, and it’s also more intense. One chapter has 35 exclamation marks, probably more than I’ve used in the past two years, and each one is necessary.   


  1. What is it about?  Cybill Unbound is about the sexual and emotional development of Cybill Berenson, mother of three, whose husband leaves her for another woman. At 42, she isn’t sure men will still find her attractive, but at a convention she meets Mel, something of a sexual shaman, who gives her a sensual education. Later she meets Quinn, a musician 15 years younger than she is. Quinn moves in after her youngest child leaves for college. They are happy together, but Cybill sometimes takes a lover.


  1. What served as the inspiration for the telling of this story? I know women like this, and I haven’t read fiction about them. A writer enjoys entering new territory. I hoped that to some, Cybill might prove aspirational or inspirational, leading women to act on their desires. Life is short; death will come; perhaps we should seize what pleasures we can. An affair, while risky, can bring people great joy.


  1. How much of you is reflected in the book? Cybill is a more daring version of me. She shares some of my circumstances, though I never had a daughter. Many chapters begin with something that happened to me then veer off into something invented that’s more interesting. For instance, I did meet “a fan from Alabama,” but we merely had lunch together, and there was no bet, an invention I cherish. In many chapters, Cybill has a comeuppance, but she’s never crushed. Her liaisons may not always end well, but they provide her with the emotional excitement she needs. She’s an intensity junkie, sensual, witty, resilient, and attractive. Perhaps I share a couple of these attributes. When you write, some things happen unconsciously. I always knew her name was Cybill but didn’t realize for a long time that her name and “Cathy Hiller” share many of the same letters. There’s some of me in Cybill, but she’s also her own person. And vice versa. By the way, the actress Cybill Shepherd was quite a rogue herself, as revealed in her memoir.


  1. Cybil Unbound is a work of literary fiction, not quite your traditional romance book nor is it erotica, but it presents a provocative approach to relationships and marriage.  Please explain. The focus is on love, but it’s certainly not a traditional romance, for which there are strict rules. In Cybill Unbound, the heroine has serial lovers and has her most passionate affair in her sixties. She’s not searching for enduring love, for she has found it in Quinn. She simply wants more. (Women Who Want More by Susan Shapiro Barash is a recent book exploring the increasingly common phenomenon of women middle-aged and older having affairs.) And my book is not erotica because it is rarely sexually explicit.  Here’s a kiss: “His mouth always knew what her mouth wanted most: lip, tongue; pressure, softness; dryness, wetness; rhythm, rest.” I prefer to let the reader imagine the rest. One reader review reads: “Always titillating, never salacious.”  


  1. You inspire women to live their sexual revolution freely and unapologetically, to embrace utter enjoyment in their lives as age and societal mores challenge their every step. This is not 50 Shades of Grey or a Danielle Steele romance. Have you carved out your own genre?  Many literary writers write about sex. There doesn’t have to be a new genre. D.H. Lawrence, Colette, John Updike, Phillip Roth and many others have written books with erotic content and energy. The novel thrives on conflict, and the conflict between desire and convention is a constant. That’s why adultery is such a powerful theme.  


  1. Why are there few books like yours, written for women who are 50 and over and who want their needs and desires depicted in novels? There’s a general timidity about sexual desire in older folks. People think a grandmother can’t have a lover. They think if a man over 60 feels desire, he’s a “dirty old man.” But two women have told me that they felt most profoundly and sexually in love when they were over 70. And I know a man of 69 who is in a passionate clandestine romance. There’s a certain poignance to the love affairs of old people because the possibility of ill health and death hovers over them. On the other hand, their affairs have less consequence, as they will not lead to children or economic advancement as with young people.  


  1. What challenges did you overcome in writing your book? Writing Cybill, I had to overcome the fear of being slut-shamed. I had to battle the feeling that people would judge me ill for writing about a woman like Cybill. No matter what you tell them, readers often assume that if a book seems autobiographical, everything in the novel happened to the author.  If that were the case, I’d have written a memoir, but I wanted the dramatic freedom of fiction, the license to invent.


  1. John Updike once said of your writing: “Good, brave, and joyful fiction.” What do most people like about your writings? They like the women in my books and identify with their emotional quests. I hope they also like my verve and wit. There’s a lot of humor in my books and I love hearing people laugh when I read from my latest book.  


  1. What relationship advice would you give a woman in her 20’s and 30’s? How about her 50s and 60s?  Wow, that’s two different worlds! Most young women want children, so they are looking for a long-term partner who is loving and reliable. They are considering every relationship as possibly life-changing because who they marry is of great consequence. Practical and social considerations enter into the equation. But a woman in her 50s has greater freedom in whom she can love. In middle age, romance is less fraught, as it needn’t lead to marriage nor necessarily “go anywhere.” There’s a certain purity in loving someone just for how happy they make you right now.

About The Book

Cybill Berenson, mother of three, newly divorced at age 42, is sure the most passionate years of her life are behind her. Then she meets Mel, a sexual shaman who takes her to new heights—and new depths. After their liaison ends, she feels a new openness to pleasure, and she sees that the conventional life is not for her. She falls in love with Quinn, a much younger man; she travels to the Burning Man festival on her own; she edits a book called Adultery Now (which outrages her children);she takes lovers while in her fifties and sixties. Cybill never stops seeking the thrill of deep connection to another human being. When a lover calls her his soul-mate, Cybill realizes “it was for moments like this, and not sex, that she had love affairs.” But what exactly is an affair? She sends an email to a poet she last saw 50 years earlier, and although they never meet in person, she feels a response as intense as any she has ever known. At the start of the pandemic, Cybill, now 72, begins a new kind of affair.

For more information, please consult and her SubstackThe Pleasure Principle: Savoring Life After Fifty. 

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Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2023. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This award-winning blog has generated over 3.3 million pageviews. With 4,400+ posts over the past dozen years, it was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby  and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 years as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Todd Duncan, Susan RoAne, John C. Maxwell, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, Independent Book Publishers Association Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, APEX, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult:  



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