It was a publishing phenomenon that sold more than 100 million copies worldwide, but it looks like Fifty Shades of Grey is set to be outdone by an even more explicit read.
Ostensibly a crime thriller set between the London art world and Europe’s billionaire playboy scene, Maestra, which goes on sale next month, is being heralded as the successor to EL James’s raunchy read because of the sexual exploits of its anti-heroine Judith Rashleigh.
Its author, Liverpool-born Oxford graduate Lisa Hilton, attended an upmarket sex party in Paris for research and placed the first sex scene – a description of a woman performing a very intimate act on her partner – on page two of the book.
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Oxford graduate Lisa Hilton’s new novel Maestra has been hailed as the new 50 Shades of Grey because of its raunchy scenes, which she attended an upmarket sex party in Paris to research. The Liverpool-born writer who is in her 40s shocked publishers with her explicit scenes, but refused to tone them down
Explaining her decision to attend the Paris party with a male friend, she told The Times Magazine: ‘I wanted to know how it worked for women. The etiquette. How people interacted. You can’t leave that to chance. You have to go and see
‘It was all rather elegant. Discreet. No sense of seediness at all. People knew what they were there for. They were well dressed, good-looking, polite. I came away with a sense of how easy it was.’
Maestra’s plot follows Judith who works as an assistant in a prestigious London auction house, and moonlights as a hostess at a seedy West End bar.
The young Londoner has a penchant for indulging in what some might consider extreme erotic acts at sex parties, and has no interest in dating, flirting or being pursued for a relationship.
Hilton has previously made revelations about her own attitudes to sex, which she described as belonging in the 18th century, speaking out in favour of adultery. In a newspaper article she declared she would rather be a mistress than a wife
Twice divorced by the age of 25, the mother-of-one admitted in a newspaper article that she’d embarked on an affair with a married man and had cheated in relationships from the age of 15
After uncovering a conspiracy at the auction house, she’s fired and accepts an offer from one of the bar’s clients to the French Riviera.
But she ends up feeling for her life and has to rely on her ability to fake it among the rich and famous to survive, as well as her inside track on the art fraud she discovered at the auction house.
Hilton, who is in her 40s, recalled meeting a prominent American published at the London Book fair who told her he would be interested in bidding for the book if she toned down the ‘filthy’ sex scenes.
She pointed out that descriptions of violence against women in fiction are commonplace and accepted, whereas it’s still taboo to write about women who enjoy sex.
Her character indulges in intimate acts that are still considered taboo by many – and certainly didn’t feature in EL James’ work of ‘mummy porn’.
Hilton, who is in her forties, recalled meeting a prominent American published at the London Book fair who told her he would be interested in bidding for the book if she toned down the ‘filthy’ sex scenes. Her novel was repeatedly rejected before being sold to a US publisher for a seven figure sum
Maestra’s plot follows Judith who works as an assistant in a prestigious London auction house
‘My sex scenes are not disguised as anything. Rashleigh likes sex. She enjoys it,’ she explained. ‘She likes having it on her own terms and in her own way.’
Hilton’s book was repeatedly rejected, and she was about to give up hope, when it was sold to a US publisher for a seven figure sum.
Columbia Pictures snapped up the rights, nine months before it was due to to be published. It will be adapted by Cressida Wilson who has just completed the film version of last year’s big hit The Girl On The Train.
The book has also been sold in 35 different countries.
However, Hilton balks at comparisons with Fifty Shades, also adapted by Hollywood, calling its saccharine romance ‘insidious’ and infantilising.
Maestra is a far cry from Hilton’s normal output of literary biographies of historical figures, but her history is not altogether without colour.
Her previous works include a book about Louis XIV’s mistress the Marquise de Montespan, Elizabeth I and a page-turner set in the 15th century Florentine court.
She has previously made revelations about her own attitudes to sex, which she described as belonging in the 18th century, speaking out in favour of adultery.
Twice divorced by the age of 25, the mother-of-one admitted in a newspaper article that she’d embarked on an affair with a married man and would much rather be a mistress than a wife.
HOW 50 SHADES OF GREY BECAME A PUBLISHING SENSATION
50 Shades of Grey was first published in 2011 as an e-book and a print-on-demand paperback.
Its author EL James originally wrote the story as Twilight fan fiction in her husband’s shed and published it online.
Vintage Books acquired the publishing rights in March 2012, and the book topped besteller lists worldwide and sold 125 million copies by JUne 2015.
It was the fastest-selling paperback of all time in the UK and has been translated into 52 languages.
Despite a poor critical reception, the film adaptation starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson broke box office records and took $571 million worldwide.
‘Avoiding emotional intimacy can be very relaxing, and it’s something women find difficult to do. I didn’t care if he loved me, or found my opinions interesting – I just wanted someone to have fun with,’ she told The Evening Standard.
She enjoyed the chance to exaggerate her femininity and getting a glimpse into what it felt like to be a man. In another article she admitted to cheating in relationships from the age of 15 because she wanted more sex.
Now in a relationship with a Danish tech entrepreneur she has a 10-year-old daughter from her third marriage to an Italian conductor, and says she doesn’t see the point of marrying again.
Maestra is published by Zaffre on 10th March