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Swap Club: Is a Swingers Story Ready For The Mainstream?
Would you, could you, join a swingers club? The lead character of Lauren Wise’s first novel Swap Club finds herself asking that very question. After turning 40 and suffering an unhappy and sexless marriage, Valerie Matthews convinces her husband to join a private swingers club in Montreal, Canada. The unexpected, uncomfortable, and hilarious ensue — think 50 Shades of Grey meets Bridget Jones’ Diary.
Adding a touch of humor to a widely-perceived “taboo” subject may be the secret ingredient to making Swap Club a commercial success. Remember the short-lived “Swingtown” CBS drama about Chicago-based swingers in 1976? Or A&E’s “Neighbors With Benefits” reality show experiment that ended after just two episodes aired? Taking the subject too seriously may have been the kiss of death. Lauren’s ability to inject humor into a steamy (and controversial) storyline quickly picked up a movie option from Entertainment One, a leader in distributing independent films.
It’s a tough subject to approach in mainstream media. Swingers tend not to talk openly about it as they want to avoid judgment on a variety of levels. In fact, there are few studies about the swinging community. TheSwingScene.com states a few findings from a 2000 study conducted by Dr. Curtis Bergstrand and Jennifer Blevins Williams that are listed on a number of web sites:
— About 89% of swingers are married, averaging roughly 10.5 years
— Women start swinging at age 31.4 on average, men at 35.2.
— Swingers are equally distributed across all political parties
— 72.1% of swingers are members of a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple
Lauren has worked on short films and screenplays, and landed a job as a writer’s assistant for “Just for Laughs Galas” in Montreal, Quebec. When Lauren’s marriage was ending, she tried writing long form as a way to cope. From one of the hardest times in Lauren Wise’s life came Swap Club.
Lauren answered some Swap Club questions for SheSpark readers.
SS: You’ve stated that swinging isn’t a part of your lifestyle. How did you research the swinging community to develop your character Valerie and her experience?
LW: Swap Club is a fictional membership-only club created in my mind. The rules and screening process is unique to Swap Club and is not based on the rules and etiquette described in traditional swinger communities. Although I did read articles and watch documentaries on the lifestyle, just to get my mind in tune with the idea of married people sharing partners, it wasn’t constructive in the development of Valerie. At the very root of Valerie’s character is someone that’s relatable to all people, men and women alike, of all ages. Valerie is someone who is feeling unhappy, unfulfilled and restless with the status quo as she hits her fortieth birthday and her chosen path to spice up her mid-life slump is to focus on her sex-life by joining Montreal’s elite Swap Club. Imagine you can have an affair, no strings attached and no consequences. Therein lies the idea of Swap Club.
SS: Valerie is really “breaking the rules” by engaging in a swinging lifestyle. Why did she look at this risky decision as a way of saving her marriage?
LW: Desperate people do desperate things… People who want to save their marriage will do whatever it takes to save it; and if you’re being honest about what you need, it might take you in unconventional directions. Valerie and Ryan choose to spice things up in the bedroom seeing as that is the one thing they can both agree on that needs work. Experiencing new partners and learning from the encounters proves to be beneficial as Ryan and Val use their new-found skills with each other.
SS: The only person I know who candidly talked to me about swinging said her husband initiated the conversation. She hesitantly agreed and held back on participating herself while he pursued a handful of extramarital encounters. (Clearly they didn’t have a Swap Club!) When she finally found a man she felt comfortable having a physical interaction with, she loved it. Upon telling her husband, he quickly back tracked and said he didn’t think the lifestyle was a good idea and they should stop. Do Swap Club characters run into similar double standards?
LW: No they don’t. For membership to be granted, you can only join as a couple. Both parties are consenting and agreeable to sharing their partner with another woman or man.
SS: Unlike 50 Shades of Grey, you’ve injected humor into the storyline. Why did you go that route?
LW: I look at life through comedy, I always have. Writing a story without humor to me is an impossibility. I don’t like to take life too seriously. Life’s too short…
SS: If a friend told you she was interested in talking to her spouse about swinging, what advice would you give her?
LW: I’m a firm believer on doing whatever it takes in the spirit of bettering any relationship. These days it is very easy to give up and not fight for your marriage. If my friend told me she was doing something (in this case you are asking specifically about swinging,) in the hopes of improving her marriage– I would support and encourage it whole-heartedly provided there was good communication and trust in their relationship already.
SS: The book has been optioned for a movie! Any word on who will play the leading female and male roles?
LW: Not yet! I pinch myself everyday and can’t wait to announce who will bring my story to life!