On August 5, I spoke with Mary Catherine Soulsby, author of Tempting Vows, on Instagram Live. We talked about authenticity, letting go of fear of judgement, and her novel (Tempting Vows, a 50 Shades of Gray-esque tale of women empowerment). Check out our conversation below!
MC: I spent the longest time trying to figure out how I wanted to tell this story. Tempting Vows is very much fiction, but my character Ava Mae does have many similarities to me: the way she lives in her head and talks to herself. I wanted to figure out to tell my story in a fun and sexy way, that also incorporates taboo. We’re all stuck in a world where we think to ourselves, “What are they going to think about this?” “What is my mom/sister/dad/friends going to think about this?”
I just wanted to create a whole world that was based somewhat on research and understanding, but also throwing in a ton of stuff that I don’t have personal experience with. More important to me are the overarching themes of the book: women empowerment, finding your voice, being a sexual being, being feminine, battling the masculine side (especially as a business woman), and also the communication that needs to happen in every partnership. Relationships are defined by the two people that are in them.
Every relationship is different. The energies between the two people are contractually different. As you see my trilogy continue, you’ll see how important communication is. Then, you’ll see how lack of communication causes breakdowns.
Kristina: A trilogy?! Do you have the next book written?
MC: Not completely, but it will be out in December. The thing is, I’ve had these stories in my head for 10 years. It feels like I’ve been writing these stories forever. The trilogy is already planned out with my editor, but now I just have to fill in the blanks. It’s kind of like Mad Libs. The story has been in me for so long, I just needed the courage to write it.
Kristina: I think that is an amazing thing! A little spoiler alert: Tempting Vows is about a woman exploring open relationships and the swinger lifestyle, both concepts which are foreign and taboo for many people.
I know what it’s like to have a story inside me that is bursting out. I’m interested in your journey. With your topic being more taboo, what was your process?
MC: Well, there hasn’t been anything like 50 Shades of Gray released since 50 Shades of Gray. Sure, we have Sex Life out on Netflix, but it’s a based on a book written a bajillion years ago. We haven’t had an author recently dive into the “taboo” world (that really isn’t so secret if you open your eyes.) You’d be surprised: I bet you know more people in these situations than you think you do.
None of us are picture perfect. We all have our secrets. Whether you are in the midst of a swinger relationship, a don’t-ask-don’t-tell relationship, an open relationship, or no relationship— we all have a secret that opens your eyes to the idea that there is no such thing as a “perfect marriage.” What works for some people, doesn’t work for another. To my character, Ava Mae, I say, “You do you, boo. Your life isn’t for me to judge.”
Kristina: It is a very interesting perspective. You know, I think that fans of 50 Shades of Gray will really love your book.
MC: I hope that the fans of 50 Shades will show my book the same type of love. But, my book is different. Ava Mae is a crazy strong woman. She’s powerful. What drove me crazy with 50 Shades is that the main character was just so meek. But no! We’re in 2021. Woman aren’t like that anymore. I’m certainly not. But, my series is similar and I think fans of 50 Shades will love Tempting Vows. You don’t even know how juicy it’s going to get!
Kristina: You talked about exploring perspectives. I spoke with an English teacher last week about how perspective is everything in literature. Ava Mae has an interesting perspective like the main character in book. Sometimes, people who have that “picture perfect life,” well, there’s a dissonance there. There are two sides to every coin and you have to pick your poison.
MC: Yes! Even though they live a luxurious lifestyle, they are still a normal problem who has good and bad times. My goal was to have every woman who read my book identify with some part of Ava Mae: whether that be related to confidence, body issue, or getting pregnant out of wedlock and then getting married in a black dress. I wanted to make her relatable, but also show how we talk to ourselves in our head all day. I wanted to make Ava Mae frank and honest.
The point of the book is exploration of your self. Knowing what you want and need… then, asking for it.
Kristina: So many of us go through our lives just settling for comfort. Even that some of these subjects are considered taboo show how our society is close-minded in a way. Close-mindedness lies on the opposite spectrum of growth: it’s like anti-growth. I find it interesting that we still have all these “taboo” topics.
MC: Agreed. It’s mind blowing to me that we still have taboo topics in 2021… there are all these movements saying “You can do what you want to do,” and “You can be what you want to be.” But can we? I wanted to write these books for so long, but fear kept me back. Are we— as women in society— really as free as we think we are? If we were, none of these topics would be so taboo.
Kristina: It’s true. I think another challenge is separating the art from the artist, or the author from the book. The public doesn’t need to know about your personal life choices, and in fact, knowing your personal interests doesn’t add anything to the book. It’s important to search for underlying meanings buried in the text.
I’ve learned, you can’t write a book unless you have a message that’s bursting out of you. When you are open to your truest, deepest self in that way, I think really amazing things unfold in the world around you. Have you noticed a positive change in your life since more authentically living your truth?
MC: Yes. Writing this book was very therapeutic for me, and my relationship is stronger for it. I talk to my therapist a lot about my writing, every Wednesday during my 2-hour therapy session. I have specific themes I want to get across, but in a fun and interesting way. I didn’t want to write just another self-help book.
The day I pressed publish was the scariest day I’ve had in a long time… since I literally birthed my son. I thought, “I’ve just bared my soul to the world and people are going to judge it.” People can be unkind… especially on social media. I was scared. But then, I made the decision to let that feeling/energy go. I decided I wasn’t going to focus on anything other than being true to myself. People are going to hate or judge whether you “do the thing” or not.
The day I pressed publish was the day I truly stepped into myself. I have stepped into a whole new universe. I wrote a book! Now, I feel like I can do anything… because, why not?!
Kristina: There is something so powerful about letting go of that judgement. Judgement can be so persistent… and cultural.
MC: That’s the thing. It never goes away completely. The fear never subsides. You need to acknowledge that fear, acknowledge where it’s coming from… but don’t let it lead you.
Kristina: I think life is risky, in general. People are going to judge you anyways, so you might as well be doing what you want to do. In a similar way, karmically, you’re going to pay for everything in your life too.
The only thing we have control over are our choices. We can’t control the outcome, but we can control our choice or lack of choice. But then, when you work single-mindedly towards a goal, towards your most true self, things start happening for you.
MC: Exactly. Why not!? Why can’t you do that business. Why can’t you do that thing you want to do? Fear shouldn’t be the thing that stops you. You especially shouldn’t be afraid to lose friends. If you lose friends, they never were your friends anyway. If they don’t support you, they were never your friend anyway. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that my circle gets tighter and tighter every year. You have to learn to be okay with that.
Kristina: It’s true. We have to embrace the ebb and flow of life. Things are going to change in life regardless— inevitably— whether you are asleep in the back seat or calling the shots in the drivers seat.
When you choose to make a choices, you also get to choose to be your most authentic self. There’s a lot of research and philosophy that finds that once you find alignment with your most-true self, magic starts happening all around you.
A line I liked of your book: “A woman’s empowerment is caught between what is expected of her and how she expects to be.” I think that is an important sentiment. Taylor Swift also touches on it a lot. Especially as women, even in every part of our lives— our role in our family, in society, even as small as in your relationship— there are many cultural norms and pressure to fit in. It seems like that is the “right/good” thing to do because that’s what most people are doing.
But, even a dead fish can flow downstream… along with the current.
MC: I love that! The world will be a better place as soon as people realize they are meant to follow their own path, and that not everyone is meant to be on the same path. It’s not a competition though, like we aren’t ever going to be blocking each other’s paths. It’s more like, your light can help my light shine brighter (and vice versa). Let’s walk next to each other… allow everyone’s light to shine. When everyone is themselves, their own essence… it only allows the person next to us shine even brighter. We’re all different for a reason. It is so important that we all understand that it’s okay to let other people’s light shine in their own ways and at their own times. This is especially true in relationships! We shouldn’t be doing any blocking in our relationships or life. Think of everything as an energetic field. A grid! Everyone has their own path.
Kristina: I like to think about it statistically. Like, if you were to plot your optimal well-being on a chart throughout time and were to do the same with all of the other stories around you: all of the people around you, all the people who have ever lived, the story of the universe, even. We see, like in the stock market, how things tend to come back to their equilibrium. Prices flow around their equilibrium or average. I think, if you align yourself with someone with you admire, or someone you might otherwise feel competition with, you should look at it as them helping elevate your equilibrium! It’s selfish, in a way, but it’s also good for everyone when you are being the best you can be. Society needs that message right now! Especially with all of the polarization in society.
MC: I know! And all the message needs to be is: I respect you, you respect me. I’m shining bright, you’re shining bright. That’s it! It is then that we can help one another, even if we don’t agree on everything.
I don’t know if the divisiveness in our society will go away unless something major happens, but I hope that if we look within, we can find the answers. The truth. It’s all inside of you. It isn’t in what your husband says, your kids, or your boss. Those are just words. It’s inside of you. You have to believe it. Once you find that power inside of yourself— and you’re right, it ebbs and flows just like the stock market or the real estate market— once you stay true to your heart, you’ll find your way, strength and power. It’s inside. That is the story of Ava Mae in Tempting Vows, especially in book 2.
Kristina: That’s amazing. I think you find that you are most satisfied in life when you try to live in accordance to your truest self.
MC: I agree. And, look to what scares you the most. This book thing is the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life— and I’ve sold millions of dollars of real estate! But, when I got to the other side… you’re still going to have fear. I still have fear that I may have stirred up something crazy. But that doesn’t make me not proud. Once you get on the other side of the ocean of fear, you feel powerful. But you’ll still have doubt. You’ll have all the feels. You should feel all the feels all the time.
That was my goal with my book! To make you, the reader, feel literally every emotion. To feel all the feels! But, it was also something I needed to do for me. I needed to put my heart out there, so I didn’t regret it.
Also, shoutout to my editor Gabriel. He’s a very bright light. I’m thankful for that, I got lucky. Everything aligned. I think that’s what happens when you start going after your dreams. It’s coincidental, but is it? I think it might be meant to be.
Kristina: I totally agree! That reminds me of the story of my illustrator. I really randomly connected with him on instagram because I really liked his work. It turns out he’s a 16-years-old from India and I was the first person to ever pay him for his art! This guy is incredible, the illustrations are fantastic. Now, I see him expanding his professional art career and it’s so exciting. It helps motivate me.
If I would have gone into my book thinking, “oh, these are all the things I’m going to need: an editor, illustrator, printer, etc,” I probably never would have started, because that’s so overwhelming. I just started, and as I started pursuing my dream, it’s amazing how doors started opening for me.
MC: You just have to take that first step past the fear! What if this doesn’t work?! Well it won’t, at least not the exact way you think it will anyways. That’s okay. That’s the wonderful part of life. You adjust. You learn. My end product of my book blew my mind. Just thinking about it right now makes me want to cry. I’m so proud of it.
I think Book 2 will take it to the next level too… people love trilogies! People love to binge! Look at 50 Shades of Gray, she didn’t get noticed til the second book.
Kristina: I’m so excited for you! But, agreed…. I’ve established such a different perspectives throughout this entire process. Fear of other’s opinions can definitely hold you back, but I’ve realized that my opinion not only matters, but is the opinion that matters most in my reality!
MC: You know, I have a teenage son and wrote an erotic and sexy novel. This has all gone through my mind. I had a long talk with my son, and he was like “I’m proud of you! You wrote a whole book.” He’s right.
It doesn’t matter what it is— if you want to write a book, start a t-shirt company, whatever it is. Do the thing!!!
Kristina: It’s so true! I think that segways into a quote that I have for the end of our conversation, but first… where can we find your book?!
Kristina: Amazing, I look forward to seeing your author journey progress! I’ll leave us with this quote that I’ve adapted from the psychologist/thought leader, Jordan B. Peterson, that reflects some of the themes we’ve been talking about tonight:
Stand your ground and articulate properly. Your haters will disperse all around you and it will be like they aren’t even there. Most of life is just illusion. So, be afraid, but be afraid of the right thing. Be afraid of not saying the things you want most to say, because that is the same thing as net being. If you don’t talk, there’s nothing to you, and then all of life’s suffering may not be worth it.