Harrison Young writes of his unexpected entry into the world of chick lit.
I didn’t know I was writing “chick lit.” To be honest, I hadn’t even heard the term until recently. But I’m delighted to be admitted to the category. Sex and laughter and happy endings. What’s not to like?
Partners is a collection of short stories. They stand alone, which is convenient if you need something to read on an airplane, but they all involve the same top law firm in New York, key characters reappear, and the last story closes several loops, so it feels like you’re reading a novel.
I started with a sentence that came into my head unbidden: “The firm had a gym, and one day Alice, who they’d made a partner because there was no way not to, came in and took her clothes off.” I liked the sentence, so I wrote it down. A few months later I decided to find out what happened next.
The story wanted to be told from Alice’s point of view, which was fine. I have always liked strong, intelligent women, and if they’re a bit unconventional, that adds to the attraction. After a lifetime of hard work and circumspection, Alice felt the need to go outside her comfort zone. I admired her for that.
I introduced Alice – and tightly-wrapped Sandra, iconoclastic Millie and the rest – to a handful of friends. The second surprise was how many women readers found the office politics interesting. I’d put it in as background. Alice does start running things, but I thought I was writing about her love life. And of course she takes over. She’s clear-eyed and empathetic and willing to make decisions.
If you want to read Partners as “literature,” I would tell you that the erotic content is all about power relationships. Glimpsing the power struggles within the firm adds resonance – or so some generous readers have told me. Ambition is cousin to the pursuit of love, after all – angling for a promotion, going on a date, desire overcoming awkwardness.
About half the stories are told from a female character’s perspective. How did that happen? Does it work? I’m a man, a semi-retired investment banker in my seventieth year. What would I know?
You’d have to ask women that question – or be a woman and read the book. What I can say is that I was trying to depict partnership: relationships between competitive men and women who are equals. So balancing male and female points of view seemed appropriate.
Freedom, one learns, means surrender. And surrender doesn’t mean losing. It means whispering in the dark – quietly and privately being honest with another person about what makes you sad and what excites you. So many people who have built successful careers have stifled their emotions. I thought it would be satisfying to watch people from the world I’ve known learning to give each other comfort and pleasure.
Set in a top New York law firm, Partners explores the intrigue, sexual politics,romance and misbehaviour that absorb alpha male and alpha female practitioners as much as winning the next client or the next case. Ten highly intelligent, erotically charged linked short stories set in a top New York law firm, Partners explores the intrigue, sexual politics, romance and misbehaviour that absorb alpha male and alpha female practitioners as much as winning the next client or the next case. The characters are passionate, human, flawed, and sexual. The female characters are smart, strong and empowered. This is not a tale of Cinderellas meeting their prince, but sassy consenting adults.
Harrison Young has been a journalist, a soldier, a banker and a government official. He has done business in twenty countries, advised twelve governments and helped establish banks in Bahrain and Beijing. A dual citizen, he is a director of Commonwealth Bank of Australia and former chairman of NBN Co. Partners is his first published work.