Shy dominatrix author considers a TV stand-in

Her publisher may hire an actress to flog her book of sex tips.

Published August 18, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

According to her publisher, author Patricia Payne is "a practicing dominatrix who has held several top positions in boardrooms and in bedrooms." But all punning aside, Payne's publisher, Regan Books, has an agonizing dilemma: How do you publicize an author who would prefer to conceal her true identity?

Regan Books' plans for flogging Payne's book, "Sex Tips From a Dominatrix," this September include throwing their author a launch party at New York's finest S/M restaurant, La Nouvelle Justine. Payne will also do some radio shows. Television appearances, however, present a touchy predicament.

"My publisher has been really accommodating about keeping my identity private," Payne told Salon Books. But she's feeling tortured by contradictory impulses. "They were talking about doing stand-ins for TV shows, and I was nervous about that," she said of Regan Books' proposal that they hire an actress to play Payne in TV interviews -- an unusual arrangement to say the least. "I guess that Patricia Payne is a character, like Paul Reubens doing Pee-wee Herman," the author conceded. A married 38-year-old technical writer for a Fortune 500 company, Payne has described her day look as "very Talbots," although she says she has just had an Elizabeth Arden makeover.

"She was very reluctant to do publicity," says the book's publicist, Maggie McMahon. "When we started getting requests, though, she became more eager." When Salon Books asked McMahon about the television issue, things became a little sensitive, as the author and her publisher are still negotiating that matter. "We'll have to see what happens," she said. As of now, however, Regan Books has not issued a casting call.

Originally, Payne had sent Regan Books a satirical manuscript that featured Martha Stewart as a household dominatrix. ("I thought I should move her from those other rooms into the bedroom," Payne said.) At the time, publisher Judith Regan was looking for a dominatrix to write the follow-up to the 1997 hit "Sex Tips for Straight Women From a Gay Man," and found Payne's submission in a slush pile.

Payne's book offers tips on "Empowering or Enslaving Your Inner Child" and "Silencing Your Lamb: Gag Rules." As for the book's cover, Payne says that the cartoon dominatrix doesn't really resemble her. "My calves are much smaller than that," she said.

By Craig Offman

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

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