Catherine Hiller's new novel, Cybill Unbound, will be published on February 14, 2023. It's already raising eyebrows.
The book features a sensuous older woman who is open to sexual adventure. Although happily living with her longtime sweetheart, Cybill sometimes strays. The book chronicles her life and loves over a thirty-year period, ending with the chapter, "Passion in the Pandemic."
If you're over forty-five and have ever fantasized about giving in to temptation, this book is for you.
Catherine Hiller's first short story was inspired by a True Confessions magazine she read at an older cousin's house. Like the ones in the magazine, hers was a story of transgression and regret. She was eight. Her cousin cracked up.
Hiller grew up in Greenwich Village and Park Slope and attended Hunter College High School, Brooklyn College, and Sussex University.
She was inspired by the sexuality in John Updike's novels and wrote a PhD dissertation about him at Brown.
Her first published piece, about gender role reversal in "The Way We Were," appeared in the New York Times in 1974.
Since then, sex has been central to her work. Her first novel, An Old Friend from High School (Pocket Books), is about a happily married woman who unexpectedly falls in love with a woman.
Her second novel, 17 Morton Street (St. Martin's Press), a Book-of-the-Month Club Selection, is about three sisters who live on different floors of a townhouse. One of them hires a male au pair . . .
Around this time, Hiller began publishing stories and satires in Penthouse magazine.
Her third novel, California Time (St. Martin's Press), is about a New York family in LA; the son and the daughter each have a sexual awakening.
Hiller's story collection, Skin: Sensual Tales (Carroll & Graf), was praised by John Updike who said "Catherine Hiller writes with a fine directness and clarity. Good, brave and joyful fiction."
The Adventures of Sid Sawyer (Armadillo Central) takes Mark Twain's Adventures of Tom Sawyer—and turns it upside down. Told from Sid's point of view, in Hiller's version, Sid is a genius and Tom is a bully. And Sid enjoys kissing cousin Mary.
Her next book was a detour from her usual subject. In Just Say Yes: A Marijuana Memoir (Heliotrope Books), she chronicles her 50 years as a daily marijuana smoker. She goes backward in time, with each chapter showing an earlier stage of her life.
The book created something of a stir. The first chapter was published as a Private Lives piece in the New York Times. This was followed by a profile about her in the Times in April 2015. For about a year, she gave interviews and wrote pieces about cannabis, some of which she cross-posted on Huffington Post.
She soon reverted to her former obsession: passion and its consequences. Her next novel, The Feud (Heliotrope Books), is about a deadly workplace rivalry. It opens with one of the woman opening her email and seeing a photo of herself and two men—naked.
Catherine Hiller's new book, Cybill Unbound (Heliotrope Books, December 2022), introduces a bold, midlife heroine who puts passion above everything. The subject matter is hot, but the tone is literary: cool and witty. The chapter "Her Last Affair" was first published in The Antioch Review, and "Cybill at Burning Man" first appeared in NextTribe.
"I don't see why sex shouldn't be a respectable subject for fiction," Hiller says. "After all, as Audre Lord writes, 'The erotic is the nurturer . . . of all our deepest knowledge.'"
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