Which came first, the hooker or the spy?
There are a lot of elements in The Girlfriend Experience, some peripheral and some central to the plot. The response from readers suggests that the technology dominates the story. That’s a little disappointing to me since the technology is intended as a plot device and not the central theme. The idea for the story didn’t start with the technology. I got the idea reading about Allie the Escort in the book Superfreakonomics.
I discovered the phrase “girlfriend experience” with a little research. (If you want to know what that research was like you can get an idea from Jon’s tour of the Internet described in Chapter 8.) I knew then what the title of the book would be.
So: What if the leader of a team who needed to keep his star player happy decided to hire a call girl to pose as his girlfriend?
It had a lot of possibilities. I needed a vehicle to explore them.
I wanted to keep the premise of the story plausible, but still close to the outer edge. Breaking encryption seemed the ideal selection: the question of whether it can be broken is still unresolved, it has implications for covert surveillance, always a sexy theme, and it was current, as this article from Wired magazine suggests.
From this premise Matt, the tortured, lovesick genius sprang forth. All I needed was an antagonist:
For the setting I chose three locales with which I was familiar, one exotic (China) and two less so (Wisconsin and North Carolina).
All the pieces were in place. All that was left was two years of head scratching, writing, deleting, rewriting, second guessing and rewriting some more.
Now you know the story behind the story. The technology is interesting because it is real. But the book is about people trying to get a leg up when events spin out of control.