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Acclaimed author and former heroin-addicted prostitute Kate Holden has written a different kind of sex memoir. KATE Holden shifts uneasily on her bar stool. In her new book she's clean, off the game, heading to Rome on a pilgrimage in the company of her beloved Romantic poets and the works of Goethe and Casanova, keen to cross from selling sex to making love. If you're after raunch, you'll find it. Kate Does Threesomes!

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With two men, and again with a man and a woman! Kate dents a car bonnet with her bottom Doing It in the street! Kate Does Things with two dildos — one black, one pink! She's not abashed to write about sex: having already exposed her sexual life, she doesn't have a problem with people discussing it. I'm not better or worse at it than anyone else, but I'm fascinated by the way sex works as a phenomenon, I'm using it to interrogate relationships.

I was quite careful whether my character has an orgasm or not. A lot of the time she doesn't. And if she does, there's a presence there that's been suppressed or neglected. Despite moments of deep love and piercing joy, The Romantic is far from being a hedonistic romp. The Kate we meet in this book is often a desperately lonely, troubled young woman, "rotten with panic", plagued by "huge, swallowing fear". She has no shortage of lovers, but it seems impossible to find a friend. Rome and Naples are beautiful, but also cold, menacing, hostile. By comparison, life as a heroin-addicted prostitute was almost benign: at least she knew what she wanted, and how to get it.

Men delight her, but they also hurt her, patronise her, lecture her, tell her what's wrong with her. Yet never as much as she tells herself what's wrong with her. She's been fighting to be Kate again, to be honest and true to her instincts, but Ladies want hot sex East Sullivan she seems to be is "a pathetic woman-child throwing herself at every man who wants her. Has she rescued herself in all the wrong ways?

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Sometimes she wonders if she even likes sex. It's hard to see either the raunchy siren or the pathetic waif in the cheerful woman in jeans on the stool in the St Kilda cafe. Seven years after her Roman affairs, Kate Holden has reverted to her nice, bookish self. I'm glad to see she still wears the "ridiculous" silver rings that one of her lovers told her were too childish. Everything in The Romantic is true, but it has been "filtered and worked on". Readers tend to think a memoir is a chronicle or record of a life, "but it's a much more subtle form.

You're compressing, eliding, using your craft to present a good story. She hopes men will read the book as well as women, and not for titillation. I had one male friend who read it and said, 'I had no idea you girls have to put up with this kind of thing'. A lot of women can relate to the fact that even if you're a young feminist, independent and highly empowered, it's still open season on you for patronising.

It drives me absolutely insane. When In My Skin came out inshe was pleased to find herself hailed as a vivid, elegant and poignant writer, with a thoughtfulness and style that lifted her book way above the average sex-worker memoir. She was also a little uneasy to find herself so liked and admired. I was worried that I'd tricked them into it. So she decided to work on a novel. There's a gossipy story that Michael Heyward, her publisher at Text, instead persuaded her to write another sexy memoir, but the truth is more complicated. Holden went back to Rome on an Australia Council scholarship for six months, intending to work on an ambitious three-part novel set in the Eternal City: two historical episodes and one contemporary, based on her own diaries.

Suddenly I had the first line in my head, and thought I must remember it, and then I thought, 'Oh Kate, you idiot, write it down! Back in Melbourne she showed her completed draft to Heyward, still thinking she was writing a novel. He told her only one part would work as a novel, "the rest of it wasn't a novel, it was life". She tried to change it, realised it would just Ladies want hot sex East Sullivan out Ladies want hot sex East Sullivan "weird symmetrical architecture" of the story. So she kept it as it was, and discovered she had another memoir.

Unlike In My Skinit has stayed in the third person. Even talking about her past self now, Holden frequently refers to her as "she" or "my character". A lot of memoirs cosy up to the reader, but I wanted that critical distance. She is willing to face the risk that readers will find it less sympathetic a book than In My Skin.

There are moments she is unethical, she's not behaving the way I'd like to behave as a feminist. But I'm trying to be not so much hard on myself as just honest.

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If I'm going to command people's attention and money, my duty is to repay them with emotional honesty. One thing that particularly interests Holden is women's anger. My character is very angry. I was very angry. But there are almost no points where she releases the anger, she contains all violence inside her body. For all her self-analysis, there are moments when it's hard to understand the younger Kate's actions. When she has finally fallen in love, her lover tricks her into a menage a trois with another woman he has been seeing secretly while she was back in Australia.

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But when she finds out, the heartbroken Kate still goes on and on making love with the two of them. Why didn't she just walk out? The idea of leaving the house was just paralysing. It was this inertia, dragged into something where there was no leaving. Other moments are hard for some, easy for others to understand.

Heyward couldn't see why a reluctant Kate let herself be kissed and caressed by a randy Italian concierge at her hotel.

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But all the women in the Text office got it. Ladies want hot sex East Sullivan wonder if Holden's troubles go back to her childhood. She has always made it clear she had a wonderful upbringing, and her constantly supportive parents and sister have become for many the real heroes of In My Skin. But she points out that her profile as a teenager — shy, introverted, naive, intelligent, intuitive, imaginative, lyrical — could equally well produce either a writer or a junkie: "As a writer, you have to draw on reserves of ruthlessness, persistence, resourcefulness, which are not that different to the mechanisms that operate with a heroin addict.

You have to be prepared to be alone and misunderstood. She agonised a lot about the ethics of using real people in her story and contacted two of them, "Jack" and "Tom" she has lost touch with the Italians, and anyway, she doesn't think they read books. The two men read and commented on her manuscript and she changed a few details at their request, out of respect for their privacy. They both said, 'I don't think you've understood me at all and my character is just a cardboard cutout'. This is the abyss every memoirist has to cross. What does she think of men?

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She goes into a long, rambling answer where she seems to be trying to express a deep frustration but is at the same time insisting that she loves men, finds them great company. That's a lovely thing, but it's created a generation of quite narcissistic, immature men. Young men and women share anxieties, but "on the whole women are managing better. In the brothel I found men could be disappointing, craven, insensitive, violent and maddening, much more than I ly suspected.

But at the same time they could be so much more magnificent, generous, intuitive, noble and thoughtful. What does she think of that young woman in Rome? I wish she'd been better liked.

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We women are such self-haters and self-judgers. I don't know how we ever get out of it. I don't think I'm that much more neurotic than anyone else.

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