Chemical Pink Q&A

Chemical PinkWhat is your novel Chemical Pink about?

Chemical Pink is a twisted Pygmalion story set in the world of bodybuilding, a world filled with physique-altering drugs and rampant narcissism. It’s a book about greed and sexual obsession.

Aurora Johnson, already an ambitious regional bodybuilding champion, is young, beautiful, and blessed with “great genetics.” Desperate to escape her overbearing mother, Aurora takes her young daughter and flees to California in search of wealth and fame.

Charles Henry Worthington III is a little man. Independently wealthy and driven by an insatiable lust for power, his dream is to produce the ultimate female bodybuilder. He sees himself as an artist and envisions a woman with muscles the likes of which no one has ever seen. He will create, then control and dominate her totally. After several failed “experiments” in the past, Charles feels confident he’s found the magic formula of drugs and training for creating his fantasy woman.

Aurora enthusiastically surrenders control to Charles and is transformed into a champion. But her victory comes with a high price.

What is your background in bodybuilding?

I started weight training in the early eighties. Back then there weren’t many women lifting weights; aerobics were more popular. I loved bodybuilding from the very first day. I got a real sense of power and control over my body. I’d try and lift a heavy weight and not be able to make it budge. Then I’d focus on the task at hand and move that weight. It is amazing what the mind can do. Plus, with weight training you can really shape your body. You want bigger shoulders and a smaller waist, you can get them.

I was writing short stories and working out at the local YMCA seven days a week. My stories weren’t very good but my body kept getting stronger and better. I left the Y and started training at Gold’s Gym. In 1987, I was asked to be in a performance art piece by Lisa Lyons entitled “Icons of the Divine.” I was one of the “icons.” It was quite an honor at the time as there were some very famous bodybuilders in this work.

Then I took a two-year break and had two children. I was confined to bed for the last three months of the second pregnancy—possibly due to over training. During that time I realized that I hated writing—it brought me nothing but frustration—but I loved training. I decided that once my child was born I’d devote myself to training and start to compete on a serious level. That’s what I did. I hired the best and most famous trainers in the world and worked for two years until I took the 1992 Southern California Championship title. Then I quit. I realized that to go any further in the sport I would have to start taking drugs. Frankly, it just wasn’t worth it to me. I surfed competitively for the next couple of years—something I’ve done my whole life and continue to do today—and then finally felt ready to start writing again. I’m pleased to say that this time around writing is not nearly as frustrating.

What is the nature of Charles and Aurora’s relationship?

It starts as a symbiotic relationship.

Charles gives Aurora a house, a sports car, money and the means to become a bodybuilding star. For the first time in her life, she is independent from her overbearing mother. She believes that she is finally assuming the role of adult and parent. Aurora rationalizes her sexual servitude by listing the benefits of her new California lifestyle and, over time, she convinces herself that she and Charles share a strange but solid love.

Charles is empowered by his visions of success, and he has a willing, if somewhat reluctant, sexual attendant. At first this is enough for him. But Charles is insatiable, a sociopath incapable of love. Aurora opens the door for Charles to an even grander scheme.

Do women bodybuilders really abuse drugs to the extent that you portray in Chemical Pink? How real are the gruesome physical changes that these drugs cause: the facial hair, the boils, the enlarged clitoris?

Absolutely real. Take a walk through Gold’s Gym and you will see a lot of women with pronounced secondary male characteristics. Though my account is fictionalized, everything I have written in this book can—and has—happened. I never took drugs and as a result competed on a much lower level than Aurora. But I got a good look at this world.

Women are taking these drugs and suffering from these side effects. Once these women grow facial hair or a penis-like clitoris they are stuck with it for the rest of their lives. A woman can stop taking the drugs but her body will never return to its feminine state.

The scariest thing is that because steroids are illegal, no one admits that they take them and no research has been done on the long-term effects. We can see what’s happening externally to a woman, but it’s hard to know what’s going on internally and how it may affect her later health and even her mortality.

You describe every minute and specific detail of how Aurora’s body is developed throughout her training. How did you do this intense research without actually taking the drugs yourself?

I consulted two of the best-known experts in this field. Both men have a lot of experience training women and writing “supplement” programs for female athletes. With their help I came up with a training and drug schedule that someone like Charles might use with Aurora. Then I met with the men each week and we took Aurora through this program, imagining what would be happening to her day by day. It was important to me that the details in this book be absolutely accurate

Why do people do this?

Competitive bodybuilders—on the level described in the book—are obviously extremists. It’s the same obsessive compulsive behavior that you see in anorexics, alcoholics, bulimics, drug addicts, compulsive gamblers. They lose sight of what’s really happening to their bodies and to their lives. With the bodybuilder, the only thing that matters is getting bigger, harder and leaner, regardless of the consequences.

You see this same self-destructive behavior in other sports: the ballet dancer who starves herself and ruins her body for a career that will certainly be over before she hits thirty; the football player who continues to play with a serious injury even though he knows he may be crippled for life. Athletes in lots of sports use steroids now. Consequences aren’t important—all that matters is winning.

What is the culture that encourages female bodybuilders?

There are a million reasons why a woman might go into bodybuilding. The one thing they all eventually will have in common, if they take it to the extreme described in the book, is that they will live in an altered state of reality. Bodybuilders are a different breed. I know that when I was competing I didn’t really relate to “normal” people. I just didn’t look at them. It was like bulls and rabbits. Bulls don’t notice rabbits; rabbits don’t have anything to do with their world.

There’s a lot of emotional support within the bodybuilding world. For every drug-induced change a bodybuilder goes through, there’s someone to encourage them no matter how dangerous that choice might be.

There is a lot of unusual sexual activity in Chemical Pink. Can you discuss that?

The truth is that I was just as surprised by the weird sex as anyone else. I created this character, Charles Henry Worthington III, and then he basically took over. I didn’t go into this book thinking I’d write about a sexual pervert, but that’s how it turned out. I’d finish a scene and take it into my husband. Throughout this book he kept asking, “Where in the world is all THIS coming from?” I didn’t know the answer. This is just the stuff that my character decided to do. I do think that all of Charles’ activities reflect an obsessive personality, and I think that is one of the main themes of Chemical Pink.