Skip to main content

Author Talk: August 25, 2015

Not only is Jesse Kornbluth the founder of, a cultural concierge site, he also co-founded The Book Report Network. His debut novel, MARRIED SEX, is more interesting than its title would suggest: It’s the story of divorce lawyer David Greenfield, who --- when propositioned by a seductive photographer to be her lover for six weeks --- reasons that “it’s not cheating if your wife’s there,” and invites his wife to join. What harm could come of fulfilling his longtime sexual fantasy? In this frank interview, Jesse addresses speculation that MARRIED SEX is autobiographical, why writing (accurately) about sex is not as easy as it seems, and whether or not he’s ever actually been in a threesome.

Question: A novel about a threesome. Told in the first-person by the husband. Written by a married male writer. The question is obvious.

Jesse Kornbluth: Yes, I have been in a threesome, for several years, often for 10 hours a day --- in my head. Or, more plainly: MARRIED SEX is fiction. The sex? I made it up, all of it. But if readers think this is a disguised memoir, I’ll be flattered. I like fiction that reads as if it’s truth. It delights me when friends read the book and say, “I can’t look you in the face.”

Q: You’re hoping to capitalize on FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, right?

JK: Sorry. This is so not “Fifty Shades of Jesse.” I know the eye goes to the second word of the title. And I know the oxymoron lends itself to easy jokes: “MARRIED SEX --- a short book, right?” But it’s the first word that drives the book. MARRIED SEX is a love story that focuses on the power sex has to deepen or destroy love. That’s why I chose the Patti Smith/Bruce Springsteen lyrics from “Because the Night” to start the book: “Love is an angel disguised as lust.” In an enduring marriage, you come for the sex and stay for the love --- or so it seems for the couple in my book.

Q: Noble thoughts. The cynic in me would counter that you’re rationalizing a desire to experience a threesome.

JK: Blame Dustin Hoffman, who once had the film rights to a novel about a divorce lawyer. No screenwriter leapt to write it, and eventually the offer came to me. The novel was beyond stupid, but the character of the divorce lawyer interested me. I thought: What does a divorce lawyer want least? To be divorced. And why do couples get divorced? They cite all manner of reasons, but in the end, I believe it comes down to sex: interest withers, or someone cheats. How might a couple prevent a divorce? I thought: What if they made an agreement --- if you’re tempted to cheat, bring that person home. I pitched that story to Dustin. “It sounds like it should have subtitles,” he said. And passed.

Q: You’ve sold many screenplays and taught screenwriting. Why didn’t you write this story as a movie?

JK: A threesome is the most common male fantasy. Porn videos regularly and crudely exploit this fantasy. But I’ve never found a novel about a threesome --- how it happens, what happens, what happens after --- with characters who are like people we know, people like us. So I plunged in, terrified that someone would publish a novel with this plot before I could. And now I not only have the book, but I’ve written the screenplay for a movie to be directed by actor/director/producer Griffin Dunne (Practical Magic, After Hours) and produced by Nick Wechsler (Sex, Lies, and Videotape, The Road, Magic Mike) and Steve Schwartz and Paula Mae Schwartz (The Tree of Life). 

Q: Writing sex for several years, and then getting paid for it --- you call that work?

JK: Like climbing Everest in sneakers. Maybe writing bad sex is easy, but to accurately recreate, without cliché, an experience that’s physical, emotional, even spiritual --- yes, I call that work. One of the joys of finishing the book was no longer having to think about sex for most of the day.

Q: What has writing this book taught you about sex and marriage?

JK: Sex: It must be very important, because no one I know ever talks about it. Marriage: Every marriage is unique, but as a general rule, the more you like one another the better it works.

Q: What does your wife think about the book?

JK: That it’s a love story.

Q: You’re the father of a teenage daughter. What have you told her about the book?

JK: That it’s a love story. And that, if it does well, she’s going to college.