Could Ric Chapman’s Bermuda novel be the next ‘Fifty Shades’?
As Ric Chapman suffered through a months-long Covid-19 lockdown in Australia, his thoughts turned to the novel he’d started writing years before in Bermuda.
With nothing else to do, he got back to work.
Why Not Sin is the result of his labour. The 419-page book is now on sale on Amazon. Mr Chapman describes it as a cross between two bestsellers: Fifty Shades of Gray and The Notebook.
“The elevator pitch that I had to send to the publisher was one line,” he said. “They thought: well, that sounds compelling. And so we went from there.”
He describes the book as “plausible fiction”: former lovers must resume a sexual relationship despite being married to other people, in order to reduce the world’s climbing divorce rates.
Mr Chapman added a bit of crime to the plot, which spans 35 years and six countries; roughly 70 per cent of Why Not Sin is set in Bermuda.
The tale centres around Cynthia and Greg, a Canadian and an Australian who meet while studying at the University of Manitoba.
“[The story] just exploded in my head and just kept pouring out,” said Mr Chapman, 59. “It's my answer to the Harry Potter series or Fifty Shades of Gray.
“It came from nothing; from an idea that was in my head – a plausible, fictitious idea with its own inbuilt dramas.”
Mr Chapman, whose wife is Canadian, thought his own literary pairing of an Australian and a Canadian offered “all the elements in the world for drama”.
“Both of them come with different mores; they come with different morals and different ethics and different ways of seeing the world. And of course, then you’ve got the biggest problem when school finishes: where do they live?
“Somebody has to sacrifice. So I thought that’s a good starting point and it's very easy to build up if you've got a good imagination.”
As in every romantic tale, there is heartbreak; Cynthia and Greg part. When they find each other twenty years later they are married to other people and living in different countries.
“They reunite in Paris and they hatch this plan – it's an illegal one but it's a noble one because what they want to do is heal the world of the divorce rates. And the irony of that is they have to be scandalous and adulterous and unfaithful to their own partners in order to achieve their objective,” Mr Chapman said.
He set “the bulk of the criminology” in Bermuda. Having lived here for four years he thought it would be easy to draw on those experiences.
“I loved my four years in Bermuda. I had a TV show, Songopoly, a column in the newspaper, a radio show … I was pretty fortunate for the four years I was there. It was a fantastic time for me. So I used Front Street, I used the Birdcage, which is where the crime occurs.
“They go to Dockyard, they go to Flanagan's restaurant, they stay in various hotels – Rosedon, the Fairmont … I wanted to keep all of those things that are real to Bermuda in there and just build a fictitious story around them. And of course it involves the Premier and the government and crime.”
Mr Chapman left Bermuda in 2012 for Oakville, Ontario. In Canada he wrote for the Globe & Mail newspaper. Shortly after the pandemic hit he returned to his native Australia, where he has written for the Sydney Morning Herald and where his two sons live.
“I thought [the pandemic] might hang around for quite a few years. I didn't want to be stuck, locked down in Oakville as beautiful as it is, when my two boys were in Sydney.”
The novel attracted interest. A company in Chicago offered Mr Chapman a contract but “in terms of royalties it was just poor”.
“Amazon makes movies and TV shows now and has a publishing arm as well. You can put a synopsis to them and a couple of chapters and if they like it, they will take on the publishing rights for you. And that's what happened.
“They liked the genre. Of course, as soon as you mention anything to do with Fifty Shades of Gray….[EL James] self-published that book and it sold 59 million copies globally. So they knew that that genre would sell and when I sent them the first five chapters, they immediately came back and said, ‘Yeah, we'll do this.’ And so that's how it started. It was like a dream come true.”
Having only written for newspapers before, he had to change his entire approach for Why Not Sin. Mr Chapman built on the three months of work completed while in Bermuda and was able to finish the novel by June. It was released on Amazon in December.
“I'm a writer, so I know when my brain gets in that sort of mode but this is like a marathon as opposed to writing features for a paper. You have to discipline yourself to get up and you spend four hours a day every day until it's done. And it takes a while.
“I'm extremely happy with the flow and the story and the reviews [on amazon.com.au]. There's a lot of things that you have to do along the way. I really like the idea of inventing a new genre. I think the book, in its own way, is going to be a paradigm shifter if it reaches sales like Fifty Shades for example because of what the two protagonists are endeavouring to do. But outside of that I wanted to invent this new genre that I've dubbed ‘plausible fiction.’”
There are location photos at the start of every chapter; Bermuda’s birdcage on Front Street is prominently displayed.
“That's where the first crime takes place – in that birdcage,” Mr Chapman said. “I’m going to make it famous.”
Why Not Sin is available on www.amazon.com