Natasha Walker is the best-selling authoress of Australia's hottest erotic fiction … or is she? Caroline Overington reveals Natasha's big secret.
Don't read this if you don't like the feeling of being duped.
The Weekly is exclusively revealing today that the author of the racy Australian trilogy, The Secret Lives of Emma, isn't a woman called Natasha Walker.
It's a man.
The books, which became best-sellers last year on the back of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, were written by a married father-of-two, John Purcell.
John is the chief book buyer and head of marketing at Australia's largest online bookstore, Booktopia.
The Emma trilogy, an erotic tale of a bored housewife and the young man who lives next door, has sold more than 50,000 copies, which makes John one of Australia's best-selling authors of "mummy porn".
That's quite an achievement for a man who failed his HSC.
"I was in my final months of school when they figured out I couldn't really read," he says. "I was pretty much dyslexic. Then a teacher put a copy of Catch-22 in my hands and that changed my life."
He still failed his exams but had fallen in love with books. He soon began writing his own but — just as women have known for years — quickly discovered that it's often tough to find a publisher.
John tells The Weekly that he wrote most of the material for his Emma books many years ago, and dumped it in a drawer.
Then, "suddenly, erotica was hot, so I gave my big messy manuscript to my agent and the rest is history".
Readers pounced on the books — and on John (or "Natasha's") website.
"There weren't too many women who wrote saucy things to me," says John. "But a few men might be feeling a bit sheepish."
Read more about John's journey from dyslexic teenager to best-selling author in the June issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.