It’s easy to talk to these women, tell them my deepest secrets. Look where we are. What else do we have to hide?
When nineteen-year-old Mia is fired from her temp job, she answers an ad in the newspaper. It says: ‘Erotic Massage. Good Money. No Sex.’
Mia takes to her new job with recklessness, aplomb and good humour. Over the next few years, as she works her way through Sydney’s many parlours, she meets exquisite and complex women from every walk of life who choose sex work for myriad reasons. While juggling the demands of her new job, she battles her problematic drug use, and the mental illness that has shaped her life. But rather than needing saving from sex work, it is the work that sometimes helps to save Mia from herself.
This compelling memoir is not only told with raw honesty and grace, it also announces the arrival of a startlingly talented Australian writer.
Money for Something is an honest memoir about surviving, sex work, friendships, drugs, mental illness and need.
Let's talk about it
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.
Well, up until recently, not many people knew I was a sex worker, so I’ve ‘come out’ since writing the book. A lot of friends, acquaintances and my family in ‘real life’ knew. Someone who doesn’t like me very much even ‘outed’ me to my grandmother a few years ago.
It just wasn’t public knowledge. I always had degrees of trust with people when we first meet. If I didn’t know I could trust them, I’d tell them I was a receptionist (which is true!). If I felt a bit more trusting, I’d tell them I was a receptionist at a dungeon (also true!). If I felt we were kindred, then I’d reveal the full story – that I was a dungeon receptionist, I worked as a dominatrix and had worked in the past as an erotic masseuse.
Why did you choose these themes in your book and were you aware of them from the outset?
The obvious themes are right there on the cover, in the back blurb: sex work, drug addiction, mental illness. But I talk a lot in about survival, loneliness, need, longing, wanting to belong, self-hatred and self-esteem too. There are also themes of community, friendship, hope.
How difficult was it for you to write this book? Did you face any obstacles?
The events in the book take place from 2001-2004. I waited all this time to write it because I needed perspective – if I’d written it ten or five or even a year earlier, it would have been a very different book.
Obviously, I was frightened of revealing myself on a few different levels. I talk openly about sex and drugs and mental illness, and I know that I’m holding myself up for judgement by the kinds of people who don’t agree with the way I’ve chosen to live my life. I knew it might affect my career: not only as an author, but as a sex worker too. I won’t have that anonymity anymore. In the end, I just thought fuck it. Plus, honestly, I’m an Australian author – I needed the money.
This is the only book I’ve ever planned – when I write fiction I’m more of an intuitive writer. But I knew how this story went. With rewrites, it took about four months to put together. It was hard going – at the time these events took place, I was very mentally ill and didn’t like myself much, so it was hard to revisit that headspace.
Do you always write in this genre or do you like to break out of the box?
This is my first non-fiction book. I usually write science fiction under my real name. I chose to write this under a pseudonym to separate it from my work in that genre.
What are your writing habits or idiosyncrasies?
I’m a ‘moody’ writer (and person) – I go through long periods of being ‘unable’ to write, but then will pour out a short piece or novella or novel when the mood takes me. My preferred writing set up (where I like to write, and how) is constantly evolving – I used to write in cafes most of the time, now I cannot concentrate there and do most of my writing at home. Lastly, I always write short – Money for Something is the first time I’ve gone above 50k. I like to laden my words, which is why I don’t need as many of them, maybe.
What’s next for your writing?
The book is set over three-ish years from the age of 19-22, but I’ve got years of experience in the industry that I could write about, so I didn’t want to tell it all in one book – I’ve got plans to write at least one other memoir. I’m also working on new speculative novel – or I would be if I could bloody write during this pandemic. Contemporary events have made my new novel either irrelevant, or too relevant. I need to observe our response to this event and rethink the story I’m trying to tell.
Mia Walsch is an author and occasional sex worker from Melbourne, Australia. She studied Creative Writing at the University of Wollongong and has previously published three novels, the first of which won a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. This is her first non-fiction book.