Here’s the question everybody seems to want to ask: Why prostitutes? Are you some kind of depraved whoremonger? Your new book, Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World’s Oldest Profession certainly indicates you have more than just a passing interest in prostitutes.

Why can’t I find prostitutes and prostitution fascinating without being a whoremonger? I’ll bet people writing about the Spanish Inquisition don’t get asked if they dress up like Torquemada and toast heretics on the grill. The truth is, I can actually pinpoint the first seed of the idea. Below is a transcript of a Gchat conversation I had about a year and a half ago with my agent at the time, Jon Sternfeld. Here’s an excerpt:

TSS: So I’ve invented a car wash where you rent a limo with your manfriend or ladyfriend and it’s in a big limo—plenty of room. and palliative oils. It’ll be cheap. Good tunes, too.

JS: A car-wash whorehouse?

TSS: A drive-thru love station with rain.

JS: Hey, that’s something—you should write something about whores.

When I was a small child, I was prone to insomnia and fits of the night terrors. To get me to fall asleep, my mother and father would fasten me into our family’s 1971 Toyota Carina, throw in an eight-track cassette of Anne Murray’s Greatest Hits and drive up and down South Main Street in Houston, Texas, to look at the prostitutes. The blinking neon signs of the no-tell motels, the bling of streetwalkers working their finery, and the day-glo hues of their billowing lingerie were too much stimulation even for a toddler; I would finally shut my eyes and stop struggling against the seat belt while “Shadows in the Moonlight” and the South Main ho stroll played on. I nodded off to sleep not only with visions of sugar plum fairies, but also of leather-clad fairies, common harlots, desperate dope fiends, glamorous go-girls, and rowdy rent-boys all gyrating in my little head.