How do you pronounce "Shaffer"?
SHAY-fer. At least that's how my family pronounces it.
What's the story behind your pen name, "Fanny Merkin"?
When my agent was shopping Fifty Shames of Earl Grey to publishers, we decided to use a pseudonym so as not to tarnish the intellectual image I'd painstakingly cultivated as a nonfiction author. I found the name "Fanny Merkin" in a book of funny, real names from the 18th century (Morecock, Fartwell, & Hoare: A Collection of Unfortunate but True Names).
What's a merkin?
A merkin is a pubic wig. From Wikipedia: "Usually made of fur, beaver pelts, linen or some soft version of cloth. The Oxford Companion to the Body dates the origin of the pubic wig to the 1450s. According to the publication, women would shave their pubic hair for personal hygiene and to combat pubic lice. They would then don a merkin. Also, prostitutes would wear a merkin to cover up signs of disease, such as syphilis."
When is Fifty Shames In Space coming out?
The short answer is "never." The long answer is also "never." Fifty Shames of Earl Grey contains an "excerpt" from Fifty Shames In Space, a fictional novel that promises "twice the sex, twice the excitement, and twice the sex." I didn't have any intentions of writing a sequel—I'd read a bit of the second Fifty Shades book, and it seemed to be more of the same. There wasn't much there to parody. However, I have been working on another literary parody that's in the same vein as Fifty Shames of Earl Grey. Look for news on it in 2015.
How did the sharknado book come about?
The idea originated with Crown Publishing and Syfy. I hear they wanted an author who could handle a chainsaw. When they couldn't find one, they asked me.