Full confession: I never set out to be a writer of erotica, but I’m seriously starting to consider it, if only to tap (heh) the obviously fertile (heh, heh) “horny housewife with an e-reader” market.
I already had a vague notion that this market existed when I started researching e-books in preparation for Immaculate Deception to enter the market in its Kindle version. What I found was a little startling. It seemed like every second title among the Top 100 Kindle books was some form of erotica aimed squarely at women. And not prissy little Harlequin Romance works, either. These tales were hard-core in the traditional (meaning porno) sense.
Lately, one cover I’ve repeatedly seen popping up in 50 Shades of Grey. The frequency of its appearance should have tipped me off to something, but it wasn’t until I read this story in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday that I realized what a phenomenon this book has become.
Headlined “Steaming up moms’ e-readers,” the story details the wave of readership for this naughty novel that details the relationship between a young woman and a significantly older man who’s into all sorts of rough play, known among the folks who haunt leather gear and sex toy shops by the acronym BDSM – that’s bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism to you poor, missionary-position, vanilla, whitebread folks out there who don’t think wrapping your mouth around a rubber ball gag in someone’s suburban basement “dungeon” is a great way to spend an evening.
The story got me thinking about eroticism in my own work, where it comes from and how people have responded to it.
As I said, I never intended to write erotica per se, but I came to a realization a long time ago after reading Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett when I was a teenager. It’s about a Nazi spy who figures out what the Allies are up to with D-Day, but ends up trapped on an isolated island with a lonely Englishwoman who does her duty for king and country in a particularly hot scene that to this day still resonates with me.
That realization was this: The best books are made even better by a little booty.
When I sat down to write Immaculate Deception around 1989, my experiences with things carnal weren’t terribly in-depth. As a young lad, I got away with bringing nekkid pictures into the house thanks to two gentlemen, Msrs. Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta, both masters of the fantasy illustrating genre whose pictures of semi-nude and nude warrior women grace many an Edgar Rice Borroughs and Conan novel cover.
As the idea for the Church of the New Revelation developed, I realized that because it was a sex-and-drugs-based church, there would probably end up being some sexy-sexy in the novel itself.
That realization was solidified as the character of Veronica Whitaker shaped up. There was no way a woman of such surpassing hotness and carnal motivation could be represented in my novel without actually displaying how that shaped her behavior, particularly toward her husband, Lawrence, and the main character, Jon Templeton.
So, what has resulted can be easily wrapped up like this: Chapters 28, 29 and 38, wherein Veronica reveals the true depth of her … um, passion in a variety of ways. Suffice it to say that if sexually abusing viticulture was a punishable offense, she would be in jail for a long, long time.
The reaction to these steamy scenes has been particularly puzzling. For instance, before reading the novel, my mom repeatedly told me that my next book needed to be sexy. I assured her that she should read this one before assuming it didn’t fit into that category. From her I have heard not a peep of admonition. However, from her sister, who holds a place in our family as the progressive, open-minded 1960s rabble-rouser, politely suggested that the scenes verged on the pornographic. So apparently I was indeed writing erotica all this time and didn’t even realize it.
What’s particularly amusing is reviews that warn readers of things like the “overwhelming amount of NC-17 content” in the novel. Really? Overwhelming? If the entire book was based on sheer sexual activity and character motivation and development (like, for example … um … 50 Shades of Grey), I could understand. However, the above chapters are really the only that contain any measurable explicit behavior. So why don’t reviews for any other books that have a few naughty bits carry big, scary warnings? Beats me.
I do, however, know that plenty of other people enjoyed those parts (just how much, I suppose we’ll never know, other than by the soft moans we hear from their rooms as they re-read those dog-eared pages). And that’s really what they’re there for. In working in literature as a medium, my end goal is always to provide entertainment. If it’s entertainment that informs, is thought-provoking or titillating, so much the better (especially if it’s all at once).