asked me about literary theory and the Marketplace
books, and what I might have had in mind as I set out to write them. This is what poured out without much pondering.
Yes, I did have something in mind when I started writing the books. I was a pervert who loved to read, so naturally, I read a lot of erotica and porn. Tons. And I started reading it very young, in the 70s. And if you look at the state of porn back then, you can imagine what i had to wade through. Crappy, barely literate novels hammered out by the dozens with charming titles like Gang Banged Captive Bride or Trucker Boys in Bondage. I read The Story of O as well, and A Man With A Maid and some “literary” erotica when I could find it – which was rare.
When I got my hands on more mass marketed books like the Beauty series (and later, Exit to Eden) and Nine and a Half Weeks and Mr Benson (and the Master series) and then fell headlong into other queer writers like Califia and Seward and Townsend and oh, so many, I was thrilled. Because the quality was so much better and the stories more coherent and thought provoking and the characters and situations, even if unreal or improbable, were easier to relate to.
But the one thing that was missing for me was a sense of a world where the characters looked like the people I was hanging out with when I was finally old enough to do so. Exit to Eden had the modern world look at slave training, but…they were all so achingly gorgeous and at the end, everything queer sort of …melted away. Preston’s world of the Network was hot as hell, but…it was only guys. Achingly gorgeous guys, each one hotter than the last. No one was short, or fat, or wore glasses. No one aged, or had issues with the stringent bondage and fantastic beatings they endured. Bottoms who got upset over being treated badly got over it in time for the next hot scene. I mean – yes, it was fantasy and I was (by then) also writing fantasy, but…couldn’t there be a little more reality? And couldn’t there be a world where people who weren’t one thing or another with little or no deviation except for that inevitable reveal of bisexuality or switchability as a plot twist? (Or an angsty flashback.) So…I wrote the story I wanted to read.
I mean, I never thought, “Hey, I’m gonna write a better story than…” because come on, I have an ego, but it’s not that big. I just wanted a different story. Where sexuality swings along a multidimensional model instead of a binary. Where kink was not so much a flavor, while people developed romantic relationships that seemed to do as well with or without it, but where it was an identity more like an orientation, undeniable, magically powerful. And where people were valued for more than how they looked. I wanted romantic stories about what it meant to really give up power and to really accept responsibility, and I wanted it all tied up in melodrama and heroic aspirations because those were the stories I wanted to read.
I wanted the characters to look like people I knew, and loved and played with and hung out with. And I wanted a huge cast, so I could explore anything I wanted and not be limited to “spanking stories” or “bondage stories” or even “lesbian” or any other narrow world. I mean…I was greedy? And the only way to do this was to propose a multi-book series without some neat ending about a happy couple. EVER. And I was blessed with cranky, loud, abrasive, boastful Richard Kasak, who just said yes to whatever I wrote and never once suggested I “put more heterosexual sex” in or anything to make them more commercial AND got Barnes and Noble to carry them.
And then I was embraced by my core readership, who, of course, have impeccable taste and discernment and had the generosity to recommend me to their friends. And now, I have been with multiple publishers (two of whom are personal friends!) and I got to reach out to my readers DIRECTLY to keep me writing and making books and LOOK WHAT THEY DID… they made a leather-bound book. THEY did that. So…I dunno what that all has to do with literature and meaning, except I get to write books some people really want to read, and that is fucking awesome.