Thursday, September 18, 2014

Write Stupid Book

by Giselle Renarde
Giselle's To Do List
There's an interview question that typically comes up for authors: "What makes your books different from others in the genre?"  It's too bad you can't answer a question with a question, because the first thing that always comes to mind is, "Which genre are we talking about, here?" Although it doesn't even matter because I don't fit in anywhere.

I think a lot of us here at The Grip are in the same boat. We're not the popular kids. And we don't want to be.

But, as Lisabet mentioned in the comments of Monday's post, I make my living at this. I don't have an evil day job.  Writing is my evil day job.  It's povertylicious.  And I don't say that jokingly, so don't be offended or think I don't take low income seriously.  I literally live below the poverty line.

I never answered that interview question, did I?  The thing that makes my work different from others' in the genre is that I'm queer and I'm pretty genderfucked and, though there are a few men I find interesting, they aren't anything like the Alpha Males who are so popular in erotic romance today.

The kind of erotic fiction readers want is not the kind of erotic fiction I write.

When I started writing erotica in 2006, I came into this venture soooo naively.  I still hadn't figured out that I wasn't a normal person.  I thought the stuff that appealed to me erotically would appeal to everybody else. So.... yeah, that's not the case. I've mentioned before that editors and publishers advised me to stop wasting my time on fiction about lesbians or bisexual women. Instead, I wrote more. I wrote a trans lesbian novel that won a Rainbow Award but, as Sacchi mentioned, awards don't help sales. You'd think they would but they don't.

What's a poor author to do?

Write a stupid book.  That's what I decided on.  Dark romance is popular these days--erotic fiction at its rapey-est. I really had to push myself into this project.  Non-consent doesn't appeal to me. But if there's one thing I learned from writing my Adam and Sheree trilogy it's that writing a taboo topic can change my opinion of it. (I thought incest was really squicky before I wrote Adam and Sheree. Now it's all I want to write.)

Actually, the idea for my soon-to-be-self-published novel Seven Kisses came to me as I was cutting through the grounds of a very Victorian-looking rehabilitation centre. I've lived in the same neighbourhood for over a decade but I'd never seen this place before. It was one of those magical realism moments where you think, "Where did that come from?"  I found myself wondering what kind of rehab this clinic provided. I had an image of two orderlies mistaking me for a patient and dragging me inside kicking and screaming.

As I continued my walk that day, a hazy idea for a dark romance formed in my mind.  What if they locked me up and subjected me to strange "therapies"?

Hmm...

I hadn't quite committed to writing this dark romance until I spotted this on my book shelf:

That's "Beauty and the Beast" to you.

A book I'd bought and never read. A tale of capture and confinement. It's the original dark romance!

I've had a soft spot for Beauty and the Beast ever since 1991, when the Disney feature came out. Writing this book as an adaptation made me more comfortable with the concept of dark romance.

Of course, it didn't take long for my adaptation to run off the rails. Sure there's a beast, but he exists under the command of the cruel psychotherapist Mme de Villeneuve.
Get it? Hahaha I'm so funny.
Madame can see everyone's follies but her own. She doesn't seem to realize that she's been repressing her attraction to women so long that it's coming out in harmful ways... like binding our young beauty to an antiquated hospital bed and subjecting her to a turn-of-the-century fucking machine.

What just happened here?  A book that was supposed to be strictly heteromance with a hard, unforgiving hero turned into an I-don't-know-what romance (yeah, it's still a romance) about a fairy tale wicked witch therapist with serious issues. But don't worry--I didn't forget the monkey butlers.

Even when I try to write for the market, my books always turn into ME. That's great news for my fellow erotic authors who appreciate my work. It's bad news for my bank account (which currently has $53 in it. Canadian.).

Same thing happens every time I write "for the market."  So do I regret trying? Actually, no. Sure my frustrated code name for Seven Kisses was "Stupid Book," but I really like the story I ended up with... even if readers might not be sold on my spin.

23 comments:

  1. Totally off-topic (except insofar as the topic is your special gifts as a writer): I loved your story in Hungry for More [Sacchi, left-angle-bracket-i-right-angle-bracket Hungry for More left-angle-bracket-SLASH-i-right-angle-bracket to get italics here]. The sense of warm abandon that pervaded the situation as it played out was wonderfully, movingly captivating.

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    1. Thanks!

      Also off-topic, but I have a message for Sacchi too (ha!): I saw your anthology Girl Crazy at the library the other day. It was shelved with general fiction, right there in the Gs. I think it was even shelved among novels rather than short story collections, but either way it was front and centre, not hidden away in some dark recess of the library. Made me smile.

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    2. ^^This made me look Sacchi up in this region's library database. She's on the shelf—or, rather, currently checked out—in Springfield, MA!

      https://bark.cwmars.org/eg/opac/record/3312938

      And, for handy reference, here's a world library database where we can all look ourselves up:

      http://www.worldcat.org/advancedsearch

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    3. Wow, look how many of you are here in Northampton, in this one antho (also currently checked out)!

      https://bark.cwmars.org/eg/opac/record/3327780

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    4. Oh yeah! That's the book where my name is spelled wrong (which made my girlfriend very angry because "why don't they take you seriously enough to spell your name right? You're a famous author!" Awww it's cute that you think so, honey.)

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    5. I just looked to see what they did. (Yes, I have to admit that I hadn't opened my copy to read yet.) You should at least get an extra copy as an apology! And in a few years the book will be collectable because of the error, like postage stamps. (Don't we wish!)

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    6. Jeremy, I'm happy to see that book is checked out! I love that one, and it's funny how many of us are in there! :)

      Also, Sacchi, I recently bought Girl Crazy from our local sex shop.

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  2. Giselle, I'm so tired of "normal". I love your stories, which combine wild, off-the-wall, filthy fantasies with tremendous literary competence. Yeah, I know, that and $1.50...

    Well, if it makes you feel any better, you're one of the few erotica writers whose books I've actually paid for. (I get most of my erotica either free as a reviewer, or free as a contributor.)

    And I think I need to buy Seven Kisses, having been confined in a quite Victorian psychiatric institution for several months during my late teens!

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    1. Hope it wasn't anything like the one in this book! Thinking I might release Seven Kisses in November. I started working on the cover yesterday, but it was fighting me all the way.

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    2. Oh, let me know when it's out. I'd love to review it.

      The psych hospital was pretty creepy. But not sexy. (On the other hand, that was when I was anorexic - didn't have the physical energy to think about sex.)

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    3. I will join the ranks of those salivating to read Seven Kisses, too. This sounds way up my personal alley. (Um, not intended to be as dirty as it sounded, but too good to change now that I've written it).

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  3. Giselle:
    I shouldn't laugh at another authors foibles but you got me with 'write stupid book'. It's so telling of an author's life. Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of my hero's of the big screen. He can't act worth a damn, even after all these years, but he's made about a billion more than Robert Duvall who is a damn fine actor. Make stupid movies is no doubt on Arnold's to do list-right after, fuck with the maid.

    Speaking of movies, the best ever version of Beauty and the Beast (IMO) is Jean Cocteau's 1946 masterpiece. Disney made all the money with the stupid version.

    Sometimes you must feel like the kid in the paranormal thriller, "Sixth Sense"..."I see stupid people everywhere...and they don't know they are stupid."

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    1. I don't think people have to be stupid to like stupid stuff. My mom and my youngest sister love movies I find stupid. I think it's just escapism.

      The Jean Cocteau movie was on TV the exact same day I pulled Belle/Bete off my shelf and I was feeling too stupid to watch it. heh. I like the stupid version. (Well, I did when it came out but damn that was over 20 years ago.)

      "Fuck the maid" made me laugh because the other novel I wrote "for the market" is called A Man Needs A Maid. It's a billionaire/maid book. Because billionaires were the big thing. But then I sat on it too long and the trend came and went... it also turned into a ME book insofar as the billionaire's house is haunted. HA! I loves me a haunted house.

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  4. Could it be that it's hard for a brilliant person to write stupid books? Does the intelligence come through anyway?

    Simple demographics tell us the middle range of intelligence is the largest group. Although lots of readers can read and enjoy stories that don't come up to their personal intelligence level, not as many care to go very deep.

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    1. In university, I wrote a paper about how The Simpsons (oh god I sound young) is such a successful piece of humour because the writing is so multivalenced. There's slapstick happening alongside some super-sophisticated literary reference. Why can't we achieve this with our fiction? Le sigh.

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  5. Jeremy, you knew that library link would suck me in! It's a good thing I planned on leftovers for dinner, or I might not get around making any.

    I had no idea! Lots of college libraries! Harvard! Brown! But not my own alma mater.Maybe if I contributed books? Or at least let them know that I'm an alumna under my real name?

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    1. I'd deliberately lost that link because it devoured so much of my time.

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  6. It's the mark of a brilliant writer that even stories intended to be stupid can't help veering into idiosyncratic excellence. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

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    1. I think we can all agree that we're all brilliant.

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  7. If you try to write something that doesn't interest you, you'll do a crappy job. Your muse will make sure of it. That's why your writing keeps morphing into what you're meant to write. Sad, but true. I, also, earn next to nothing from my writing. I have 2 day jobs. But I'm proud to say I'm a published author, though that and $1.50 will get me a cup of java.

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    1. Where are you people getting coffee for a dollar fifty these days? I must be too urban. I can't seem to get it for less than $1.94. (<=that was me missing the point)

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  8. I love the good news in these comments. Girl Crazy on a general fiction shelf! I wouldn't have guessed either. So apparently I don't have to console everyone here with the hope that we might all be discovered after our deaths, like Emily Dickinson (whose poems are definitely in all the university libraries in the U.S. Northeast, but who didn't get much published in her lifetime). Like water, erotic books seem to seep into unexpected places.

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    1. Umm... dirty. Or if it's water I guess... clean.

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