Thursday, October 16, 2014

This Road Is Forked

by Giselle Renarde

You can start close to your life, but that’s a starting place.
The question is, what’s the journey?
SALMAN RUSHDIE

I spotted that quote on Twitter last night and it seem serendipitous. Lately, I've been thinking/fretting a lot about my writing career. (Have you noticed? I only blog about it every fortnight...)

All my life, I've always felt like I fit in. Even as the quirky queer genderfucked asshole I am, I've always been pretty comfortable anywhere I went. The schools I attended weren't clique-y. People were who they were and they liked what they liked and everyone was friendly. Peer-wise, I've led a pretty charmed life.

When I started my writing career 8+ years ago, I felt at home once again. Erotica authors were all so helpful. Coming from the business world, I expected everyone to care only about their own interests. That wasn't at all what I found. Furthermore, the erotica writers I met online were all... well, people like YOU: sex-positive, queer-friendly, kinky, open-minded, all that good stuff.

As many of you have noticed/commented on, our precious erotic fiction field has lately been conflated with/shoehorned into romance--a genre that doesn't much appeal to me even at its best and, at its worst, I find pretty problematic. Suddenly we erotica people have been tossed into a world that is not our own. Sure there's some cross-over between the two genres--erotica CAN end happily and nothing's stopping our characters from being in love--but erotica and romance are not the same thing.

I've often said that I came to erotica totally naively, and I'll repeat it again this week.  More and more, I'm starting to realize my writing career is a journey of discovery--a lot like life.  When I started writing, I was like a child: I wrote whatever pleased me and took gleeful pride in my work. I never thought about things like formulae or tropes. I never considered that readers might not want social commentary with their fiction. Never in a million years would it have occurred to me that readers would actively avoid a book because of a character's sexuality or gender identity or race.

I miss my naivety. I want it back. There are some things you can never unlearn.

And once you learn them, you have to make a choice: do I keep on truckin, writing the kind of fiction I love and believe in even if it's only read by five fervent fans, or do I whitewash my fiction and dull it down and create something that might sell a few more copies because it mimics what readers want... until they actually read it and realize this Giselle chick is MESSED UP and she obviously can't inhabit the mind of the average cisgender heterosexual female reader?

Phrased that way, the answer seems pretty obvious.

Guys, I feel like I'm in high school again--except it's a high school from American movies, where there are football guys and cheerleader girls and bullies and nerds and A-tables. My high school did not have those things. Honestly, I've never felt this way before. I'm a teenager for the first time in my life. Suddenly I'm at a crossroads and I have this really important decision to make: do I repress the real ME to fit in or do I say FUCK ALL Y'ALL and carve out the path I want to take?

Never mind. I think I just answered my own question.

7 comments:

  1. Giselle:
    As usual, your musings are honest, direct and penetrating-a real reflection of the internal dialogue of a writers life. I'd say you really give our followers their money's worth, but typical of the age, we are all unpaid, except for an occasional compliment. I offer mine.

    Sometimes I wonder if it is writing that makes us crazy or are we crazy to begin with? Obviously it's some of both. I mean why bother , really? Because we might explode otherwise.

    I don't see a dichotomy between erotica and romance. The rise of e-books allows for nearly infinite variation, which unfortunately means that we might only get five fans. But writing what we love is the surest way to maintain inner peace, even if it is not validated by the market.

    Where was this magical high school you attended and in what era? High school is normally an anvil where we are all beaten into shapes it takes a lifetime to reform. As you have noted, high school never really ends until you say F'it.

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  2. I think those of us who choose to write erotica are attuned to the senses, sensitive people. In my limited experience, through ERWA, public readings, etc. I've found quite a helpful community of folks who care about and write about inner' trials. Sure, we run into shitheads wherever we are, but they don't seem to inhabit this genre much. I know in my case, at this stage of life, writing erotica is extending my youth, engaging intimately in these basic drives.

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  3. "I miss my naivety. I want it back. There are some things you can never unlearn."

    Me too, Giselle. I sometimes wish I'd never taken the step over to the dark side and tried to write romance, because I feel as though it has somewhat polluted my erotic vision (not to mention creeping into my language). Okay, that's a bit strong - but I enjoyed writing a lot more when I didn't worry about whether readers would accept it or not.

    For what it's worth, I am definitely one of your five fans!

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  4. Hi Giselle!

    I wonder if you may be mistaken in thinking that you have a choice.

    In the end we write what the story fairy gives us, and that comes from some deeper pool. The real challenge is how to align ourselves with that deeper pool. I think we are almost fated to write what we write. We do the best we can and try to love it. They say you can't pick your parents. In some ways you can;t pick your kids either. I think that goes for our stories as well.

    Garce

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  5. Sorry guys, my individual comments kept getting eaten, but I am reading yours.

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  6. I agree with Garce. We don't really pick the stories we are "gifted with". We can only pick and choose the ones we actually write and submit. What I write is romance, and pretty vanilla at that (my brother's wife told me that with a dismissive sniff, so I stopped giving them free copies of my books.) Yet though I write so differently from you, my stuff doesn't bring me in much in royalties either. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

    So I just keep on writing what I want to read. That way I always know I'll have at least ONE satisfied reader!

    And Giselle, my experience on your site here has been that often my comments get eaten also. So I make a point of copying what I've written before I hit "submit". Then it will pop up with a blank comment space again, only now my ID info is in place and I have the "notify me" option. Then I paste in what I'd written and I can submit it. It doesn't always do this, but often enough that I've gotten frustrated from having to type the same, usually lengthy comment again. So I copy before I submit.

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  7. Re the comments disappearing, I've encountered this "feature" all over blogger, and deal with it exactly the way Fiona does.

    Giselle, I, too, look forward to your honest posts, even if my identification with them sometimes depresses me.

    "and she obviously can't inhabit the mind of the average cisgender heterosexual female reader"

    This is what I always come back to. I think the "fit in" or "be yourself" conflict is a false dichotomy. As you've noted many times, my self creeps in no matter what I try to do. I don't think there's really another choice.

    And I'm on the five fan list as well, my dear. I can't keep up with you, but my e-reader is loaded with your stuff!

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