Thursday, May 30, 2013


by Giselle Renarde

I didn't renew my opera subscription.  I'm just too poor this year.

An opera subscription sounds too decadent for a poor writer, and that's probably why I'm such an apologist  ("My seats are in the nosebleed section. When you break it down, I'm only paying like $20 per ticket.  You spend nearly that much to see a movie.") but I'm glad I had the opportunity, this season, to catch the COC's production of Salome directed by Atom Egoyan.

When I first started writing, I wanted to create work that felt... Egoyanesque?  Work that evoked that striking carnivalesque dreamscape of an Atom Egoyan film.

Like Lisabet, I came into the world of erotic fiction very naively.  And romance?  What's that?  I've still never read a heterosexual romance novel.  I tried once, just to get a feel for the form, but gave up pretty quickly.  I read a few lesbian romance novels, but they didn't speak to me either.  It seemed like lesbian couples were just superimposed on the tried-and-true form.

But I'm not a romantic, and I've already admitted that to you.  For a story to appeal to me, it's got to be pretty fucked up.  Have you seen Atom Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter," wherein Sarah Polley's character is sleeping with her father?  Or "Exotica," about a father seeking solace in a stripper following the murder of his child?  There's a special fucked-up-edness that is distinct to Egoyan's work.  I love it.  I perv on that brand of Canadian weirdness, and I wanted to replicate it in my own little way.

Amanda's post last week did a great job of spelling out why weirdness doesn't work.  Basically, the fucked-up crazy-ass shit I'd most like to write (and I think some of you are with me on this) is deemed unacceptable by most publishers in the erotic fiction genre.  It's all well and good to be Egoyanesque if you're writing literature, but if you want to work in this town, kid, you'd better keep it clean.

Isn't it weird that we have to sanitize our sex books? Crikey...

The first novel I wrote was a bisexual ballerina book called "Ondine."  Nobody would touch that manuscript.  It was too lesbian.  It was too strange, too full of lies and deception.  It was too this-that-and-the-other.  Too unhappy-ever-after.

One editor who passed on the novel gave me a whole list of insights, and I put her advice to work.  I turned a hetero subplot into a leading lady.  I changed the book so it ended in a proposal.  Happy-for-now is about the farthest I can roam from my desire for pain and suffering.  I write it because I have to.  It's almost always forced.  The only exception I can think of is a trans lesbian novella I wrote called "Friday Night Lipstick."  That one ends in a wedding scene that makes me cry every time I read it.

But, for the most part, I'd rather see despair, or watch characters drive themselves crazy doing things they shouldn't.  Case in point: I've got a novella called Adam and Sheree's Family Vacation coming out next week with eXcessica.  It's brother/sister incest--something I never considered writing until the plot came to me in an Egoyanesque dream state and took over my mind.  I couldn't not write it.  And how could Adam and Sheree ever see a happy-ever-after together?  They couldn't marry, even if they wanted to.

Thank goodness I have a publisher who believes in freedom of speech, or Adam and Sheree would probably never see the light of day.

So, HEA?  I don't often write it.  Maybe if I did, I'd be able to afford that opera subscription.  Opera loves the delicious, the titillating, the wicked, and the heart-wrenching.  And so do I.


  1. Hi Geselle!

    I know what you mean. The problem is that erotica is anow a genre and publishers want that consstency which shuts out my stuff too. Th funny thing is that so called literary erotica, th stuff I do, is wide open to all the taboos that are forbidden to the genre writers. It seems unfair.

    You can see opera for $20? Wow. These last few months I've become a "ringhead", a poor soul obsessed with Wagner's "Ring of the Niebelungen" cycle.


    1. Garce, i'd love to know any literary erotica publishers wide open to taboos. i haven't found that to be the case myself so far.

  2. i totally want to read your weirdness, Giselle. thanks for bringing up Egoyans films :)


  3. Wow- Twenty dollars for the opera? You don't live in SF. I get your point, but the indications are that the public wants HEA or at least HFN. The state of our emotions after a read or a movie often colors what we retain about the piece.

    But the fact is that we all get off on different stimuli. Personally, I don't particularly like reading 'downer' books, (I mentioned Kite Runner earlier this week) although I do know people who think anything less is not 'real'. The ending is not as important to me as the life of the story. I can't get through books that are all down, no light. Of course, it's all personal and that's what keeps it all so new and exciting. Life, that is...

    1. That's so true, about the ending colouring our view on the piece as an entity. With "The Cure for Death by Lightning," I thought I was enjoying the book until the end, which pissed me off so much I questioned whether I liked it at all.

      And my seats were in the 5th ring. My entire subscription cost less than some people pay for a single ticket.

      And Garce, Tristan und Isolde was the one opera I walked out on this season. Well, left during the second intermission. There was just waaaaaay more nudity than I could handle in public.

  4. Hey... This Opera house is sounding better and better!

  5. Noir. I wish good old-fashioned noir was more in vogue for erotica these days. Every now and then someone does an anthology, but I don't think they sell very well. I've tried proposals with no success. It's not that I don't like happy endings, but that some stories just aren't meant to go that way.

  6. Atom Egoyan - hadn't thought about his films for a while but I agree, they're strangely compelling. I'd love to be able to write such haunting stuff, myself.

    I've got to read your new Excessica book. One thing I admire about you is the fact that you don't pull punches (so don't disillusion me by telling me you do!) NANNY STATE was just so incredibly nasty!

    And Sacchi, I definitely agree about noir. My noir book Exposure is my absolute worst seller. Sigh.

    1. It's shameful, the glee I feel being told my work is incredibly nasty.

  7. "Egoyanesque" should be used more often! It's true that Egoyan's films have an atmosphere all their own. Giselle, I'll look up more of your work & look for the Egoyanesque elements.


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