Thursday, September 5, 2013

You are Everything and Everything is You

by Giselle Renarde

My girlfriend says all my characters are us.

She first told me that after editing one of the books in my Wedding Heat collection... Pretty Cousin, I think it was--a story about a lesbian in love with her bride-to-be cousin.  It's two days until the wedding, they haven't spoken since Vanessa came out, and Maggie denies the lust is reciprocated.  We soon find out the truth.

My girlfriend and I aren't cousins, but that's not really the point.  When you're partnered with an author--particularly if that author writes erotica or romance--I think it's pretty natural to assume she's writing about you.  Maybe it's even natural to assume that EVERY love interest in your partner's books are YOU.  If I were dating an author, I'm sure I'd read myself into every character too.

And, actually, a lot of my characters are blatantly based on my girlfriend.  Particularly trans characters, like Maisie from The Red Satin Collection (I know it's still out of print--I'm working on that, trust me!) or Bernice from Friday Night Lipstick.  Those women share a lot of Sweet's personality traits.  They even dress alike.

But that's an easy connection.  What about all those characters who are nothing like her?  I contract her as an editor, so she gets to read a whole lot of my work, and the stuff I'm currently writing... wow, it is filthy... and it's not really about US.

I asked her about all this stuff in relation to the taboo manuscript she just handed back to me: a filthy barely-legal pseudo-incest novella called "Dance for Daddy, Salome."  In case the title doesn't give it away, it's an adaptation of the Salome story set in the 1970s.  My inspiration was Atom Egoyan's interpretation of the Strauss opera. I'm not sure what exactly inspired me to set it in the 70s, but it works surprisingly well.

Anyway, when I asked if she sees us in the ingenue and the "harsh, rapey step-dad" (her words), she said, "Not necessarily the characters, but certainly the desire to try new things and the intensity with which we approach new situations.  Mind you, one can always fantasize about being any of your characters... certainly the zeal and lust has been present in our 'adventures.'"

Okay. So. Even in books where the characters themselves are nothing like us, she's still willing to see US in their passion and intensity.

I can't stop thinking about a book talk I attended last year. Broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi was discussing his memoir 1982.  When he opened the floor to questions, a girl in the audience asked why he hadn't attempted to contact everybody he mentioned in the book.  Hmmm.... ya think maybe she was one of those people?

Jian Ghomeshi responded by saying that many "people" in his book were composite characters, named after one person but based on a number of people.

I would argue that most if not all my characters based on real people are composites.  A few characters (like Lawrence of Audrey & Lawrence fame) are true portraits of actual persons.  But most are composites, and more and more, I find that my characters aren't consciously based on anyone I know.  In fact, many of them are people I hope I'll never know.

The dirtier my work gets, the more divorced from reality my characters become.

Sometimes I envy them...


  1. "The dirtier my work gets, the more divorced from reality my characters become.

    Sometimes I envy them.."

    Oh yeah, I hear you there! I sure wish I was getting as much creative and vigorous sex as my characters are! But then, I guess that getting older one has to accept limitations, and certainly working multiple jobs doesn't leave a whole lot of time/energy for other endeavors. Perhaps this is what's known as sublimation? The psyche figures out how to get what it wants, no matter how it gets delivered? So we "live" in our imaginations, experiencing bliss that few ever actually find?
    Interesting to consider.

  2. Me too. My reality isn;t all that dirty either.


  3. agreed about the composites. this is the crux of the post i'm writing for this topic too. & i am thrilled that you mentioned Jian Ghomeshi. love the CanCon ;)

    1. I'm always saying I wish there were CanCon regulations on ebooks. Not really--people can read what they want and I think we Canadians DO read a lot of Canadian fiction--but anything to boost my sales...

  4. Couldn't help think of Ken Russell's treatment of the Salome myth, back in the 70's, I think it was. Russell was always an over-the -top filmmaker, but that one was pretty cool. And yes, we may shape characters by our experiences, but I don't know If I'd want to be very close to many of my characters. Like Groucho Marx said: "I wouldn't be a member of any club that would have me." Or something to that effect.

  5. I've never written about my current partner in any of my stories (that doesn't count poetry). That's partly due to the fact that he's totally uninterested in BDSM, partly a consequence of the fact that he's possibly too nice a guy to be an interesting character. That sounds awful, I know, but fiction needs conflict, and our relationship is too smooth to drive a story.

    Anyway, I think he'd rather have it this way. He's very worried about our privacy.

    1. My girlfriend has always encouraged me to write about her/us in fiction and in blog posts. For her, it's not an exhibitionist thing. It's that she doesn't feel there are enough accurate, human, loving portrayals of trans people--especially in erotica. There are probably more now than there were a few years ago, but she's happy to play her part. Except she refuses to actually WRITE anything. I have to do all the hard work. LOL


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