Thursday, October 3, 2013

Secret Confessions

by Giselle Renarde

There's only one thing my family knows about my writing career that you probably don't:  I've been published in Hustler Fantasies.

Many... many... many... times.

That's not in my bio.  I don't even mention it in my publication history when I submit work to editors.  Why?  I guess it seems sleazy, like a giant neon sign flashing above my head: HUSTLER! HUSTLER! HUSTLER! HUSTLER!

But the truth of the matter is... I AM sleazy.  I didn't start writing erotica because I was into romance.  (I am NOT a romantic--just ask my girlfriend.)  I started writing erotica because I was into SEX.  Even now, when HAVING sex is no longer my first priority, WRITING sex still is.  I don't enjoy writing mainstream fiction.  Once in a while it makes a nice change, but not every day.  Romance makes me gag.  I like smut.

First-person ("letter-style") erotica is my absolute favourite form.  Even in the past tense, it feels immediate.  The only reason I don't write it all the time is that I've seen so many surveys saying that readers don't like it.  I'd love to know why.  Maybe some of you readers can elucidate.  Is it too intimate?  Too... not... literary?  Too Hustler?

Why doesn't everyone love erotic confessions as much as I do?  Last year I put out an entire anthology: Secret Confessions: 36 Erotic Encounters.

It's hard to believe there aren't any readers out there who share my taste.  There's a lot to love about first-person letter-style erotica.  In fact, instead of repeating myself, why don't I just share my introduction to Secret Confessions?


No naughty encounter is ever complete until you tell somebody about it.  And who doesn’t feel a tingle while reading a story and wondering, “Is this true? Did that really happen?”

There’s one quality that unifies all confession-style erotic stories, no matter how sweet or how kinky: they’re all written in the first person. (I did this, I did that.) For that reason, when reading these stories, we’re particularly inclined to wonder if these stories are true.  The author is writing as though they were (I ate her pussy, I sucked his cock), so why wouldn’t we believe it?

One of the best things about confession erotica is its unique capability to allow readers to suspend disbelief.  When we hear these stories, we trust that we’re being told the truth.  Even if we try to be rationally and consciously skeptical, we still believe, and there’s a bit of magic in that.

So, now I’m sure you’re wondering about the confessions in this collection.  Are they true?  Are they fiction?  The answer is yes. Some stories are entirely fictional, pure fantasy.  Others draw on real events, but aren’t entirely accurate.  Of course, names have been changed, to protect the “innocent” parties.

Some stories are true, some are false, some are somewhere in between. Does it spoil the fun that I’ve made this confession?  I don’t think so.  I still haven’t told you which are which.

Giselle Renarde

So, what do you think?  Are we all going to start reading Hustler Fantasies now...?


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  2. Sophisticated readers may associate the "true" confessions format with clichés, shallowness, and generic writing... but there's no reason it has to be like that. It's a perfectly serviceable vehicle for a skilled author, imho, and I have no doubt that your own work in this format is fresh, stylistically robust, and engaging on more than one level. And, unless I'm much mistaken, several of the hallowed classics of early erotic literature are also written as "confessions."

    Thinking more about this, I ask myself, "What's the difference, even, between an episodic erotic novel written in the first person, and a set of erotic confessions?" Maybe just the name on the cover? I mean, in theory, one could write the same book, and if one put the protagonist's name on the cover as "author," it would be a book of (fictitious) confessions, while if one put one's own name there it would be just a novel. But perhaps part of the bad rep for confessions is that one doesn't primarily see them structured into the equivalent of an episodic novel. One usually encounters them individually, as letters to a magazine for example, and perhaps discriminating readers find that most of those one-off confessions don't really "go anywhere"—that they boil down to "one time this thing happened," but with all the sex graphically detailed. But, again, it doesn't have to be that way, and I'm sure that you and many other well-qualified authors, past and present, have written confessions that, even taken individually, have the essentials of a good short story (or at least a good erotic vignette).

  3. I see a lot of stuff as flasher editor on ERWA, and will say that first person accounts seem more difficult for some writers to get across. Perhaps it's too many 'I's or 'my's. Perhaps first person, poorly done, is poor and first person done by someone with wider experience will hit the mark. It's like anything: the best writers can pull anything off.

  4. Maybe the difference between a novel written in the first person and confessional erotica just boils down to... dialogue. Five seconds ago I received a rejection from a "letter-style" call because of TOO MUCH DIALOGUE (and not a good enough ending hehe).

    I think I take it for granted, as a writer, that my work will contain dialogue. It's hard to backtrack and write a piece without quotation marks.

  5. My husband has a collection of books of first-person confessions, which he keeps in the bathroom for when he's soaking in the jacuzzi. I've read some of them, and despite the immediacy, the point of view irritates me. I don't want to know how just one person feels in the encounter. I want to know how ALL of the people involved feel. I like knowing how she feels as he pounds into her while another man is in her mouth. But I also want to know how the men involved feel...are they thinking about each other? Are they turned on by knowing the other is there, also pleasuring her? Do they want an encounter by themselves? There is some sex that is transcendent, and you can't think of anything else while you are involved because the blood in your body has deserted your brain. There are other encounters where the thinking that goes on while you are engaged enhances the whole experience. I want to know how everyone is thinking.

    That's how I feel as a reader, so that's how I write.

    1. Interesting. Most publishers won't touch head-hopping (and it irritates me big-time as a reader, although I don't think I felt that way before I started writing professionally).

    2. This has set me to wondering just where the line is drawn between memoir (even less-than-truthful memoir) and confession. Does confession imply a feeling of guilt? Waitaminnit, I'd better save some of this for my own post.

      Regarding Penthouse, I've actually been proud to list Penthouse among my credits, although I've been forgetting to do so lately, and being in the mag was kind of accidental. The publisher of an anthology (fictional memoirs) I was in many years ago made a deal with Penthouse for six stories from the book, as a series showing what women were writing for erotica. They condensed the stories (cutting out all my atmospheric bits about wistful WWII songs!) but supplied quite a nice illustration, so I didn't mind (once I managed to get a copy at a newsstand in Penn Station--they didn't send us contributors' copies.) What I did mind was that Penthouse went through some level of bankruptcy protection about then, and we never got paid, even when they recovered. I've thought of writing for the Letters department, but tended not to trust them to pay up. If you've been doing it successfully, Giselle, maybe I should rethink that.

    3. Hustler, not Penthouse. I've never worked with Penthouse. But Scarlet (I think? Former UK magazine?) owed me hundreds of pounds when they went under, or whatever happened to them. I could really use that money right about now.

    4. OMG, Giselle. Hundreds of pounds. That definitely sucks. I remember that publication. FWIW, I had two "letters" (completely fictional "confessions") in Penthouse Variations, which paid $100 U.S. for each for total lifetime rights. That was okay with me -- those pieces were not high literature.

    5. Scarlet paid well per piece, but this meant that when they defaulted, some authors were owed substantial sums. I remember that when they went into liquidation, there was paperwork listing all the creditors, including the little old erotica writers who still had invoices outstanding. And at the very top of the creditor list, with an unpaid account in excess of the company's total assets, was someone referred to as Her Majesty. So I think we know who got paid first. With a tab like that, she must really have been cranking out the stories for them!

  6. I love first person - reading it and writing it - when it's done well. And I'm not sure that it's as unpopular as you think, Giselle.

  7. I should add, I WISH I could put Hustler on my resume...


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