by Giselle Renarde
I just started reading The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, and because I'm not too far into it I don't have much to say yet. But diving into literary fiction after reading a bunch of mystery novels got me thinking about the tears authors so often shed defending the integrity of genre fiction against those big bad litfic bullies.
A couple weeks ago someone found my Donuts and Desires blog by googling "erotica is for morons" and it made me laugh so hard. I laughed because I thought of all you guys, of how ridiculously intelligent you are. I'm not saying every erotica writer is an evil genius, but pretty much all the ones I know are. And some aren't even evil. Just really educated, well-read individuals.
To be honest, I don't feel much need to defend erotica anymore. I'm not sure I ever did, but after writing erotic fiction for 10+ years I really don't care if people think I'm a moron for writing sex. People can think whatever they want about me--doesn't seem to stop them from buying my smut.
In Shadow, includes some suggestive content. There's sex it in. But the sex scenes aren't written the way I write sex in my erotica. In fact, I find the sex in In Shadow uncomfortable to read. That's how I intended it, but I know full well that one of the many things that drew me to literary fiction as a young reader was the suggestive piquancy of taboo sexuality.
My main character from In Shadow has repressed a lot of dark shit, and it comes back to bite her in the ass. Actually, it comes back to fuck her up the ass. But no sense splitting hairs.
Ebook retailers that refuse to carry erotica classify it as "fiction intended to titillate," and I guess that's fair... but when automated content reviews flag erotica as such, they're searching the text for keywords. They're looking for pussies and cocks. What if you write a book like In Shadow that's written using suggestive rather than blatant language? Is it erotica? Is it... not erotica?
I didn't classify my new novel as erotica, and now I kind of wish I had. I knew it would be harder to sell literary fiction than erotic fiction, but I figured my regular readers would find In Shadow lacking in erotic content. Most of the book is not about sex. But at the same time most of the book is completely about sex! It's about denying the sexual beast that resides inside the virgin. It's about the dangers of projecting one's sexuality onto another individual, and the even more inglorious dangers about projecting collective sexuality onto a marginalized population.
There's a lot going on in this book.
Ultimately I didn't classify In Shadow as erotica because I worried it wouldn't be blatant enough for a lot of my readers. And then I worried mainstream readers would pick it up and be like... Holy Anal Rape, Batman! (That's my favourite scene. Can you tell?)
Anyway, looks like I've got nothing to worry about. Turns out it's much easier to sell erotica than psychological fiction with a supernatural twist. I don't need to worry about readers accidentally stumbling across this one.
Giselle Renarde is an award-winning queer Canadian writer. Nominated Toronto’s Best Author in NOW Magazine’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards, her fiction has appeared in well over 100 short story anthologies, including prestigious collections like Best Lesbian Romance, Best Women’s Erotica, and the Lambda Award-winning collection Take Me There, edited by Tristan Taormino. Giselle's juicy novels include Anonymous, Cherry, Seven Kisses, and The Other Side of Ruth.