Thursday, February 22, 2007

Behind the Scenes in “Picture Perfect”

I’ve noticed a lot of people coming to my blog after seeing/hearing my story “Picture Perfect” on Violet Blue’s podcast, and maybe they did come for the cookie recipes (which are definitely worth a visit), but I’m assuming the real reason is some curiosity about my story and its creation.

As I mentioned, “Picture Perfect” was my very first erotic story to see print in an erotica anthology. “Blindfold” appeared in Rain Crow in print and “The Cunt Book” was online in In Posse Review 15 (both are inarguably erotica), but this was the first time my story was in the company of erotica greats like Alison Tyler and M. Christian. I remember Violet called to give me the good news because her email to me had bounced due to some internet bug going around at the time that was falsely marking my mailbox as full and bouncing everything! If Violet had been less conscientious, I might have missed the opportunity to publish the story, which is scary, huh? And now the story is in Italian and everything. Ah, yes, tales of the trade. But that’s not what you really want to know, is it?

You want to know if the story is based in my real life, right?

Permit me a digression of sorts. As I was thinking about the inspirations for this story, I kept going back to an idea I took away from my reading of Jack Morin’s The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment. Morin claims that each of us has a “core erotic theme,” a sexual fantasy that taps into our deepest needs. Not that we can’t enjoy a variety of sexual fantasies, but each of us does tend to gravitate toward fantasies with similar dynamics (sex in public, he’s on top, she’s on top, etc). In a questionnaire he includes for readers he helps us identify this by asking which fantasy we turn to when we’re having trouble getting turned on, the one that always works like a charm. I think it’s a worthwhile exercise in self-knowledge to identify what turns us on. Knowledge is power, ya know?

Anyway, when I look at my body of work, now grown much larger since Violet’s exciting call of acceptance back in 2003, I’d have to say my core erotic theme has something to do with revelation and exposure. This makes sense for a writer—as I’ve discussed earlier here in my blog, we writers are all exhibitionists of the soul more or less. But this theme finds its way into many of my stories in concrete form such as “Picture Perfect” and “The Cunt Book” (which is sort of a still-photo version of PP. You can read it here.) So there you go, the story is based on my most profound psycho-sexual truth. Another dynamic many of my stories share is that the female partner always takes an active role in creating the sex scene. Although her lover may cajole her into doing something “naughty” at first, she quickly gets on board and comes up with some of the best ideas herself! This is definitely true of Kira in “Picture Perfect”—and that’s what gives the story momentum, the give-and-take of a couple creating a scene together.

Another digression—bizarre as this sounds, I first saw Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses with my mother! I more or less knew what I was getting into when I suggested we see the movie in an art house in Georgetown back in 1985, and I did a pretty good job of playing it cool to show my maturity, even when Sada Abe was doing that weird thing with the egg. Afterwards, when we were having the requisite discussion of the film—a must for art house movies--I tried to argue that behind the non-stop sex scenes was a political allegory. I believe this is true, but I suspect I was trying a little too hard with mom due to a lingering discomfort of seeing a dirty movie with her and blurring that false, yet powerful, boundary our society has erected between motherhood and sex. So, okay, “Picture Perfect” is not the international masterpiece Realm is (remember, though, it has been translated!), but my intention was also to challenge the socio-political hierarchy in a small way.

Kira and Brian’s fantasy—that a dot-com billionaire is paying to watch them have sex—is based on the assumption that the voyeur has the power because he has more money. He is the one getting his wish because he is buying his chance to see a “proper” wife’s sexuality fully revealed—far more rare than say a professional porn actress’ supposed ecstasy. And yet, with the last line—the rich guy gets the couple’s loving kiss for free—completely reverses this power dynamic. (Yeah, I know, it’s kind of like that terrible cliché “the best things in life are free” but it’s true and that last line always gives me a little thrill. Take that dot-com billionaires!) The rich guy who can supposedly have everything he wants is now just a lonely masturbator in his private screening room, cut off from all the passion and creativity and connection Kira and Brian are enjoying in the flesh.

Come on, this is profound, okay?!

What? Cut the warmed-over, pretentious grad school bull, you say? All you really want to know is if the story is based in real life? Now come on, do you really expect me to answer that? Okay, okay, fine, you came all the way to my blog to find out and it took a lot out of you to click the mouse, right?

So, here's your answer: Yes. Sort of.

Satisfied ;-)?

Thanks for dropping by!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dirty Whisperings in Your Ear: Violet Blue Reads “Picture Perfect”

Sometimes you publish a story and then you get your check and/or your contributors’ copies and that’s the end of it. But sometimes the fun continues and that’s what happened with my story “Picture Perfect.” This was my first print publication in erotica and it originally appeared in 2004 in Violet Blue’s best-selling anthology Taboo: Forbidden Fantasies for Couples. It was subsequently reprinted in Maxim Jakubowski’s Best Mammoth New Erotica 5 which came out in January 2006. This fall I was contacted by the Italian publisher Arnoldo Mondadori asked for translation rights for the story. Wow, my first international appearance and in the “language of love” itself! Soon afterwards I was sent a copy of the book called Best Erotica 2006 which includes many other stories from Maxim’s anthology as well as BAE. My story is now titled “Impeccabile” which I think sort of loses the pun, but hey, who am I to complain? As a translator myself, I know you have to make some sacrifices. I’ve found that the Italian version of the story sounds much better if you wave your hands around as you read. But there’s more good news!

In January Violet Blue made a podcast of the story which you can access here. Violet reads the original English version, but her low, sexy voice definitely adds a new and exotic dimension to the experience. One of the reasons I like erotica is editors like Violet Blue. She is the embodiment of the term “sex positive”—she makes it all so cool and fun and possible. I’m sorry to hear the next volume of BWE will be her last, because you can always count on her to edit an inspiring collection that will put a big smile on your face, for more reasons than one!

Where Have I Been?

Yes, I have lots of excuses for not posting a new entry in my blog for such a long time. For a while I was still recovering from writing that novel, which I agree, since I’ve done both, is indeed like giving birth. Then came the holidays and my Winter Solstice cookie-baking spree. This year I had to do it TWICE because my older son is in middle school and he has a lot of teachers to thank with a tin of sweets. The end of the year took me on a trip to NYC, and January opened with Japanese New Year celebrations. (Do you know how long it takes to make all the different foods you set out in the cute little dishes? Then after you spend all day doing that, you have to spend all evening washing the dishes!)

But now I’m back and one of my (slowly-realized) New Year’s resolutions is to keep up with the blog. I have some good reasons to get back into it. Orion’s website is now listing my novel, Amorous Woman, as coming out at the end of April 2007 and I have a few other pubs on the roster for this year involving domination, almond cookies and (hopefully) a sexy spider-man.

My other New Year’s resolution is to try new restaurants in the Bay Area, so I’ll have some reports on those as well as pointers to new recipes I’ve tried (like the blini I made for the Butter Festival this week—YUM!—which are definitely Russian cuisine’s gift to the world!).

So, stay tuned folks!