Hello all! Welcome to the newest session of Pillow Talk Secrets! I’m Malin, your hostess for this round. Today my lovely colleagues, Jade and Tamsin, and I, are going to talk about influences – namely the books and authors that have most influenced our work. There’s erotica in there, of course, but other genres too, so please read on to find out who has gotten under our skins and into our heads. Fair warning though – when the three of us start talking about books, gushing and wells of enthusiasm are inevitable, so be prepared. And on that note, here we go!
Pillow Talk Secrets
Malin: Hello ladies! How are you doing today?
Jade: Hi you! Just lovely. How about the two of you?
Tamsin: Hello lovelies, I’m just fine thank you!
M: Excellent! We’ve all been so busy, I’m glad we’re getting to chat today. I’ve been looking forward to this topic since we decided on it a few weeks ago. We’re talking about our writerly, and readerly, influences. Shall we jump right in?
J: I love this topic. Let’s dive in!
T: Ah – I have to say, I’ve not been so sure…you both know but the readers might not, that I actually wrote my first published erotic story before I’d really even read any! So, I can’t claim to be well read and I think I’m playing catch up with you two!
J: To be honest, I hadn’t read all that much erotica before I started, either. In fact, I wrote my first piece when I was like 16. I’d only read a handful of stories by then.
M: Same here. While I read erotica, my real influences fall outside of the genre… So, in that case, if we’re all influenced by work outside the genre, let’s start with non-erotic fiction. Without thinking too hard, which books or authors come to mind?
T: I just have one go-to writer – John Irving. Well, obviously there are others, which I’ll come on to but for me, he’s a genius. The characters he creates literally stay with you for years, and they’re all totally individual and intriguing. And he’s one of the very few writers that can have you crying with laughter on one page and then sobbing your heart out on the next. His talent is extraordinary and he has a lot in common with another of my favorites, Charles Dickens. They both write long, involved, complicated stories which you can really sink your teeth into.
M: Ahhhh! John Irving is wonderful. Which of his titles is your favorite?
T: The first Irving I read, and still one of my favorites was A Son of the Circus. And then of course, A Prayer for Owen Meany – the nativity scene is my favorite all time scene in any book.
J: So, nobody smack me, but I never read John Irving. Or much Dickens, for that matter, so I’m impressed.
T: Oh, missy, get to the library now!!!
M: I’m sorry – my geek is getting activated. I’m going all single-minded! Tamsin, for Dickens, if you could only pick one Dickens ever to have read, which would it be?
T: Dickens? Bleak House. Oh, and Great Expectations!
M: I love Bleak House! I’m going to admit something here – Bleak House is actually one of the books I had in mind when I started conceiving of The Briary, (my WIP). That and a couple of Wilkie Collins novels and Dracula. Always Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
T: God yes! And, of course, as a woman who’s written two vampire novels, Stoker is an inspiration. And Collins too!
M: Oh, I love Wilkie Collins! The Woman in White is still a big favorite! Jade what about you? What’s stayed with you?
J: See, I was all caught up in Margaret Atwood and a few too many rounds of Jane Eyre, (I read that about 12 times by age 10). Plus, I tended to read a lot of more contemporary authors – Anne Rice was one, but more Carol Goodman (LOVE that woman), and Anne Bishop on the spec fic side. Oh and V.C. Andrews. But weren’t we all influenced by V.C. Andrews?
T: No, – I read V.C. Andrews but I didn’t really care for her.
M: I read a couple of V.C. Andrews novels – Flowers in the Attic because EVERYONE read Flowers in the Attic, but I wasn’t a huge overall fan either, though I did like the gothic luridness of the books I did read. Going back to Atwood, what was it about her work that stayed with you?
J: Well, I read Atwood in high school – my senior year English teacher and a couple friends of mine formed a lunch book club around The Robber Bride, since we’d already discussed The Handmaid’s Tale. Robber was more “mainstream” – but I loved the feel of it all. Atwood has this spectacular, haunting voice, and she tackles real issues in a fictional space. I love that ability to focus the reader on a serious question of how we interact under the guise of fiction.
M: I’m in complete agreement with you on everything you just said, particularly her ability to examine cultural questions through fiction. What about Goodman?
J: Goodman was a totally different influence for me – I started with The Lake of Dead Languages, this goth-lit tale centered around a liberal arts college, and I fell in love. Her writing is packed full of beautiful imagery and prose. It’s also a little haunting, now that I think about it. And for bonus points, Goodman started writing spec fic under a pseudonym a few years back – so now she’s writing with that same compelling weight but in an alternate world. Love that.
T: So, Malin, tell us what books kept you reading into the small hours?
M: I was really, really into Anne Rice – Interview with the Vampire, The Witching Hour… Later on though, came down to Angela Carter, particularly her collection, The Bloody Chamber. I still re-read it once a year.
J: Oh, The Witching Hour. Amazing. Can you tell us more about how Rice and Carter influenced you, though?
M: Anne Rice was pivotal because I had never read anything that sexually charged that had so little sex in it. I’m thinking of Interview here, and later The Vampire Lestat. There was so much latent sexuality in those books, but the effect was subtle. It got right under my skin. Plus, there were a lot a implied taboos – homosexuality, vampiric incest, (with Claudia and later Lestat and his mother) – I’ve always been drawn to characters and stories that dance along the edges of those themes. For Carter, it was her fierceness and sexual frankness. The stories in the The Bloody Chamber are unapologetic and powerful, literary, but again, intensely sexual. I think I was always looking for sexuality, especially in books that, on the surface, had little to do with sex.
T: Can I just get a bit trashy and throw in Jacqueline Suzanne? Reading Valley of the Dolls under the covers was pivotal!
M: Yes, I think Valley of the Dolls was important in a lot of ways. Plus, deliciously trashy. Actually speaking of trashy, are there any sort of guilty pleasures in your influences, (outside the fabulous Ms. Suzanne?)
J: Yes! I loved Erica Spindler for a long time, and still pick up a book by her occasionally. She writes those NY Times Bestsellers in which a female detective or the like falls for a man who happens to be the serial killer she’s investigating. Drama! My utter fave was Shocking Pink.
M: I’ve never read any Erica Spindler. I’ll have to check it out.
T: Me neither! I have to admit to loving anything by Carl Hiaasen, as well. Because of him, I now have a desperate urge to visit the parts of Florida most holidays don’t reach!
M: I’m in the Carl Hiaasen camp too, Tamsin. He’s so clever. For me, trashy pretty much came down to… oh, god, I’m kind of embarrassed.. Harlequin Historicals. It’s just true. It was the trashy stuff I could get my hands on at 16 and it taught me a lot. Ahem.
J: See, for me, I was sneaking in a lot of horror stuff. Stephen King, and the one I loved for such a long time – Christopher Pike. That was my “trashy” until Erica Spindler, though I still read him.
M: Oh, yes. Christopher Pike! I loved Remember Me.
J: So good!
J: Well, technically, I have two. Alison Tyler (but I think we all love Ms. Tyler) and one who is fairly quiet on the scene but so fucking brilliant – Shanna Germain. She’s just…wow. So incredibly literary and lovely with the erotica she writes.
M: I’m cherry picking my way through The Lure of Dangerous Women at your recommendation Jade. It really is incredible. “Trill” is phenomenal. How has her work influenced your writing?
J: Yes, that. Oh my god. She took a real risk with that one and it was perfect, but the whole collection is splendid, really. For me it’s all about the weight thing – there’s a depth and complexity to her writing; she makes you think. The characters aren’t just sweet people having sex – they’ve got a density, with real pasts and issues that are clear beyond the pages. One of the things I love about her is that if you removed the sex, you’d still have an amazing tale and vivid characterization. “To Be In Clover” is one of hers that blows my mind – it’s in one of the Best Erotic Romance installments, and it’s this sweet tale about a man being completely taken with a woman from their youth into their older age, but it’s got all this memory and imagery built in. I’m a sucker for imagery, I guess. And gorgeous prose.
M: I think our favorites are tonally quite similar. Remittance Girl for me is really pivotal. The first story of hers I read was “Pleasure’s Apprentice.” It was in a Best Women’s but you can find it on her site now. It literally cracked open what was possible in the genre for me. It was also the first story I’d ever read featuring D/s. I still remember the sense of control that ran through the whole story. To say it made an impression is an understatement.
J: Oh yeah. Her words are so powerful. She gets to the grit, I think. What is it about her that draws you in?
M: I think she has the same sort of appeal for me that Angela Carter does. She has a fierce, unflinching approach to her characters and sexual dynamics, but she executes everything with a fine, considered hand. Her stories are full of humanity – sometimes beautiful, sometimes profane. There’s a balance in her work that I really love and hope one day to develop myself. Tamsin, who do you love?
J: Oh my word, where was my head? Yes to Anais and Pauline!
M: I’m an idiot! Of course, Anais! I read the first volume of her diary four times in college! And Venus in Furs… soooo good.
J: I think we’re just so in love with everyone right now, it’s slipping our minds.
M: Tamsin, how did they influence you and your work?
T: Actually, that’s a tough one to answer, because I couldn’t begin to hope to write like any of them. So their influence is not so much stylistic as in terms of – and this must hold true of all writers – when you read something you really love, something that moves you and stays with you, it inspires in you the great desire to write and create something of your own.
M: Yes, I understand that. It makes you want to find and develop your own voice, and write with as much strength as you can…. God. I was just scanning this conversation and between the three of us, we cover A LOT of ground – both on the mainstream side and on the erotica side.
J: Definitely. There are so many amazing authors out there!
M: There really are. On that note, I’d like to invite our lovely readers to tell us some of their favorites in the comments below. Who do you love, both in erotica, as well as in other genres? Who are we missing? Tell us! We want to know!
J: My curiosity is piqued! Yes, readers, we’d love to know. Tell us more great authors to read – and thanks for joining us as we talked about our faves!
T: I know when we see the suggestions, we’ll be like *face-palm* – how did we forget that one?!? There are just too many totally brilliant books out there.
M: Too many for one lifetime, but I still love knowing they’re out there! Thanks so much for joining us again for another conversation! A new edition of our newsletter is in the works and should be out in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, we hope you’re cuddling into November with coffee, tea, wine, gin or whatever you happen to have on hand, and a lovely book of your own.
Malin, Tamsin and Jade