I’m excited and rather awestruck to be interviewing one of my favourite writers, Donna George Storey, about Bound By Lust, which features her story, Spring Training. And, since the anthology focuses on BDSM with a romantic slant, I thought I’d throw in some general discussion along those lines too.
Hi, Donna! Well, Bound By Lust seems to have released at a serendipitous time, what with a certain ubiquitous trilogy bringing BDSM fiction into the mainstream. Of course, it came as no surprise to us that people like to read about kink – it’s my favourite erotic subgenre, after all.
For me, it’s an opportunity to indulge myself in a fantasy of letting go and relinquishing responsibility. Plus the emotional courage necessary for power exchange makes it enthralling to write and read about. What do you think accounts for its popularity?
Thank you so much for having me, Justine. I really loved reading Bound by Lust—great stories sure to push the right buttons!
I think there are many reasons for the appeal of sexual power play. Traditional romantic relationships have a certain sameness in their bliss, but a D/s relationship involves a focus on both partners’ unique tastes for pleasure that take intimacy to a much deeper level. It’s very sexy to be seen and cared about in such an intense way.
I agree escape and letting go is absolutely key to the enjoyment, but at the same time, BDSM play can be a cathartic expression of power relations as they exist in the real world. Much is made of the irony of the female executive getting off on being dominated in bed, but male desire still defines female sexuality in our culture. Women are still divided into good girls who follow the rules and bad girls who give in to their carnal urges. A female submissive can have it both ways. She can obey the Patriarch’s orders and have a hell of a good time.
A favourite variation on this scenario for me is the Dom “forcing” his woman to have sex with another man. Heavens me, everyone knows a good girl saves her treasure for the man she loves! But duty to him binds her to have unbridled sex with an attractive stranger. Except there’s no guilt to the adventure, because he made her do it! Does it get better than that?
Your story, Spring Training, is a hot and sweet tale of an established couple looking to deepen their connection. I wonder if there was any one thing that triggered the idea for you? For me, with Under the Clock, it was as simple and banal as walking across the Waterloo Station concourse and remembering a tryst I’d once had there. (I wasn’t wearing latex.)
Simple inspiration is obviously effective, because as a reader I was totally transported to the train station and so keenly aware of the sensual details, the smells, the sounds. I loved the sense of waiting and wondering what would happen at the narrator’s destination.
My story had a local inspiration as well. When I started writing “Spring Training,” the baseball team across the Bay, the San Francisco Giants, had just won the World Series. I’m not a baseball fan, but the romantic story of an underdog team going on to win it all pulled everyone into the celebration. Combine that with the fact I’ve long been intrigued by the idea of training the body for sex as you might for a sport. Sex is supposed to be natural and spontaneous and to prepare for it in any way is another taboo, especially for women. But I find it sexy to make a conscious decision to improve your stamina and skills in bed as you might try to hone your writing skills, for example.
I liked the way you tied your story in with baseball training routines – that was a really cute touch. What moment in the story stood out the most for you?
I had a lot of fun with the baseball references. “Don’t stop believing” was the local motto for the Giants. And of course “getting to first/second/third base” and “hitting a homerun” have been traditional American slang for sexual conquest. In my story, I twist the baseball terminology around a little for the benefit of the female partner’s pleasure.
Your anal scene was very intense for me. I read it twice over. I enjoyed Josh and Erin’s dynamic and found it very believable. Plus I loved how much pleasure and fun they took from each other. I’m all for humour in BDSM, and I also prefer characters who seem like people you might meet in the street rather than avatars of Dominance and Submission and Sexiness and whatnot. How far do you like your erotic fiction to be realistic?
Thank you! From my own experience with a few stories of yours, I know the reread is the highest compliment an erotica writer can receive. In my opinion, there are infinite varieties of sexual desire, with an equal variety of approaches in erotic writing to reflect them all. However, there hasn’t been much realistic fiction that celebrates sexual pleasure. It’s mostly about the dangers and horrible consequences of lust. So in my own writing I think I’m both consciously and unconsciously trying to redress that imbalance. I like to write about teachers and market researchers and web designers who like to experiment and play in bed, but not necessarily embrace a radical lifestyle or become an archetype. I like the idea of a reader thinking, “hmm, maybe I could try that myself.”
Having said all that about liking realism, I find I’m often drawn to darker BDSM stories, up to and including dubious consent. Obviously I wouldn’t be comfortable with this in real life – but I wonder what your views are on its representation in fantasy fiction? Should there be limits and, if so, where would you place them?
Fiction can draw heavily from real life, but that doesn’t mean a story has to translate into the author’s desire to act it out in real life. I see the world of fiction as a different land with a different language, a blend of dream symbolism and reality, rather like English is a blend of Romance and Germanic languages. For example, I write a lot of stories about exhibitionism. I don’t want to have sex in public, but I do feel a deep-rooted desire to have my sexuality seen and accepted. Dubious consent fantasies are more about the fantasizer’s complex feelings about saying yes to sex. Sexual fantasy not only stokes the libido, it strokes you in the sensitive places of your psyche. At least that’s what I tell myself when I spin a particularly edgy scene!
In the end, no one can regulate the imagination, and when people try, then things get really screwed up. Some topics are too intense for my tastes, but ideally there could be a form of reader-directed consent. Advertise upfront the nature of the edgy themes in the story and let the reader decide if she’s interested. Maybe put in a disclaimer as they do in mainstream fiction: this is a work of fantasy, just like that shoot ‘em up thriller movie where nobody really dies.
OK, away from the heavy stuff now. You are an erotica legend and your wonderful stories are often the openers or closers of the anthologies you appear in, which speaks volumes. What do you think are the ingredients for a great erotica story?
Wow, I don’t feel worthy of such high praise, but I am happy to have lasted this long in the genre! And as an old-timer, I’d say first that a great erotic story has all the elements of a great story in any genre. A good author offers complex characters facing an interesting conflict, a genuine love of words and images, and an extra level of attention to the unity of the story that comes with thoughtful revision. For erotica there is an additional element—there has to be a great respect for the power of sexuality in our lives, the joy and transcendence, the shame and the fear. Coming at the same question from the writer’s perspective, I’ve found that when I dream up a storyline that truly intrigues, mystifies and arouses me, it tends to have the same affect on my reader. When I care about what I do, the reader feels that magic.
I’d love to know what you’re working on right now. Any BDSM in the pipeline? I’ve just submitted a BDSM novella to Mischief, so it’s still very much on my mind.
Ah, that sounds juicy! I’m now putting together an ebook collection of my stories set in Japan, where I lived for three years in the 1980s. I’m going to write two more new stories, and of course, since they’re set in Japan, it is impossible to avoid the society’s hierarchical power structure. (There’s even an official verb tense called the “suffering passive.”) So why not make it sexy while I’m at it?
The Suffering Passive! Now that would make a great story title. I think I might have to visit Japan…
You can read Donna’s wonderful story, Spring Training, in Bound By Lust, edited by Shanna Germain and published by Cleis Press, available now. (Click through for Amazon listing.)