I love Gothic. So it’s probably no surprise to my readers that I’ve done another book with the Gothic at its core – Darker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance. A follow-up to my anthology Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance, Darker Edge of Desire does just what it says on the tin and a whole lot more. This time I’ve given this cross-over collection an even more jagged edge than its predecessor, since I know how much you like jagged edges. If you’re expecting a smooth ride, you won’t be getting one!
What you will get are 14 stories from a cast of awesome writers who aren’t afraid to explore the dark side. You’ll also get interesting commentary in a foreword from Kate Douglas and afterword from Rachel Caine. As with many of my titles, I like to mix and blend genres and I’ve done so with this one as well. You’ll nibble on a bit of horror, paranormal romance, fantasy, suspense and even steampunk, not to mention meet a few ghosts, vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters. You’ll even run into a famous literary character along the way. Perfect for a cold winter’s night, eh?
Oh, did I mention there’s sex in the book? 😉
Be sure to keep up with the latest Darker Edge of Desire news on the Facebook fan page, including book reviews, interviews and, of course, everyone’s favourite – book giveaways!
Last November saw the publication of my sexually explicit Gothic novel The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray, a sequel to Oscar Wilde’s classic work about a man whose fateful wish to remain forever young and beautiful yields a bit more than he bargained for. The story moves through time from Victorian London on up to the present day, taking Dorian on a rollercoaster ride of unrepressed hedonism that’s not only sexual in the extreme, but fatal to many whose lives intersect with his.
The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray by Mitzi Szereto
Now it seems as if we’re seeing Dorian everywhere we turn – from actor/director Samuel Orange’s audience-friendly 2013 London stage performance set in Dorian’s “townhouse” (in reality Orange’s residence) to Britain’s royal family of thespians the Redgraves and the Foxes joining forces in a 2014 stage interpretation replete with all the sordidness Wilde could only hint at. And just this week we have the debut of the Showtime TV series Penny Dreadful, which features our dear decadent Dorian in a starring role courtesy of actor Reeve Carney, along with several other famous Victorian-era literary characters woven into the Gothic plotlines.
Do I sense a trend or perhaps more so the simple desire by creative artists to take inspiration from one of literature’s most fascinating and iconic characters, creating something new from the old?
Judging from the unmistakably adult content in these various works, it appears that I’m not the only one to have picked up on the cloaked sexuality and homoeroticism in Oscar Wilde’s novel, which he was forced to revise and censor in order to even make it “publishable.” Indeed, I stirred up a fair bit of controversy for interpreting Wilde’s character as a man driven almost exclusively by the desire to sexually corrupt others (with all the sordid details included) – a modus operandi that should be obvious to anyone who’s read with any semblance of care the original novel, which portrays Dorian as a sexual profligate who dallied with both men and women. Having been granted the freedom to work without fear of censorship (or a prison term), contemporary writers such as myself have finally been able to portray Dorian Gray as Oscar Wilde no doubt intended.
Yet even before the advent of The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray and Penny Dreadful Dorian was already being given new life. Director and choreographer Matthew Bourne‘s passionate and gender-swapping 2008 London dance production Dorian Gray is still making its way around the world, giving audiences further insight into the Dorian Gray of Wilde’s wicked imagination. Bourne’s version even goes so far as to change the gender of Sibyl Vane to that of a male, thereby throwing open the door to a full-on homosexual liaison. And the 2009 film version starring Colin Firth as Dorian’s mentor Lord Henry Wotton takes things well over the top when it comes to Dorian’s extravagant sexual behaviour, which descends into a degeneracy that proves as shocking as it does titillating.
These stage and film productions are no shrinking violets when it comes to dishing out some steam, and it appears that Penny Dreadful isn’t doing much blushing either. Intense sexual situations and nudity with Dorian at their core abound – and series’ creator John Logan makes no apologies. And why should he? Dorian Gray is the ultimate bad boy – a bad boy who’s irresistible to everyone he meets. When you’ve been granted eternal life and beauty, you have the freedom to do anything you want and have nothing to lose. Perhaps this is the key to Dorian Gray’s perpetual appeal, particularly in contemporary times. He dares to do what most of us would hardly dare to imagine!
Which only goes to prove that great literature will always inspire writers and other creative artists. And if it arrives with a delicious helping of the Gothic, so much the better!
(Shameless plug since this is my blog and I’m allowed to do these things: If you can’t get enough Gothic – and let’s face it, none of us can! – my new anthology Darker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance is now available for pre-order worldwide from Amazon and other major booksellers. So get a jump on the neighbours! After all, you wouldn’t want to be left behind, would you?)
I figured that since so many journalists and broadcasters keep interviewing me and asking me for quotes about the recent publishing phenomenon of 50 Shades of Grey, I thought it was time I put in my two pence’ worth right here at my blog.
Now I’m the last person to rain on anyone’s parade, especially another author’s. Those of us who toil in this usually thankless and poverty-stricken profession know all too well how difficult it is to make a living, let alone garner the kind of phenomenal success now being enjoyed by 50Shades author E. L. James, who, up until this time, wasn’t even a professional author (and there are many who would argue that she still isn’t). However, as a writer and editor who does quite a bit of work in the area known as “erotic literature” or “erotic fiction” or “erotica,” I’m truly in the dark as to what all the fuss is about.
James’s novel (and their many continuations) focus on a BDSM relationship between a “submissive” young woman and a “dominant” man. The book evolved from her fan fiction site for Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling novel Twilight. Though unlike Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey has lots of sex in it.
Explicit sex. And some of it is considered kinky depending on what church you go to.
Err… okay. So what? Is this anything new? Has no one ever written these kinds of novels before? Has no one heard of the similarly themed classic The Story of O? Has no one seen the gazillion erotic novels that have been published over the last few decades detailing precisely the same plotline, replete with salacious details? Has no one noticed the amount of explicit sex to be found on the pages of what are considered to be “mainstream” as well as “literary” novels, not to mention “women’s fiction”?
The fact that 50 Shades appears to be geared toward women readers also seems to have raised eyebrows. I guess all those Black Lace erotic novels written by women for women never existed, not to mention the many similar publishing imprints that have been doing the exact same thing for years, all vying for the exact same audience – an audience which appears to be reading content that has now become commonly known as (*gags*) “Mommy Porn.”
What I’d like to know is, where have all these goggle-eyed readers and journalists been living – in a cave? Even if you’re sweet sixteen and have no literary history under your belt, a visit to the local bookshop or a perusal of the steamy books on offer at Amazon will be sufficient to educate you that these kinds of novels have been around for eons. Some are well written, some poorly written. But this phenomenon is nothing new. For the media and reading public to suddenly make out as if Ms James has invented the erotic novel is a slap in the face for the multitudinous authors both past and present who have been doing the same thing – and quite possibly doing it better!
Of course many of these authors are hoping that the huge success of 50 Shades will translate into greater success for their own books. And perhaps it will. Whether it does anything to improve the actual quality of material being written remains to be seen.
Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts by Mitzi Szereto
Countenances are integral to literature. Authors would lose a lot of content if we didn’t discuss countenances. Countenances help the reader envision the characters. With this in mind, I decided to write a novel that replies heavily on countenances.
And what better place to start than with Jane Austen’s literary classic Pride and Prejudice?
It all began in the spring of last year with a pilgrimage to Jane’s house in the lovely English village of Chawton in Hampshire. I, along with my ursine sidekick Teddy Tedaloo, decided to visit for a bit of research and inspiration in preparation for the writing of my new book Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts. Little did I realise what would come of it.
Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo call on Jane Austen
Yes, folks, you heard it here first. I met Jane Austen (or at least the non-corporeal version). And boy, did she have a lot to say! Apparently when she wrote Pride and Prejudice way back when, she had to tone things down. A lot. There was no way she could get away with telling us all the juicy stuff that really went on behind closed doors (or in the garden or out by the stable). It wouldn’t have been at all politic! Of course, she hinted a bit here and there, hoping the more savvy of her readers would pick up on these tidbits.
Whether they did or not remains to be seen. Therefore the task fell to me to… err… spill the beans.
I must admit that while writing the story behind Pride and Prejudice, even I couldn’t believe what manner of activities the characters were getting up to. Indeed, I found it positively shocking! As my fingers clicked and clacked on the computer keyboard revealing all these hidden lusts and outrageous goings-on in Longbourn, Netherfield, Hunsford Parish and Pemberley, my countenance grew heightened till I could scarcely draw a breath. I had to consume endless cups of tea to calm my nerves as well as take refreshment out of doors before I could continue on to the next chapter. Had it not been for the kind patronage of Miss Austen (not to mention the not-so-kind condescension of Lady Catherine de Bourgh), I don’t know what would have become of me. It’s most fortunate that I also had the pious (or should that be priapic?) council of Mr. Collins available, should I have required it. After all, I didn’t want matters to get too out of control. Not that the fellow had much time for me, what with his various duties in his parish, not to mention in everyone else’s. For a village parson, he sure got around!
I suppose I should be grateful for the wisdom of the Bennet family patriarch, whom one could always count on to be level-headed and not disposed to bouts of excitability like his wife. Though I suppose everyone needs an outlet to blow off steam now and then. Surely you didn’t think Mr. Bennet spent all that time in the library reading?
But what of Mrs. Bennet and her poor nerves? Were they merely the result of a naturally high-strung temperament or was there another reason for her condition? And what about the youngest of the Bennet sisters, dear impetuous Lydia? All those dishy young soldiers passing through Meryton – what’s a young lady to do? Surely she had to sample them all! As for Hill, the Bennets’ housekeeper, perhaps those details are best left to the heartier of folk.
Mr. Darcy! Be still my heart!
And then there’s our protagonist Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who observed all with a keen wit and a critical eye. She was not the sort to suffer fools gladly. Nor, I suspect, was her creator, Miss Jane Austen.
As for the handsome and prideful Mr. Darcy, well… that would be telling, wouldn’t it? Let’s just say that it was no wonder the buttons on his breeches came loose, what with all that straining going on.
To be made privy to all the sexual madness and mayhem transpiring in Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts, I recommend you avail yourself of your favourite bookseller and buy a copy today. After all, you don’t want to be left out of all the fun!
Teddy Tedaloo receives his advance copies of Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts
Step right up and enter to win a chance to receive a pre-publication copy of my raunchy and outrageous new novel, Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts! The book won’t be out till July, but if you fancy a sneak preview, speak now or forever hold your peace! (Or whatever it is you prefer to hold…)
For more details on how to enter, please visit the official Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts website. Oh yeah, and while you’re at it, you can become a fan on Facebook and keep up with all the news! After all, you don’t want to be left behind, do you?
Check out my latest interview at Eden Fantasys, where I discuss writing, blogging, Mitzi TV, erotica, my new book In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales, the publishing business and, of course, being a social media maven! There’s even some advice for aspiring writers.
“Mitzi Szereto is best known for writing which mixes classical elements with current trends. How does combining the past with the present inspire Mitzi’s creative process? How does she see the erotic genre evolving in the future?”
An entire hour of talk on subjects ranging from the internet, world travel, culture shock, life as an expat, books, fairy tales, erotic writing, Las Vegas, British drinking habits, English football, blogging, sex, and Mitzi TV! (Originally broadcast on 4 August 2009 on the “Sin City Sessions” programme with Marq Piocos, BlogTalkRadio).
Mitzi Szereto: Dying For It: Tales of Sex and Death
What do you do when your book is mislabelled? No, I’m not talking about some spotty teenaged kid at Walmart putting the wrong price sticker on it. I’m talking about something a lot more annoying and something which can potentially affect your book sales – sometimes to the negative.
When readers head over to a bookshop or to an online bookseller to find a book to purchase, they might go to a specific category, be it crime, romance, science-fiction, chick-lit, self-help, whatever. They then have certain expectations of what these books will be about. But what happens when a book isn’t quite what it says on the tin? Well, readers may get more than they bargained for and have their reading experience elevated to a higher level. At least this is what we as writers hope will happen! But what about those readers who miss out entirely on a book because of the way in which it’s labelled?
Labelling isn’t necessarily done as a sinister plot to mislead a book buyer into purchasing something he or she doesn’t want to buy (though if a recent article about publishers suddenly labelling everything chick-lit is anything to go by…), but rather a matter of expediency. If it says sci-fi on the cover, booksellers know to stock it on the sci-fi shelves, and readers know to find it there. Simple, right? In the majority of cases, this works just fine for most categories of fiction and non-fiction. But what about those times when it does not work just fine?
I’ll draw upon my own experiences in this area to demonstrate my point. Although much of my work has been in the area of erotic fiction, or “erotica” as it is more commonly referred to, the label has on occasion been misapplied. Case in point: my anthology Dying For It: Tales of Sex and Death. This is a multi-genre collection of short stories ranging from crime, romance and horror, to literary fiction and erotic fiction. Before it went to press, I spoke on the phone to my publisher in New York discussing this very issue: how to label the book. We both agreed that classifying the work as “erotica” was not really accurate, therefore it was agreed that the anthology would not be labelled as such. But when the book came out, there it was on the back cover: “erotica.” Clearly the opinions of the creator and editor of the book (me) and the gentleman who’d so enthusiastically agreed to publish it were overridden by someone with no concept of what the anthology was about (they probably just saw the word “sex” in the title) and had probably not even read one story contained within it.
The problem is, there are many readers out there who are not interested in reading erotica – or what they either rightly or wrongly perceive to be “erotica.” However, they might not be averse to reading material that contains sexual themes or content, providing this is placed within a wider context. These readers probably don’t bat a proverbial eyelash at the sexually explicit and often even purple prose to be found in a John Updike or Philip Roth novel, but will they buy a book that proclaims itself to be erotica? Unlikely. Which means, you’ve lost a reader, and you’ve lost a sale.
Don’t get me wrong – labelling a book in a specific genre can have its advantages, providing said book is labelled properly. But this requires a bit more than a one-size-fits-all mentality by publishers. It requires some thoughtful analysis of what a book is actually about and who might be interested in reading it. It should be the goal of a publisher to attract the widest possible audience to a book, which will result in higher sales figures – and a label can either help or hinder this process. Placing a book such as my Dying For It into a specific classification can undermine what the author (or editor) is trying to accomplish. Likewise, it can keep readers away from books they might have considered, were it not for the label. A book is not a garment with a tag sewn into the collar listing its size and washing instructions. By treating it as such, we not only shortchange writers, but readers as well.