On CBS Sunday Morning, the weekly news show which usually features stories on movers and shakers behind the news, Bill Geist trotted out to do his bit on the Fifty Shades of Grey “Mommy Porn” phenomenon. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but it did feature a 76-year-old grandmother, or the Queen of Porn as her daughter styled her, erotic romance writer. In less than seven years, Desiree Holt has churned out more than 35 books of erotic fiction, almost all of them for Ellora’s Cave. And she does her research by playing with Mattel dolls which she demonstrated in a heavily edited manner for Geist. I’m really not sure why the use of a Ken doll and two Barbie dolls sticks with me, but it does. What young girl doesn’t play with Barbie dolls? But to use them for testing out sex acts? I’m afraid that image is not going to go away anytime soon, particularly her breaking two of her dolls and stating they should be more flexible—this all in a piece on “Mommy Porn” no less.
Erotic fiction is hot right now. The mainstream popularity made it “okay” to read romance and talk about it in the public media. Book clubs are supposedly hot for it. Everyone is reading an erotic novel or two or three because everyone else does it. It’s the flavor of the season. By April, this flavor will have lasted for over a year. Some people are surprised, but the slew of other authors who are climbing the charts with knock-offs of bondage and erotic sex are enjoying the ride. And the readers? Well, for some readers the plethora of choices is overwhelming, while others are happily enjoying the new books coming out each day. Ah, can you remember when you had to wait at least two weeks or a month for a new release? With technology, a new book or 100 new books are out each day, even on the weekends. It’s truly amazing if you think about it. It’s also very daunting trying to figure out which one to pick.
At least the covers are very subdued. The truly erotic ones competing with Fifty Shades have single objects on them in tones of one color, screaming out “I’m an erotic romance, approved.” While the covers with multiple partners all in strategically placed positions and mostly nude are their down-class cousins who exalt in their erotic tales. It was interesting to see the interview with Desiree Holt as opposed to any interview with E.L. James. Firstly, Holt read her work. Out loud. With gusto. She showed it off to Geist. She was proud. Her children may have derided it but they stated their support of their mother’s efforts. On the other hand, it’s hard to find an interview with James where she sits up straight and shows her face. I’m just saying that’s what I’ve observed. That sense of pride and accomplishment is completely missing. Sure, she must enjoy the monetary aspect, but I seriously doubt we’ll ever see anything else erotic from James.
And what does all this really mean? Well, not too much except it still seems there are two kinds of erotic fiction at least. The kind read for complete enjoyment and the kind read because it’s “accepted” by mainstream readers. Allowing their reporter of quirky events and customs to do a piece on the phenomena of erotic fiction gives a clue about the importance CBS News places on the subject.
So, what’s new in erotic fiction? How about a series set in the world of hard rock? About a band titled Sinners no less? Olivia Cunning has a series that explores the lives of each of the members of a heavy metal band and their very sexual exploits. The first book Backstage Pass (Sourcebooks Casablanca) sets the stage and, while it introduces the characters in the band, also manages to give the reader not only a sizzling erotic read but a true glimpse into the world of heavy metal music and followers. The casual sex, drugs and music details make the books very different from the virginal young woman and older extremely rich billionaire story often detailed in the erotic novel. For some readers, the setting is very different since it deals with casual sex among many different partners, ranging from a groupie to a sex professor, on a regular and accepted basis. And there are drugs and alcohol: both recreational and mandatory. All the things you were warned about by your mother. The next book in the Sinners On Tour series is Rock Hard (Sourcebooks Casablanca) and explores what effect Internet notoriety can have on a couple in the headlines. It’s disturbing but a very compelling read.
Cunning continues the Sinners series with two more books, last year’s Double Time (Sourcebooks Casablanca) which involves a ménage scenario but manages to make the relationships between all three main characters very real and very readable. The latest book is Hot Ticket (Sourcebooks Casablanca, February 2013). Although the timing of events and the publication order is slightly off, Hot Ticket explores the world of domination and sex. It’s a powerful and, one could say, delightful read. When Cunning concentrates on the relationships between characters without extraneous plot, the stories all read well. In fact, she manages to make the Sinners on Tour series a must read in any order. The next and possibly final book in the series, Wicked Beat, will be out in August. And her fans can hardly wait.
So, what do you think about the exploration of erotic fiction in the media? If this is the reading of your choice, are you comfortable with the media depiction?
Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors an annual readers conference, monthly literary events, and book clubs. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.