I met a great group of writers on Kristen Lamb’s “We Are Not Alone” blog-boosting course. As a group we come and go, but have an email connection that we all use from time to time. When Joy Daniels had her latest two projects coming to fruition, she lets us know about them, and I asked her if she wouldn’t mind answering a couple of questions for me. She was kind enough to agree, and I asked about her contribution to “Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey” and her own new book “Revving her up“.
What’s the idea behind “Fifty Writers on Fifty shades of Grey”? And how did you get to be involved?
“Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades” explores the novels and pop culture phenomenon of E. L. James’ trilogy from, not surprisingly, fifty difference angles. It includes authors, a psychologist, a publisher, a matrimonial lawyer, BDSM practitioners, and a sex educator, as well as two fictional parodies. As Publisher’s Weekly said in their (stared) review: “Love Fifty Shades or hate it, this engaging eclectic read has something for everyone.”
Lori Perkins, the editor of “Fifty Writers” and the head of the literary agency that represents me (L. Perkins Agency), invited me to write an essay on the sexual arc of the first novel after I subjected her my theory of the role of sex scenes in erotic romance. (No, they’re not just there for titillation, although that is one of their functions).
Why do you think the original trilogy made such an impact, despite the legions of bad reviews and negative opinions online?
Fifty Shades of Grey started out as Twilight fan fiction. Since Meyer’s books are among the most popular in history (amazingly enough) James’ take-off started out with a built-in audience. After the first million or so readers, are the rest really so hard to get? Seriously, once it became the “must-read” book, women bought it just to find out what the hell everyone else was going on about.
I enjoyed “Fifty Shades of Grey.” No, it’s not brilliantly written and the heroine is whiny and annoying, but the sex scenes are incredibly hot! Just as no one buys Playboy for the articles (yes, there are articles), no one cares whether E. L. James used proper grammar when describing the Red Room of Pain.
Some folks have criticized the books because of the relationship between Ana and Christian, saying that it’s sexist and demeaning to women. Feminism means honoring women’s sexual desires and choices, whether we’re comfortable with them or not. Besides, is it all that surprising that in our patriarchal world, so many women have patriarchal fantasies? As for how it will “affect” women, that’s just a lot of paternalistic BS. I don’t recall legions of op-eds predicting that kids would start leaping off buildings with brooms between their legs after reading Harry Potter – perhaps we can credit adult women with a comparable ability to distinguish between fact and fantasy?
As for the bad reviews: from what I’ve heard, Meyers’ books aren’t that great (haven’t read them myself) but that didn’t stop her from becoming insanely popular either. Clearly, the average reader couldn’t care less about what literary critics think – she’s going to read what she likes.
Is the success of Fifty Shades something that can be emulated by other writers?
Not quite at the same level – we haven’t seen another mid-grade success like Harry Potter – but many erotica authors are benefitting from James’ success, so bless her!
By eliminating Point of Sale shame, e-publishing has caused an explosion of erotica, or so it seems. Do you think other genres are catching up, or is my assumption the result of biased reporting?
Romance has always been the #1 bestselling genre, and it was the only one with sales that grew during the recession. Happy endings and all that. Romance readers are voracious, buying fifty or more books a year. And that was when they had to endure disparaging looks at the bookstore and on the metro. Now that e-readers have eliminated that “shame”, as you put it, and it’s become so incredibly easy to buy books from your Kindle or Nook, those numbers are only going to climb. Can I get a “Hallelujah”?
Many people think that, by removing the Gatekeepers of traditional publishing, e-publishing has allowed everyone and their dog to become authors. Peer review ought to separate the wheat from the chaff, but responses to books of questionable quality don’t seem enough to keep sales down. Will things ever shake down, or are we always going to struggle to find the good, new writers by wading through oceans of dross?
True peer review only exists where objective truth is a possible, i.e. in the hard sciences. Everything else is subjective. A book review is one man/woman’s personal opinion no matter how erudite, lettered, or snobbish the source.
The idea that publishers and agents were the only legitimate gatekeepers is ridiculous. I’ve read plenty of published books that sucked, as I’m sure you have, as well as stories that were rejected dozens of times by the so-called “gatekeepers” before they went on to sell millions. Publishing folks have their own biases and personal tastes, and are no more objective than you or I.
There are no gatekeepers for restaurants – so how do you find somewhere worth eating? Google reviews, Yelp and the like, right? Same thing for books – you can check out reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, book review blogs. Why trust a single editor or the group-think of the New York publishing scene when I can get multiple viewpoints and reviews? I tend to follow reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist, and recommendations from friends. Finally, I rely on trial and error, i.e. taking chances on books that just sound good. Amazon lets you return e-books for a refund up to seven days after purchase, so I can read a few chapters and send the book back if I don’t like it.
Tell us more about your new novel “Revving Her Up.”
“Revving Her Up” is an erotic novella about a New York lawyer who finds a surprising solution for her troubles when her car breaks down in a small Virginia town. It’s my debut novella and my first attempt at writing erotic romance.
I’ve lived in the Washington, DC area on and off for almost ten years. While I won’t claim that it’s truly “The South”, it’s a lot closer to it than my native New York City.
Many thanks to Joy for answering my questions, and I wish her all the best with both books (which are available NOW! Follow the embedded links to Amazon and make your purchase! Then don’t forget to write your review and help your fellow readers make THEIR decision.) Joining a group like WANA can help with more than just your writing. As a group we send each other regular messages of support and pleas for help and encouragement. Writing can be a lonesome and frustrating business, and it can really help to have friends who understand the stresses and strains.