Writing What She Lives: Eroticist Giselle Renarde
Erotic fiction has a grand tradition dating back centuries. Pretty much as soon as we began to write, humans were writing something dirty. Fastforward to the present and erotica has greatly benefited from the digital age, with ebooks being a huge marketplace for smut scribblers.
Giselle Renarde, proud Canadian writer is a prominent and prolific contributor to the carnal canon with countless ebooks available and 5 books in print (paper’s not dead yet!). She writes up a storm of sexiness, as well as keeping up her fantastic Donuts and Desires blog.
Sexlife Canada chatted with Giselle about her work and writing, advice to aspiring eroticists and different erotica markets.
SLC: How did you get into writing erotica?
GR: Would you believe I started writing erotica on a dare? A friend told me about a radio interview he’d heard (on CBC, of course—oh so Canadian!) with an erotic fiction writer. He said, “Hey, why don’t you give that a shot?” and I suppose I took it as a challenge. I followed the example of Mavis Gallant and decided I’d submit three stories for publication. If one got picked up somewhere I would continue writing. If they were all rejected, I would pack it in. Thank goodness one kindly editor decided to publish my work, such as it was in those days.
SLC: What was the first erotica story you wrote?
GR: I know how terrible this sounds, but I actually don’t remember. The first story that got published was "The Birthday Gift", which is now in its second incarnation as an ebook with eXcessica publishing. As for the very first story I wrote…hmm…I remember putting pen to paper, which I never do anymore, so it’s probably still tucked away in my closet somewhere. My suspicion is that my first story was “All in a Valentine Day’s Work,” which is a funny little porn throwback about Lexi the bisexual building superintendent. My work is often described as ‘quirky’ and it’s definitely that.
SLC: Who are your inspirations?
GR: The greats of Canadian literary fiction: Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence, Ann-Marie MacDonald (whom I recently saw in More Fine Girls at the Tarragon here in Toronto. My God, that woman gets younger by the year!), and a big-time inspiration is Robertson Davies. It was through his work that I realized Canadian literature can be academic or artistic or Jungian—a more refined wilderness.
SLC: On which do you spend more time working: stories or your blog?
GR: You sound a lot like that little 'work ethic' voice in the back of my mind. A writer’s job should be to write, right? And I do write. A lot. But you can have dozens of ebooks on the market and five books in print, as I do, and if you don’t promote your work, how will anybody know you exist? The erotica/romance/erotic romance genres are super-saturated and, yes, publishers do their bit to promote their authors’ books, but unless you’ve got a personal publicist (I don’t) nobody’s out there telling readers about you.
To answer your question, although I’d love to say I do more writing than anything else, I work at my writing career probably 12-16 hours a day and a big chunk of that time goes to marketing. That includes my Donuts & Desires blog, social networking on Twitter, and lots of other things…like this interview. (Which I’m enjoying tremendously, I should say. In fact, the reason marketing ends up eating so much time is that it’s so much fun!)
SLC: Of the various couplings (and more) you write about, which is your current favourite?
GR: I think I’m happiest writing what I live, which means trans lesbian erotica. I identify as queer, my girlfriend is transgender, and when I sit down to write about us, it’s always a loving tribute. In fact, last spring, loveyoudivine Alterotica released My Mistress’ Thighs, an anthology of my transgender erotic fiction and poetry, which I dedicated to my Sweet.
But, of course, trans lesbian erotica is a very very very niche market. Very. So it helps pay the rent when I write about other configurations too. And, actually, I really enjoy the variety. I’d get bored writing the same pairing again and again. I have fun with cisgender lesbian porn, and I’ve been writing a lot of group sex lately. My first novel, Anonymous, is MMF ménage—and follows very much in the Atom Egoyanesque Canadian filmic tradition. But, then, my book Stacy’s Dad Has Got It Going On was just recently released, and it’s an older man/younger woman escapade that’s totally straight. So I really do write across the spectrum.
SLC: What are some topics you haven't written about but hope to explore?
GR: I tend to write an idea the moment it pops into my head (which also means I’m constantly shifting stories from front to back burners) so I’m not really sure. I would like to try my hand at some LGBTQ fiction for young adults. I have a few publishers with YA imprints, particularly in gay and lesbian fiction. I remember how unrepresented I felt, growing up and reading books with no lesbian characters, and no female characters who were more masculine-identified. Even then I felt like it put my identity under erasure. So I guess that idea’s waiting for one of those burners to open up.
SLC: What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring erotica writer?
GR: Write a lot and submit your work everywhere. Check out the Author Resources page at the Erotica Readers & Writers Association website for current calls for submissions. Follow editors’ guidelines to the letter, don’t submit late, and definitely don’t format your manuscript in bright purple Curlz font unless that’s what the editor asks for—though, trust me, they won’t. Stay within the word count. Don’t get into the mindset of “they’ll make an exception for me” because the impression you’ll inadvertently give is that you were not paying attention to the editor’s requests.
If you don’t know how to write a query letter, do a Google search and learn how. Never send a story attached to an email that says nothing but, “dude i wrote this can u put it in ur anthology?” Editors won’t be impressed. And remember: rejection is part of the business. I’ve had literally hundreds of stories published in paying markets and I still get rejection letters. And you will too. And it sucks at first, but you don’t feel so bad about it once you realize that many more manuscripts are rejected than accepted, and it doesn’t (necessarily) mean your work is crap.
Here’s the most important part: if your work is rejected, do not harass the editor. Don’t tell them you’ve read other ebooks in their line or other anthologies they’ve put together and your story is far superior to everything. Don’t even ask why. They might tell you why in the rejection letter, but either way just accept it and move on. If you absolutely have to respond, don't say anything more than, “Thank you for reading my work.” Seriously. You don’t want to burn your bridges before you’ve crossed them. Eventually you’ll see that acceptance letter, and then yay you!
SLC: If you could mail the entire collection of your work to one person in the world to have that person read, who would that be?
GR: This is going to sound really stupid, but I’d send it to my girlfriend. I have this fantasy that one day she’ll actually read my books. In fact, she has copies of all my books and the spines aren’t even creased. Isn’t that ridiculous? It’s a totally different story if I ask her to proofread or edit a manuscript. Then she’s right on the task and she’s got all kinds of useful comments and she wants to know, “What did you use? Did you like my wording there? Are you considering making that change I suggested?” She gets super-invested in the project. But if it’s already published…meh. Not so interested. Though, she did smile when I showed her the dedication in My Mistress’ Thighs. It’s not every day someone dedicates a book to you.
SLC: What do you have upcoming and what are you planning for the future?
GR: I’m gearing up to put out another anthology with loveyoudivine. This one’s all kinky group sex. Some of the stories to be included, like Waxing is for Pussies, Elementary My Dear Kathryn, and Five Body Blade are already available as ebooks, but some people still like to hold that paperback in their hands. I’m one of those, so I totally understand.
Aside from that, I’ll be wrapping up my trans lesbian Red Satin trilogy this year, and that should be available in paperback and ebook this December. I’ve got a pansexual erotic novel on the go, which, like Anonymous, involves some male prostitution. Lots more short stories, too. Always with the short stories! I think the wee ones will always be my favourites.