Thursday, June 16, 2011

Eroticism and the historical novel

This blog post originally appeared as a guest blog at EROTICA FOR ALL (if you don't already know this site check it out! It's a superb resource for erotica readers and writers.)

I'm reposting it here now that THE HARLOT is out, in case it's fun for any readers who've happened on the book since then. I'm also going to link to the related articles and interviews on the website, in case anyone who finds the books later on wants to know about the background ideas and writing process. It's the sort of thing that appeals to me as a reader but up until now I haven't been organising many resources like this for my own work.


I’m currently celebrating the release of my new novel, THE HARLOT. This story is an erotic historical with paranormal elements, set in the time of the Scottish witch trials. If I had to sum the story up in one word it would be “bawdy,” and that’s what I love about writing historical erotic. My characters aren’t the repressed people of the past, those with privilege, wealth, and a place in society. No. What I love to explore is down-to-earth, lusty sorts, those who grab life and live it to the full.

My central characters, Jessie and Gregor, both have troubled histories and walk on the dark side, surviving by the skin of their teeth. Gregor is a man hell bent on revenge, Jessie a whore who is under an accusation of witchcraft—an accusation that could result in the death penalty. Gregor rescues Jessie in order to have her work for him. He sets about teaching her how to seduce his enemy, in order to gain back land that was stolen from his family a decade before. It’s a reasonably businesslike agreement to begin with, but their main obstacles are each other! Gregor is trying to teach Jessie to seduce another man, but Gregor wants Jessie. Jessie wants Gregor. They are both strong willed and both think they can control the other. Given their irresistible sexual attraction the scenario provides an explosive combination of sexuality and desire!

The power dynamic between characters in a society that was overtly male dominated is great fun to play with, but writing about sex and eroticism in a historical setting is both liberating and challenging. An author can’t present a believable historical fiction without some reference to the risk of pregnancy and the sexually transmitted diseases of the time. These are the challenges. The liberation comes in the delightful nuances of the historical setting. In the early 1700′s working women didn’t wear knickers! Oh yes, the accessibility issue is a whole powder keg of eroticism. The ease of throwing up a skirt and petticoats and bending a woman over, can’t you just imagine what a temptation it was? :) Not to mention the whole corset, stays, bodice combo, and stockings that have to be tied with ribbons. Then there’s the men…flowing shirts, polished boots and laced up breeches that left little to the imagination. I’m fanning myself here.

Aside from the central relationship in THE HARLOT there is a secondary male/male plot. The forbidden nature of their affair during that time makes it all the more enticing to my heroine, who has the chance to observe the male lovers. She draws parallels between her own situation—at risk of being put to death for witchcraft—to theirs, the forbidden unlawful practice of homosexuality. The danger posed puts its own spin on their mutual desire, and all of these things bring erotic tension that is unique to that historical setting.

The paranormal aspect of the book gave me a chance to write about pagan sexmagic some more, a theme I adore exploring. Essentially this is the belief that the most powerful energies come from the natural world and its rhythms, and that we can draw on them. The energy between two (or more) people involved sexually and emotionally is something my characters can harness and utilise. Jessie is learning about this, and as her story progresses and her relationship with Gregor grows more passionate and heated, so her magical powers are nurtured and developed, leading to all sorts of shenanigans!

In case you can’t tell, I had enormous fun writing this novel. :) It’s the first in a series of three. THE HARLOT will be followed by THE LIBERTINE, and THE JEZEBEL, the stories of Jessie’s siblings, with lots more bawdy sex and pagan sex magic.


Cat Scarlett said...

This sounds fab. I love historicals, especially when they're down and dirty.

Good luck with it, Saskia!

Cat x

Saskia Walker said...

Thanks, Cat! :)