Disclaimer: I have not read these books, I have read very little erotica, I write books that are sexy and sultry but in no way qualify as erotica. That being said, this whole phenomenon is amazing me. I have seen Ellen Degeneris' hilarious sketch about the books and also the Mother's Day parody on Saturday Night Live. The books have been discussed endlessly in the author's forums I participate in but, the bottomline is, these books are selling like mad.
The thing I hear over and over in the author's forums is that the writing is positively atrocious. Somewhere on some blog there is a list of the repetition in just the first volume alone and it it pretty funny. I don't remember the exact figures but it was something like “She sighed.” (93 times). All of which proves one thing: those who are looking for erotica don't seem to care about writing quality. I also keep coming across a rumor that the author of the books said she knows they are badly written but people don't care about that. She appears to have a point.
So what is going on. I participate in a few online forums for authors and a large percentage of those authors (both male and female) write erotica/porn. Some of them are doing very, very well, some of them are not. I have read a few samples of popular porn books on Amazon and there haven't been any so far that the samples were sufficiently captivating to make me want to pay for the rest. Of course that's just me. What has made the 50 Shades series stand out from thousands of other such books?
Recently I talked to a friend, a woman about my age who read all 3 of them in a few days and absolutely adored them. Since she is an intelligent woman I asked her what she found so compelling about them? She said, “Oh, the story is so good. You just cannot believe how interesting it is.” So I asked her to tell me the gist of the story without going into graphic detail. After several stuttering starts she finally just said, “I can't explain it, you have to read it for yourself.” Now, this is a woman who has discussed other books in depth with me. But this one she cannot explain.
Now heaven knows I am no prude. Most of my books have sultry, tantalizing scenes in them and one scene in Each Angel Burns got me in big trouble with a popular book review site because it was more explicit than the reviewer was up for (suffice it to say that the lady taught the gentleman a new form of pleasure.) Add to that the fact that my sister refused to keep reading The Old Mermaid's Tale because of a scene in the back seat of a Thunderbird which was more than she could handle. I cannot imagine how that reviewer or my sister would handle the 50 Shades books. But maybe they would. I don't know.
Last night I downloaded a free (yes, I'm cheap) Amazon book of erotica about a naughty wife who just couldn't get enough. I read about 20% of it and the repitition was beyond tedious. I kept nodding off and I don't think that's a good sign. It's not that I don't like sexy reads, I do. There are a few mainstream books that had sultry scenes in them that fired my imagination for weeks (Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series comes to mind.)
Some years back I wrote a few semi-erotic stories for a friend who was editing books of erotica and I got amazingly bored with the stories because part of the editor's requirements was that I use explicit words for various body parts and functions. After the third or fourth time I wrote about her ----- or his ---- I thought, “Who wants to read this? It's tedious.” Obviously I am wrong.
Well, I know I am not going to change the way I write. I will write my stories with sultry, tantalizing (I hope) scenes in them. (My latest book, Depraved Heart, has a love scene on a boat in Gloucester Harbor during the Greasy pole Champions Walk – I liked the metaphore.) And I wish the authors of the erotica books well – though heaven knows they are selling more books than I am. Maybe one of these days I'll understand why.
Thanks for reading.