Today I'm welcoming Maxim Jakubowski to the blog. Don't forget to leave a comment at the end of this post for a chance to win a copy of Ekaterina and the Night!
MAXIM JAKUBOWSKI worked for many years in book publishing as an editor (including titles by William Golding, Peter Ackroyd, Oliver Stone, Michael Moorcock, Peter Ustinov, Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Paul Ableman, Sophie Grigson, Marc Behm, Cornell Woolrich, etc...) and launched the Murder One Bookshop, which he owned and ran for over 20 years. He now writes, edits and translates full-time in London.
THE LONG, SLOW AND WINDING ROAD TO EROTICA
I think a lot of authors write erotica because they one day came across some by intent or trial and error on a random bookshelf and it appealed to them and they thought 'why not me?' or 'I can do that'. Which is as good as reason as any. Or, if they are professional writers were given the opportunity to write erotica for the money (as happened to Anais Nin) and then hopefully found out that they were actually quite good at it. A smaller proportion of writers chance upon erotica by accident or even, I have come across some authors/friends who didn't even realise they were writing erotica until it was actually pointed out to them.
My path to the holy grail of erotica was different.
As an introverted only child (well, my sister wasn't born until I'd reached twelve, so it felt that way) I was deeply immersed in my own private worlds and, as a consequence, became from an early age a heavy reader. My early passion (let's not mention that for many years all I wanted to be was a bike racer in the Tour de France...) was in fact science fiction, which I devoured with a vengeance. Sense of wonder and all that. As for sex, it never seemed to interest me somehow. It was part of another world and I couldn't truly perceive its attractions. In fact, my discovery of masturbation and reaching orgasm came about in a totally sideways fashion, which I have described in a chapter of one of my novels, whilst attributing the totally bizarre if not hilarious circumstances to the book's main protagonist. Whenever, on the occasion of our summer holidays, I'd run out of SF fodder, I'd have to fall back on second hand crime paperbacks which introduced me to sex in roundabout ways, seeing that most of it happened off page (I still hold in much affection the pulp thrillers of Richard Prather, Mickey Spillane and the French OSS series...) but did make it sound somewhat interesting at least, even if the repeated blows to the head the heroes suffered were no encouragement to follow in their footsteps even if a blonde dame would eventually offer some mysterious form of compensation when the door to the bedroom closed. You must understand that in those days, sex was a definite no-no in science fiction and fantasy. Sex in space: quelle horreur! Enough to put your rocketship off course and as to the pulp covers of the old magazines where humungous monsters always appeared to be assaulting and partly undressing fair maiden, they were just downright funny and never appeared to have any real connections to the reality of bodies!
So, my SF was quite uncontaminated, and all was well with the world.
I began writing stories, and living in France as a British kid , grew up bilingual and was soon offering my translation services to a local SF magazine only to discover very quickly that actual authors of stories were paid so much more. At a time when I depended on my father's uneasy generosity for my pocket money, this became a major incentive. For reasons I cannot now fathom when I reread those early stories written when I was only 15 or so, I was occasionally published. However, this was also the time when my hormones began raging and I was beginning to take notice of girls with growing interest, and somehow out of my control, within a few years, the characters in my stories also grew up and began to experience similar urges and desires. And once I'd published my first collection of stories with a French publisher at the age of 18, I felt that I was naturally now the King of the Universe and began experimenting and introducing small amounts of sex, behind closed doors of course, into my new yarns. This did not prove popular, to say the least. At the time only the US author Philip Jose Farmer had dared enter such taboo territory (and also did it with so much more talent than the teenage me).
But to me, it just felt natural. Even though I was toiling in a fictional universe, I wanted my characters to have a veneer of reality, to literally be flesh and blood, defined individuals. Surely this made them more credible, interesting, I felt. Or made it easier for me too actually identify with them, at a time when all I thought of, apart from writing and reading SF, was the lure of the opposite sex! So the characters I wanted to be began having the sex I wasn't enjoying as liberally in real life!
To cut a long story short, I never did become a popular SF writer. I was ahead of my time and in my mid-20s I sadly stopped writing in the genre because of the editorial restrictions that prevented me from not so much sexing my tales up, but in my own view giving them a thicker veneer of real life.
Skip a decade and there I am writing crime and thrillers. The times have changed and the appearance of sex between the characters is not frowned upon as much as it once used to be, at any rate in editorial circles, although I quickly found at conventions and literary events that the majority of readers in the field were still stuck in the past, captive of the dreadful cosiness found in Agatha Christie and all the Golden Age British crime writers. Needless to say, my crime books had limited appeal. But I persisted against the winds of fashion to write the way it just felt natural to do.
Then one day, SF writer Ian Watson, a good friend, allowed me to borrow all the Essex House books he had picked up on a lacl American military base whilst teaching in Japan. I'd already read the notorious Philip Jose Farmer SF titles but was unaware of all the other titles and authors of the already defunct erotic list. I was quickly entranced. People like Michael Perkins and David Meltzer were writing the sort of stuff that I'd always known was possible if editorial taboos were ignored. Their books still remain to date the pinnacle of what has been achieved by contemporary literary erotica. I wrote a long essay on the imprint for an academic journal, and the infleunce naturally began seeping into my own stories and books.
I'd already done a few anthologies for Nick Robinson's Mammoth list in other genres and suggested that a volume of erotica might prove interesting and a good commercial proposition, His initial reaction was negative, but I eventually ground him down and was given the go-ahead for the initial volume which became the MAMMOTH BOOK OF EROTICA, which became an immediate bestseller; I had the whole field to mine and came up with wonderful stories and excerpts from such mainstream authors as Anne Rice, Leonard Cohen, Martin Amis, Will Self, Clive Barker, Poppy Z, Brite and so many others. I was vindicated: erotica could be taken seriously.
From that day onwards, I have been writing with no regard for self-censorship, allowing sex to permeate all my books, including my thrillers, to the extent of even penning a number of purely erotic novels, of which the recently-published EKATERINA AND THE NIGHT is my latest. I've found my voice and am at last at ease in my literary skin.
I do emphasise 'literary'; it's not an affectation. I truly believe that erotic writing can aspire to the same lofty aims as other popular culture genres like crime or SF & fantasy and horror, or even what is mistakenly referred to as mainstream writing by some. It's not a sub-genre, a ghetto, a harmless distraction for sexual wish fulfillment. It can be entertaining but also offer social content, meditations on the world and relationships.
A lofty ambition I know, but at the end of the day I don't wish to be seen as just someone who wrote smutty stories. I write; full stop. It just happens to be erotic.
Lolita meets Story of O, another memorable tale of love, sex and feelings from ‘the King of the erotic thriller’
When Ekaterina meets Alexander a shockingly sexy but tender romance develops.
She is a young Italian trainee journalist, who dreams of wild sexual adventures. He is the older Englishman who she believes can fulfill her fantasies. When Ekaterina is sent to interview the ageing writer Alexander in London, she is blinded by his charm and experience. Their relationship explodes in a sensual orgy, which defies society’s acceptance.
When a mysterious angel of death who calls herself Emma enters their lives, Ekaterina and Alexander know their days together are numbered.
A shocking climax set in Venice in winter brings the three protagonists together.
A tale of sex and tenderness that ranks alongside Jakubowski classic The State of Montana.
Also available in paperback
COMMENT TO WIN!
Courtesy of Xcite Books, three lucky winners can get their hands on a copy of Ekaterina and the Night in their choice of paperback or digital format. (International entries welcome)
Simply leave a comment on this post to win. Be sure to check out the rest of the posts in the tour, because the more comments you make, the more chance you have of winning! Go here to see the blog tour schedule.
PLEASE leave your email address in the body of the comment. No email address = no entry. Winners will be drawn and contacted on the week ending 11th November 2011.