Going Hysterical Over Historical Erotica
, quite a fan of historical erotic fiction herself, asks author Richard V Raiment to dish on his love of writing such erotica.
You wrote, "Much of what I write IS set in the past, especially in the years and centuries up to around 1800 before women began wearing drawers." What do you feel is powerful about stories set in the past? What elements do you think historical settings present which modern readers crave?
I find the present preternaturally dull and dispiriting, full of people who talk about love and care and practice, or have practised on their behalf, hatred and violence. Red tape and state organisation, the dominance of the workplace and massive interference of the state make it all the more tedious. There is little left, in many ways, to explore.
I come from the past, recalling a time when the people in my street could be woken up by a little old lady who, having invested in an alarm clock, would tap on their bedroom windows with a long pole. I bathed, once, in the steam of monolithic black steam engines and remember a time when, in my own country, kids could play in an almost traffic free street from dawn til dusk.
The authors who most influenced me, too, and the composers and artists, came from that past. Where is the Beethoven or the Tchaikosky of today, the Turner or the Gainsborough. Dickens, Conrad, Thackeray, Shakespeare, Fielding, Defoe ... they have no modern equivalent for me, and Dickens' remains almost the only writer whose work I can read and re-read endlessly without becoming bored or weary.
There is a sense, I guess, in which history allows us wider extremes, a broader, more colourful palette. Law and order and burocracy were not as all encompassing, and as hard as life for the many was it often contains, in the comfortable retrospect of a story, more adventure. Whilst none of us would perhaps chose to return to journeying for days in badly sprung, dusty coaches in place of traveling in relative comfort for a matter of hours by bus or train, many of us would probably like the chance to experience it just once perhaps. The hero traveling across outer London in 1700 would be alert to the danger of footpads and highwaymen, dread the sound of the cried "Stand and deliver!". The hero traveling on the 12.30 from Victoria may fear at worst the crash of a stone against the window, thrown by some brainless dickwit because he knows of nothing better to do.
In some ways much of the past, in England anyway, seems somehow less hypocritical. Popes and Peers and magnates whored whilst exhorting others to be faithful and pure, just as they do, I am sure, today. Then, though, everyone knew it and largely understood it.
As mentioned briefly in my original reply, fashion too plays a part. In Salem, Mass, a year or two ago I found a wonderful emporium of 17th and 18th century style clothes and still wish (a) that I had a great deal more money and (b) that I could easily return there in order to pick up the wonderful full-sleeve shirts, brocaded coats and vests, capes and so on. I wonder if it is an indication of how far we have strayed from the natural path that we are perhaps the only species where the male has come to have the most drab plumage?
Only late did it occur to me to wonder how ladies in those extraordinary full and often layered skirts managed to go to the toilet, and it was a joy to discover that for a very long time it was facilitated by the fact that they wore no underwear as such. A lover naked beneath a rain- or fur coat is one thing, a lover naked beneath that awesome formality of hat, hair, bodice and clothing... is quite a-delightful-nother.
I don't write historical stories exclusively, though I am currently working on a mainstream novel about a female pirate, and do come up to date from time to time. Usually my stories are intended to say something useful or meaningful about love, sex and romance or the way we live. I do write almost exclusively female central characters, but then I do both adore and admire women in so many ways.
One key reason for my writing historical fiction is the 'feminism' which has been a part of my world-view since before 'feminism' became a popular label. History as taught is usually the history of 'Great White Men', whilst for me history is about the ordinary individual, the solitary, unremembered Roman soldier marching along a misty road in Britain, Lancastrian rain dripping from the rim of his helmet and slithering icily down his neck. No less importantly - perhaps even more so, for me - it is the story of the woman he made love to in a village the night before, the woman he will return to in his natural home of Gaul or Rome when his tour of duty is over. In short, I write about the history of ordinary people, and especially about 'ordinary' women because history throws into sharp relief the extraordinary things of which such people are capable.
© R V Raiment
For an online glimpse of the author's historical work there is Chasse au Lapins (Rabbit Hunt), set at the time of the French Revolution, and his novel Aphrodite
Overboard, in which an English lady of the late 18th century discovers what life might be like for a native goddess. (Free chapter of Aphrodite Overboard is available at Velluminous.com.)
And there's another interview with Raiment here at SK: Open Marriage, Lipstick, and Low Necklines: R V Raiment Discusses The Meaning Of Monogamy.