Spring Celebration interview of the week, a chat with one of my favourite people, the wonderful Giselle Renarde. Giselle is an eroticist (I do so love that term), environmentalist, pastry enthusiast, and a fellow Canadian. She is a supporter of the arts, and an activist for women’s and LGBT rights. I first encountered her during a period when she was donating the royalties from her transgender-focused works to the LGBT Youthline. I knew right away this was a woman I not only wanted to read, but wanted to know, and I'm quite delighted that we were able to connect and remain in touch.
Giselle has graciously agreed to stop by for a chat as part of our Spring Celebration, and to help support our Gender Identity & Expression reading challenge. Her latest (upcoming) release is My Mistress' Thighs, which gathers many of her TG/genderqueer/cross-dressing stories into one convenient collection:
If you've been curious about the lovely Giselle, or at all tempted to check out her work, My Mistress' Thighs is the opportunity you've been waiting for!
Now, without further ado, let's learn a little bit about the woman who has made it her mission to make Canada hotter. Oh, and be sure to comment below for your chance to enter this week's giveaways!
♥ Thanks so much for stopping by Giselle - I am so excited! For those who have not yet had the pleasure of enjoyng your writing, please tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a queer Canadian author, primarily of erotica though I do have a few works of mainstream fiction floating around (most notably, Ugly Naked People, a short lesbian eating disorder story that's received some wonderful reviews). In terms of my erotic fiction, I tend to stray outside the formula. I'll delve into pretty much everything, but I'm happiest writing about characters who identify as transgender, genderqueer, or who are in some way gender non-conforming. Even as a little kid, I was always the loudmouth challenging social norms and asking why boys are allowed to do that and girls have to do this. I would never let anybody squish me into a neat little "girl" box. Now I'm in a wonderful relationship with a woman who is male-to-female transsexual, and a lot of our experiences do find their way into my writing.
♥ Well now, I'm not sure which of you I envy more, but I don't want to ge too far off topic. The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one (and you clearly qualify as accomplished), so please tell us a bit about when you began writing, and how you felt when you first saw your work in print?
Maybe it's a particularly Canadian trait, but I have a tendency to downplay my accomplishments as they come along. When I signed my first e-book contract for The Birthday Gift I was deliriously excited, and then the editing process was so arduous I swore I'd never write anything ever again. By the time the e-book came out, I was saying to myself, "But this is just an e-book. I won't really have accomplished anything until I have a book in print." Of course, when my novella Ondine came out in print (it was already available as an audiobook by then) I was saying to myself, "Well, this is only a novella. I won't really have accomplished anything until a full-length novel comes out." Now I have my first full-length novel, Anonymous, coming out April 23rd and I guess I'll have to find some way to downplay that too. :-)
♥ Do you have a soundtrack to your writing? Is there a particular style of music or other background noise that keeps you focussed and in the mood?
I'm such a Canadian Geek--I listen to CBC, usually Radio 2, sometimes Radio 3 online. I always have my radio on, and I find it easier to write with classical music playing. I get distracted by lyrics.
♥ For some authors, it's coming up with a title, and for others it's writing that first paragraph - what do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing?
I'm terrible with titles. Unless I come up with the title first and then mould the story around it, I always have trouble coming up with something catchy without being hackneyed. My novel Anonymous is the only work I can think of where the title and the plotline came to me at the same time. It's about a woman who arranges to share an anonymous male escort with her bisexual husband, only to become obsessed with finding out his true identity.
♥ Since you describe yourself as an eroticist, I must ask, did you deliberately choose the erotic genre? Is there something specific that draws you to it, or something you feel it offers that other forms of literature do not?
I started writing erotica on a dare. I was very naive about the market at that time, and I wrote a lot of lesbian and female bisexual fiction that wasn't marketable, or so publishers kept telling me. I wrote it because that's what appealed to me. Market demand, by then, had swayed toward M/M and MMF menage and shapeshifters and all that, and I've had success writing MMF menage, but the "man with a chest" alpha male type character...to be honest, I find that so unappealing I won't even try to write it. When it came to choosing to write a novel with a male bisexual/MMF menage theme...the plot came to me so strongly that I had to write it, and I fell absolutely in love with the characters. The men in this book, while they do have the chests, they don't have the attitudes that go along with the chests.
♥ You've talked a bit about having a transsexual partner, so it only seems natural to ask how your past influenced your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?
I think I'm more conscious of when my own experiences don't have a certain bearing on the story, because it's rare. We humans have so many subtle facets that I think it's possible to shine the light on one and then another and another without getting too terribly repetitive. As far as my past is concerned, I think my most autobiographical set of stories is the Audrey and Lawrence series, which is now available as an anthology from eXcessica Publishing. They're not word-for-word events of my life or anything, but they document the emotional muddle of a ten-year relationship as mistress to a married man. It's not what most readers of erotic romance are in the market for, admittedly, but there's a lot of truth in it. I think adultery is still part of the dark underbelly of erotic romance, and there are so many gritty emotions to explore alongside the raw sexuality of it, that I find the subject fascinating.
♥ I think it's that willingness to mix real, human experiences with raw sexuality that makes your work so appealing. When you're not writing (or reading), what are some of the hobbies and passions that keep you happy?
I'm pretty much always reading and writing, but I would love to have more time to paint (I'm afraid I've forgotten how, it's been so long!) and I do frequent the symphony and the theatre and the opera. I'm all kinds of nerdy like that. I also do a lot of volunteer work.
♥ Hmm, I'd love to see you find the time to illustrate one of your own covers, but not if it takes away from your writing time. Now, I know you're quite proudly Canadian, so I have to ask, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired you?
I have to say Robertson Davies, because before I read his work I'd never encountered Canadian stories that focused so cleverly on the mind and academia and the arts. It was strangely freeing to realize someone had lain the groundwork to continue along that path while writing unapologetically Canadian fiction.
♥ How about the last book you read - what was it, and would you recommend it?
I recently re-read The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, touted as the first lesbian novel. I'd go one further and say there are definite transgender themes in there. Definitely worth another few reads, and so relatable.
♥ Very good choice! To turn our attention back to your work, is there a particular theme or message you're expecting readers to take away from your work?
Once my work is in the public's hands, readers will take from it what they will. Even my editors will make comments about archetypes or mythological figures that I hadn't consciously intended inserting into my stories. Many authors will say they often feel like the vessel through which a greater something is flowing, and even if it sounds silly or pompous or...well, however it sounds, it's absolutely true. The work comes through you, not from you. Beyond that, I put on paper the world as I see it and experience it, and I can only hope no one would ever read any meaning into my work that isn't aligned with my own ideals of open-mindedness, love, and understanding.
♥ Such a lovely sentiment . . . what more can one really ask for? I know a bit of what you have upcoming, but can you give us some details on what we look forward to from you next? Are there projects on the horizon that you're really excited about?
My Mistress' Thighs and it will be available very soon, I think as an ebook too. I've included a handful of original stories and poetry into the collection as well, so there are old favourites and some new surprises. The title I took from one of the sonnets published in the book, which is sort of a loving spoof on Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 (My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun...) and I think I'll be excited about this book until my Canadianess breaks in and convinces me not to be. :-) As much as I realize the e-market is booming and print is struggling, there is something very special about holding a book in my hands and seeing my name on it, or flipping through an anthology at Indigo or even in the public library in some cases and finding my story inside. It always gives me a little thrill.
A huge "thank you" to Giselle for stopping by. You can check her blog at Donuts and Desires (I ask you, is there a more Canadian name than that?), her official webpage at http://www.wix.com/gisellerenarde/erotica, and her podcasts at http://gisellerenarde.podbean.com/.
Spring Celebration, it's also time for you - the readers - to do your part by stopping by, saying hello, and hopefully even sharing a few thoughts on any of her stories that you may have read . . . or are looking forward to.
Don't forget, this is also your chance to become eligible for this week's giveaways, so be sure to include your email address in your comment. You don't have to be a follower to win, but it will earn you a bonus entry for the week (just let me know if you're a new follower or an old favourite).