Interviewed by Andi
Colette Gale is an erotica novelist busy turning the classics on their heads. I reviewed her novel Unmasqued, here at Estella's Revenge recently, so I couldn't turn down the opportunity to review her for this month's issue. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.
AM: What led you to reinvent and eroticize one of your favorite classics, The Phantom of the Opera in your erotic novel, Unmasqued?
CG: I fell in love with Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical version of Phantom when I first saw it 18 years ago. The music, the atmosphere, the lyrics, the set, the costumes...everything was so lush and sensual...and to me, its overt eroticism begged to be revealed in more detail. But I wanted it to end differently!
Webber takes credit for romanticizing and subtly eroticizing the story by bringing his version to the stage (and film), but Gaston Leroux was the original creator of the work, of course. Even in his version, the sense of the untold, the unspoken, is there. The obssessive phantom who brings the beautiful young girl to his lair...you've got to wonder exactly what happened down there, ya know?
So after watching the Webber version on both stage and screen enough times that I wanted to know more--about what happened in the Phantom's lair when Christine was down there for a week, and why she left the Phantom to go with Raoul--I decided to write my version of what happened, in all of the erotic details that were, of necessity, not part of the story.
Plus, I wanted a different ending! Webber had made me believe Christine belonged with Erik, the Phantom...and so I wanted to write it that way.
AM: Your next book is an erotic novel based on The Count of Monte Cristo, which begs the question, what about the classics lends to good material for erotic writing?
CG: I really loved The Count of Monte Cristo, and when I wrote this erotic version, I stayed much truer to the original story than I did with the Phantom. I just gave it a happier ending (at least, happier to me).
I think what makes the classics--certain classics, mind you; there are others I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole--good material for "seduction" is that many of those stories were written with a lot unsaid; perhaps even unconceived (though I doubt it).
In other words, the medium of the novel, at the time, didn't allow for explicitness in sexuality--at least, in popularly published works; there were plenty of erotic and pornographic books and pictures, of course. Certain classics have an underlying sexual feel to them, and some people enjoy imagining what exactly might have been going on behind closed doors, or inside minds, during those stories. Phantom is one, The Count of Monte Cristo is another, and there are more.
AM: What other classics would you like to put your erotic pen to?
CG: I have a whole list! I'm just kidding....there are a few that I think would lend themselves well to having the doors opened, and different scenes and endings imagined--but there are a whole list of ones I wouldn't touch even at gunpoint. Jane Austen is one, Louisa May Alcott, Dickens, and others.
What I'd really like to do is an erotic version of Tarzan or Zorro, but the names are under copyright, so I don't think that's going to happen, much to my dismay.
I'm currently discussing with my publisher exactly what the best choice is for my next book--but we haven't decided on the "perfect" one. Do you and your readers have any suggestions?
AM: Colette Gale is a pen name, so do you mind sharing with our readers why you chose to use a pen name? How closely to you guard your true identity?
CG: I use a pen name for two reasons: first, because I write historical urban fantasy under another name, and it's to keep the two different genres separate. The people who read my Gale books may not like my other stories, and vice versa--and that keeps them from buying a book and getting something they didn't expect.
I also chose to write under a pen name for both of my identities for privacy's sake, and because my real name is hard to spell. :-) I'm not terribly tight about guarding the connection between these two names, but I don't go around advertising it. The Gale books are extremely explicit, and there are people who read my other books who would probably be shocked to find out that I write hardcore erotica.
AM: You've created a memorable cast of characters in Unmasqued . Which characters are your favorite?
I love Erik. He's sexy and brilliant and tortured and really good in bed. :-)
I also really love Madame Giry. She was a hoot to write--probably the most fun of all the characters. I just let loose with her, and let her be as wanton as she wanted. She got to do all the things my heroine couldn't do.
Christine wasn't one of my favorite characters, believe it or not, because she is so different from the kind of female character I'm used to writing. Because of how Leroux created her, I had to keep her fairly submissive (in more ways than one) and weaker than the kind of woman I like to write. She shows strength, but she's manipulated and managed more than I would prefer.
Mercedes Herrera, the heroine in MASTER: An Erotic Novel of the Count of Monte Cristo, on the other hand, is quite the match for Edmond Dantes. She's much stronger and sure of herself, and I had a great time writing her.
AM: Amazon reviews are always an interesting place to look at people's reactions to books, and it seems Unmasqued's erotic bent has upset some readers for various reasons. I'm of the belief that a little controversy is never a bad thing, which leads me to two questions:
· First, what advice would you give to readers new to the erotica genre?
· Second, what is your response to people who get their panties in a twist over your version of the Phantom story?
CG: Ahhh...Amazon. Yes, the reviews are pretty much split: either one star or five stars. People either loved it or hated the book. Let me take your second question first: what's my response to people who get their panties in a twist (love that image) over my book?
First, I want to politely say: did you read the title? It says "An Erotic novel of The Phantom of the Opera." Erotic usually means lots of sex. Hardcore sex. Inventive, explicit sex. The title is a clear warning: that's why we did it that way.
Then I want to add, to the Phantom purists, "I have certain classics favorites that I would hate to see manipulated--so I would choose not to read them if I didn't like the storyline. I can understand you feeling that way about Leroux's book, and if you feel that way, you probably don't want to read it." It's as simple as that.
I knew the book wasn't going to be for everyone. Anytime you write explicit sex you run that risk, and when you mix it in with a well-known story line, you're going to get angry reactions. I expected it, and I don't mind it at all.
The things that I do mind, though, are people who skip/skim the sex scenes, and then criticize the story for not having plot or character development when it's there. It's there, but it's in the sex scenes--that's what an erotic novel is. The sex scenes show the plot and character development. If you skim them or skip them, you're going to miss it!
As far as your first part to the question: what advice would I give to those new to the genre? I'd say, write the book as if everyone you know is dead--ie, don't hold back on your writing because you're afraid of people you know reading it. And I'd also say, be prepared for controversy. It's going to be there. Be prepared, and accept it, and you'll be fine.
AM: Do you have any unbreakable writing habits or rules that you follow?
CG: Not really, except that I don't plot out my books very thoroughly before I write them. I only have a vague idea of what is going to happen when I'm writing, and sometimes I just let things flow the way they want to. That makes it more entertaining for me--I'm just along for the ride sometimes.
AM: What advice would you give to a writer who wishes to step outside his or her regular genre?
CG: Just try it. Just sit down and write.
When I stepped out of the kinds of books I'd been writing (and unsuccessfully trying to get published), I just started writing something new and different. I didn't read much in the new genres I was moving into, which, for me, gave me the ability to write something fresh--because I wasn't coming to the table with expectations for the book.
For example, I read only a few classic erotic novels before I started my own. I hadn't read any contemporary or modern (meaning published within the last ten years or so)--except for one--erotic novels when I began to write UNMASQUED. So there was no influence on me as far as trends, tactics, etc. I just wrote what I wanted to read.
AM: What is your favorite genre for pleasure reading and what are you reading now?
CG: I read a lot of mystery and suspense. I also read historical fiction and historical romance, along with romantic suspense. Right now I'm rereading the Barbara Michaels contemporary gothic romances that I read twenty (gulp!) years ago, and am loving them.
I also recently have read THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, HIGH NOON by Nora Roberts, BENEATH A MARBLE SKY by John Shors, and am always a book or two behind in the JD Robb IN DEATH series (because I have to hoard them). I recently enjoyed RULES OF GENTILITY by my friend Janet Mullany, and VIRGIN RIVER by Robyn Carr.
AM: Who are some of the erotica writers you admire and how has their work affected your own?
CG: I haven't read a lot of erotica, as I mentioned earlier, but some of the authors who I have read and enjoyed are Pauline Reage (The Story of O), Anne Rice (Sleeping Beauty and Exit to Eden) and Bertrice Small (the Skye O'Malley books). Jane Lockwood, another new erotic novelist, is also fabulous, as well as Pam Rosenthal, who writes rich, lush historical erotica.
Thank you so much for having me here on Estella's Revenge!
I'd like to invite your readers who are in the NYC area to attend the In The Flesh Erotic Reading series this month. On October 18th, I, along with several other erotic writers, will read aloud from our works at the Happy Endings Lounge (how appropriately named!) in the city. My publisher is providing free copies of UNMASQUED for up to fifty attendees, so if there are Estella's Revenge readers in NYC, I hope they'll come (har!) out and join us!
For more info, go here.