Sex and Fantasy From Best-Selling Authors Jacqueline Carey and Larissa Ione

Jacqueline Carey and Larissa Ione talk up man love, lesbian sex, and readers who don't like swear words in their apocalyptic fiction.



Jacqueline, share some topics you've gotten some reader response on.
Carey: There were a few different scenes that came up, and when I wrote that initially I was thinking of mail I received over the years and that sort of thing and then I thought, Oh, why not ask my peeps on Facebook since they’re a really articulate and responsive group. I asked, “Books that contain sexual content that pushes the boundaries of what’s considered mainstream: Do you think that’s important and why, and is it of personal significance to you?” And the first response was “Those parts helped reaffirm for me what I thought to be a beautiful thing and not something hateful.” That was a theme a lot of readers echoed. Someone posted, “I started reading the books at 14, which you probably think is too young, but was something I needed to see. That’s when biology kicks in, and reading the book was a healthy way to think about who I was.” This is something every 14-year-old needs to grow into a healthy adult.

Ione: And I think it depends on the 14-year-old. I was mature enough to read stuff like that. I wouldn’t want my son to, but he’s still stuck in grade school, basically. Yeah, I don’t think that’s too young.

Carey: I usually recommend 16 or over. What do you say when you’re asked?

Ione: I generally do say 18 and older because I’m always horrified when a 14 year old emails and says, “Oh, my gosh, I loved your Sydney Croft books!” I’m always like, “Oh, my parents would have had a cow about that.” They really didn’t censor my reading, but the Sydney Croft books especially are really erotic, so I always kind of cringe, but who’s to say they’re not mature enough to handle it?

Carey: I’ll have readers in their late teens and early 20s approach me at book signings and say, “I started out when I was 14.” And I’m like, “You turned out OK, right?”

Ione: What other responses did you get?

Carey: Another theme was we need literature like this to open our culture to talking about sex in all its forms, both the ecstatic and healthy and the dark and disturbing, because taboos about speaking about it interfere with our society’s abilities to make decisions. And the idea that dialogue about sexuality is so incredibly repressed in this country was echoed quite a bit. Sexy books give you an opening to talk about it.

Ione: Good point. I had somebody say that they love it because it’s so real, and I am absolutely on board with that. Because one thing I’ve found is that books that push boundaries about sex or plots or characters tend to have readers who are more open-minded about other things, and that allows for us as an author to write a grittier read that can be more realistic and frank with the language and the sex and you don’t have to be quite so politically correct with the phrasing. And it’s nice as a reader to read that, and it’s just real.

Carey: When I started really writing fantasy one of the things I noticed was a real absence of sexuality in the genre at all. And it’s such a profound part of the human experience that it’s a really big thing to leave out.

Ione: I agree. That’s one of the things I bring up whenever people criticize the genre. You’ve never had sex? You don’t like sex? You’ve never dated and had romance? It’s why we live, really. I really like that books like that cover all bases, and everything’s just real. And one of the things that really hit home for me with that was not too long ago I got an email from a reader. She cc’ed my agent and my publisher and she said, “I really wish that I would’ve liked your book but by page 8 I was so disgusted I’m taking it back for a refund. I couldn’t get past the word 'goddamn.'” She was like, “I don’t know what religion you are, but you just insulted a million Christians and I’m going to find authors that are more respectful of their readers.” And my response was basically, “OK, here’s the deal. I’m writing what’s real. I’m not going to water down my writing, whether it’s sex or language or whatever. I’m going to offend someone anyway, and that’s a word that is offensive to people, I understand that. But people use it. It’s real. We’re talking an apocalyptic situation and a soldier said it in an apocalypse, and he’s not going to say 'golly gee.'”

Carey: I can imagine an apocalyptic society might have stronger language. I guess they were expecting the Left Behind books or something?

Ione: I didn’t even think of that [laughs]. When you choose to write erotic material, it opens the door for you to be able to write real stuff in all aspects of the book even if you’re writing dragons or demons or whatever.


Do you think that’s true across the board, gay or straight?
Ione: Absolutely. If you’ve got readers who are reading gay romance, you’re going to have more open-mindedness, I think, when it comes to the erotic content or violent content or whatever.

Carey: One of my favorite love scenes I’ve ever written is in Santa Olivia, between two teenage girls. And it includes the word scampered, and I just love that about it. It works in context, but there’s a little bit of whimsy there. And that’s a book where I’ve had young lesbians writing to me going, “Thank you, I don’t see characters who reflect me in so much fiction, and the issue of visibility is a huge one. ”

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