We Were Kinky Long Before 50 Shades of Gray

Famed kinkster and author of the legendary Marketplace series, Laura Antoniou, sits down with The Advocate to discuss The Killer Wore Leather.

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall

May 08 2013 3:00 AM ET

Laura Antoniou

As soon as The Marketplace, the first in the now famed erotica series that took its name from that book, was published by Masquerade in 1993, author Laura Antoniou became an underground legend. She published The Marketplace, The Slave, and The Trainer all in the early '90s under the pen name Sara Adamson. Set in a secretive slave training house where all sorts of kinks and sexualities were on display, the series was the first to combine BDSM topics with complex characterizations and modern literary techniques.

Antoniou, whose real name was soon known, became a leather pioneer: she edited the groundbreaking Leatherwomen anthologies, penned scholarly work on BDSM, won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Leather Association (in 2011), and is now a well known speaker and teacher on kinky sex communities. Her work (over 600,000 books sold and counting) has been translated into Spanish, German, Hebrew, Japanese, and Korean.

So hopes are high around her new novel, the wonderfully cheeky murder mystery set at a leather convention, The Killer Wore Leather ($16.95, Cleis Press). Turns out, exploring the erotic world of BDSM personalities and leather kinks makes for a lovely whodunit and a much more modern game of Clue.

The Advocate: You were writing about BDSM decades before 50 Shades of Gray. What do you make of the mainstream's sudden interest in kink?
Laura Antoniou: I think the mainstream media "discovers" kinky sex every 10 years or so. I have seen the furor over Anne Rice's Beauty books back when she wrote them under the name "A. N. Roquelaure" & Exit to Eden, which she wrote as "Anne Rampling." Then there was Nine and a Half Weeks, by Ingeborg Day writing as Elizabeth McNeill, and Meeting the Master, by Elissa Wald, writing as… herself, actually. Every single time, the media clutched its collective pearls and wondered how feminists would respond, hastened to assure us all that it's OK to have fantasies of submission, and did cute little sidebar stories on an occasional SM club or leather bar or sex toy shop. And then they forgot about kinky until the next one rolled to the top of the media haystack.

Your work has been translated into Spanish, German, Hebrew, Japanese, and Korean. Does that mean kink is universal? Have you interacted with the leather world in any of those countries?  
I think as long as people have had sex, some percentage of them tried it in ways the others around them weren't doing it. That's humanity. What they called it and how they went about it might be a little different, but there are always outsiders and early adaptors and rebels and non-conformists. Although I have traveled a bit, my focus has been on English speaking countries, so all I can tell you is that in Great Britain, they do love the latex and in Australia, well, Australians are just plain fun. Anyway you find 'em. And I'll be sure to report back from Israel after I do a reading there later this year. Because… it looks like that is going to happen. The mind reels.

As you know, I loved the Marketplace series. I wasn't alone; there was a massive cult following around the series. Any thought to adding to the series or doing another series?
I love a good series myself; my shelves are packed with multiple books by the same authors. So, I tend to write stories that leave plenty of space for more. I am working on book six in the Marketplace series right now, and released a fan-fiction anthology back in January, allowing other writers to play in my world for a while, so, yes… I intend to write more. I am also interested in perhaps continuing with the mystery genre and writing another Detective Rebecca mystery to follow The Killer Wore Leather. Oh, and then there's this idea I have for a pansexual, multi-gendered, every-possible-orientation crew of monster hunters that I'd like to write a paranormal book about…so…uh…yeah. I've thought about adding to what I already have and writing more.

The new book, The Killer Wore Leather, is quite a diversion: a comic police procedural in the leather world. What inspired it?
The style was inspired by Edgar-Award-Winner Bimbos of the Death Sun, by Sharyn McCrumb, which was written back in 1996. Hers was a comedy mystery set at an old fashioned science fiction/fantasy/gaming convention. But it's my 30 years of bumming around the kink/leather scene that really inspired the characters and plot points. What we do and how we do it is actually pretty funny when seen from the outside. Or even from the inside!

You have a lesbian at the center of the book, detective Rebecca Feldblum, but she's not as jaded as some would expect. What part of the character do you identify with?
Rebecca isn't the usual world-weary, sardonic NY cop because, well, we have enough of those. She's brave and strong and honest, but she's a good detective and knows it and faces the challenges of being out and a woman in a large paramilitary organization – she is my heroine. Right now, she's almost a blank slate – we know she has a family, and is single (but for how long?) and that she's pretty cool when confronted with strangeness. I'd really like to push her some more and let her grow as a character, especially with her new partner.

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