“The towel dropped from his waist and he took his hardening penis in one hand and told me – calmly, slowly, confidently – what he was going to do with it. I became ageless and mindless.”
The audience in the Sydney Theatre – Richard Wherrett Studio hung on Emily Maguire’s every word as she read from her novel Fishing for Tigers at the Sydney Writer’s Festival.
Emily Maguire and Krissy Kneen, the author of Steeplechase, spoke about their erotically charged novels and the way their work explored sex and sexuality. Both novels delve into the relationship between an older woman and a much younger man.
There’s nothing dark about the “taboo” relationship, said Emily. “Finding excuses to do it while not being entirely oblivious to someone else’s pain is where the darkness lies”.
Krissy Kneen’s Steeplechase is her darkest erotic fiction to date, she said. “It is about not exploring one’s sexuality. When you put it under the bed, that’s when the darkness creeps in.”
Krissy is interested in what happens to women’s sexuality as they age. “There’s a point when you get to a particular age that you become invisible to the world but your sex drive hasn’t diminished,” she said, and told the story of being on a bus where there was someone with the most beautiful skin on their neck. “It’s the hardest thing not to lean forward just to lick it…”
Author Courtney Collins (The Burial) who co-ordinated the event, talked to the novelists about how they went to a great length to inhabit dark and chaotic places.
Krissy went to Beijing and fell ill. “I was there going ‘I can’t deal with toilets that are just pits in the ground with no walls’,” she said. Yet Beijing turned out to be the perfect place for her book.
Writing about sex also comes with interesting consequences. After Emily’s first book (Taming the Beast) was published, she received a phone call from a guy who thought she was the character from her book. Then, a man’s magazine labelled her as the “the new bad girl of erotic fiction.”
And when her readers asked her for sex advice, “I usually give it to them,” Krissy said.
Courtney Collins asked if the novelists felt self-conscious talking about their work, given its nature. “Always. I’m terrified that people are going to look at me and say you don’t embody what sex is,” Krissy said. “But that is why I write about it.”
The event would not have been complete without a mention of Fifty Shades of Grey: “It’s really about the norm of sexuality,” said Krissy. “But what Emily and I do is trying to transcend and look at alternatives to the norm.”