Donna George Storey
It's been an exciting week for me, one where it's felt like the whole world is opening up. So it seems very appropriate that to round it off I have Donna George Storey as a guest, someone whose work is all about changing the world, 'one dirty story at a time'!
Why do you write?
Writing is a way for me to make connections: with readers who give me their valuable time, with the mysteries of my own sexuality and imagination, with the characters inside my head that take on a life of their own, with the power and magic of the English language. No act—except sex with someone I love—makes me feel more alive and engaged with the world physically, emotionally and intellectually. This may seem contradictory because writing also involves a kind of detachment from the world as well, but I guess I’ve always felt rather separate from the world, a natural voyeur. Writing stories has become a way to bridge that gap to some degree, and I think I’ve become a much more empathetic and compassionate person since I started writing seriously—about eleven years now.
Is there something in particular that you'd like to express?
Over the years as I’ve gotten in touch with my creative process, I realized I do have a goal of sorts in my work and that is to help heal the false split between the mind and the body in our culture. For the most part sexuality is still seen as separate and even hostile to the intellect. Because it arouses our “baser” instincts, writing that celebrates sex has to be crude and base itself, never smart or skillful. But human sexuality is so much more complex and our minds are a crucial part of the picture. How much time do you spend thinking about sex versus actually doing it? I can’t think of anything more interesting and important to try to understand more fully than the erotic imagination.
My stories tend to start with a question, a mystery, that is both a scholarly, nerdy girl “research” question and an uncanny feeling that is hard for me to put into words. For example, one of my most reprinted stories, “The Cunt Book,” about a man’s insatiable effort to capture the secret of female pleasure in photographs came from a true story I heard about the actor Bob Crane, of “Hogan’s Heroes” fame. Apparently Crane had an extensive collection of photographs of naked women he’d personally taken (this collection was tied to his murder as well). I got to wondering about his motivations and desires and the reasons why so many women would consent to pose for such a session. The story that resulted is just one answer to those questions, but it helped me figure some things out and put that uncanny feeling to rest. Writing has been very liberating in that regard.
What is the most successful piece or work you feel you've written, and why?
Up until 2006, I’d written only short stories. As the stay-at-home mother of two, shorter projects were much more manageable. Then I had the chance to write an erotic novel based on my experiences in Japan called Amorous Woman. I’ve found the world of a short story is a nice place to dally for several weeks, but this novel took over my life completely for the six months I was writing it. My characters came alive and started telling me what they wanted to do, which was not usually what I’d planned for them, but they always turned out to be right in the end. Plus they showed me things about my relationship to Japan that I’d only vaguely been aware of before.
Finishing a novel is often compared to giving birth to a child, and I have to agree. My baby novel is of me, but more than me. I usually describe the novel as “an American woman’s love affair with Japan,” but of course, it’s about my love affair with Japan and I’m rather surprised at how nakedly my own desires have been expressed through that story. I’ve been especially gratified by the response from readers who know Japan. A few have even told me “Amorous Woman is the story of my life,” which makes me feel as if I got something right!
Please name a recent thought, event, person or whatever that inspired you:
Like many Americans, Barack Obama’s recent victory in the presidential election has been immensely inspiring to me. I’m thrilled that a smart, eloquent person who understands complexity and nuance will be leading our country, and I’m proud of the electorate for overcoming prejudice, apathy and cynicism and choosing a new vision for the future.
Unfortunately, here in California, there was a narrow victory of prejudice against same-sex marriage with the passage of Prop. 8. This is not the last word, though. In my efforts to promote my “dirty novel,” I’ve faced a lot of entrenched prejudice against honest erotic expression, but met with some surprising open-mindedness and support as well. Obama’s victory has shown that focus, smart organization and the conviction we’re doing the right thing will eventually lead to a wider acceptance of all varieties of sexuality. It will happen. Well, I’ll get off my soapbox now and go write a story for the cause ;-)
Donna George Storey wants to change the world one dirty story at a time. Her erotic fiction has been published in over eighty journals and anthologies including Clean Sheets, The Erotic Woman, X: The Erotic Treasury, Best American Erotica 2006, and several volumes of Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica and Best Women’s Erotica. Her steamy novel Amorous Woman (Neon/Orion) was released in the UK in 2007 and the US in 2008. She currently writes a column “Cooking up a Storey” for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association about her favorite topics— delicious sex, well-crafted food, and mind-blowing writing and will be starting up another column there on the joys and challenges of book promotion in February 2009. Read more of her work at her website and check out her provocative book trailer.
Many, many thanks Donna! Next week, I'll be joined by the consummate Craig Sorensen.