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Lusty Lady

BLOG OF RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL
Watch me talk about my debut as an author, Sex & Cupcakes: A Juicy Collection of Essays, in this Q&A with my publisher Thought Catalog Books

Monday, February 08, 2016

Everything old is new again, or a deep dive into some of my earliest BDSM erotica anthologies

In my world, new is what's in. The next article or essay I'm writing, the new book to hit the shelves, the next call for submissions. Yesterday's news may as well be last century's, it often seems. The new whatever it is is the one warranting attention, both mine and my editor's or publisher's and, presumably, readers'. This plays out in how I earn a living, in that the books that sell the most are usually the newly released ones, although sometimes an older title will surprise me by taking on an extended life of its own. I certainly don't spend much time contemplating my older work, save for what's been my annual moves when I unpack all my books (I'm hoping this year broke the annual move cycle and we get to stay in our current place for a long long time).

It can be easy to forget about the work that came before when you are always focused, by necessity, on the now, on the present and future. I've had somewhat of a crisis of confidence in the last week and have been soul searching and trying to figure out my next professional steps, asking myself the hard questions about whether I'm the kind of person who makes bold moves like the people I most admire or whether it's time to retreat to something safer, more stable, less scary and risky. Yes, I get signs from the universe, but I often question them, and question myself. I've been at this crossroads lately trying to make sense of what to do next, and I don't have any major answers just yet, although I'm hatching new projects that I'm equally excited and nervous about and working to creatively visualize them and believe in them, and therefore, in myself.

I also think it's natural to hope/want your work to improve over time, which is why when I do move and pull out artifacts from long ago, things like my old zine I'm Not Waiting, begun almost half my lifetime ago and lasting three blessedly short issues, or that time I was flunking out of law school but decided to write for the NYU paper instead, or my writing for websites that are now defunct, I cringe and quickly move on. I know all those experiences are part of me, but perhaps as a mental self-preservation measure, I look toward what I can do with the knowledge I have now, at 40, how I can move forward toward my goals.

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So I admit it's equally flattering and unnerving that writer LN Bey did an incredibly deep dive review into six of my BDSM erotica anthologies: He's on Top; She's on Top; Yes, Sir; Yes, Ma'am; Please, Sir; Please, Ma'am. I think it's safe to say my work has never been analyzed this closely. I never in a million years would have imagined someone reading and rereading these books, analyzing them so precisely (if I had imagined that, most likely I never would have completed them, because hello, terrifying). I say that not because I'm not proud of them, just because they seemed like books I put out, and then moved on from. I know that book buyers are fickle and bookstore space is often ephemeral (though thankfully these are all available in ebook form). So to see them treated as worthy of study, to see favorites dissected and all that care taken with my little books is both a surprise and a new way of me thinking about my books. They are not dead, but very, very alive.

If you've enjoyed those books or even if you've never heard of them, it's worth checking out and warms my heart to see someone so passionate not about my books per se, although that is obviously an ego boost, but about the erotica genre. That reverence for erotica is something I see occasionally, but not all that often, and at a time when I'm, say, forbidden from buying ads or boosting posts on Facebook, and often sex is treated as utterly unwelcome in online and tech spaces, it's refreshing to see my chosen genre treated with such high regard.

For me personally, it's very easy to look at those older books simply as numbers on a royalty spreadsheet, as books I'm proud of but that are part of history, not the present. I'm grateful for the reminder that books are forever, and that even when I'm not always sure of it, my work matters to someone. It's a feeling I will take with me as I work on editing my next anthology, especially as I seek out women writers who might not come across an erotica call for submissions but just might have insights worth sharing with the world. That's my highly personal take, at a particularly charged time in my life. If you are interested in the dynamics of BDSM as they play out in these books and/or BDSM fiction, definitely check it out.

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