Why “The Power to Please”

copyright elenamarchesin courtesy of DepositPhotosI’ve been asked why I write what I’ve written, or made the choices I’ve made. As an author of an erotic romance series, I obviously wrote my books with the intention of entertaining readers with a love story that had loads of sizzle and hopefully, plenty of heart, too.

Beyond that basic desire, I admit that I had another purpose in mind. I had a particular point, a statement I wished to make (yes, yes, I know, please save us all from authors with an ax to grind). I like to think I kept the ax in the woodshed where it belonged, but that, of course, is for you readers to decide.

In 2012, when the success of Fifty Shades of Grey opened up BDSM as a topic of general conversation, I heard friends and acquaintances speak with some ferocity about how the BDSM lifestyle denigrated women, promoted violence toward women and was all-around misogynistic.

I was surprised by the vigor of their claims and was even more surprised that they were discussing the topic not within the confines of FSOG novels, but in the real world itself. I hadn’t read FSOG at that time, but it didn’t really matter; a lot of the women who were complaining about BDSM hadn’t read FSOG either, or began it but failed to finish it.

Regardless, while I sympathized with their concerns about violence toward women, I believed them to be mistaken in their generalization about BDSM. In my opinion, they simply didn’t understand the dynamics behind what in the D/s universe is referred to as the power exchange.

D/s and the power exchange, when practiced with sanity and respect between trustworthy partners, can be an amazingly empowering experience for both the dominant and the submissive. I believed that those vocal opponents of D/s couldn’t know that the real power in the D/s dynamic lies with the submissive, be that submissive female or male (another point they missed in their claims of misogyny — that there are also submissive men in BDSM).

And so I decided to create a story to illustrate aspects of the D/s power exchange, leading me to begin writing The Businessman’s Tie.

I had a friend who was rather vociferous in her dislike of BDSM, and so, when I finished the first draft of The Businessman’s Tie, I asked her to read it and tell me what she thought, explaining to her beforehand about my larger purpose.

I told her that my story acknowledges that the lifestyle is exciting and enticing but that it can also be dangerous. I wasn’t glamorizing BDSM, and I hoped the larger story might serve as a warning to the innocent and unwary who could be drawn into a casual BDSM encounter without appropriate caution. I explained how further along in the series, I would illustrate both the bad and the good sides of BDSM, the “How Not To” along with the “How To,” so to speak. I basically gave her a full outline of the series.

My friend refused to read it, saying she couldn’t stomach to read any part of it, no matter what my bigger point was.
Funny how life works, isn’t it? That particular friend was one of the main reasons I wrote the book, someone with whom I particularly hoped to share an alternative viewpoint. And she wouldn’t read even the first chapter.

It was okay, of course. She had a right to her feelings and her preferences, and for all I knew, she had a history which she wasn’t comfortable sharing. Nonetheless, the irony was striking.

So, there you have it. Why I wrote The Power to Please series. I had a point, but hopefully I didn’t wield it like a club. And even more importantly, I hope I wrote an erotic fantasy which people can love for itself, regardless of any underlying moral. I wound up falling in love with my characters, and I can only hope my readers will, too. That’s really what it’s about when all is said and done. 🙂

 

The Pride and Prejudice connection

If you haven’t yet read the series and think you might want to do so in the future, you probably should stop reading at this point. What follows is written with the caveat that I’ll be freely discussing plot points and revealing spoilers galore.

For those of you who are Jane Austen fans, you’ll have noticed the connection between Pride and Prejudice and my series. I use the tag line, “Erotic fantasies with a classic twist.” By classic twist, I’m referring to the fact that The Power to Please is an homage to Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice. It’s my favorite book … ever. A perfect jewel.

P&P, PtoP, get it? I know, silly, huh? But I worked hard to create a name for the series which had two “P’s” in it. LOL.

I adore Jane Austen, and P&P is tops for me. I’ve read the book dozens of times, seen every film and television version ever made, and read the occasional adaptation (e.g. Bridget Jones’ Diary).

When I started to write my erotic romance series, I wanted to do it as a modern, kinky adaptation of P&P. I knew other writers were doing it, too, along with similar classics like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, so why not me?

Well, things didn’t actually turn out the way I thought they would. The lengthiness of the numerous sex scenes necessitated dropping all secondary storylines along with a significant number of characters. For instance, I had to lose nearly all of Lizzie Bennett’s family, Mr. Bingley and his sisters, and even Mr. Collins who is one of my favorite characters in the book, darn it.

Also, I had my own point to make, and it was different from Austen’s (couldn’t have been more different in fact, what with Austen likely never having even heard of BDSM – ha!), so it proved impossible to be married to a straightforward adaptation. A change of plans was in order.

I wound up writing my own story in many ways, but with what I think of as an homage to P&P.

Nonnie has little in common with Lizzie Bennett beyond her refusal to be cowed by people of greater social standing. Gibson is similar to Darcy in that he is reserved and proud, but he is more emotional, even if he doesn’t show it. Michael is much like Wickham in that his charm and easy manners disguise a bad nature.

Other characters who are nods to P&P include:

Elaine Hoyte. She plays the role of friend, confidante and advisor to Nonnie, a combination of the roles Charlotte Lucas and Mrs. Gardiner play in P&P. I enjoyed having Elaine tell Nonnie at the kink ball to reconsider snubbing Gibson since he owned the place and might kick them out, a reference to Charlotte’s warnings to Lizzie at the Netherfield ball: “When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy approached to claim her hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning her in a whisper, not to be a simpleton, and allow her fancy for Wickham to make her appear unpleasant in the eyes of a man ten times his consequence.”

Lilly Smith as Georgiana Darcy, wronged by Michael/Wickham and akin to a little sister to Gibson.

Paulina Martin as the indomitable Lady Catherine de Bourgh. It was incredibly fun turning uptight and proper Lady Catherine into a whip-wielding dominatrix. The very idea of the grand Lady Catherine surveying her kingdom from the front seat of a fully-harnessed, pony-boy-drawn cart truly tickled me. Of course Paulina has other major differences from Lady Catherine, such as caring about more than social status and actually having Gibson’s best interests at heart while meddling.

There are characters in the story who have no P&P counterparts, like Ron Hoyte, Kamun, Aunt Rose, Isabel Vinson and Xavier Martin.

Apart from the characters, there are loads of references to P&P. It’s chock full of Easter eggs for those who might care to seek them out. And there are bigger connections, too. I enjoyed turning the Netherfield ball into the Kink ball at Private Residence, for example. It was fun to adapt Wickham’s lies about Darcy’s supposed mishandling of his father’s will, into Michael’s lies about Gibson supposedly withholding royalties.

Most pleasurable of all was recreating the famous proposal scene where Lizzie smacks down Darcy. I’ll never forget my utter surprise the first time I read that scene in P&P. Best book moment ever. My version, of course, isn’t a hundredth as wonderful as Austen’s, but that’s okay. It was great fun all the same and I couldn’t resist it.

One last thing which I’m uncertain anyone has noticed —

If you look on the sidebar of this site at the upper left, you’ll see a link to a page of my favorite quotes. There are four of them, all from P&P. (I also have them listed as favorite quotes on my Goodreads author page.) Each quote is the inspiration and focus of the individual four novels in The Power to Please.

1. “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” Quote from Lizzie referencing Darcy not finding her attractive enough to dance with. In The Businessman’s Tie, Gibson loses control and humiliates Nonnie at the Frederick Hotel, setting the stage for Nonnie to select Michael and to believe his lies about Gibson.

2. “There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.” Quote from Lizzie Bennett again. In The Playboy’s Proposition, Nonnie isolates herself from her friends by deciding to pursue BDSM, and although Nonnie suspects Michael is potentially dangerous, her isolation and need for love leads her into ignoring her instincts and falling victim to even greater disillusionment.

3. “From the very beginning— from the first moment, I may almost say— of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.” Lizzie’s response to Darcy’s marriage proposal. In His Name is Sir, Nonnie is unimpressed with Gibson for reasons similar to Lizzie’s, and later turns down Gibson’s proposal that she become his live-in submissive partner. Later, like Lizzie, Nonnie keeps an open mind when she reads Gibson’s explanatory email and eventually becomes aware of the part her prejudice played in blinding her to his true character and Michael’s lies.

4. “You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.” Darcy to Lizzie after she agrees to marry him. In The Submissive’s Last Word, Nonnie and Gibson must reckon with their mistakes and faults before they can find lasting happiness together. Nonnie learns it is Gibson who has the ultimate power to please, and that the ultimate power in the D/s relationship is hers. I intended to title the last book “A Woman of Worth,” in reference to this quote, but too many other authors had already used the title or a variation thereof. I went with The Submissive’s Last Word instead, and wound up liking it better.

I have never marketed The Power to Please as an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and likely never will. First, it’s not an adaptation. At most, it’s an homage. Second, the connections between the two were dependent upon my whim, my eccentric choices wherein I picked something simply because it was a favored scene or commentary or bit of dialogue. And third and lastly, I’m well aware that Jane Austen would undoubtedly have an aneurism if she were alive and discovered what I’d done to her story and characters. Poor Jane. First it was zombies and now it’s kinky sex. Will we never be done with her? It’s her own fault for making us love her so much.

 

Never ask a writer about their books

If you made it this far, you’re learning why it’s not a good idea to ask a writer about their books, or at least not this one, because I can go on and on and on. 🙂

I enjoyed writing this series, and I may return to The Power to Please universe at some point in the future.

Right now, I’m working on a new novel which will likely be the first of a new series, if all goes well. It’s different from what I’ve done before, but it’s still me. That’s all I’ll say for now, since once I get started, I can’t seem to shut up.

I hope this post answered any questions you might have had about the PtoP series. Happy reading!