Interviewed by Anna Campbell
ANNA: Colette, thank you so much for coming over to party with the Banditas today. I can't wait to hear about your new release Unmasqued, an erotic re-telling of The Phantom of the Opera. What an intiguing premise! But first I'd like to ask you about your writing history. Give us the goss on Colette Gale before she was published!
COLETTE: I'm ecstatic to be here! The Banditas have really made quite a name for themselves in such a short time--I'm completely impressed. Thanks so much for having me. Okay, the writing history. Well, Colette Gale is actually the pen name of my alter ego who writes historical paranormals, and who has been a guest here on the Banditas in the past. But Unmasqued is Colette's first book, and we won't talk about that other girl today, other than that she is multi-published. :-)
ANNA: I'm so looking forward to reading it and finding how you deal with the sexual tension between the members of the central triangle in the story. Can you tell us about Unmasqued?
COLETTE: Well, the story came about because of my dissatisfaction with the ending of Lloyd Webber's musical version of The Phantom of the Opera. I mean, he made the Phantom passionate and attractive, and showed us how much he and Christine loved each other--and even more so in the film version--and yet he has Christine leave the love of her life to run off with that milquetoast Raoul at the end! Quelle horreur!
(I must confess that I've seen the Phantom play many times, and that when the movie came out, I had this hope that maybe Lloyd Webber had tweaked it enough for it to end the way I thought it should have ended. But no.)
So I set about writing my version of the story, explaining why Christine left with Raoul, forsaking her passion for Erik (the Phantom). It started off being just a fun project for my alter ego, when she was between other books (those historical paranormals), but when she finished the book, her agent wanted to see it--and then she sold it.
The book is an erotic novel--not an erotic romance. There is a line between the two, in my opinion, and although Christine and Erik do have their happy ending, as one would expect in an erotic romance, and they do not have intercourse with anyone other than each other, the book leans more toward erotic fiction. In fact, when I sold this book, my editor and I--and all of her colleagues--had long discussions about where this book belonged.
Did it belong as an erotic romance (yes, because there's a love story at its heart and a happy ending), or a straight erotica (yes, because the sexual situations are more like what one would find in that type of novel)? It really is sort of smack dab between them.
The book is definitely not for everyone, because it's not merely explicit sex scenes between the main characters. The settings, the motivations, the situations, are all important to the story, yet they're sexual and erotic in nature.
(I talk more about my opinions on erotic romance v. erotica, and erotica v. porn during this interview at Bam's site.)
ANNA: I gather you're drawn to darker heroes (I'm sure that's one of the reasons we get on so well!). Tell us about your Phantom, and how he's different from Leroux's original creation, and Lloyd Webber's as well.
COLETTE: Oh, Erik is such a tortured hero--in all three versions! Leroux created a horrible, murderous genius, Lloyd Webber romanticized him, and I took it a few steps further and made him complete hero material. Hot, possessive (in a good way), honorable, and madly, madly in love with our heroine.
He is probably the most tortured hero that I've ever written. I loved doing it, because I knew from the beginning how much he loved Christine, and how much of a risk it was for him to reveal himself to her. He'd watched her from the shadows, gotten to know her and to love her through his tutoring--but to actually talk to her, touch her, be with her...he was risking everything. So at first, his fear is obvious through his need to control the situation, to keep her from really seeing and knowing him--because once she did, he feared her rejection. Yet, he can't stay away from her.
Yet, Christine was never afraid of him. Ever (well, except when she takes off his mask, but that's well into the book). She recognizes their connection, their kinship, their passion, and she wants to get to know him.
ANNA: Your byline on your website is "seducing the classics" which I think is brilliant. I notice your next book is a re-telling of The Count of Monte Cristo story. Can you tell us a little more about this?
COLETTE: Yes, my next book will be released in May and it's titled MASTER: An Erotic Novel of The Count of Monte Cristo. I loved writing this book more than I thought possible. The book by Dumas is fabulous--if unbelievably complicated and long--and it was a challenge to streamline it enough to focus on the love story between Edmond Dantes and Mercedes Herrera while explaining what else is going on behind the scenes, but I had a blast doing it.
For those who aren't familiar with the story, here's the back cover copy for the new book:
Betrayed by his friends, Edmond Dantes spent fourteen years imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit. Now, miraculously freed, he returns as the rich and powerful Count of Monte Cristo, seeking revenge on the four men who sent him to jail...and determined to have the woman he has never been able to forget.
Mercedes Herrera was devastated when the man she loved disappeared and was never heard from again. After searching for Edmond, she had no choice but to marry one of his friends...and for the past fourteen years, she's lived in an empty, abusive marriage, mourning the loss of her love.
When the Count of Monte Cristo arrives in Paris to put his plan of vengeance into play, Mercedes alone knows Edmond Dantes has returned. But this harsh, angry man sends chills down her spine even as his very touch reminds her of the passion they once shared. She realizes soon enough that his plan to avenge himself on the men who incarcerated him also includes another sort of revenge...on her.
From the seaside town of Marseille...to the exotic caves of Monte Cristo Isle...to the glittering ballrooms of Paris unfolds an erotic battle of wills and unquenched passion between one of literature's most famous pairs of star-crossed lovers.
As I said, it was so much fun to write. And for those who are familiar with the story, I'll also divulge that Haydee has her own subplot, and so do Valentine and Maximilien.
In comparison to Unmasqued, I would say Master is a little less edgy and dark, though no less erotic. However, my goal when I write erotica is to arouse and titillate, as well as to tell a story, and I try to keep to the promise of at least one orgasm (the characters, not the reader!) per chapter--and I'd say that aside of one chapter in Unmasqued and one in Master, that pretty much holds true.
ANNA: Do you have any more classics in your sights? Why do you think people keep returning again and again to these archetypal stories?
COLETTE: I'm currently working on another proposal to my editor, and we have several ideas in mind for future classics that are just begging to be seduced. :-) I think the reason people like these kinds of stories, and like to be able to get more explicit, is because often the setting and situation are inherently sexy--but at the time they were written, sexual explicitness wasn't exactly mainstream.
For example, in the original Count of Monte Cristo, there is a scene in what is described as Aladdin's Cave (which is on the Isle of Monte Cristo) in which not only does the eating of hashish occur, but also an orgy. Yeah. But it's only alluded to, not described in detail. (I, uh, took care of that little detail when I wrote my version.) And there's lesbianism in the book as well, and a whole host of sexual innuendo--in Monte Cristo as well as in the original Phantom novel (don't try and tell me that Christine spent a week with the Phantom and nothing happened. Uh, no.), and other classics.
Now we have the ability to tell the stories that have always been behind and beneath the words in all their glorious detail.
Having said that, I know that I have certain literary favorites that I would hate for anyone to mess with in this way (Little House on the Prairie, LIttle Women, Pride & Prejudice)...and there are people who feel the same way about Phantom and Monte Cristo, and others. And that's okay. To each his own!
ANNA: Who are some of your favorite writers?
COLETTE: As far as erotic fiction goes, I've been influenced by Bertrice Small's Skye O'Malley books, The Story of O, Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty series, and Madeline Oh's PowerExchange.
ANNA: Can you give us some insight into your creative process?
COLETTE: I have no idea where I'm going most of the time, until I get there. :-) I write basically one draft, cleaning and revising as I go.
Do you think there's a difference between erotic romance and erotica? Do you have a favorite classic that you wish had gone further? Have you found yourself wanting to rewrite a book or a movie's ending? Which movies? Which books? Why?
Colette would love to give one of our honorary Banditas a copy of her new erotic novel Unmasqued. A comment will be chosen at random on Wednesday, 8th August. Good luck!