Emma Donoghue Interview

Accomplished is the word that comes to mind when thinking of Emma Donoghue.

At the age of twenty-five, she published her first novel, Stirfry (Hamish Hamilton, 1994), while working on a PhD in English at the University of Cambridge. Today, she has published five novels, three short-story collections, two plays, and two books of literary history, with another novel and a third work of literary history coming out this year. In addition to her prolific writing career, she is the co-parent of a six-year-old boy, and a two-year-old girl.

Emma’s work gallops across genre, history, and continents. She writes about men, women, children, and, in Kissing the Witch (Hamish Hamilton, 1997), fairies. Her fiction is set in England, Ireland, Canada, and the United States. With unselfconscious ease, she captures the vivid physical details of an era as well as its social and cultural framework. In her best-selling novel, Slammerkin (Harcourt, 2000), Emma transports readers to late eighteenth century England, where readers are introduced to a prostitute whose obsession with sumptuous clothes and elegance leads to murder. In the more contemporary Landing (Harcourt, 2007), which won a Golden Crown Award, Emma creates a lesbian love story full of wit, banter, and pithy observations about love and identity in a global world.

Nairne Holtz

Nairne Holtz is the author of "This One's Going To Last Forever" and "The Skin Beneath" both from Insomniac Press.

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Every Dark Desire

Title: EVERY DARK DESIRE
Author: Fiona Zedde
Publisher: Kensington Books, 2007
ISBN: 0758217382
Rated: 3 Stars
Genre: Lesbian Horror

“Dark” has a variety of meanings in Western culture: obscure, hidden, mysterious, unconscious, exotic, violent, dangerous, associated with death or night, richly pigmented. The massacre and exploitation of darker-skinned peoples by Europeans have been rationalized by means of racist theories about who is “savage” and therefore in need of control.

The parallel treatment of women and animals has been justified by parallel theories. The fifteenth-century Christian Inquisition claimed that woman (femina) had “less faith” (fe + mina) than man, and was therefore more inclined to be seduced to the “dark side” by the Devil, envisioned as a black man or a bestial being with horns and hooves.

For centuries, the patriarchal Christian mindset which produced these ideas has also separated “normal” sex (horizontal, heterosexual, marital, procreative) from all the “perversions” of the instinct to mate. Supposedly, these overlapping concepts are no longer taken seriously by the enlightened, but the “darkness” described above still inspires an endless amount of horror literature, art and movies.

Every Dark Desire reads like the worst nightmare of anyone who still lives by a traditional Western value system. All the central characters are lesbian Jamaican vampires who enjoy the kinds of “power exchange” sex that go with blood sports. While they are all equal-opportunity predators when their blood-lust prompts them to hunt mortals, they prefer female playmates.

Silvija, the charismatic leader of a group of twelve vampires, is a 350-year-old survivor of an attempt by white soldiers to hunt down and kill off maroons, escaped slaves living in the hills. By the 1990s, Silvija has created, nurtured and protected her own endangered “family” of the living dead. These vampires literally seem like the dark side of European colonialism, the ones who weren’t meant to survive.

This book stands out from the red sea of current vampire erotica and casts its own powerful spell. Although they are repeatedly defined as “beasts” and “fiends,” these characters attract the mortal reader as they attract mortal characters in diverse places in the real world: Jamaica and Alaska, with kinky weekends in Los Angeles.

The story begins in Jamaica, a tropical tourist magnet with an ongoing history of violence, where the rich lock their gates against the poor, and where the mortal prey of vampires can easily be disguised as victims of random theft, rape and murder. Life in a Jamaican village, as distinct from the cities, is peaceful enough for Naomi, a young woman who lives in a man-less family with her mother and her beloved young daughter.

However, Naomi can’t resist another woman who catches her eye in the city of Negril, and she slips away from her mother and daughter for a few hours. Naomi is irreversibly “turned” without her consent. After she escapes, she must come to terms with her transformation. She dreams of what she has lost:

“Naomi dreamed that she was alive. The sun touched her with its soft golden fingers, filtering through her hair left loose and heavy against her shoulders. Its heat snuggled into her bare throat and along her arms like an old friend. She leaned against the iron railing of the terrace, looking down on a gold and green Negril. The breeze was light. Laughter hovered in the air like music and she turned, smiling, to find the source of it. Her baby, Kylie, stood on the terrace, laughing and spinning in a circle, while the sun sparkled on her wheat biscuit skin. Naomi’s mama stood nearby, watching. Her look was wistful.”

Fiona Zedde is not the first author to use the changing of a mortal into a vampire as a metaphor for “coming out” into a new identity, but Naomi’s grief and confusion seem uniquely heartbreaking. Even after she has given herself a new name, Belle, and accepted the necessity of living with others like herself, her love for her child is a connecting thread between her old life and her new one.

The love of parents for their biological children rarely seems to be a feature of vampire fiction, but in this sense Every Dark Desire is parallel to Anne Rice’s first novel, Interview with the Vampire, in which the child vampire Claudia represents the author’s desire to resurrect her actual daughter, who died of leukemia at age five. In Zedde’s version, Belle loses track of passing time while Kylie develops into an innocent teenager, not knowing what happened to the mother who is determined to protect her from “monsters” like herself. Could this story possibly have a happy ending? Read it and decide for yourself.

Separated from her human family by her disturbing blood-lust and her vulnerability to sunlight, Belle is claimed by Silvija, who calls her “puppy” and reminds her of how much she doesn’t know about her new lifestyle. Anyone who has survived adolescence can imagine the humiliation of Belle’s position, and she reacts predictably by resenting and defying her teacher. Belle finds herself unbearably attracted to Silvija. In the tradition of the best BDSM fiction, Belle’s ambivalence and resistance to what seems inevitable lead her to self-knowledge and intimacy.

Spending her first winter as a member of Silvija’s clan in their luxurious dwelling in Alaska (chosen for its long hours of darkness), Belle comes to know her new companions in immortality. She is especially drawn to Shaye, a vampire of approximately Silvija’s age who still seems to have the energy and curiosity of a young girl. Appearances are deceptive, however, and Shaye is not Kylie. As in other vampire fiction, these characters remain physically frozen in the stage at which they were “turned,” but they continue to learn and grow inside.

There is enough hypnotic sex in this novel to satisfy readers who want to skip to “the good parts,” but the sex scenes are not simply a distraction from other kinds of tension. The reader/voyeur learns that the vampires of the “family” sometimes have consensual affairs with mortal women whom they could kill at any time. The reader also learns that the vampire clan has a polyamorous group relationship which changes every time a new member joins the group. Every seduction advances the plot, which includes elements of a whodunit, a romance and a coming-of-age novel.

The sensuality of the narrative style, the intensity of the characters’ emotions, and the complexity of the plot are all satisfying. Several of the physical details, however, seem overdone or inconsistent. Persistent references to the flowery smells of individual vampires become cloying. Belle’s habit of breathing heavily in moments of passion until she remembers that she doesn’t need to breathe at all (being “dead”), seem unconvincing.

In addition, the reactions of Caribbean vampires to the cold air of Alaska in winter seem inconsistent. Either they are impervious to the cold, being both “dead” and superhuman, or they need to sleep pressed together to conserve the warmth they can only acquire by taking the blood of the living, but it is hard to see how the author could have it both ways.

Aside from these details, this novel shows that there is still some life left in vampire fiction, a genre that refuses to rest in peace. Fiona Zedde has done a remarkable job of adapting the well-worn tradition of Dracula, the archetypal vampire as a European aristocrat in his remote mountain castle, to other places, cultures and desires. The “dark desires” of socially-marginalized characters might simply alienate some readers, but the magic works for me.

REVIEWED BY JEAN ROBERTA

Jean Roberta

Jean teaches English in a Canadian prairie university, where she is also a consulting editor for the literary journal.

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Book Release

“TURN FOR HOME”

Author: Lara Zielinsky
Publisher: P.D. Publishing
Available: May 2010

“Falling in love wasn’t easy. Staying together may be impossible.”

With her divorce proceeding, Brenna Lanigan is upset by her sons’ cold shoulders and opposition to her intimate relationship with Cassidy Hyland. Cassidy’s son Ryan eagerly accepts their relationship, which makes Thomas and James’ lack of support even more upsetting.

When the women return from holiday hiatus to Time Trails, they sneak precious moments of intimacy in shadows and trailers. With many of the cast and crew showing support, Cassidy and Brenna try to date in hopes of being seen simply as friends. The paparazzi give chase, however, very interested in the attitude change from cold shoulder to coziness between them.

When their romance is suspected, the “lesbian” label sets off Mitch Hyland, Cassidy’s ex-husband, who plans to remove his son from being raised by a lesbian — By force if necessary.

Alexandra Wolfe

Alexandra is the founder, owner, and publishing editor of the Kissed By Venus web site and magazine.

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Strength In Numbers

Title: STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Author: Jeanine Hoffman
Publisher: L-Book
ISBN: 978-1934889510
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Romance

This is the story of four women learning just how much strength can be given from the number of loved ones around you. Strength in Numbers takes these independent professional women, Jay, Bailey, Riley, and Sharon, through the crisis of a having their lives turned upside down when Jay encounters a health issue. As Jay’s childhood best friend and one time lover, Bailey has just reentered Jay’s life to recapture and rebuild the trust and love they once shared so deeply. Brand new in town, Riley finds her growing friendship with Jay an anchor in the changes taking place in her own life as she changes her career and moves to Philadelphia.

Sharon, supervisor to Jay at the bank where they work, is tired of building her career and striving to maintain a closeted public business life while ignoring her personal needs. The four women have a delicate balance of growing friendships between them and when the crisis occurs their bonds deepen.

Alexandra Wolfe

Alexandra is the founder, owner, and publishing editor of the Kissed By Venus web site and magazine.

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Summertime, Reaction, Theory

i was taking a walk at lunch, in the millennium park the other day and the oddest thing. there was this car driving quietly through the garden. where did it come from? suddenly this old black thing: a ford tudor or something. all i thought of was old fashioned house calls and doctors. and the logic of it all didn’t strike me until much later; i didn’t hear that car at all. what was it doing there? was it my imagination? was it even old? who can say. i didn’t hear it at all. all i heard was the sound of the symphony playing a few hundred feet away, a robin, a cacophony of voices, crickets. a friend responded later, “…the car was not a phantom, but it would have been better had it been one, all in black – with curtains, perhaps.”

so i started thinking. how are the ways in which we separate ourselves? how do we objectify those things around us? how do we separate ourselves from other?…

A POEM IN RESPONSE

Jennifer Harris

Author of PINK! and resident Poetry Editor, Jennifer Harris, is an active literary organizer and served on the Board of Trustees for the Poetry Center of Chicago. She earned her MFA in Writing from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.

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