Friday, July 18, 2008

Tale of a Tail...



I knew I had become a real writer, not when I was first published, but when I was first asked where my ideas came from (I knew I was a real erotic fiction writer when I was first asked if it was all based on ‘personal experience’, a joke whose sell-by date proved shorter than a carton of milk in July).

In this instance, when I was asked about The Pride, my first Black Lace book, the answer regarding personal experience was even less apropos (“Yes, the previous summer while in Turkey I ran into a race of catlike people with tails, and it was too good an idea to pass up”). But as to the idea itself, I had to name several sources of inspiration.

Firstly, I have to blame James Spader as the brilliant, sexy archaeologist in the Stargate movie, for re-awakening my interest in Egypt and ancient civilisations (I know, technically I should blame the filmmakers and not James himself, but I’d rather blame him for just about everything, if only so he’ll work that much harder to make it up to me if we ever meet...)

For me, Egypt symbolised Empire, more than the Romans, the Byzantines or any others. I loved the sense of majesty it possessed, of glory and power and authority, a civilisation conquering the inhospitable desert surrounding it, to forge a legacy lasting millennia. I loved the pyramids and temples and other megalithic structure, all built without the aid of electrical devices. I loved the exotic, melodic names of the people and places: Kemreit, Saqqara, Ankhesen. And I admired that Egypt possessed an open equality of the sexes, letting women rule, own property, run businesses and divorce, an equality that sadly would be lost with many successive civilisations.

But as I regained interest in the subject, I learned just how sanitised and asexual the image of Ancient Egypt and its people had been made to me, thanks to generations of prudish archaeologists, museum displays and sword-and-sandal epics (none of whom, hypocritically enough, seemed to mind going into loving detail about the wars, bloodshed and atrocities committed). Oh, smirks about Cleopatra’s activities with Caesar and Mark Antony may have circulated around the classrooms, but she was just the tip of an erotic iceberg (or pyramid).


The average ancient Egyptian was naked to a large extent, the heat and poverty limiting the clothing owned or required. They shaved their pubic hair, used sex aids made of polished wood and ivory, considered lettuce to be an aphrodisiac, and when they died, the men had false phalluses attached to their mummies, and women had false nipples, in order to continue to enjoy sex in the afterlife. Go prepared, I say...


Egyptian erotic papyri, with poetry and detailed drawings and descriptions of assorted positions, were valued throughout the known world (the Roman Emperor Tiberius was said to give his extensive collection a regular, er, "going over"); sadly, few examples remain, though you might still see some examples of erotic graffiti on tomb walls – if the guides let you in those areas...

Sex permeated their lives, from commoner to ruler, fertility being important in such a harsh environment. Furthermore, unlike modern society with its schizophrenic seesawing between stigmatising sex and wallowing in it, the ancient Egyptians accepted sex in all its forms, with an admirable openness. To them, the universe began with masturbation, when according to one ancient Pyramid text, “Atum-Ra took his phallus in his grasp that he might create orgasm by means of it, and so were born the twin gods Shu and Tefnut." From these came more gods, with many more tales of orgies, incest, drunken sex, homosexuality...

One goddess in particular intrigued me the most: Bastet, goddess protector of cats, a local deity who gained prominence for centuries, probably helped by the barges of drunken orgiasts who would travel each year to her ‘hometown’ of Bubastis. She represented the cats who had become the ancient Egyptians’ valued ally for their efforts at pest control in the granaries, a respect that grew into an unparalleled veneration (killing a cat was tantamount to murder, and cats would be mummified along with humans). Like many of the Egyptian gods and goddesses, Bastet was pictured either as a full cat, or as a human figure with a feline head.

And she epitomised the fascination that man has always had for cats, for their qualities: beauty, power, grace, savagery, sensuality, maternalism, ferocity – qualities equally applied to women. We all have some of the Cat in us. So it was inevitable that images combining cat and woman would appear, touching folklore and popular culture of werecats and witches' familiars through the centuries, up to the catgirls of Japanese manga and anime, and the comic book antihero Catwoman (just don’t get me started on the movie...)



I couldn’t get the image of a woman with a tail out of my mind. How would she think and feel? What would she do, what would turn her on? What would sex be like with her? The image of the feline woman started as a story, and then expanded into an entire race of people with cat-like qualities such as tails and claws, epitomised by a member, Kami, who would venture out into the human world to experience sexuality among them. And as it set in my head, more ideas began to attach themselves, especially as I began looking into other cultures such as the Mayans and South Africans and their legends, and read about the behaviour of domestic and wild felines.

Though as intelligent and articulate as ordinary humans, sex to the Pride (as I was now calling them) would be an instinctive matter, a need that was fed as it arose, like hunger or sleep. Their senses of smell and hearing would dominate, and would shape their preferences. Their prehensile tails would be another appendage, another erogenous zone. And as with real cats, sex for them could be both savage and gentle as the mood took them, and not just for the males. A related goddess to Bastet was Sekhmet, lioness-headed and truly bloodthirsty, letting loose with berserker furies that threatened even the other gods. If I ever write a sequel to The Pride, I might incorporate Sekhmet in some fashion.


A trip to Cappadocia, an isolated part of Turkey where underground warrens of tunnels carved out by natives from the volcanic rock millennia ago, gave me the Pride’s home, a distant but reachable part of the world to which they might have emigrated centuries before to escape persecution. And knowledge of the clothing, tools and given names of Ancient Egyptians fed me a natural inspiration for a people considered the children of one of their goddesses. And seeing the Mummy movie (with the gorgeous Oded Fehr as the dashing Bedouin Ardeth Bey) gave me the idea of a cult of humans who would know of the Pride, but would worship them as the Children of Bastet, and would protect their secrecy from the outside world.


Before I knew it, the story had grown like a bonsai on steroids (I’d liked to say the story wrote itself, but that would be a total lie. I ended up having to put down just about word of it myself, while it sat around eating my Haagen-Daaz and backseat driving). But it was written, it was published, and the rest, as they say...

I may never go back to writing more adventures of Kami and her people, but the potency of their images and appeal will remain with me...

So come on readers, what do you think? Would you like a tail? Do you let the Cat out at night?



11 comments:

magdalune said...

Congratulations, The Pride is now on my Amazon wish list. :D

Olivia Knight said...

Great post, Edie! And what a gorgeous genesis. (Didn't pharaohs used to wank into the Nile on an annual basis, to assure fertility?)

Yes, I'd definitely take a tail, and retractable claws, and then stalk about arranging myself in picturesque places. And be nocturnal. (My latent nocturnicity is making it hard to string a sentence together this morning without another cup of coffee...)

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Purrrr!

Janine Ashbless said...

Lovely post and pictures Edie!

And The Pride is definitely one of my favourite erotic books ever. Not because I'm a cat-person either (I'm not) but I loved the Turkish setting and the cute hero and the hot hot sex. I've visited those underground cities in Cappadocia too - they are just unbelievably vast, and how come they are not more famous?

Madelynne Ellis said...

Fascinating, Edie! I love hearing about how other writers come up with their ideas.

Madeline Moore said...

Wow! Fabulous first post, Edie. And how come you already know how to post pictures beside text and such? Miraculous.

Your book sounds terrific, and the story of how it came to be is not only really interesting, but informative. I do like it when our blog is informative as well as titillating.

Oh to be a cat. My choice, if I could choose what to be in my next life, would be a domestic cat, likely Siamese, now that I am used to having a loud mouthed, vain, by turns intelligent and stunned, beautiful and demanding Siamese kitty around the house.

I would like to gracefully leap from the floor to the table, there to sit and preen for the visual pleasure of my humans. I'd like to walk on faces at night, looking for a little love, heedless of the fact that these barefaced people of mine are SLEEPING! I'd like to ignore my mistakes by stretching out a leg, licking between my toes in a way that says 'I did that on purpose.' I'd like to have a tail.

Now that I understand the English sensibility, I'll end this by pretending Felix is reading over my shoulder, and now he says 'But Darling, you've just described your life.'

Kate Pearce said...

It sounds absolutely fabulous-I'll have to get a copy and one for a crit partner is who also fascinated by Bast. Love the images in the post as well :)
And of 'course' I'd love to be a cat-it's one of my nicknames. I'm hoping that will be my next reincarnation.

Portia Da Costa said...

What a fascinating story of how your book evolved! :)

Edie Bingham said...

Olivia's help docs were brilliant and my partner has used a similar blog, so i just fluttered my lashes a bit.

i also developed a very strange craving for fur and had a small fur glove by my pc when i was writing - i'm weird, i know! LOL

However, rumours that i slept with a Thomas the Tank Engine under my pillow while writing Southern Spirits are untrue.

Really.

Edie

Deanna said...

It is a fascinating post. I love to hear where my fellow writers find their inspiration.

I've always been a cat person, there is something incredibly fascinating about felines. They are so aloof and independant. They seem to just allow us to care for them, but deep inside I think they believe that they have the upper hand in relationships with their owners.

Madeline Moore said...

I would not want six teats, or litters of six at a time. Though if they weaned at six weeks and were gone shortly afterward...

Gives me paws....