I was honored to interview Paul Herron, editor of Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1947–1955, which launches on May 15th.
You can read the interview in full at Go Deeper Press.
Lana Fox: Why is the unexpurgated diary of this time in Nin’s life called Trapeze?
Paul Herron: The diary begins in 1947, just after Anaïs Nin has met the young out-of-work actor and aspiring forest ranger Rupert Pole. Although Nin was in a 24-year-long marriage with the banker/engraver Hugo Guiler, she fell hard for Pole and accepted his astounding invitation to drive from New York to Los Angeles alone with him. At the time, Nin had been involved with many, many failed side relationships, vainly seeking the “One” who would answer her love fully, and she felt had met her match in Pole. But she did love her husband, in a fraternal way, and as he offered her love, care, comfort and security, she felt she could not divorce him. So, the first trip to California is the metaphorical first swing on a bicoastal trapeze, a term she herself uses several times in the diary. She lived the trapeze life for the rest of her life, doing her best to keep each man unaware of the other.
Lana Fox: I can only imagine how exciting it must be to have already read about Anaïs Nin’s “trapeze” life in the unexpurgated diary! What was it like to be the editor of Trapeze?
There is no question that there are so many treasures in the original diary, and many of them are completely unknown to the public. We hear about them second-hand in biographies and certain studies, but we don’t get to actually read what Nin herself wrote. It is an amazing privilege to edit her work, and I do it for one simple reason: it is valuable to other human beings. Of course, it is a massive undertaking—several thousand pages of mostly handwritten pages, some of which are out of order, all have to be transcribed. Nin’s handwriting is impeccable, but when one tries to decipher Rupert’s handwritten letters, or even Hugo’s sometimes, one needs to develop a system, almost like the one used to interpret hieroglyphics—this swiggle means this letter, that scratch means another. The biggest challenge is to find the story buried in this mountain of diary pages, and to devise a way to let Anaïs Nin tell it stunningly. This means a lot of detective work and, in the end, cutting and rearranging in a way that will thrill the reader. Despite the time and effort, it’s all worth it in the end, because it is a compelling diary, and, I feel, a very important addition to Nin’s overall canon.
Okay, so Oleander Plume and Dario Dalla Lasta, both of whom feature in our ACLU-fundraising erotic anthology Alternative Fucks, are organizing a cool blog trot … So I’m going to answer their questions, but not necessarily in the order they asked them — after all, that would mean leaving Little Death until last. (And folks, you can have a little death anytime you like! Just think of all those oxytocins.)
What is right by your side while you are writing?
Whatever else is sitting on my rather messy desk, Little Death is always there. Little Death (aka Le Petit Mort) is not only the French for ‘orgasm’ but is also a small, stuffed toy that Jake bought me at CVS when I was feeling low. Little Death sits by my side with his axe — he is death, after all — and looks cute as all heck. His axe, I like to think, reminds me to “kill my darlings” and basically not take any shit from my hugely critical inner writing voice. Also, seeing as I’m in erotic writing and publishing, it is pretty cool to have an orgasm on my desk. And yes, you can take that any way you like, cutie.
This post is part of the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest VI! To read more entries, and potentially win a fun prize, visit the fest page on August’s McLaughlin’s site between today and 11pm PST March 11th.
So, I’ve been having some difficulties with calling myself “woman”, recently. It’s not that I’m not a feminist or that I’m ashamed of being female. Far from it. Having been on a journey with my partner who came out as transgender almost two years ago now, I’m just finding it hard to know who I am in terms of gender. Jake’s transition was so courageous and deep that it made me view myself from a new angle.
That angle made me gasp.
In a recent post on a beautiful story called “On Some Maps, But Not on Others” by Annabeth Leong (in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 2, ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel), I said that “gender often feels like a bottle that I was forced into, when really I’m part of an unending sea.”
Yes, in terms of gender, I’m an ocean. But I think my female identity is part of that ocean. Perhaps I am a woman … and someone else. As folks who read my #BOAW16 post know, I have worn a mustache during sex, not to mention a rather studly tie — oh, and lipstick, as it happens, at the same time. I also love wearing a slinky nightdress. I love to don a silicone cock. All these expressions feel like me.
So perhaps I am a woman in the middle of an ocean. I always did call myself a mermaid. And you can’t take a mermaid from her ocean, can you?
In Mirages, my hero Anaïs Nin, who was also a mermaid, writes, “I am not writing for the elite, but for the confused ones. I would like to have the Encyclopedia Britannica. I need it now. I want facts and concrete images, earth, science, body. Everything made flesh, everything a story, everything animated and dramatized.” Beautiful! I am one of the confused ones. And like so many of her fans, her children, I always did feel Anais Nin was writing for me.
Confused as I am, I can see everything is indeed a story, just like Anaïs Nin says. Even the parts of us that we believe are simply facts — leg, belly, cunt, cock — are part of a story, a bigger, wider story. We tell those stories when we say, “This is female,” or “This is not sexual,” or “This is only sexual,” or “This looks female,” or “This does not look female.”
There’s always magic when we remove the either/or.
In Mirages, Anaïs Nin also writes, “Stories, stories, the only enchantment possible, for when we begin to see our suffering as a story, we are saved.”
Yes, yes, yes! From confusion and lostness, I will make stories. (In Maddie Aflame! I write about a giant, swallowing mansion that is sentient and sexual, and has no gender. What a comfort that story has been!) And I’ll make stories of my gender too. I’ll say my gender is a butterfly, a flying saucer, a stream of laughing bubbles, a spreading oak. Sounds magical, doesn’t it? And sometimes I will wear a cock and call myself a woman. And sometimes I’ll wear nothing and choose a different word.
But always, always, I will call myself an ocean.
And I think that, as an ocean, I’m beautiful.
What is the story of your own gender? If, like an ocean, it had no constraints, what would it be? Feel free to tweet me your thoughts at @foxlana tagging #BOAW2017 — I’d love to hear them!
When my partner transitioned, I was with him all the way, learning with him, listening to him, and supporting him as he faced the binaries that keep so many of us feeling small. In a way, I underwent my own transition with him. I still refer to myself as a cisgender woman, because I feel that’s as close as I can get to a truth that others will immediately understand, though actually the term “gender non-conforming” feels more comfortable for me.
Put it this way: gender often feels like a bottle that I was forced into, when really I’m part of an unending sea.
So where do I find erotica that speaks to my identity? Not always in the places I’d expect.
This week, I’ve been reading a copy of Best Women’s Erotica of the Year 2017, Volume 2, sent to me by editorial genius Rachel Kramer Bussel, and I had to pause my most enjoyable read to share one story that speaks to me in spades. In “On Some Maps, But Not On Others” by Annabeth Leong, the narrator’s opening line is, “My girlfriend likes to tie men up and torture their cocks.” She goes on to say that when they first started dating this wasn’t something she thought much about. It was just stuff her girlfriend “did with partners who weren’t me, using equipment I didn’t have.”
Immediately, I was grasped hard.
But I’m not going to ruin it for you. Let’s just say that the narrator decides to sit in on one of the cock-torture sessions, and in watching the tremendously hot pain play that emerges, finds a deep set of needs in herself that she can’t but explore — needs that relate to her gender and sexuality.
She buys herself a packer cock of her own. Her identity starts to shift.
“Gender still scares me,” explains the protagonist as she allows her own needs to transform her, “but now I think about it all the time. I don’t know what to call myself, don’t know what I am. The boundaries of my body shift and change. My cock is an island charted by sailors before Google Earth came along, appearing on some maps but not on others. My cunt is sometimes a depth, but sometimes a height.” She goes on to say, “Sometimes my cunt feels tough and masculine, ready to take any sort of abuse. Sometimes I put on my soft-pack and watch it tremble, so delicate in shape and color, and it feels like nothing could be girlier.”
It is rare that I feel so included in a story these days. (I will just mention Xan West’s extraordinarily beautiful and hot “The Tender Sweet Young Thing,” which makes me feel like I finally belong. I was honored to help publish it along with all the other amazing stories in West’s Show Yourself to Me at Go Deeper.) What I feel Leong does for us, her readers, is generous, kind, and powerfully erotic, especially when the protagonist wears her own cock. Genitals are not gendered in this story. Leong reminds us that boners and soft-ons are not of gender.
Gender is a construct. That construct does not own my flesh.
I am grateful to the talented author Annabeth Leong and the collection‘s thoughtful editor Rachel Kramer Bussel. Through Leong’s infinitely brave protagonist and her empowered, loving girlfriend, this author lets us come as we are. As I sit with the story, aroused and embraced, my identity comfortably shifts with the sands.
Those who love queer erotica that shatters the gender binary might be interested to know that The Swallowing Mansion is free right now on B&N and is also available at Amazon. Plus at Go Deeper, books 1 and 2 are on special.
Queers save the world. And so does the Mansion that swallows them.
I once slept with a guy who said he didn’t like the term “lovemaking.” I told him I rarely used it, but was glad the term exists. “It has a poetry of its own,” I mused.
“I prefer fucked,” he said.
To take that line and screw with it a little, where the leader of the land is concerned, I never prefer fucked. That said, thank God for Twitter. Twitter’s where I go to say hi to people, to draw warmth from our community, to express, share, feel delight, hold hands with the sex-positive world. Twitter’s where I go for lovemaking. The sort that takes place with friends in 140 characters or less.
Or with myself in 280 characters by, you know, self-replying.
Anyway, you can imagine why, when the ever-perceptive branding expert Dorie Clark, author of the amazing Stand Out and Reinventing You, made the following 2017 prediction at BrandDrivenDigital.com, I lost my mind a little:
“Twitter will die, and Donald Trump will be the only person still left who is using it.”
That said, if I have to tweet Trump myself to make sure there are at least two of us using Twitter, I guess I’ll be opening an Instagram account instead.
Now, I purposefully never seek out Trump’s Twitter feed. As a queer immigrant married to a trans man, I feel afraid of him. I know it’s not an ideal emotion, but it’s where I’m at right now. I watch the headlines from behind a cushion. Rather than say the word “Trump” I’m tempted to do a Pre-Potter Hogwarts and refer to him only as the Snollygoster.
Daily word: 'Snollygoster' – a politician who cares more for personal gain than serving the people.
NOT this dog, who has top approval rates pic.twitter.com/eoUtKk2c7L
— Dick King-Smith HQ (@DickKingSmith) January 19, 2017
Oh damn. The Snollygoster is here.
But back to the whole Twitter thing, I’m tempted to get offended that Trump even knows about Twitter. I want Twitter to be safer than that. I want it to be for us only.
Big, old sentimental me.
As the inauguration of President Trump, aka the Snollygoster, bursts in upon us, I’m tempted to say that what we need is lovemaking. Not only the kind that takes place in the sack, but the kind that acts like a big, warm bath. So I’ve been looking to you folks on Twitter for that sort of lovemaking. Let’s face it, there’s plenty. Starting with greats from Oleander Plume‘s feed:
tic toc tic toc pic.twitter.com/W2dRvq53DU
— Hend Amry (@LibyaLiberty) January 19, 2017
— Hend Amry (@LibyaLiberty) January 19, 2017
— Melanie Wise (@IamMelanieWise) January 14, 2017
This, via Chrissi Sepe:
— Stop Trump 🍷 (@StopTrump2020) January 19, 2017
Beauty, as always, from August McGlaughlin:
“To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate.” – Anthon St. Maarten
— August McLaughlin (@AugstMcLaughlin) January 15, 2017
Beauty and tremendous sadness, via Ella Dawson:
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) January 19, 2017
This from Dario Dalla Lasta:
— Isaac Fitzgerald (@IsaacFitzgerald) January 19, 2017
Also, there’s knitting. And Alison Tyler.
— Alison Tyler (@AlisonTyler) January 19, 2017
Life is funny. Why not laugh at it? pic.twitter.com/onln9LVAgv
— Heidi Ho (@caribelli) January 18, 2017
like and retweet if this amuses you too! pic.twitter.com/uDva1C2xSI
— Writer’s Relief (@WritersRelief) January 19, 2017
Lastly, because there is seriousness here too, I want you all to know that Twitter really is still here. Our Twitter. Your Twitter. The Twitter we make. And just because there’s a Snollygoster in power doesn’t mean the human heart won’t win.
I’ll end with a tweet from Oleander Plume. Yes, another from her feed. Which really says why you should go and follow her.
— Moushumi Amour (@MoushumiAmour) January 19, 2017
On that note, I send love to you all. I’m so grateful for you.
In fact, you know what? Let’s have an inourguration instead.
Hey! Check out my social media services, why don’t you? And follow me on Twitter:
First, there was Trump.
Then I went to the doctor’s.
Since I’m a new patient, I decided to tell my PCP that my partner is transgender and I identify as queer. She smiled warmly and said, “Is he biologically female?” Wow. I was stumped. I wanted to ask, What’s that got to do with it? But instead, I explained where Jake was and wasn’t in terms of testosterone, body type, and so forth, without referring to what was going on inside his pants.
I mean, why did she need to know that?
“Right,” she said, making a few mental leaps. “So in terms of a pap smear, you’re not a high risk.”
Here, it turned out, after further chit-chat, she was assuming that what we do in the bedroom doesn’t involve a six inch cock. Which, given the range of accessories on the market, not to mention the fact that I’ve carefully avoided discussing my partner’s genitals, is a big guess indeed.
She’s a nice woman, my new doctor. Really. She wasn’t hard to come out to. She also dealt sensitively with me when I told her I was an abuse survivor. But like many folks I’ve met, say the word “trans” and she chooses to focus on the physical. I’d be more understanding if she was Jake’s doctor. It wouldn’t be a sensitive way of broaching the topic, but I’d get it — she’s focused on biological stuff. That’s a huge part of her job.
But hell, you might as well ask whether my partner has a pierced foreskin. Or a butt tattoo of a naked angel. Or, you know, wood.
Of course, a lot of the world is obsessed with what trans folks have in their pants. Which means they’re obsessed with what all of us have in our pants. When they look at me, they think, “She has a pussy.” And even though they might actually be wrong, that makes them feel safe. The fact that one in 1500-2000 kids are born intersex seems to evade them, as does the notion that I might be trans, and, more to the point, that humans invented gender — it’s a social construct. We built it from scratch. And it’s different to biological sex. That’s why our dog, Lilly, has a biological sex, but doesn’t know which restroom to use, can’t apply lipstick, and would eat any skirt you handed her.
It also explains why she doesn’t care when she drops her food all over the floor.
But I digress.
Let me share what we’re watching on TV, right now. Suspects is a very gripping British TV drama. But when Detective Inspector Martha Jones and her team started referring to a guy who’d gone missing as being “a pre-op transsexual” because he appeared to be taking testosterone, it became decidedly less gripping. (Unless you think of ‘gripping’ as being characterized by the gnashing teeth of an angry werewolf.) “Did you know that your daughter is a pre-op transsexual who is taking testosterone?” is a terrible thing to say, Martha Jones and team. Check out your language, for starters. Quite frankly, it’s all very triggering stuff. Advice to TV detectives and their creators:
- Get your gender markers right. If they’re taking T, they’re less likely to be going by “she” pronouns. Have the decency to use “they” before you make any more assumptions.
- “Transgender” and “transsexual” mean different things. Check it out, screenwriters.
- Once you’ve discovered he is actually a transgender man, use his male name, goddammit. The name he used before now really isn’t relevant and is probably highly triggering for him.
- Don’t assume that when Mum finds out her son is transgender, it will be “a bombshell.”
- Remember, directors and screenwriters — I can’t stress this enough — that your audience likely comprises of both cisgender and transgender folks who all deserve respect.
- Could we please have a crime situation where transgender characters are involved in an investigation but don’t actually kick, maim, or murder anyone? That would be really nice, especially in a society that is so determined to be judgmental towards trans folks — one where, I might add, trans people are being attacked on a daily basis rather than doing the attacking.
- It’s okay to make mistakes. I’m sure I make ’em myself all the time. But when you make twenty of them in the same TV show, enough is enough. Research, research, research!
Now, rant done, this brings me back to the Trump thing. I mean, let’s face it, he got in. My spouse is trans and relies on receiving a vial of testosterone each month in order to survive. (Yes, it is a matter of survival. You’ve seen how we are about gender — we’ve made it a life and death issue.) Will someone try to take that away? That is my big fear. My God.
The Trump thing also scares me because I am an immigrant. Fortunately for me, I’m a privileged Brit with white skin and a certain kind of accent. I’m one of the lucky ones. My heart goes out to those less fortunate than me. But I’m still scared. For myself. For my partner. For all of us.
Please God, keep my family together.
Please God, let my partner be safe.
You know what I expected my doctor to say when I told her my partner started transitioning over a year ago? I thought she’d say, “How’s it going? Is he doing all right? Are you doing all right? Do you both feel safe right now? Have you both got support? Have you been okay since the election?”
Instead, she essentially asked about his crotch.
Thank you, gender. This is where we are.
Pic courtesy of Miss Fit Academy, with thanks.
Sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start when speaking about censorship. There’s a lot of it around. Apple iBooks make me the angriest. They blocked, as in banned, one of our books because “transgender” was a keyword. The result? We at Go Deeper rarely submit books to them any more. Of course, tons of authors/publishers experience such bans from places like iBooks and Kobo. (Hat tip to Giselle Renarde.) Then there’s KDP, of course. They censor Go Deeper and trillions of other indies all over the place. Put “incest” in your blurb and watch them snub you for including valid and important information. Take it out, and they reward you.
They also recently censored Anais Nin’s Auletris, written long ago but only published now, because of a pair of naked breasts on the cover. Readers! Apparently, nipples are dangerous. (Maybe Amazon thinks we should all be smooth-breasted. Actually, just look at the boobs they censored on the cover of Johnny the Brave on the right — she might even be a flamin’ statue, folks. Click the image to find out what we eventually had to do this series’ covers. Just as pretty, but also pretty pointless.) Oh, and let’s not forget the almost non-existent content guidelines from KDP: “What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect,” they say. Those are their content guidelines.
But here’s why I love social media, especially Twitter:
We get to talk about it.
A prime example? #BannedByAmazon is a hashtag — and a fairly popular one at that. After all, KDP’s choice to ban certain books creates an aesthetic that many actively seek. Amazon have banned it? Then it interests many of us. Some of the greatest books in the world have been banned, of course. But the more we talk about bans, the harder it is to suppress said books. With Twitter, and other channels, we can give banned books a voice and share the links to B&N and Smashwords and other retailers who don’t ban books. It’s easy and vital to moan about those who do ban, but let’s also remember to praise those who don’t. And guess what comes up higher and higher in Google searches, the more we RT on Twitter? Tweets with links in them.
They ban it. We tweet it. Here are a few things our communities are saying:
Aghast at Amazon's censorship! It is unacceptable for large corporations to suppress the content we wish to access! https://t.co/8lBCiIh4tw
— Poetrianais (@PoetriAnais) October 21, 2016
— Paul Herron (@AnaisNinBlog) October 21, 2016
— Poetrianais (@PoetriAnais) October 24, 2016
— Hewson Founder (@HewsonJoystick) October 17, 2016
— Giselle Renarde (@GiselleRenarde) October 28, 2013
Have I told you lately that my book was #BannedbyAmazon? Apparently it offends them when imaginary people fuck their imaginary step-families
— Lexi Wood (@sockpuppetlexi) October 7, 2013
— Lana Fox (@foxlana) October 25, 2016
I was fortunate enough to read Anaïs Nin’s Auletris before its release, and let me tell you, it’s a delectable Bacchic feast. In Auletris, Nin has written deliciously forbidden, relentlessly hot stories that break boundaries and are truly courageous in the face of taboos. The heat in this collection does not let up and the language is so sublime that you’ll want to stuff whole paragraphs into your mouth. If you thought Delta of Venus and Little Birds were erotically inventive, you’ll be amazed by what Auletris has to offer. This is erotica filled with lush sensations, complex feelings, and cerebral genius. The work is so sensually alive that it’s hard to believe its superbly talented author is no longer with us.
Conversely, it’s proof that she still is.
I’m honored to discuss Auletris along with Paul Herron (the book’s editor and publisher, and leading specialist in all things Nin), Anain Bjorquist, Rose Caraway, and Jessica Gilbey. We had an absolutely wonderful and enticing discussion. Why not join us by listening to the podcast here (it’s the Auletris podcast with the “panel of experts.”)
If you love Anais Nin, check out my fan erotica collection:
If the answer is yes, go check out Malin’s amazing posts on Maddie Aflame! They’re beautifully perceptive about the series and I’m really honored by them. Some tasters:
What I especially love about Maddie Aflame!, is that it features something that’s been largely lacking in erotic literature—queer-centered, empowering, inclusive portrayals of characters in their late teens and early twenties. Young adulthood is a challenge, even more so for people who may not conform to societal norms. The fact that Lana Fox tackles those issues here, and did it without sacrificing the book’s compulsive readable-ness is, quite frankly, fucking impressive. Like I said, I’m a fan.
The antagonists go to great lengths, including kidnapping, murder, and torture, to impose a rigidly traditional social structure on the populace. And yet, beneath that structure, individual people reject conformity in favor of boundless self-acceptance and love. It’s that sense fluidity (in gender and emotional / sexual relationships) that ultimately helps our heroes counter the rigid traditions that threaten them.
And then there’s the sentient mansion. While I don’t want to give too much away, it’s a metaphorical masterstroke that deserves a mention. The mansion, which, for all intents and purposes should be just a normal house, is a feeling, sensing thing, more creature than building, cognitively speaking, as it responds to the emotional state of its occupants. Like magic, tech and ghosts, the mansion bridges a gap and blurs the line between expectation and form to defy its own weaponization, making it not only a compelling character in its own right, but a powerful metaphor for the breaking of traditional worldviews in favor of wider possibility.
She has Combustion Syndrome, a disease that, when triggered, causes her body to combust from the inside out. While the ability to heal is part of the Syndrome, episodes leave her burned and weak, and are, quite honestly, a little terrifying … As Maddie progresses through the book, she learns to stop fearing the disease and draw strength from it. Sex plays a large role in this.
Thanks a million, Malin! And folks, please go and check out Malin’s own work. She is a huge talent! She posts stunning erotica and beautiful commentary on her blog and she also publishes widely with a variety of presses.
What’s not to love?
A new column in which I wax lyrical about Twitter and other social media.
As an editor and author, typos drive me nuts. That said, in some contexts they bug me far less. I see (and I fear, make) more typos on Twitter than anywhere else, and that’s usually because of the bigmouthed autocheck! (Word has big issues there too, right? Microsoft, Microsoft, “polyamory” is very much a word.) But the truth is, I sometimes find a typo adorable. Today, for instance, I found myself smiling because a profile said its owner had a sexy partner who they loved to do things too.
“Sweet,” I said to myself.
That’s right. Sweet!
Why did I find it so? Perhaps because of the romance of it all. Yes, I do think there’s a romance in putting yourself out there sexually and saying that you like it when your partner does whatever with you. For my own part, I’m actually quite erotically introverted about personal stuff on Twitter, but I enjoy seeing a more extroverted route and the language that goes with it. Yes, perhaps I think it’s sweet when you exchange “to” for “too” on your Twitter profile … at least, when I’m in the right mood. I mean, if you’re the tweep in question, I doubt I’ll be reading your e-book, but if you’re casually passing my notice on Twitter, perhaps I’ll think your sweet little typo says something about your enthusiasm and humanness. Maybe you’re so enticed by the partner about whom you’re tweeting that you want your “to” to go on too long. You might even write “toooooo” if autocheck would let you.
Why not keep those O’s coming, cutie?
Follow me on Twitter: @foxlana