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I've always loved the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, and found something erotic at its core. The Prince awakens Beauty with a kiss. And I thought, all right, what if he brought a kind of liberation, an induction into a world of bizarre yet irresistible delights?
It has to be remembered that within the frame of a sadomasochistic fantasy like the Beauty trilogy, the readers are invited to identify with and enjoy the predicament of the slaves. The books aren't about literal cruelty; they're about surrender, the fun of imagining you have no choice but to enjoy sex. Beauty's slavery is delicious, sensuous, abandoned, and ultimately liberating.
This is all part of the framework. And it seemed to work exquisitely with the old fairy tale. And of course the fairy tale removes us from everyday life; it removes us from the intrusion of garish headlines, literal violence, and all the ugliness of crime. As Anne Rice, I'm known for certain kinds of novels; the Roquelaure books retain the name Roquelaure even with my name added to indicate that this is something "different. And some might find it far too spicy for their taste.
I don't like the idea of confusing or disappointing readers, so the pen name helps with that. Of course, there are many people who have read all my work, including the Roquelaure novels, and they see me as a multifaceted writer. But the Roquelaure material is erotica, without reservation, and it needs that pen name on the label, so to speak.
The pen name says: Anne Rice is doing something very different here. I felt I needed the anonymity of the pen name to write freely, to pursue an authentic erotica without being inhibited or self-conscious. My father was still living then and I didn't want him to know about the books either. In fact, there were lots of friends and relatives whom I didn't want to worry about as I developed the writing.
There was quite a bit of exposure involved in writing such graphic sexual fantasies. It was frightening now and then, and it was thrilling. Eventually, I told my father about the books, asking him not to read them, and I did put my name on them. I adjusted completely to people knowing I'd written them.
A pen name enables you not only to cloak what you are doing from friends and family; it gives you a new freedom to do something you would not do as yourself. I have thought of writing some new erotica, and I must confess I imagined using a new pen name for it. I don't know whether I'll pursue it, but I do find the freedom of the pen name attractive. When the Sleeping Beauty Trilogy books were first published, they were underground books. They had the backing of a major mainstream publisher, yes, but the publication, though dignified and beautiful, was relatively quiet.
But different readers embraced the books almost at once. They clearly appealed to young people, and older married people, to gays and straights. And they've sold steadily ever since they first appeared. Women come up to me at signings with babies in strollers and giggle and laugh and say, "We love your dirty books.
Before these books, a lot of women read what were called "women's romances" where they had to mark the few "hot pages" in the book. I said, well, look, try this. Why do I think these particular books have been popular?
Two reasons. First, I think it is because they involve no harsh, garish violence at all. They involve game playing, really. No one is burned or cut or hurt. Certainly no one is killed. Indeed the whole sadomasochistic predicament is presented as a glorified game played out in luxurious rooms and with very attractive people, and involving very attractive slaves.
There are endless motifs offered for dominance and submission, for surrender and love. It's like a theme park of dominance and submission, a place to go to enjoy the fantasy of being overpowered by a beautiful man or woman and delightfully compelled to surrender and feel keening pleasure, without the slightest serious harm.
I think it's authentic to the way many who share this kind of fantasy really feel. I think what makes it work for people is the combination of the very graphic and unsparing sexual details mixed with the elegant fairy-tale world. Unfortunately a lot of hackwork pornography is written by those who don't share the fantasy, and they slip into hideous violence and ugliness, thinking the market wants all that, when the market never really did.
Second, this is shamelessly erotic. It pulls no punches at being what it is. It's excessive and it is erotica. Maybe this is what you really want, and you don't have to mark the hot pages because every page is hot. Every page is about sexual fulfillment. Every page is meant to give you pleasure. There are no boring parts. Yet it's very "romantic. Lots of people enjoy imagining themselves passive, in the hands of a beautiful lover, male or female, who will force them to enjoy themselves.
It's a common idea, and it cuts across gender and class. Men love these sorts of fantasies as much as women. And these books offer all kinds of gender combinations; women dominating men and women; men dominating men and women.
The books offer ornate and seductive variations on the themes; and all of it is interwoven in stories with real characters, and again, the emphasis is on a lush, sensuous realm in which all this happens. There are very detailed descriptions of physical interaction and response; but the fairy-tale spell is sustained.
I also went all the way with exploring the mind-set of sadomasochism as I saw it, letting the fantasy characters talk in depth about what they felt and what they enjoyed and what thrilled them as they were humiliated and overwhelmed. I suspect that for some readers, this kind of deep exploration of the mentality of the participants was entirely new. Is this why they appealed to so many, because people want this very combination of elements?
I certainly never found the combination of elements I wanted in anyone else's erotica. So I offered what I could not find; a light touch; elegance; preciseness; a dreamlike kingdom; a dream in which people explore their need to be passive and to "pretend" that someone gorgeous and irresistible is "making" them do it. Psychiatrists have written volumes on the nature of the sadomasochistic fantasy, but when I wrote the trilogy I didn't know of any fiction that really enabled you to slide in it and "play" the way I wanted to play.
So I wrote the books I couldn't find. I never thought a book as eccentric as Interview with the Vampire would have mass appeal. I only knew that I wanted to "be with the vampire" in the story, tell it from his point of view. I wanted to be inside his head and heart and reveal his voice and his pain. People wanted to explore all kinds of super characters and hear their intimate musings. The demand for such romantic fantasies grew and grew. But did I have any idea that would happen?
I wrote what I wanted to read. Well, the same thing is true with the Beauty books. I didn't know whether that many other people had the fantasies. After all, we didn't talk much about them. Only a small elite knew about the mysterious Story of O.
But I knew I had these fantasies, and I wanted to share them, and I felt an overwhelming desire to do them "right. I wanted to really delve into intense sensuous pleasure but put a gilded frame around a safe place for the reader from which he or she could go and come with ease.
Of course these books have from time to time been banned. I never expected a library to stock the Beauty trilogy. I know that many libraries respond to community standards, and I just never thought about it much at all. I did notice and I couldn't help notice that the books sold well and steadily, and that at every signing I gave, people brought them to be signed. Recently, I've signed as many copies of the Beauty books as I have of any other book I've written.
So I don't worry too much about being banned. I've always shocked people. Years ago, I published a novel about the eighteenth-century castrati opera singers, titled Cry to Heaven. Someone brought a copy back to a bookstore in Stockton, California, and demanded his money back. There are always some people objecting to what I do. I'm grateful the Beauty books have been embraced and sustained over the years.
As a feminist, I'm very much supportive of equal rights for women in all walks of life. And that includes for me the right of every woman to write out her sexual fantasies and to read books filled with sexual fantasies that she enjoys. Men have always enjoyed all kinds of pornography. How can it be wrong for women to have the same right? We're sexual beings! And fantasy is where we can do the things we can't do in ordinary life. A woman has a right to imagine herself carried away by a handsome prince, and to choose for herself as she writes, the color of his hair and eyes, and imagine his silky voice.
She has a right to make him as tall as she wants and as strong as he wants. Why not?
Anne Rice (Writing as A. N. Roquelaure) - The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy
The novels describe explicit sexual adventures of the female protagonist Beauty and the male characters Alexi, Tristan and Laurent, featuring both maledom and femdom scenarios amid vivid imageries of bisexuality , homosexuality, ephebophilia and pony play. In , the abridged audio versions of the first three books were published in cassette form. Neither of them gave her the critical acclaim or the commercial success of her first novel; the main complaints about The Feast of All Saints were that it was too heavy and dense to read easily,  and most of the reviews for Cry to Heaven were so savagely negative that Rice felt devastated. Roquelaure from the French word Roquelaure , referring to a cloak worn by men in the 18th-century Europe. The trilogy was written in the s when many feminists denounced pornography as violation of women's rights, but Rice firmly believed that women should have the freedom to read and write whatever they pleased, and considered the trilogy her political statement. A fourth book in the series, Beauty's Kingdom , was published in April In the first chapter of the story, Beauty is awakened from her hundred-year sleep by the Prince, not with a kiss, but through copulation, initiating her into a Satyricon -like world of sexual adventures.
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty
The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy Box Set