Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Whipping Girl by: Le Marquis Divin---An Interview

Earlier this year and a bit of last year I had the privilege of editing a novel for a man who goes under the pseudonym Le Marquis Divin. The book, titled Whipping Girl, is about a young girl in the seventies who unknowingly crosses over to another time. In my first ever interview with an author, he'll tell you more (:

Faith Adeline: Marquis, first of all, why don't you tell everyone what the book is about?

Marquis: Given that the novel implies erotica dealing with sadomasochism, I can best answer by telling you what it is not. It is not a series of raunchy sex scenes tied together with a flimsy plot. It is, in contrast, a veritable supernatural saga incorporating drama, romance, mystery, tragedy and dark humor, all in a format as broad as you might find in, say, the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings series.

That said (and I hope I’ve dispelled any natty prejudices one might have toward erotica), Whipping Girl is the story of Karen Bouchet, a lonely teenage girl struggling to cope with the recent death of her mother and the stigma of mental illness. She imagines these things as obstacles that stand in the way of more stable relationships with her father and older brother, as well as the romance, friendships and popularity she years for and believes are so easily obtainable to her peers. In short, normality.

The supernatural creature she encounters, however, presents a means of changing her life that’s anything but normal: by enabling her to pursue a mystical double life—as herself in the reality she has always known, and a new persona, an orphaned peasant girl Telina who lives in a medieval nation newly freed from a century of slavery. We later learn that Telina is not a fantasy, but a real girl who lived in the creature’s ancestral past.

Karen gets more than she bargains for when the Sokouri return to conquer Telina’s native country and enslave her people a second time. As a slave, both Karen and Telina teeter on the brink of fulfilling their deep-seated and dangerous masochistic desires, desires which both girls are only obscurely aware. A secret plot involving Telina freeing her brother and love interest from Sokouri dungeons, so they can recruit free Seshians to fight and take back their country, does just that: Telina’s master, the Sokouri military ruler who initiated the takeover, subjects Telina to a series of ritual whippings to induce her not only to reveal the boys’ whereabouts, but also submit to his violent affections.

And Karen lives out every minute of this terror. But there’s a catch. Far from being further victimized, she finds that fulfilling these desires for fear and pain endows her with reckless confidence and empowers her to act in ways she never could have, despite the price she and her alter ego might have to pay later on. That price, moreover, is far higher than either girl can imagine, involving the creature threatening the very survival of humanity.

As you can imagine, pulling all these narrative devices together into a plausible and believable story was no easy task.

Faith Adeline: And where did you first get the idea for this story? What was your inspiration?

Marquis: I drew inspiration from personal struggles with my own sexual nature, which lean more toward the sadistic and dominant while my heroine’s lean toward the masochistic and submissive. As an avid book reader, I was appalled that so few works of erotica gave readers a true emotional stake in what happens to the characters, much less have consistent or satisfying storylines. In erotica, unless you have a firm grasp of narrative technique to build a story people will want to read, you tend to be distracted by your content and dilute the very excitement you want to create in the first place.

Since I have a strong English background and have devoted much of my life studying all I can about writing, it was only natural that this frustrated desire evolved into a formidable challenge—a challenge, to which with careful thought, study and self-discipline, I hope I have proven equal.

Faith Adeline: Did you find you had to research much for the story? What was most challenging?

Marquis: Whipping Girl involved quite a lot of research in a variety of subjects. Many of them I happened to study in university: psychiatry, psychology, human sexuality, sexual addiction, pre-Disco American culture, medieval history as well as American history of the 1970s (Karen’s era), medieval warfare, medicine (a fast-acting salve very plausibly heals Telina’s lash marks in preparation for each stage of punishment), the physics of whipcracking, the Reid procedure of police interrogation, and other methods of torture and interrogation (since Guantanamo there’s a lot of material available on the Net).

The trick to writing effective literature is to use only those parts of research that have a direct bearing to the action, not dwell on unnecessary details that quite often turns good stories into scholarly dissertations. I also paid particular attention to the sociology of American high schools, Karen’s immediate environment; they tend to emphasize more of a struggle for recognition and status than in other countries. It’s fascinating how U.S. high schools are veritable microcosms of the rest of the country (in no way do I cast any aspersions on you Yanks, only admiration).

Overall, the unwieldy diversity of subjects was the greatest challenge. It did, however, help to resolve quite a few snags in the plot—as I’m sure you’re aware, having done such a fantastic job as editor. I’m proud to say that all that’s left is a finely-polished storyline which is anything but implausible.

Faith Adeline: I know writing can be tough when you're trying to squeeze it with everyday work and such,

did you find it easier to write during the day or night?

Marquis: Night, of course, for many reasons: the serenity with which to meditate on how to transmute the fine details of human thought and dialogue into precise and evocative language. The stark, silent, peopleless atmosphere with which to set the appropriate tone for these dark, introspective glimpses into the private life of a thoroughly engaging young girl.

There’s another advantage: at night, you’re neither inclined nor have any opportunity to foist your writing on others for their opinion. To attain an epitome of sound literary judgement, I answered only to myself.

Faith Adeline: Is there a special meaning you hoped readers would grasp while reading this book?

Marquis: Yes, several, and the fact that I used sadomasochism as the main theme for the drama and basis for the tragedy had much to do with that. The meaning is that we can often find the courage to be different despite any opposition we may face. That being different comes at a cost, but if we have a strong sense of self, we may find the cost well worth the trouble. Roxanne, the novel’s foil character and Karen’s more popular best friend, wisely reminds her that "we lose so much more out of life by not running risks or taking chances." However dangerous, Telina’s ultrablack world—with all its psychedelic orgies of violence and eroticism—goes a long way in testing that principle. Somewhat ominously, the creature reminds Karen, in respect to the odious aspects of her own self, and as she rends apart the veils concealing her true nature, that "the shadow is darkest when we refuse to look at it."

I must say, the novel presented a fascinating potential to portray entirely wholesome virtues, like love—that "one can never attain happiness unless one places another’s happiness above one’s own." The supporting characters in the inwoven network of subplots display such qualities as courage, sacrifice, mercy, charity, selflessness and trustworthiness.

Karen’s world is one with the backdrop of an anti-war and growing feminist movement; Telina’s is one where peace and equality between men and women have been achieved, but vie with a society incorporating the philosophy of the Marquis De Sade—paradoxically one of the

prominent feminists of his time. I hope that the story being inordinately dark to reflect our own times proves an irresistible hook for readers, allowing them to become emotionally invested in both worlds and all who inhabit them. I’d go so far as to say that without the gritty theme of S&M, the novel would have never provided as much potential to emphasize this meaning, and, in fact, would have ultimately been impossible to write.

Faith Adeline: Do you think you'll be working on another novel anytime soon?

Marquis: Sometime, but not right now. I’ve been focusing so much of my attention lately on promoting Whipping Girl—including a promotional video for the Internet that’s taken more time to create than I’d like, animation software’s a bitch—I haven’t had the chance. Still, a few more stories are floating around in my subconscious. I usually let them evolve there until I’m compelled to sit back down at the keyboard and just let it flow out. Provides the stories with a lot more substance that way.

Faith Adeline: What was your favorite part about writing this novel?

Marquis: That’s a hard question to answer; it’s like comparing apples to oranges.
Some writers—weaker ones, I think—plan out each chapter as a bridge to the story’s climax so that the bulk of the narrative adds length, but really does nothing more than bide time. I, on the other hand, wanted to ensure that each chapter built and maintained an emotional attachment to my Watergate-era Lolita and all the other characters. I wrote each chapter with brief but meticulous style, describing the clothing, settings, props and even the weather to create a compelling sense of reality in unreal places—perfect fare for a screenwriter if Whipping Girl ever makes it to the big screen. Pick up the book at any point and you’ll be thoroughly engaged.
To answer your question, though, I’d say my favorite chapters involve Telina’s punishment and interrogation. Not simply because I’m a whip-crazed freak, but for the fact that the reader’s so deeply immersed in the characters’ passions and motivations that the sexiness, the veritable majesty of terror and pain comes alive in ways it could never have otherwise. Yes, the whippings are my favorites, only because up to this point I took care not to sacrifice quality for cheap effect.

Faith Adeline: Did you have any favorite authors or stories that you looked to while writing this novel?
Quite a few, some of which were written in the seventies which is when Whipping Girl is set:

The Exorcist by: William Peter Blatty
Gone With The Wind by: Margaret Mitchell
The Godfather by: Mario Puzo
Star Wars by: George Lucas
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by:Ken Kesey
Ordinary People by: Judith Guest
Interview With The Vampire by: Ann Rice
The Whip by: Catherine Cookson
The Reincarnation of Peter Proud by: Max Ehrlich
A Small Dark Place by: Martin Schenk
The Shining by: Stephen King.

There were also a couple of nonfiction books that provided intriguing historical background:

The Erotic Mind by: Jack Morin
Sex In History by: Reay Tannahill

Well, I thank Marquis for stopping by. All of you can check out more about the book at www.whippinggirlnovel.com. I hope you enjoyed the interview! I had a fun time editing the novel, it really is a good read. So I hope some of you are inclined to check it out (:

No comments:

Post a Comment