~ Mitzi Szereto ~
Interview with Author Mitzi Szereto
Bestselling author and media personality
Hi Mitzi! Thank you for doing this interview. I would like to welcome you to Readaholics Anonymous.
I just finished reading Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts and I’m delighted to be able to ask you some questions today.
1. Readaholic: Mitzi, not only are you an author, but what has been coined as a Media Personality. How did that come about?
Mitzi: Well, perhaps it’s because I seem to be pretty much everywhere! I turn up in the international press and media, and with the help of the Internet, the viral factor comes into play. In fact, just the other day I found out I was in an Indian newspaper. (And no, it wasn’t for my curry recipe!) I’ve also become an active player in social media, particularly on Facebook. I spend a lot of time on social media. It’s important to keep yourself out there and keep people interested in you as a personality as well as in what you’re producing. I should add that I also use it for social good; I post a lot of things about animal welfare issues, which are important to me and to the animals, of course. Obviously I’m on Twitter, but I must admit that I’ve not developed my network there as much as I should have, so I’m trying to rectify that. I have a blog Errant Ramblings: Mitzi Szereto’s Weblog, where I write about a whole range of subjects, from publishing, social media, entertainment and travel, to life with my famous sidekick bear Teddy Tedaloo. It’s a humorous and quirky blog and not really in any one subject area. I also have a web TV channel called Mitzi TV, which is my take on “quirky” London. In a way it’s an extension of my blog, in that it can be about absolutely anything. I’ve covered an amateur singing night at a pub, Harley riders, Morris dancers, a teddy bear festival, jellied eel, and even a vintage car show (snagging interviews with race car driver and TV presenter Tiff Needell as well as shoe designer Jimmy Choo). It’s all good fun!
2. Readaholic: Erotic fiction is growing daily, how long have you been writing erotic fiction?
Mitzi: Interestingly, I didn’t start out writing in this area; it came about by accident. It began a few years ago with the M. S. Valentine erotic novels, which were quite, shall we say, hair-raising! Of course it eventually became time to move on to new things, since I wanted to expand my professional horizons as a writer. I didn’t and don’t want to be limited to or pigeonholed in any particular area or, for that matter, genre. This is one reason why I’d prefer to be known as a writer of multi-genre fiction, since that’s more accurate. Although many of my works are classified in the “erotic” area, there are plenty of mainstream and literary fiction books that have just as much sexual content in them, if not more, yet no one classifies these books as “erotic fiction” or “erotica.” So there’s definitely a curious classification issue going on here. My issue with the “erotica” label is the assumption (particularly among literary critics) that such works lack literary value and are of low quality. As a serious writer, this is not how I want people to regard my work, or, for that matter, is it the standard of work I produce. The fact that a work of fiction contains explicit sex should not ghettoize it into a category that is often not taken seriously as a legitimate literary form.
3. Readaholic: You’ve had the pleasure of living in both the states and London, do you think that erotic fiction is more popular in England than here in the states?
Mitzi: I think it might be more popular in the United States. The reason I say this is because there are more erotic fiction books being published there – from the romance publishers (many having launched their own erotic imprints) to the big publishing houses to publishers that have a large list of erotically themed books. The American books tend to be produced more tastefully and geared more for the front tables at bookshops than what we’ve seen produced in the UK. For some reason UK erotic publishers have traditionally aimed mostly for the top shelf, with covers to match. In fact, they’re still stuck up on the top shelf, from what I’ve seen. I should add that there are also fewer publishers in the UK, especially since the Black Lace imprint was shut down. Therefore it stands to reason that the majority of erotic fiction readers in the UK are probably buying the books being published in America. But back to your question, the fact that these books are easier to find in the United States by the simple fact of their being published there indicates that the readership is probably slanted more toward America. Having said that, I don’t want to give the impression that the British are repressed in their reading material. That is definitely not the case. For example, I’ve had a successful side career of teaching erotic writing workshops in the UK (and mainland Europe), most of which have been for literature festivals as well as some residential courses. In fact, I’ve pretty much put these workshops on the map over here. Being invited to teach erotic writing at events that have among their lineup some of literature’s most prestigious authors indicates that the Brits don’t shy away from the subject matter – or from me teaching it.
4. Readaholic: Let’s talk about your gem of a new book, Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts. Where did you get the idea for “turning the kink on” with a classic like Pride and Prejudice?
Mitzi: It all came about rather randomly. I adore the story and the characters, and am a huge fan of the 1995 BBC TV series. I never tire of watching it, so it’s probably been germinating in my subconscious for some time. I also read the Zombies version of P&P and thought it was quite clever and fun. I love anything that’s a bit off the wall, and when I finally decided to do my own version, it was inevitable that it too, would be off the wall! As for the kink, if you pay attention to the original work, it’s quite obvious that Jane Austen was alluding to some rather inappropriate goings-on in her novel, so ratcheting things up a few steps wasn’t exactly beyond the novel’s scope. I didn’t want to do just another sexed-up version, however. I wanted to make my book unique, something that would really take the reader by surprise. Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts probably has more in common with the Zombies versions with regard to its inventiveness and outrageousness, only instead of rampant zombies, we have rampant sex! Crazy sex. Steamy sex. Outlandish sex. But yes, sex! I take no prisoners in my version. From before the book was even out a whole heap of controversy had begun, from the LA Times to the Huffington Post. The literary purists and hardcore Jane-ites had their knickers in a twist about my book, damning it before they’d even read it. I guess they figure Jane Austen is sacred and untouchable, failing to realize that taking inspiration from pre-existing literary works and even incorporating/recreating them into new works is something writers have done for centuries. And so too, have visual artists.
5. Readaholic: The 19th century dialogue is showcased wonderfully in PPHL, how difficult was it to write, especially with the steamy sex scenes?
Mitzi: It wasn’t difficult at all. I don’t incorporate smut-speak into my work anyway, so it was no great struggle for me to write sex scenes that were both authentic to the time and to the voice of Jane Austen. I just asked myself, “Now how would Jane write this?”
6. Readaholic: Lydia is one of my favorite characters in your book, she was always making me laugh with her skirt raising antics. Did you always plan on Lydia being so promiscuous?
Mitzi: Dear sweet Lydia! I think it was pretty clear from Jane Austen’s characterization of her that she was a rather loose young lady. I merely took things a step further. Well, okay, quite a few steps, actually. Without giving away the plot, let’s just say that she got her happy ending – and in the most appropriate of settings! Mind you, so did most everyone in the book. Happy endings are always nice, don’t you agree?
7. Readaholic: How did it come about Catherine being a dominatrix ?
Mitzi: I don’t think it’s too much of a personality stretch for her, considering her short temper and domineering personality. Though we should clarify that in my version she didn’t engage in these activities to give pleasure to others, but rather to punish them for some transgression they’d apparently committed. She was always sticking her nose into everyone’s business and scolding them for not doing things that were to her standard or in line with her way of thinking. In a nutshell, the woman was a control freak with a major God complex!
8. Readaholic: If you had to pick an actor in the making of Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts, who would you choose for the devilish Mr. Darcy? And for Elizabeth?
Mitzi: Hmm… to be honest, I think the cast of the aforementioned BBC TV series was as perfect as perfect can get. When I was writing my version, it was these actors who were foremost in my mind. They brought Jane Austen’s characters to life, and in my opinion no other cast has come close to this achievement. So I’m going to have to say Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet. Whether either of them would wish to act in an extremely raunchy remake of Pride and Prejudice I’ve no idea, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!
9. Readaholic: What is your favorite genre to read?
Mitzi: I tend to read all over the literary spectrum; it depends on my mood. Psychological thrillers and ethnic fiction always rank high on my reading list, but I also enjoy a good horror novel or a quirky crime novel. I have to say that I read with a very critical and writerly eye, in that if there’s something in the book that doesn’t quite work, I get put off and find that I’m unlikely to read another title by the same author. I recently had this experience with a crime novel written by a critically acclaimed author whose name I won’t mention, since it would be a bit rude to do so. I was expecting great things, and, although the plotline was excellent and quite original, the author fell short on tying up some of the loose ends as successfully as he should have, also cramming everything into the final chapter like an afterthought, with said chapter being so tiresome I almost skipped reading it. Fortunately this kind of occurrence has been rare and I’ve generally enjoyed the books I’ve chosen to read.
10. Readaholic: Do you have a favorite author?
Mitzi: I don’t have one particular favorite, no. There are authors whose work I’ve consistently enjoyed, such as Ruth Rendell and Margaret Atwood. And there are books that are major favorites: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, The Road to Wellville by T. C. Boyle, An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, and Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. I love discovering books and authors who can tell a story in a special way!
11. Readaholic: If you could interview Jane Austen yourself, what would you ask her?
Mitzi: I’d probably ask her if she’d be willing to defend me against all those so-called literary purists who are coming after me with their pitchforks.
12. Readaholic: Are there any upcoming books in the works you would like to share with us?
Mitzi: There is, indeed. I have an anthology coming out in September of this year – right in time for Halloween, in fact! It’s a collection of short stories entitled Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance. The book takes its inspiration from the Gothic literary tradition and features a number of authors, myself included. I believe it will appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly those who enjoy sexy paranormal fiction. It’s full of atmosphere and thrills and sensuality. Oh, yeah, and there’s a vampire or two as well, along with some werewolves and ghosts and a few other beings that defy description.
Thank you so much for answering my questions, Mitzi.
It has been a pleasure and I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us next!
My review of Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts by Mitzi Szereto
My review of Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts by Mitzi Szereto