Anne Rice is a prolific author best known for being the queen of vampire fiction, due to her legendary Lestat novels. But in the 1980s, she explored erotic fiction with her Sleeping Beauty trilogy, an explicit medieval, fantasy-inspired S&M series she penned under the pseudonym A. N. Roquelaure.
The books were relatively less known in the Anne Rice body of work, that is until British author E.L. James nearly singlehandedly revived interest in erotica with her Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Suddenly, sales in Rice's Sleepy Beauty books shot up noticeably, leading the publisher to repackage the books in a new box set.
Rice stopped by Q recently to weigh in on the growing popularity of erotica.
"I think people are much more open and frank about enjoying this kind of fiction because they feel empowered," she commented. "Back in 1983, the feminist movement was really just getting going and women very much wanted to be politically correct. They did not want to be thought of as people who enjoyed rape fantasies and there was a lot of negative feeling among some feminists against [erotica and romance] books, but that's not the way it is now. I mean, women have enjoyed equal rights for decades now and I think they are much more open and honest about wanting to enjoy all kinds of things. Powerful people have always enjoyed the fantasy of being passive."
Still, Rice recognizes that people even in this day and age wonder why being tied up and sexually dominated or humiliated would be a turn-on.
"It's a common fantasy for many people but it's not everybody's fantasy."
E.L. James has told fans she dislikes the term "mommy porn," which is how the media have described her Fifty Shades of Grey series, but Rice believes that erotic literature is a kind of pornography.
"I think erotica is a nice word for pornography and erotica is an accurate word," she said. "It means you're putting it in writing, and in my case, you're not using vulgar four letter words, you're using the King's English to the best of your ability... But it is pornography -- it's meant for sexual pleasure."
Rice said it was a fascinating and liberating experience for her to write the Sleeping Beauty books. She initially opted to use the pseudonym because she felt bound by her reputation and the expectations of her fans. It also allowed her to do away with whatever expectations she had of herself as a writer.
"That pseudonym gave me the freedom of anonymity. I was free again to go to extremes," she said. "I believe very much in going to extremes."