Anne Rice re-releases her erotic trilogy

With the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, the "queen of gothic literature" Anne Rice has re-released the S&M trilogy she wrote 30 years ago. She talks to Q about the current taste for erotica.
Anne Rice, shown in February in Toronto, talks about the renewed interest in erotic fantasy. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey has turned attention to a series of erotic books written 30 years ago by the "queen of gothic literature" Anne Rice.

The first book in Rice’s Sleeping Beauty series was released in 1983, but it was written under a pseudonym — A. N. Roquelaure. There are three books in the series – The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty’s Punishment and Beauty’s Release.

The books have long sold well, Rice told Jian Ghomeshi, host of CBC’s Q cultural affairs show, but sales took a spike after Fifty Shades of Grey, the books by E.L. James, became a pop phenomenon.

Now the publisher is releasing them again to capitalize on the renewed interest in S&M erotica. Rice said the books are not the children’s fairytale, but a fantasy that might appeal to a particular kind of reader.

"Beauty is overwhelmed by the prince. He makes her a slave but in a very elegant beautiful fairytale environment in which there are other princes and princesses who are dominated by other members of the royal court," she told Q.

"I wanted to create a pure erotica for the people who shared a particular kind of fantasy and I didn’t think there was anything out there that was really pure," she added.

In the 1980s there was a lot of "hackwork" pornography being published and romances in which readers had to wade through pages of violence or jeopardy to get to the few romantic passages, Rice said.

She reasoned there was a taste among women readers for erotic fantasy written without four-letter words and without any killing or torture.

Rice said the pseudonym gave her "the freedom of anonymity" and allowed her to write in a persona that was very different from Anne Rice, who is best known for The Vampire Lestat novels.

Rice said she’d begun reading the Fifty Shades of Grey novels and speculated they are seeing a such popularity because women feel more comfortable expressing a wider range of sexuality now than they did 30 years ago.

"I think people are much more open and frank about this kind of fiction because they feel empowered," she said.