Monday, January 10, 2011

Inspiration: Anaïs Nin

Hi! C. Margery Kempe here. There are lots of great erotic classics that inspire me, from early practitioners like John Cleland and the Marquis de Sade, to more recent classic authors like Pauline Réage and Terry Southern.  But the one writer who inspires me most is Anaïs Nin.

I grew up in the Midwest in a family where touchy issues were avoided at all costs and silence was the rule of the day.  When I wanted to find out about something, I always turned to books -- too embarrassed to admit to my friends just how ignorant I was about things like sex. Like most kids in my school, I did a lot of bluffing that I knew more than I did. Inside I desperately wanted to know the real thing.

Delta of Venus was first erotica I read. I can’t remember anymore if I read her diaries before that -- they’re so closely intertwined -- but I do recall buying Delta because I was terrified that I would be stopped or carded or worse, that alarms would go off, blaring “she’s buying a book about sex!”  But it was the local mall book chain, so the clerk just rang up the purchase without a second look (it probably helped that I was always tall).

I devoured the book.  It was so specific! It was one thing to read feminist handbooks about sexuality and quite another to read Nin’s passionate words about how it really felt.  I have written elsewhere about how she rescued me from relying on the ineptitude of teenage boys for experience and taught me to expect so much more.  She also made me want to write about those feelings and to try to capture them in words, something I kept to myself -- or a select audience :-) -- for many years until an agent I knew announced the launch of hew new erotic romance line and suddenly the penny dropped.  Hey, somebody might want to read my stories just like I read Nin!

Nin had an interesting and complicated life that included incest and bigamy, elements which show up in her stories where she often seems to be examining and healing the eruptions of life. The very first story in Delta features both incest and rape which shocked me; more importantly however, it didn’t stop me. I hungered for the vicarious experiences both of her characters in the erotica and of her own life in the diaries and novels.  I loved how she used writing to transform herself from a banker’s wife into an artist surrounded by like minds: writers, painters, dancers, filmmakers.

Nin not only gave me the power to understand and celebrate my own sexuality, she also taught me the power of writing to transform.  I had been raised to dream small, but her adventures helped me learn that I could expand my world if I were willing to dare to do so. I’m still learning that lesson, still finding roadblocks I create for myself. I have to remember her words:

"Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back: a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country."

I'm working on that now with my writing and I have every expectation that I will have everything that I dream and enjoy the entire process of making it manifest. Thank you, Anaïs.



Vampirique Dezire said...

What a beautiful piece about how Anais Nin inspired you.
I must admit I had this little purse sized book of a collection of her stories and I loved them. I would read and read and read them until eventually the paper could not be touched anymore.
There was definitely something about her writing that could draw the deepest hidden thoughts from out of your body and wanting to act on it.
Thank you for sharing.
*bites n kisses*
Vampirique Dezire

C. Margery Kempe said...

Thank you, Vampirique! Her stories are just so sensual even when they're not about sex. I love them!


AllureVanSanz said...

The greatest frontier as a teenager for me was sex. I read a book that had romance in it and I remember how often the author talked about their need to be touch, their survival linked to each other. Though I don't recall a sex scene, the implication was enough to spark my devouring of sexy romance books which eventually turned to erotics at a later age.

Your blog post reminded me of the journey to get where I am today, and it made me smile. Thank you so much for that.

All my best,

Margie Church said...

C. Margery, thanks for a great blog post. I escaped in books to the high seas and romantic adventures of the past. Today I write contemporary romances, but I hope to always be remembered as an author two could bring a reader right into the story. I'm glad Anais inspired you so much.


cmkempe said...

Hey Allure, thanks for your comment! I guess it's a journey far too many have to go on with little assistance. It's a pity so many cultures still treat sex as shameful. It's so wonderful!

Hello Margie, I know what you mean. I tend to read -- when I read fiction, which sadly isn't enough lately -- to read things that are very different from what I write. Inspiration comes from all kinds of directions!


Sarah Ballance said...

Wow! What a powerful post, and you've introduced me to something new, as I've not heard of her. Thanks for sharing!

C. Margery Kempe said...

She's terrific, Sarah. I think you'll love her.

Lana Fox said...

This is a wonderful post! How well said. Delta was the first erotica I read too, and I come from a very similar background. Nin seems to have found a lot of us, I think!