Back on the East Coast and enjoying my shorter than most, but much needed break between semesters, I have been doing some routine stuff. Not necessarily mundane, but definitely routine: running errands, hiking with my dogs, hitting yoga and the gym more often, reading more for pleasure, and I’m genuinely content. Noticing how nice it is to feel like the most important thing I have to do today is finish a book and review it, or write up an author interview, makes me thoroughly contemplate what it means to have a passion for reading. Sometimes that passion is downright tangible.
Speaking of passion, the word is everywhere as sexy titles continue to populate the upper slots on the bestseller lists. Three singles and a trilogy encompassing all the Shades of Grey have been camped out up there for weeks. Despite having wondered for weeks what it would take to budge the steamy series, I have noticed a fascinating trend lately: people are definitely reading more. Maybe it’s because I am feeding a natural instinct as a book lover, or maybe a week off makes me über-observant. Whatever the case, I see a hundred shades of people reading said titles. And I am not talking about skin color at all. Erotic fiction is popping up everywhere. Mainstream and indie alike, there are so many hot tales of seduction out there that it’s hard to decide where to begin…isn’t it now?
Last week, I took a break from grading essays to pop over to Comcast to swap out a cable box on the fritz. Approaching the counter with my venti iced coffee and shoulders-up, busy running errand posture; I noticed it was unusually quiet in there—almost serene. Seeing that the woman behind the chunky bulletproof glass was reading, I smiled. As she looked up and noticed a customer, she blushed and scooted her book to the side asking what she could do for me. I immediately thought: Why is she embarrassed? Reading is good. There was nobody in there besides us and a security guard…
Then it was apparent to me suddenly: she had been deeply engrossed, her paperback was pushed away still open and her cheeks were pink…she had to be reading something sexy. Amused, but not wanting to make her already pink cheeks turn crimson, I explained what I needed, and placed my DVR box in the little window. As she joked with me that I killed my DVR and pulled up my info on her screen, I was enveloped by a light-hearted mood that I generally wouldn’t associate with a place where people go to exchange broken entertainment gear and pay bills.
Acting nonchalant may not be my greatest talent, but I decided to give it a try.
“What are you reading? Anything good?” I ask with a smile.
“Oh… well… I was trying to be discreet. But…I just can’t put it down!” Flipping the cover to show me the telltale muted tones of you guessed it—grey, she actually giggled with delight.
I grinned at the third book in the series and assured her that I had read them as well, and commented on the addictive trend that seemed to be sweeping the market. Before I could even say “private plane“, she blurted in excitement, “Did you hear that the author is going to write another bunch of books from His perspective?” Of course I knew immediately who He was; and no, it wasn’t God; just Christian Grey. Apologies if my “just” offends. Thinking for a minute, I admitted that I hadn’t realized there were more shades of sex in the works. However, this brought to light something else: the first name basis thing.
Each time I hear (or often overhear) a discussion about a title with lots of bedroom action in it, the readers refer to the characters as if they know them so well. And why not? We do know parts of them (quite literally) that we just don’t meet in other books. Between the whips and harnesses, abuse and recovery–and of course the wedding vows–I feel like Christian and Ana are household names. Well, in one room, at least. No I don’t happen to have a playroom—get your mind out of the leather! But I do have a majorly vivid imagination and am actually thrilled that so many other people do too.
Identifying with characters has always been important to me. But I have also always been a book fiend. As an editor, I needed to be inside the protagonist’s mind in order to assure a story that was worth its salt, err…ink. While writing from the perspectives of multiple people, of course I know that it’s vital to see into the deep darkness of your page people’s psyches. In a journalistic manner, we have to be open to everyone’s side of each story because as we know there are always at least three. But this was something else. This feels more intense.
Looking back to Twilight and all the fuss that came with its adaptation onto the big screen, I recall a similar hysteria for Team Edward and Team Jacob…did I need to capitalize those? Hmm. Anyway, I remember merchandise galore being sold in the form of posters, t-shirts, even plastic apples because there was an apple in one scene—yes, just one. But it was red…like blood…so it sold, I guess. Double hmm.
However, there was the ability to create a market presence for all ages with Twilight because as a young adult title the characters wait over a thousand pages to have sex. Even then, they somehow get married first. What I wonder about is this: how will they sell Fifty Shades memorabilia, and would that even be the right word? Nah—maybe paraphernalia suits it better? Because these books sure are being fiended for like a drug. People are certainly shuddering with delight at the thought of more Grey. Readers twitch in anticipation on Amazon and bolt to the checkout lines with the intention of bringing Christian and Ana into their own boudoirs.
So is it an addiction or what? I’m no doctor. I don’t judge anyone’s literary preference. I like a hot sex scene just as much as my local cable girl does. I appreciate that I see more erotica being read in public by red faced women. It’s summer—just blame it on the sun! I also keep reading about how people keep their e-readers loaded with sexy stunners because they can avoid cover-discomfort and remain anonymous. Whatever the case, enjoy it!
Tis the season of steamy weather, why not heat up your beach reads? Embrace the craving; give in to the pages you salivate after—I know I do! Next thing we know there will be a whole bunch more of Bared to You to devour. Are you hungry yet?