Krissy Kneen describes her adventures in classic erotic fiction in her research for The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine.
I was originally approached by Michael Heyward, the publisher at Text. He had a great idea. He thought I should write an erotic novel that took a girl from innocence to experience and that referenced the classics of erotic literature. The brief was simple. It was a story for women, very erotic, with a happy ending and that did not explore perversity (which was the territory of Triptych, my previous erotic work). Now, I am not a person who works to a brief very often. I am prone to find an adjacent path and, like a small dog after a rabbit, I’ll race down it and not realise till I am completely lost and it’s too late to go back. So in general I have avoided prescribed paths, but the idea of referencing classic erotic texts sounded too delicious. I agreed to write the book.
I was diligently sticking to the path. I was ignoring all the exciting side tracks and reading book after book in my journey towards the perfect—non-perverse—erotic novel for women. I was trudging towards my happy ending—until I discovered Wilhelm Reich. I was having drinks with a friend when she suggested I should know about Reich. I wrote the name in my notebook and researched him the next day. She was totally right! Reich was a strange and fascinating contemporary of Freud who believed that the energy expelled during orgasm—orgone—could be captured and stored, and used to cure cancer, radiation sickness and depression. He built boxes called orgone energy accumulators that you could sit in and get irradiated with orgone energy. Sean Connery, Norman Mailer, J. D. Salinger, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs all had an orgone accumulator of their very own. These machines were referenced in popular culture. Kate Bush’s Cloudbusters was about Reich’s reverse orgone machine, which he believed could make rain. Devo’s hats? Yep, they are orgone accumulators. Woody Allen parodied the orgone accumulator as the Orgasmatron in Sleeper. And Barbarella? Well, Reich is all over Barbarella and also Duran Duran. He was a key figure in the sexual revolution and he was my rabbit. One sniff of Wilhelm Reich’s orgone energy and I was well and truly off the safe path towards erotic women’s fiction. I had disappeared down a very strange rabbit hole indeed.
Add Reich into the mix of classic erotic fiction and I was on the way towards writing what would be the sexiest, craziest and most fun novel I had ever wrestled with. In the strange world of my creation, there are a few of us who can channel orgone energy, and in this novel (I am tempted to write a trilogy of orgone novels), Holly White is one of these conduits for erotic energy. The works of classic erotic fiction are like batteries storing all this inert sexual energy.
In my year of reading nothing but the erotic classics, my reading took me to some very strange places indeed. Did you know that Felix Salten, who wrote the classic children’s book Bambi, also wrote a pornographic novel? Have you read the incredibly poetic and perverse surrealist novel Irene’s Cunt by Louis Aragon? Or the Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille? When Michael Heyward asked me to reference the classics of erotic fiction without resorting to perversity I am not sure he had those surrealists in mind.
What I have learned in my exploration of the classics is that erotica can be shocking, arousing, eye-popping (sometimes literally), profound and occasionally extremely funny. I certainly hope The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine has managed to channel this orgone energy effectively. I hope you find it just as shocking, arousing, profound, funny and eye-popping in every possible way.
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Watch the trailer, read an extract, listen to an interview with ABC’s Richard Fidler, or find out about Krissy’s public events here.