Well, mine does now. That I write erotic fiction, I mean.
Our (unspoken) agreement is that she reads the romances, ignores the hardcore. Which works, I believe, because there are places in the heart (or such we might call it) where family really doesn’t want to go, even if your family is as important to your writing self as mine is -- and most especially my mom.
It was my mom who couldn't wait to introduce me to her beloved Jo March and Scarlet O’Hara. She was reading a romance novel when they wheeled her into the delivery room to have me, and these days she’s an all-purpose culture vulture, gobbling up midlist fiction and washing it down with her favorite Ann Perry with a chaser of Amanda (Cross or Quick).
She wanted me to be a writer. And during the long years when I was, shall we say, a non-writing writer, she never lost hope for me. I’m sure that she always believed that the veddy veddy writerly -- and extremely un-Brooklyn -- name of Pamela that she’d given me would someday do its magic, while I never quite lost hope that someday I’d produce something, publish it, and share the triumph of it with her.
But when I finally did publish something, it was Carrie’s Story -- Story of O retold in the voice of an overeducated San Francisco bike messenger with ambitious S/M fantasies and a penchant for literature, self-analysis, and anal sex. The cover of the current edition (tenth printing last December!) isn’t what I would have chosen, but you get the idea. Not a book you’d bring home to Mom.
Or to many people. At first I was very protective of my Molly Weatherfield secret identity. I was serious about not wanting to be contacted by… well, who knew who was out there? And I certainly didn't want to share my fantasy life with my then college-age son.
But I was determined to keep it all a secret. Which included hiding the essays I (as Molly) had been publishing in the online magazine, Salon.com, about the great French erotic writers Dominique Aury and the Marquis de Sade -- because the author blurb and sometimes the text referred to Carrie’s Story. And much as I knew that my mother would have loved the brief, precious email I’d gotten from the noted author Francine du Plessix Gray, in appreciation of what I’d said about her book At Home with the Marquis de Sade—well, it just seemed too weird to introduce my mom to Molly Weatherfield.
Luckily, however, my mother is possessed of strange and mystical mind-reading powers. Okay, call it coincidence if you must -- but for me it was as though the band had begun playing the theme from The Twilight Zone when, at a family bar mitzvah (where else?) Mom suddenly asked me what I knew about the Marquis de Sade. Because bless her culture-vulture heart -- she’d seen “Quills” in Florida that winter, and she was wondering whether I might be able to supply her with a little literary-biographical background.
“Well, umm... yes,” I stammered. “Funny you should ask,” I mumbled. “Because actually…” I continued. And so I showed her the Sade piece (you can find a link to it on my web page if you go to the ABOUT PAM page and look for ESSAYS BY PAM) and a copy of the note from Ms. Gray. Which did make both of us awfully happy.
So was I silly to keep Molly a secret for so long? No, not exactly. Because a literary essay, even about an erotic topic, is quite a different thing from hardcore erotic fiction. So when a piece of my second Carrie book, Safe Word, came out in The Best American Erotica 2000, and when I told my mom explicitly not to read it, and when she did anyway (something about the conjuncture of one of her children and the word best causing her to take predictable leave of her senses)... well, sometimes it seems that a loving and overeager parent simply has to learn about life the hard way.
“What did you think of it?” I asked her. “It. Was. Very. Well. Written,” she replied, avoiding eye contact but clearly sadder and wiser for the experience.
I should add that my very wise son, (who's now a graduate student in Victorian literature) has never opened any of the Carrie books. But he has read my romances, and he paid me the best compliment anybody has ever paid my writing after he read an early draft of The Bookseller’s Daughter.
“It walks," he said. "It talks. It’s a novel. Congratulations.” Who could ask for anything more?
And to the writers out there: do you share your erotic writing with your family or do you hide it, perhaps behind your pseudonym?