For me the writing process started a long, long time ago, even if I didn't actually begin writing until fairly recently--rather like Flora Poste in Cold Comfort Farm (one of my favorite books) who claims that she's going to gather material and then, when she's fifty, write a book as good as Mansfield Park. I believe voice is something you accumulate from your experiences, culture, and above all, your reading. And since we've been talking quite a bit here about what books we read in our formative years that have stayed with us and made us into the filthmongers we are, I thought I'd share mine.
The dirty book of my generation was Lady Chatterley's Lover. Copies of it, pawed over so much they fell open at the "good bits," were passed around surreptitiously at my all-girls high school (a very old-fashioned place with uniforms, lesbian gym teachers, the lot). All those rude words! All that running around in the rain with flowers in places flowers don't usually go! Pics here are from the BBC's Lady Chatterley's Lover (1992) starring the lovely and talented Sean Bean and directed by Ken Russell, who also directed one of my favorite movies of all time, Women in Love. And here's a very Ken-Russell-like shot from the production. But seriously, who doesn't fantasize about naked men crucified with flowers while out on a quiet afternoon hack?
Trouble is, D. H. Lawrence got women's sexuality all wrong, in my opinion--poor old Connie doesn't have a "proper" orgasm until she allows the virile working-class gamekeeper into her mantrap. No kidding, he and Freud were responsible for a generation (at least) of Englishmen's incompetent fumbling. (Well, you didn't come because you're not a real woman. Of course they wouldn't admit to wanting to sleep with their mum...) On the other hand, you have to (almost) forgive someone who could write this (quoted by Alan Bates in Women in Love--you must see that movie):
Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump,
And open it, so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist, honied, heavy-petalled, four-petalled flower.
Oh, wow. Read the whole poem, Figs, here. There's some wonderful stuff before he goes into a DHL-like rant, as he tends to, and apologies to those who've heard all this before from me.
As for other early influences, Jane Eyre, of course. All that...discipline. I do hope we'll talk about Jane Eyre later--it's worth at least one post and lots of discussion, but I'll share this with you. Last year, some letters came to light that suggested Charlotte Bronte barely escaped court action over her portrayal of Lowood School and Mr. Brocklehurst. You can read the whole story here.
And another book I've always loved, The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, is absolutely fascinating and I'll talk about that next time.
And you do know the difference between erotica and pornography, don't you? If you need two hands to hold the book, it's erotica ...