australia’s queen of erotica: an interview with Linda Jaivin
Linda Jaivin knows how to talk. With her international accent from years living in the US, Asia and Australia she’ll tell you about everything from Chinese culture, to feminism, with a few sex jokes in between. She became the Australian queen of erotica on releasing her first novel nearly 20 years ago, and since then her writing has taken a turn towards the more serious.
Her tenth book, The Empress Lover, was released in early April. It’s a hybrid tale incorporating Jaivin’s love for Chinese culture and knack for erotic fiction.
‘I think it’s been a natural transition,’ said Jaivin of her two great loves. ‘Whatever I’m passionate about I write about. It’s like your brain snags on something that really fascinates you.’
As a self-diagnosed ‘graphomaniac’ (having an obsessive impulse to write) Jaivin holds the job titles of playwright, journalist, Chinese translator, essayist and novelist.
Her first novel, the erotic comedy Eat Me (1995), was on the bestseller list for 7 months.
‘One day I just sat down and wrote a filthy story for my own amusement. It was just wall to wall gratuitous, funny sex scenes… it really came from the strange sides of my brain,’ said Jaivin. The novel followed the lives and sexual adventures (often involving food) of four girlfriends.
‘Eat Me was before Sex and the City, chick lit or Bridget Jones and nobody had done anything quite like it,’ she said.
‘My publisher thought we’d publish about 2000 copies and before it even hit the bookshops there were 6000 orders.’
In the post-Fifty Shades of Grey era, Jaivin is happy people are reading more.
‘I’ve only read excerpts [of Fifty Shades of Grey] and had some fun reading them out to friends because it’s so badly written but I don’t think as a writer you go: “Oh, isn’t it terrible there’s more books out there”,’ she said.
‘If Eat Me came out now I would be quite wealthy but I think jealousy is a really useless emotion.’
Jaivin was born and raised in the US. After taking a major in East Asian history while a student at Brown University she lived in Asia for nine years studying and working as a journalist. She then moved permanently to Australia but never lost her obsession with Chinese culture.
Her memoir The Monkey and the Dragon reflects on her time spent living in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square massacre.
‘I continually explore 1989 – the protests, the suppression, the massacre – because I was there. I had a lot of friends that were involved…I don’t do it for a political reason. I do it because I was so traumatised, honestly it felt like it split my mind in half,’ she explains.
‘I really appreciate the bravery of people who will stand up for what they believe in, say what they sincerely believe and create art in the face of all sorts of dangers.’
The Empress Lover pays homage to her decades-long love affair with China. Set over a 24-hour time period in Beijing this piece of historical fiction playfully follows the Australian protagonist, Linnie, journey into the past of both her personal history and that of China.
‘The Empress Lover is above all a love song to Beijing,’ said journalist David Marr at its release.
The book is not a total departure from Jaivin’s erotica beginnings. She believes the importance of erotica lies in its potential to explore how we connect or don’t connect with one another.
‘Erotica tells us a lot about the gap between what the ideal and the real is, which is always present in sex, or at least in my experience,’ said Jaivin.
‘I love the idea of writing about sex as an exploration of human nature in all its weirdness.’
From erotica to historical fiction this graphomaniac won’t be slowing down any time soon. She’s already working on her next novel.