Friday, May 20, 2011

Living by Love... Stories

This lovely lady is Aphra Behn. If her name sounds familiar, but you're not sure why, you may have seen it here:

All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds. It is she--shady and amorous as she was--who makes it not quite fantastic for me to say to you tonight: Earn five hundred a year by your wits.-- Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

That's a truly moving epitaph, and for women who write for a living, it should be inspiring. Mistress Behn is especially important for those of us that work in the romance and erotica markets, and I'm going to take a moment to tell you why.

Aphra Behn was one of the Fair Triumvirate, a trio of ladies who wrote a class of novels called amatory fiction. That link will give you all the details, but basically amatory fiction was about women writing love stories for women. Sound familiar? Because of the time, these stories were almost always tragic, and shamelessly melodramatic, but that does not mean that they deserve to be as overlooked as they have been. I'm currently reading through Behn's works (you can grab them for free here), and they are so much fun.

And going back to Woolf's point, it's especially important to note that Behn literally lived by her pen. She was not a kept woman, or an heiress. She wrote because she could, and she wrote to make money. The publishing market is scary enough now for aspiring writers, but imagine what it would have been like then, and tip your hat to this woman. Without Behn, and women like her, I would not be where I am today, and neither would thousands of other women.

Now, seriously, download those books onto your favourite ereader, pull up a glass of wine, and prepare to laugh your fool head off. :-)

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