Raunchy Research: Tiffany Reisz's The Red
Sex clubs and riding crops and floggers, oh my! We can't help but wonder — what kind of research goes into crafting an erotic story? And so the feature Raunchy Research was born. Each month we'll ask an erotica author to dish on their research process and explain how these deliciously dirty details make it between the covers. For our inaugural post, award-winning author Tiffany Reisz shines a light on her inspiration for the erotic historical romance, The Red. BONUS — we've also got a signed copy of the book to give away!
But first, a bit more about The Red. The story focuses on the preservation of an art gallery, a feat the heroine achieves by making a very sexy deal with a mysterious (and wealthy) Englishman. With sex scenes inspired by famous works of art, The Red required quite a bit of research! But we'll let Tiffany tell you the rest ...
In The Red: An Erotic Fantasy, Mona Lisa St. James owns a struggling art gallery called, of course, The Red. As the book begins, Mona realizes she has no recourse but to sell her gallery despite promising her mother on her deathbed she would do “anything” to save it. Just when it seems all hope is lost, in walks mysterious, dark-haired, handsome English Malcolm who offers to save The Red Gallery from bankruptcy. There’s a catch, of course. For a period of one year they will meet for one night a month. He will pay her in the currency of the gallery for each sexual encounter, AKA in fine art. Mona, wanting to keep her promise to her mother and feeling very attracted to Malcolm, agrees to the deal.
Malcolm, art lover that he is, doesn’t merely want to ravish Mona in the ordinary way. Before each encounter, he shows her a famous work of art that he will recreate with her. In their first encounter, it’s Manet’s infamous painting “Olympia.” In the next encounter it's Jean-Leon Gêrome’s “The Slave Market,” wherein Mona is put on the auction block and sold to the highest bidder—Malcolm, of course. In Picasso’s “Dora Maar & The Minotaur,” well, you’ll have to read to find out…
Art is the heart of The Red. Fine art. Erotic art. The love of art. The outrageous price of art despite how rarified the art world is. The Red is eleven chapters long and every chapter is inspired by a real work of fine art. How did I choose the paintings? And where did the idea for an art-inspired erotica novel come from? I’d by lying if I didn’t mention that my grandmother had something to do with it.
In the 1970s, the Parker Brothers released a new board game called Masterpiece. The game was like Monopoly except instead of collecting “real estate” you collected “fine art.” The art came in the form of glossy cards that showcased real paintings by all the masters and you, the player, collected a second, smaller card that told you the paintings “value.” My grandmother loved board games. She, my sister, and I must have played a thousand hours of Masterpiece back in those days. I can still picture some of the paintings in my head. Mary Cassatt’s “The Child’s Bath,” Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” a Rembrandt self-portrait, and even a Jackson Pollack. I learned words like “forgery” and names like “Fragonard.” My love of fine art was born around my grandmother’s kitchen table.
To choose the artworks that Malcolm and Mona erotically role-play, I had to dig deep into my long-buried liberal arts college memories. I took an Aesthetics course my sophomore year. The professor used Manet’s “Olympia” to illustrate the moment modern art began. Before the modern era of art, almost all Western/European painters painted religious and mythological subjects, the only subjects deemed worthy of art. But whereas painters past had depicted passive Venus reclining on a couch with her head back, strangely sexless despite her nudity, Manet painted a real woman in his “Olympia,” a young prostitute who lay on a bed, naked but not sexless — and making direct aggressive eye contact with the viewer. My professor told us that the enraged crowds at the first exhibit of “Olympia” were so disgusted they wanted to rip the painting from the wall.
For my other erotic books, the Original Sinners series, research usually meant picking the brains of my dominatrix acquaintances for their juiciest stories. For The Red, research meant picking my way through artwork slideshows, trying to find a painting to inspire an erotic encounter. “Nymphs & Satyr” by Bouguereau looks like a playful orgy scene to me. “Roman Charity”? Well, the painting is literally a man sucking on a woman’s exposed breast. Seems an obvious choice. I wanted to put in a scene with a riding crop and it took a long time to find a decent riding crop painting. Thank goodness for James Sharples's “Portrait of a Gentleman with Riding Crop,” recently sold at auction at Christie’s.
While the research for The Red was consuming and rather dry compared to my other erotic books, the book itself has exceeded all my hopes in its reception. And all I can say to that is…Thanks, Grandma!
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The Red is available in digital and print now. You can read a sexy excerpt here, then grab a copy of your own! Digital copies start at $5.99 from these retailers: Amazon | B&N | Google Play | iBooks | Kobo. If more erotic reads is what you crave, be sure to stop by our Everything Erotica page!
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