My guest today in the Comfy Chair is Marilyn Jaye Lewis, whose list of achievements and awards is so extensive that I’m not really sure where to start first with them.
Author of erotic fiction, screen plays and lyrics, editor of anthologies, groundbreaking multimedia artist, award winning web mistress – details of Marilyn’s career may be found here on her website . I can only say a heartfelt thank you to her for taking the time to answer my questions about her recent release, “Twilight of the Immortal”, set in the early days of Hollywood when no star shone brighter than Valentino.
Thank you, Marilyn and on with the interview
Elin: Demure maiden to Hollywood demi-mondaine, Rose goes through many changes in your book “Twilight of the Immortal”, changes reflected, to an extent, in those undergone by society at large. Was this the attraction for you when you chose to tackle the novel or was there some other major draw?
Marilyn: Yes that was the main attraction for me! I created the character of Rose in order to portray what the culture was going through – to have her embody the times, as it were. And then use her as a backdrop against which to tell the story of Rudolph Valentino’s incredibly short life, his sudden rise to fame and then, poof — gone. I used Rose to embody the grief that the world felt when he died. I totally love Rudolph Valentino and that whole era.
Elin: One of the things I enjoyed most about Rose as the narrator of the story was her flawed but likeable character. She’s a real survivor. How flawed is too flawed? At what point would you begin to fear putting readers off a narrator?
Marilyn: You know what? I can’t really answer that! I create my characters almost as if they’re dictating themselves to me and then I simply write it down; I tell their stories for them. I have often been told by reviewers, though, that my characters are on that edge of being hard to like because they do have so many flaws. It’s what keeps me out of the romance genre. (In addition to Rose, the character of Gianni in “Gianni’s Girl” and the character of Eddie Ramirez in “Freak Parade” both spring to mind as popular characters of mine with a lot of flaws!) I would never set out to offend my readers. But I do care primarily that I am true to my characters and then I simply have to allow the story to tell itself. My main goal is to get the stories out of me so that I don’t go completely insane — then I worry about getting them published.
Elin: The wealth of detail about the lives and loves of Hollywood, and New York, denizens is fascinating. Can you give us an example of a piece of research that you would have liked to add to the book but just couldn’t fit it in.
Marilyn: I probably would have enjoyed writing a lot more in detail about Florenz Ziegfeld and the women he launched into stardom through his many Follies. So many of them had truly scandalous and tragic lives. For some reason, I find that fascinating.
Elin: What are you reading? Have you any recommendations for us? Is there any one book that you would wade through floods to rescue, any one book that you would gladly drop into the maw of a volcano?
Marilyn: Right now, I am (re-)reading a religious book, “The Power of Decision” by Raymond Charles Barker, a favorite New Thought philosopher of mine. He was an important minister in the church of Religious Science in its early days. I don’t recommend it for light reading, though! To be honest, when I am reading thoroughly for fun, it is usually something from 60 or 70 years ago by Agatha Christie!
The only book I can think of, off hand, that I detested so extremely, I never want to see it again and would happily/merrily drop it into some volcano, would be “The Painted Bird” by Jerzy Kosinski. It is considered “holocaust literature” as well as a classic, and while I actually do know a lot about the horrors of the holocaust, this book made me physically ill. I actually tore it up and threw it away. I needed to get physically involved in destroying it.
Books that I would wade through a flood to rescue, can’t be narrowed down to one; they would likely be: “Life” by Keith Richards; “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald; “Absalom, Absalom!” by William Faulkner; “The Day of the Locust” by Nathaneal West; “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf; “The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara” – among others!! (I would probably need to be wearing waist-high waders, as the water would likely keep rising while I was running back to rescue more books…)
Elin: Another recommendation. For someone new to reading your work where is the best place to start? Is there any one work that you consider to be the essence of Marilyn Jaye Lewis?
Marilyn: I am known primarily for my erotica – I wrote literary erotica for twenty years. That stuff is incredibly different from Twilight of the Immortal, however. At this point in my life, my novel “Freak Parade” probably contains my true essence! (I had to publish that novel myself, though, so I’m not sure what sort of statement that makes about my essence…)
I do tend to write in the bisexual or gay realm. I am probably best known for two explicit short stories: “Anal” which is bisexual girl/girl erotica; and “I Like Boys.” Both stories were written in the mid-90s. I know for sure they are re-printed in a couple of my erotica collections – “Lust”, and in “The Muse Revisited: Volume One”. But they might also both be in “After Hours”, a new collection of my erotica from the Mammoth Erotica publishers in the UK.
Elin: What are you working on at the moment? Can you tell us a bit about it or do you like to keep WIPs under wraps until they are ready for public scrutiny?
Marilyn: Nowadays, I am focused primarily on writing screenplays that are female-friendly dramas and that appeal to an older audience. My most recent screenplay, Tell My Bones, has just made it to the second round in the Austin Film Festival, so I am very excited! My current screenplay WIP, is a murder mystery that features an ensemble cast of eccentric older women.
Elin: Congratulations! That sounds so exciting, as does the new murder mystery. Now, could we please have an excerpt of something?
Short excerpt from “Twilight of the Immortal”; c – 2011, Marilyn Jaye Lewis
I kept pace with Rudy, at least in terms of the drinking and smoking. And when he wanted to carouse with me instead of one of his usual mates, we caroused, going to high class call houses. He especially enjoyed going to Lillie’s up in the hills off Sunset Boulevard and dropping in on Manuel, one of the few Mexicans who didn’t work out of the seedier houses downtown. Manuel was polished and stunning and hoping for something besides extra work in pictures. Beyond that, I did not know anything more about Manuel; when he and Rudy were consorting, they spoke only in Spanish. Rudy and I would go up to the room together. Rudy liked to keep the tongue-waggers guessing about what sordid combinations we might be getting up to. Even though Manuel’s room was up the back stairs, we were in plain view of everybody when we came in the front entrance. My reputation was suffering for it but I didn’t care.
In Manuel’s room, Rudy never undressed completely. He would take off his jacket and carefully drape it over the back of a chair. His shirt — one of those expensive, tailored silk shirts from Bond Street or Paris — he’d hand to me, along with the undershirt and his gold cufflinks, for safe-keeping. I did my best to mind my own business, then. I stood by the balcony door and gazed out at the view. It was a very modest balcony and “the view” included the traffic on Sunset. Still, it was better than watching Manuel get down on his knees. Some things, I felt, were still too private, even for me. This wasn’t Mitch, after all, off on some licentious lark; this was Rudy, needing some sort of balm for his soul. This was the man I was devoted to, whose flickering image served ceaselessly in the greedy minds of millions, making such tireless love to an insatiable world. So I stood with my back to them and I held Rudy’s silk dress shirt and his silk undershirt. I held them lovingly; the warmth of his body still trapped in them — and his scent, too. I let that now familiar scent fill my nose. It was all so secretly exciting — his smell and the warmth of him and the sounds of his mounting pleasure filling the room.