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The simmering chemistry between a young governess and her brooding master that delighted readers and left them craving more ever since Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre in 1847 has exploded into an erotic experience in the era of E.L. James’s Fifty Shades under the nimble fingers of author Eve Sinclair. Jane Eyre Laid Bare [Pan Macmillan, Rs 350] sticks to the original text but takes the reader on a tantalising ride into the realm of what could have been. t2 caught up with Eve on phone to talk classics, coupling and the many shades of erotica.

Tell us a little about yourself…

I am in my early 40s, I live in England, by the sea. I have a family — three children and a husband. I’m a writer and I work under a different name as well. My husband is also a writer. Jane Eyre Laid Bare is my first erotica project.

So, why did you think of giving an erotic twist to this classic?

Because it’s always been on my mind! I read the text originally in school and I re-read it when I was in university, and I wrote [papers] about the very simmering sexuality and erotic undertones between Jane Eyre and Rochester. In our course, we would joke about what it really meant when Rochester was standing in his nightclothes, saying ‘Jane, don’t leave me this way!’

If you start looking at it like an erotic novel, you’ll see it is actually quite erotic. So, it was on my mind and I talked to my publisher about it. I said erotica is suddenly popular and this is what I have in mind, what do you think?

There’s been another book that’s been quite popular, called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies [by Seth Grahame-Smith, 2009]. It’s what we call a mashup novel. It’s a mashup between the zombie genre and the classic genre.

So my idea was very much a mashup between the classics and erotica. I mentioned that to my publisher only in passing and they snapped my hand and said, ‘do it, do it, do it now! DO IT NOW’ (laughs)!

And it’s just been crazy. It’s obviously an idea that’s hit the nail at the right time. Also, it was never intended to replace the original, because I love the original. The idea very much was to have a bit of fun.

And you were sure readers would accept an erotic Jane Eyre and not be offended by it?

Well, if they are offended by it... see, if you look at modern culture, you have lots of mashups from different types of cultures, in film, in music particularly, and that was very much my intention when I did this. The classic will always remain the classic. And if we can have Jane Austen’s characters having their faces ripped off by the undead, I think that’s slightly more shocking than Jane Eyre having sex (chuckles).

I’ve tried to write about the sex as sensitively as possible. Also, I’ve kept the original story structure, though I’ve only used the part where Jane goes to Thornfield Hall. But I wanted to keep the story structure and the character of Jane Eyre as they were in the original.

And people are reading it, they are talking about it and I think it’s a really great time to have done this. The people who are offended, well, okay, don’t read it.

Who do you think is the reader of this book?

I think women, lots of women. Since the whole Fifty Shades thing has happened, I think it’s great that women are finally standing up and saying, ‘Actually, we would like words!’ There is so much horrible Internet porn out there and I don’t think that really does it for women. I think what does it for women is words. They want sex but within an emotional love story. And I think that’s what all these books have done. They’ve made women re-engage with the written word, it’s something that’s sensual and exciting.

But why do you think erotica is suddenly so hot?

I think the Fifty Shades phenomenon happened recently because it was inspired by Twilight. It was very much a fan fiction. So all the people who enjoyed Twilight — and Twilight has a massive following worldwide — were like yeah, we want Twilight but we want Twilight slightly naughtier.

I also think there is the e-reader aspect. The publication of Fifty Shades kind of coincided with the time when e-readers were becoming quite popular in the United States. So, I think lots of people felt happy putting these kind of books in their e-readers. And then it just gathered momentum. Because women said this is something new, it’s fresh, it’s fun, it’s naughty, it’s about fantasy, and I think that’s why it became a craze. You have lots of crazes, like The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter… and then everybody wants to get in on it....

I also think that it’s got to do with the fact that women have always liked being voyeurs into other people’s lives. But now because of social media — Twitter and Facebook — people can get those kinds of narratives from real life. You can now find out about celebrities, find out who’s had an affair with whom, at the touch of a button. So, I think, erotica is something a little bit different than that, which is why it’s so very fresh and amusing.

Are there any other classics that you feel are crying out to be eroticised?

Well there’s quite a few, because back in those days, when Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen were writing, they couldn’t write about sex. So that’s an element that’s missing from their books. But the thing about their stories is that they are so rich. For example, Jane Eyre. It’s the story about a young girl, hungry for experience, who goes somewhere and meets a much more experienced, older man, falls completely in love with him and gets her fingers badly burnt. As a story structure, that’s exactly the same story that’s been used through hundreds of chick lit books, and of course, Fifty Shades of Grey. So, that story structure of an innocent woman being completely taken over by the handsome, kind of totally ungettable man, is something that recurs quite, quite frequently.

And a lot of these stories that we play over and over again appear in the classics. So there are lots of classics that one can revisit.

But I didn’t do it in a funny way because I didn’t want to do a parody. One has to be quite careful and toe the line. Because otherwise it can just become a bodice-ripper and it becomes a bit tongue-in-cheek. And I didn’t want it to be like that. So you have to be very careful about which story you choose.

Of all the erotic or naughty bits in Jane Eyre Laid Bare, which one did you enjoy writing the most?

Oh, they were all fun because it’s a gentle, gradual, will-they-won’t-they build-up. Actually the fun part is the twist in the end. I’ve just slightly tweaked one of the dynamics and the ending is quite, quite different, though within the original structure of the ending. Yeah, that was fun, really fun.

Which are your favourite erotic reads?

Oh I read a lot, and all sorts of books, not just erotica. In that category, I’d have to say books that I read as a teenager — Jackie Collins, Shirley Conran and Jilly Cooper. All those books were so informative at such a kind of crucial age and they were really erotic. They kind of made me go, ‘Wow, that’s really shocking!’ And I think that’s quite great because, you know, I’ve got daughters. My eldest daughter is 12 and I’d much prefer her to understand sex by reading novels so that she understands it in the emotional context of the story and the emotional journey of the characters. I think that’s much healthier than getting to know about sex from Internet porn.

Moving on, have you been to India?

Oh yes. And I’m going to Kerala in December for a holiday. I’ve been to India quite a few times. I love India. And my husband and I absolutely adore cooking curries. In Brighton we had a big chilli festival and my husband entered the chilli-eating competition and came fourth. So, yeah, he’s not really afraid of the chilli (laughs).

It’s so interesting how much India is changing, how much embracing it’s become of western culture…. I have done quite a few interviews with Indian journalists after Jane Eyre Laid Bare came out and I found that they have taken the book in very much the spirit that I wrote it in.


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