Like most of my stories, Tainted Love was sparked by a sudden flash of “what if”. I have always been fascinated by people who work in industries that are, by some, considered to be somehow taboo. When one of my close friends admitted to having been a stripper in the United States, the cogs in my brain started turning and I was soon peppering her for all her “war” stories.
What really inspired me with my friend’s tale is how much of a rare Cinderella story it is. She was one of the lucky ones who used the money she earned while dancing to pay for her tertiary studies. But she also met and married her wonderful husband (and that is another fairy tale in itself, worthy of another novel).
The odd thing was, once I started researching the industry, I kept crossing paths with people who either are still dancing, or who have moved onto other work (burlesque, for instance). The industry in South Africa, where my novel is set, is vastly different from how things work in the States, for instance, so I had to spend a lot of time chatting to my local contacts to make sure I presented the scene with a degree of authenticity.
I’ve always been very open-minded when it comes to others’ life choices. So long as what they do doesn’t impinge on other folks’ freedom, I’m happy. If someone were to get involved in dancing, that’s their decision. I respect them for their courage to get up on stage and bare all. I know for a fact I couldn’t do that and have absolutely no desire to give it a try. I’ve done a bit of belly-dancing and that’s where it ends! I’m about as coordinated as an elephant on mushrooms so I’m quite happy to leave the graceful stuff to the folks who’re adept at making it sexy.
I’m not going go on about this being a “noble” profession or try to glorify it in any way. I don’t have the necessary experience to make that kind of judgment call. It’s a profession, like any other, and the women (and men) who consider a career as professional erotic dancers have to go to great lengths to look after their bodies while they are still young enough to make it look good and make money. It’s not just about jumping up on stage and wiggling body parts. I respect dancers who make a success of their work. They have to put a lot of effort into it.
Apart from speaking to a number of dancers before I set out to write Tainted Love, I spent many, many hours reading. Diablo Cody’s Candy Girl provided some background information I fleshed out by reading the testimonies of a number of erstwhile dancers. I wanted to understand why women would consider this as an option, how they felt about their work, how it changed them and how other people perceived them. It was a humbling experience, to say the least. While I’ll never know how it is, I will never say anything bad about someone who is working or who has worked as a stripper. The reasons people enter the industry are many and varied. For those who are good at it, it’s easy money, but it’s also easy come, easy go.
Tainted Love is a bit of make-believe on my part, a modern-day fairy tale about the good girl who learns to let go sexually and who discovers her sensuality. The love interest, to a degree, has played power games with women his entire life until one day a woman begins to toy with him, and he has to commit or spend the rest of his life wondering “what if”. Neither are particularly strong people, and I don’t believe in characters who are wholly good or bad.
They are ordinary folks in a somewhat out of the ordinary situation, who find love. Whether this love lasts is another matter entirely. I prefer leaving these questions to readers’ imaginations.
As for the setting, I’m a firm believer of “write what you know”. I’ve lived in Cape Town, South Africa, my entire life. It is a melting pot of cultures, both European, Middle Eastern, Asian and African, and I hope to provide my US and UK readers with a taste of the exotic. While you may not be able to afford that first trip to Africa just yet, you’re invited to step into my world for a quick taste.
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Follow my blog at: http://vonwillegen.blogspot.com
Read an excerpt here: http://www.bookstrand.com/tainted-love
My next novel, Hell’s Music, has just been contracted to Lyrical Press, with a tentative release date set for September 2011.
Loved this post, Therese! I really feel as though everyone should do what they want or have to without apology. A good life is a life without having to be embarassed or ashamed of your experiences. Most people go through this life doing what feels right to them at the time, who are the rest of us to judge when that person is neither hurting nor upsetting anyone. Power to our strippers, I say!
What do you think? Therese and I would love to talk about this...