Ana Steele versus Lily Mills
(Lily Mills in the mind of Karen Roderick)
Yesterday I talked about Christian Grey from '50 Shades', and Jefferson Howie from my erotic novel, 'A Love That Makes Life Drunk'. Considering this, I thought it appropriate to say a bit about 'Lily Mills', the sexy intellect that complements the sometimes arrogant swagger of her counterpart Jefferson.
Five years after creating Lily, I'm happy to admit she still frightens yet intrigues me. She is a beautiful, sexual and intelligent woman; the woman I wish I had been in my mid twenties. There may be some cliche aspects about her, but hey, we are talking love and sex here, but it was important to the story that Lily did not become a stereotype like Ana in '50 Shades of Grey'.
So, to sum up a little, Lily is 25. She is studying for a Masters degree at a London University and is likely to do very well. She also writes contemporary fiction with a lot of sexual detail, something she knows will ensure she'll never be published in mainstream fiction. She's also been writing a Journal for years, something that remains secret until she's forced to disclose it to Jefferson.
Now, the character of Lily is a little different to what I usually write; she is totally a 21st Century girl, and by that I'm referring to her sexual energy. She is a woman who has lived a fairly colourful life considering she's still young, and as she evolved in my writing, I found a role model in the shape of Deanna Baker, Playmate, May 1972 (WARNING! ADULT CONTENT!). In fact, Jefferson likens Lily to Miss Baker as she accidentally stumbles upon a picture he's kept from a book he found in Coco de Mer, he says,
"Now, let me quickly tell you the story behind my "pin up"; she is the spit of Lily. I found her in that Playboy Redheads book; I can't believe how much she reminds me of the beautiful young woman smiling at me right now."
(Deanna Baker circa 1972)
As with myself, one of Lily's biggest female inspirations is Anais Nin, and in the novel she dedicates her sexual awakening to her,
"...when I was younger, I was really restrained, even though I wanted so much more, and to feel so much more, to convince myself it wasn't wrong for a woman to feel such intense sexual urges...so I allowed my femininity to inspire me, and only then was I confident enough to express my sexual self."
Lily's sexuality and passion for literacy allowed me to link into the story my life long fascination with the affair between Anais Nin and Henry Miller, by using Nin and Miller's passionate love letters of the 1930's as a back drop to their falling in love. It remains my favourite part of the book.
But it's Lily's sexual self; her intense sexual urges, that allow her to write the journal that shares her side of the story - strong parallels to Anais Nin here and that's no accident, because she was also a strangely beautiful, incredibly sexual and intelligent woman. When I use the word 'sexual', I do not mean 'sexy' in the manner in which we've come to know it. This was important to me as a woman; I wanted to show that we can be highly charged, educated and successful; that we do not need a man to fulfil all our desires - although useful (!). I was tired of the usual plot of pretty naive intelligent woman being "rescued" by a man who helps open up her secret sexuality (Ana and Christian in 50 Shades?). I designed Lily to be feisty, independent and sexual, but she is also young, anxious and kind.
OK, enough of the Sociology lecture, but for me, Lily's character helped uncover some of the issues regarding society, women and sex and the stereotypical beliefs we sometimes still hold, and I have to be honest, the more books I write, the easier these cliches are to spot; but a writer has to remain very careful of them - however millions of copies they sell.