76-Year-Old Erotic Writer: "I'll Use the C-Word, but Not the Cruder Language!"
I get more pitches than Francisco Cervelli, but this one really knocked me into the dirt: "Gives new meaning to Fifty Shades of Grey: Desiree Holt, 76, could be the world's most sex-crazed senior citizen."
Two hot flashes later—mine—I was on the phone with Holt, "the porn queen of Texas Hill Country" who has written 137 erotic-fiction tales for "romantica" publisher Ellora's Cave while other people her age play shuffleboard or star in catheter commercials. Her steamy new work, Bedroom Eyes—part of the Skin Deep anthology—is about a Navy SEAL romancing a woman who hides a facial quirk behind tinted glasses.
From page 30: "Oh, she definitely wanted her mouth on him. His chest. His nipples. Every inch of his skin. His cock. . . . Tonight, she wanted to act out every fantasy she'd written about in her erotic romances." (Oh, granny!) Yes, the heroine happens to be an erotic writer herself, and her facial problem, involving a congenital eyelid fold, is something Holt herself had surgery for. The woman truly writes what she knows.
(And yes, she still dates, though there's nobody that serious at the moment.)
The former music-biz agent got into writing when her late husband encouraged her to live her (erotic) dream. When Holt found out about an open submissions call for Ellora's Cave, hubby advised her to read one of their books aloud, and if that felt comfortable, to go for it. "I did," she told me. "And then I wrote Cupid's Shaft, and they bought it!" At the time, she was a saucy sexagenarian.
Our session—I mean interview—went like so:
Hi, Desiree. Were you at all self-conscious about diving into sexual writing at that age? I thought I'd feel uncomfortable and stilted, but I wasn't. We use graphic language but not crude language. And when you're writing an erotic romance, the sex is part of the emotion, whether it's for a one-night stand, a permanent relationship, or something in between. I write relationship stories. I think that what you do sexually has to do with degrees of what you have in your relationship. You start with the sexual tension and the emotional connection until it grows to full-out erotic sex.
Wait, let's go back to the graphic-versus-crude-language thing. Explain, please. Well, I can tell you the words I use, and I use them a lot: cock, dick, shaft, cunt, pussy, and fucking—but I don't use the cruder evolutions of those.
Huh? What's cruder than "cunt"? You'd be surprised.
I guess I need to go out more. Do you write about rape? Absolutely not. I don't write about rape or cruelty or scat and golden rain, and I don't write male/male or female/female because it's a personal preference, though I've written Menage (about two men and a woman). And not incest or bestiality. To my publisher, those are no-nos because that takes it into crudity and away from romance, and we're writing romances, after all.
Hold on, it sounds like you're equating homosexuality with bestiality! No, I'm not. It's just not a particular preference of mine. You can't write about something you haven't experienced yourself. I can't get the emotion into it. Ellora's Cave does have male/male and female/female stories, but they have authors who do it extremely well because they can get into it emotionally.
Well, how did you manage to write Menage? With a lot of imagination. I could put myself mentally in bed with two men, but I couldn't share a man with another woman because I'm too possessive.
Same here! Have you ever written about s/m? Yes. I've not been in it, but I am fascinated by it. I have visited dungeons and bondage clubs and have talked to people about the lifestyle. If my husband was alive, and we were young and healthy, we'd definitely try it.
Good for you for being a hormonally vibrant grandmother. Society wants us to think mature people aren't sexual, right? Yes. I want women to know they should embrace their sexuality. Sex doesn't stop. The body changes, so you change to accommodate it. You put a lot of thought into seduction and creating sexual desire. I try to age my heroines. I don't write any stories about people in their twenties anymore and hardly any in their thirties. I write a lot of cougar stories. They used to say a woman's sexual peak was 45, but 55 is a lot closer now because women take better care of themselves.
What reactions have you gotten as a mature writer of erotica? As my younger daughter says, "Yeah, my mom's out there writing about her sex life." My three kids are actually very proud. They don't read anything I've written—the ick factor is too big—but they promote me everywhere. One weird response I get from people is, "At your age, how do you know any of this?" I want to say, "I didn't spend all those years in the closet!"
But is "Desiree Holt" your real name? It's just too good. It's perfect for who I am now, let's put it that way. My late husband was the one who came up with it. I put him into all my heroes.
Even the Navy SEAL? He was in the Navy.
Cupid's shaft works in wondrous ways.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.