In the spirit of intrigues, we have decided to make an interview with a person who revived Dostoevsky, Rasputin, Ana Karenina, Van Gog, and other famous personas allowing us, nor more nor less, but to take a long peek inside their bedrooms. Eli Gilic is the author of the controversial novel “Slaves to Desire” which, with its unusual erotic stories, created conflicts of opinions in the world of modern literature.
Interview with Eli – How Mrs. Gilic Gave Birth to this Novel?
You have translated your fascinating short story collection Slaves to Desire into English and Sinful Press published it last fall. How does the process of looking for a traditional publisher look like?
I have to admit that it looks like a nightmare, especially if your book is translated from another language, especially if you are not from the UK or the USA. I sent more than a hundred submissions, around ninety editors never replied, about thirty rejected me immediately ‒ obviously not even taking a look at my manuscript. But I knew that my book is good and better than half of the books on the market so I doggedly continued looking for a publisher until my manuscript landed in the hands of a great, funny, intelligent lady who fell in love with the stories. It is very hard for new authors to be published traditionally and that is why I decided to share my experience and tips on my blog.
Why did you choose short stories since novels are more popular today?
I think it is a bigger challenge to write something complete and powerful in a smaller format like a story or poem than a big one like a novel. I am currently experimenting with flash fiction, ten-twenty sentences max, and find it fascinating. I also believe that short story collections will have a big comeback. Everything is very fast these days and sometimes we are not in the mood to tackle a novel no matter how good the reviews are. Short story collections, on the other hand, offer a good half-an-hour-long read before bed and make us feel as if we have accomplished something if we read a story a day.
Charles Baudelaire, Rasputin, Dostoevsky, George Sand, Chopin, VincentVan Gog, Antonin Artaud, Maria Izquierdo, James Joyce, Federico Garcia Lorca, Salvador Dali… Why did you choose them for your characters?
They are my favorite writers and artists, people I admire. If their work is so mesmerizing, I reckoned that their lives and love stories were very interesting too. That was the spark from which the idea for this book was born. I started researching about them, which was as enjoyable as writing the stories, and then I just had to think of a universal problem that would be the hindrance in each relationship. I tried to portray the background of all historical figures as accurately as possible. The only exceptions are Antonin Artaud and Maria Izquierdo. They were never a couple, only good friends, but in my imagination, Izquierdo is the only woman compatible with Artaud.
What universal problems did you write about?
The story about George Sand and Frederic Chopin shows the suffering a woman goes through when she loves an ill man. Illness erodes the body and mind, and even love, she will conclude in the end. Fyodor Dostoevsky and Polina Suslova, who was a real femme fatale in her day, have problems because both are very dominant. Jeanne Duval, Baudelaire’s muse, shows how a kept woman feels. Rasputin laments because there are no more challenges left, he can get everything he wants and boredom makes him restless and perverted, which is a nice analogy to modern times. Joyce is nervous before his first date with Nora Barnacle and strange thoughts are racing through his mind while he steels himself. Salvador Dali reveals the black void that consumes one’s soul and mind when faced with the death of a loved one.
What about the stories with famous literary characters: Anna Karenina, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Ophelia?
I used them to explore philosophical questions. Anna Karenina thinks about the meaning of life only when she finds herself on the other side. Romeo and Juliet explore the eternal question: can desire survive after five, ten, twenty years. The story about Hamlet and Ophelia is an exaggerated example of the dilemma do we have free will or are we ready-made products of our upbringing, historical time, and surroundings.
All those themes sound very interesting. Why did you decide to sugarcoat them in erotica?
Those are dark themes and I thought readers will swallow them more easily if they are spiced up. Love is the most exploited word today since many confuse it with self-love, lust, dependence, fear… and some people choose to close their eyes to that fact. If that fact is rice, then my characters are vegetables and erotica is a spice like ginger, cinnamon, black pepper… that makes the meal delicious.
Some of your stories are explicit while others are poetic. Why that inconsistency?
I tried to think like my characters. I just couldn’t imagine George Sand, Lorca, and Van Gogh using explicit language. In my mind, they were always thinking in beautiful metaphors. On the other hand, Rasputin had to be very explicit, such was his personality. I don’t imagine Baudelaire or Dostoevsky were explicit, but they didn’t mince words either. It was very interesting and challenging to try to portray all the characters differently.
Which stories are more to your liking?
The poetic ones, of course. As my followers on Instagram know, I am in love with poetry and flowers, a real hopeless romantic even though my tone is often ironic. Of course, I love them all, I wrote them, after all, but Study of Loneliness, the story about Van Gogh, is my all-time favorite.
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If you would like to get to know Eli and be informed about new creative conquests she may decide to engage in, you can check her Instagram profile: https://www.instagram.com/eli.gilic/