For Immediate Release: 9/1/14
Greenwoman Publishing, LLC
“Gardening Just Got Dirtier”: Fifty Shades of Green, a revolutionary, garden-themed response to Fifty Shades of Grey.
It began as a reaction against “that other book.” Curious about the bestseller’s success, Greenwoman Magazine publisher Sandra Knauf read Fifty Shades of Grey. Knauf says, “I didn’t find the BDSM sex shocking but the inequality in the relationship was. I thought: This is what women find sexy?”
Knauf discovered her friends had a similar reaction. She toyed with the idea of publishing a response. First she imagined a book that would turn Fifty Shades on its head—a parody, with the genders and the dominant/ submissive roles reversed—but that idea evolved into an anthology. Knauf knew a collection would be a way to include a variety of strong female characters and situations. As Knauf publishes garden literature, she wanted an overall “green” theme, too.
Knauf’s friend Cheri Colburn, a publishing-industry veteran who has dabbled in writing erotica, agreed to edit an anthology. A call for submissions went out and scores of stories from over a half-dozen countries poured in. Knauf and Colburn selected the best and compiled them into Fifty Shades of Green, released this month and available through Amazon.com and select retail outlets.
“What astonished me most was the quality of the writing,” says Knauf. “We were doing something new and I had no idea what to expect. What we found were erotic stories that were literary. We were overjoyed.”
The collection features twelve stories, written by both men and women from the United States and Britain. “The stories are delightfully diverse,” says Knauf. “We have contemporary stories, a story set in Edwardian England, one that takes place in America in the American southwest in the 1700s. They run the range of tender to wild to humorous, and, yes, we do have one that is all about bondage and discipline.”
The first story in the book, “Phallus Impudicus” (about the god Pan and a lonely gardener) can be read in its entirety on gardenshorts.com.
Greenwoman Publishing, LLC’s books and magazines include six issues of Greenwoman/ Greenwoman Magazine, a literary collection of garden writing. Knauf is also the author of Zera and the Green Man, a YA sci-fi/fantasy novel that came out in 2013. Websites and blog: greenwomanpublishing.com; greenwomanmagazine.com; zeraandthegreenman.com; gardenshorts.com; florasforum.com.
The first story in the book, “Phallus Impudicus” (about the god Pan and a lonely gardener) can be read in its entirety on www.gardenshorts.com
INTERVIEW WITH FIFTY SHADES OF GREEN PUBLISHER SANDRA KNAUF
Greenwoman Publishing, LLC
What brought this book about? It started as a joke. I had read Fifty Shades of Grey and was shocked. Not by the BDSM sex, but by the inequality in the relationship. I thought: This is what women find sexy? The story had no basis in reality and the heroine was the “submissive”—in bed, in experience, and economically and socially. What’s sexy about that?
I talked to friends and saw most had the same reaction. At first I thought it would be funny to do a parody, a novel with a female protagonist who was older and a billionaire, someone who had all the power in society, and in the bedroom, who would mete out discipline to a virginal, college-aged male love interest. But after exploring that idea, I found it didn’t hold my interest. So the idea changed to a collection of stories.
Where did the gardening theme come from? Gardening had to be a theme. It’s my personal passion and it’s the subject of all my publishing work. Plus, the garden is the perfect setting for sexual encounters. Non-gardeners may not know this, but the garden is a sexy, fruitful, lustful place. And besides, women and gardens have shared an intimate relationship since the beginning; starting, one could say, with Eve.
Can you tell us about the writers? I fell in love with all the writers. Most are seasoned erotica writers and avid gardeners, so they know what they’re writing about in both departments. Several are men, and it was wonderful to have that perspective; two of the writers are from Britain, and I found that thrilling as the British are known for their mad gardening skills. One’s the editor for a regional gardening magazine, and one graduated from Harvard Law School. There’s an exciting diversity in styles and backgrounds.
Do you have a background in the erotica genre? No, and I honestly didn’t know a lot about the genre before I started this project. But I learned, and I read some of the best work out there, and the more I learned the greater my respect for the genre grew. This is my feeling on the subject: sexuality is one of the most important, powerful, and certainly one of the most beautiful aspects of our existence and the way it’s treated is sad. We have a culture where sex=porn and that is just not so. There needs to be a return to honoring sexuality and lovemaking. Placing sexuality in a dark, forbidden place breeds a lot of society’s ills.
How do you feel erotica fits into today’s literature and why is it becoming so popular? I feel that readers are looking for deeper connections, and when you have access to a character’s sexuality, you see the whole person. I think this is the reason TV shows have become more sexual—not for the titillation, though that can be a part of it, but because we want fully-developed characters. In a big way, A Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert validated this book project for me. Here was a story, from a respected author, about a virginal woman in the 1800s obsessed with studying, of all things, mosses. There’s a lot about horticulture and history and becoming a fully-realized human being, but Gilbert also explored her protagonist’s sexuality. It was enthralling, reading about this character’s sexual awakening and her desires.
What surprised you most about the stories you received? The imagination, and the heart. Eros is the god of love and where the word erotica originates, and there is a joy and a depth in these stories that goes far beyond the sex act. In pornography there is no heart; it’s only about the stimulation. I found myself moved by some of the stories, such as “Pulse of the Earth,” a healing love story between two men. “Love Lies Bleeding” is so beautifully written it took my breath away, and “Phallus Impudicus” is high comedy. “The Judgment of Eric” is a riddle. There are a couple of stories where love potions figure in and that’s always fun, both from an adult “fairy tale” perspective and from a psychological standpoint. The collection is a mix of many aspects of the sexual psyche.
Did you have a favorite? Yes and no. I hand-picked them all, and I love them all, but there are a few that are special to me. I won’t name my favorites, but what’s funny is they changed during the editorial process. One story I read aloud recently and just went, “Wow. I think this is my favorite.” I also find it interesting that there’s no consensus among those who’ve read the book. This tells me there’s something for everyone.
Do you garden? (And do you think gardening’s sexy?) Can I scream, “Oh YESSSS!”? I have been an obsessed gardener for over two decades, when we first bought a home that had a yard. I went through master gardener training twice, the second time as a refresher. I remember the first cottage garden I saw. I was 19 and my soon-to-be husband and I were house-sitting for his brother and his wife. Victoria and Danny had little money but they had an amazing garden: chickens and flowers, a vegetable garden, fruit trees in barrels, a tiered strawberry bed. This was in Colorado in the 1980s and enjoying this humble yet wildly productive and beautiful garden I thought, “This is paradise. I want to do this one day.” And I did.
As far as sex and the garden go, there is no place sexier. Flowers are the sex organs of plants, you know. They are beautiful and many emit intoxicating perfumes. If you have a flower garden and a vegetable garden, you have an orgy going on during the spring and summer, right in your backyard! The bees and butterflies are pollinating, the flowers are cross-pollinating. It’s amazing. You’re surrounded by sex.
* * *