Master of the Opera Blog by Jeffe Kennedy
When my agent asked me in the late summer of 2012 if I’d be interested in pitching an idea for an erotic serial novel, I knew immediately what it should be.
I have long had a thing for the Phantom of the Opera.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version came out while I was in college. I grew up in Denver and went to undergraduate in St. Louis. Those last couple of years, I made the endless drive across Kansas and Missouri multiple times by myself while listening to the original London cast score of Phantom…over and over.
I may get a little obsessive from time to time like this, and one boyfriend from that era even cited it as a reason to break up with me.
At any rate, I memorized that soundtrack and I worked up in my head how I would choreograph a waltz scene to the song The Music of the Night. It pained me I am neither a singer nor a choreographer—with little talent in either direction—so my vision would be unlikely to come true. Still, I obtained a copy of Gaston Leroux’s book and read everything else about the original legends that circulated for decades, at least before Leroux set them down.
This is an old and deeply compelling tale.
Let’s face it; the relationship between Christine and the Phantom, Erik, is fraught with all the sexual tension and forbidden lure of a doomed love affair. It begged to be explored more deeply. It’s a profoundly erotic story and deserved to be treated as such.
And then I got my chance.
An almost magical serendipity then occurred. My agent’s suggestion for an erotic serial coincided with my idea for a Phantom retelling, so I worked the idea into that format. Then I discovered that Gaston Leroux’s original novel had also been serialized. In fact, according to Peter Haining’s foreword in my 1985 edition, the novel was not well received until it was serialized in the newspapers in France, England and America.
Clearly some dark and mysterious forces were at work.
With the advent of eReaders and more pervasive digital publishing, serialization is seeing a comeback much in the same way inexpensive and easy availability of newspapers created the market for serialization back at the turn of the century. Many people had no access to novels, but they could read the latest chapter of Dickens in the weekly paper.
I remember reading about serialized stories in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books when I was a girl and I thought then how cool it would be to anticipate the next piece of the story, to savor the delicious suspense of having to wait for my questions to be answered.
I mean, I’m as impatient a reader as the next person. If I’m really into a story, I’ll gobble it down as fast as possible.
And then it’s over and I’m sad.
A tale like the Phantom’s lends itself well to this kind of slow, suspenseful retelling. The serialization forces us to slow down, to savor and to wonder. To ponder the clues and imagine how it all might end.
I’ll give you a hint: it’s delicious.