TRANS FICTION: An Interview with Laura Antoniou

by Michael M. Hernandez

The overwhelming majority of books about transmen are either academic or biographical in nature. Very few works of fiction exist. Laura Antoniou is a rather talented author with more than a few books under her belt. Her latest series, consisting of four books with more on the way, have a transman as a central character. Make no bones about it, these books are graphically erotic in nature and deal with the concepts of dominance, servitude, and sexuality in a clever and entertaining fashion. Enough about my thoughts, here is information regarding the series directly from the author's lips ----

MH: How would you describe the Marketplace series to a new reader?

LA: A series of stories about the people who inhabit the world of a real-life, modern day consensual slave market; the potential slaves, their trainers and their owners.

MH: How did a transman become one of the central characters?

LA: Recently, I found my initial proposal for the first three books. In it, I wrote that "4 novice slaves enter training at a remote Long Island mansion run by two dynamic slave trainers who might be lovers and their mysterious majordomo" - at that point, I had no idea what about this majordomo might possibly be mysterious - I just liked the idea of having a suspicious sort of butler lurking about to do the dirty work like slapping sense into the would-be slaves. When I actually started writing, though, I got this picture in my mind of someone who carried himself like he had been in service before - someone who wasn't handsome or charming, but arrogant and snide...and then I had him reach into his fly and pull out a very well made fake cock. And as I wrote that, I was thinking, "yeah, that's who he is..." even though I wasn't quite sure how that would fit into the story - which was about 4 other characters. Or, so I thought.

MH: How did Chris Parker come into being? [Please note: from his mama's womb does not count as a legitimate response]

LA: Well, Chris didn't really come into being in his mama's womb. Chris is a product of growing up in the 70s, with an older gay brother who defines the word "macho", in a home atmosphere that was somewhat less than supportive of non-standard gender and orientation roles and identities. Chris is, of course part me - all of my characters are part me - but he's also a touch of what *might have been* in the stories of a whole group of real people, trans and not, who came through part of what my fictional history for him deals with. Chris, for better or worse, is also the repository for some of my more extreme fantasies and philosophies. He is also the result of a few years of my struggling with feeling stupid as I asked some very uncomfortable questions of various transmen about their own lives and histories. And, lastly, he is the result of my being a writer who wanted to create a character who was *different* - after The Story of O and the Beauty series and Exit to Eden and Mr. Benson, I wanted a hero who was a switch, who wasn't beautiful, and who was struggling with issues a lot deeper than "gosh, isn't it naughty to be a slave?"

MH: Was it difficult to gather background information?

LA: Difficult as hell. While I was writing the first two books, there was almost *nothing* I could find in printed matter. Everything about being trans seemed to be about male-to-female transitioning, with a line or two, or maybe a chapter about ftm. And, I got bad information, too, about hormones and therapy. After I finally broke down and started asking transmen some direct questions - something I still feel shy about, by the way - I started getting a combination of opinion, real life experience, and slowly, I began to get a better feel for when things had to happen for him and how they might have turned out - and how other people would have reacted. I do have to say that from my perspective, there's been an explosion of information on transitioning since the growth of the internet - one of the few nice things I can say about that medium.

MH: How does Chris identify? Sexual orientation?

LA: I think that would depend upon who was asking. There's no question that he's what society calls bisexual, and can form sexual, affectionate or loving relationships with people of all genders. He has not ever called himself transsexual or transgendered - in fact, he either says that he is a man or deflects a direct question by asking another question (well, he IS Jewish), as he does near the end of The Trainer, when Michael asks, "You're a woman?"

- to which his response is "Do I look like a woman?" If pressed, he'd probably say he was a gay man with a very open mind, LOL. But he would not be a good candidate for Mr. Tranny Boy 2000. He'd probably rather eat glass.

MH: There has been a great deal of conjecture and discussion about Chris from readers of the first three books because you didn't just come out and say that Chris was trans. Rather you dropped a variety of hints. Why?

LA: Well - after my initial "gosh, isn't this a mysterious twist to add to the character?" glee, I then felt that his gender was so *beside the point*. The real mystery did in fact turn out to be "why is this man - so suited for slavery - not a slave?" So, when it came time to wind up The Marketplace, I thought that I *did* reveal that he was trans. The trouble is that the character who came closest to "figuring him out" was the LEAST trustworthy character in the book, Sharon. Therefore, her reasoning was suspect, I guess. By the time I wrote The Slave, Chris' gender wasn't an issue in the story, although his orientation was, and I played around with that for a while. Then, as readers started to find me and ask questions, I figured, well, I'd better put something clearer in the next book. So, I mentioned things like therapy and medications - I had a throw away line here and there like "you've changed in more ways than the obvious", and then I painted a huge fucking phoenix on his chest, with the wings brushing *right* where the scars from chest surgery would be! And THEN, I put his dick in the sink! I mean, maybe you could believe that he put on a dick to scare the novices in book one, but really - why keep using it in book 3? *sigh*

MH: What was the funniest theory presented re: Chris by a reader?

LA: Funniest? That he is a member of a long-lost quasi-royal family from Europe who was raised as a boy because there were no male heirs to take over their prestigious slave-training family business.

MH: What was the most annoying theory?

LA: That he was a man who cut his own cock off to please a former owner. I can't for the life of me figure out a way to rescue someone who would do that and make them a noble character. I would have too much of a mixture of pity and contempt for them. I don't know how I would place myself in their mind to write about them in any convincing manner.

MH: In the "Academy: Tales from the Marketplace", you spell out clearly that Chris is trans. What was the response from your readers?

LA: Well, some of them are very offended. I have heard from about a dozen women - and a dozen *anything* is pretty major for me - who just feel betrayed in some way that he "isn't a real man". Some people have accused me of making far too much up - that "real" transmen can't fool anyone, that there would be "no way" for someone as "masculine" as Chris to have once been a woman. I write back to the one lady who said that and explained, "Chris would agree. That is why he never was a woman, but always a man." She didn't get it. One or two gay men were disappointed.

Some people are amazed because they had never heard of ftm transitioning. This is the saddest, weirdest part of it all, as far as I'm concerned. It just seems to me that when you know enough about the SM culture, you are pushing into all sorts of areas of sexuality which should lead you to more and more information, broaden your horizons, as it were. But somehow, that doesn't happen. I added some ftm websites onto my own web page for people who ask questions, and I try not to say things like "where have you been???" - which is not very helpful, and I know that.

More people just seem content - or at least they are not complaining. A lot of people have assured me that they "knew", long ago. Hmph. Could have fooled me, from the number of people who asked me questions at readings and through the e-mail. And every once in a while, I get a note from a transman who is delighted, and that always makes my day.

MH: What would you say is Chris' greatest challenge? strength? weakness?

LA: His greatest challenge is overcoming the destiny laid out for him by the Trainer of Trainers, LOL. Or, at least, that's my perspective from my lofty perch above the soap opera that is my world. Down in the nitty gritty of the story, I think it's that he has always wished that he could see himself as someone more like his brother, and instead he has seen what he feels he lacks to be a "proper" man. He's got one of those twisted mirrors like anorexic people have - it shows him lies, which eat into him. His strength is that he really does love, without reservation, the concept of pure service for its own sake, and he has a canny ability to inspire that love in others. His greatest weakness is that while he expends so much energy seeing the potential in others, he often fails to take his own potential seriously. That, plus he has this annoying habit of falling in love with people he gives his loyalty *or* his direction to. You could argue that's a strength, I suppose, but Anderson would not agree.

MH: What is in store for Chris in the future?

LA: Oh, ye gods, loads of stuff. I am not finished with him, although it does seem like Arthur Conan Doyle, I've pushed him off a cliff. He returns in the next book, The Reunion, to meet up with one of his favorite trainees, Robin, and confuse, once again, the issue of which gender he likes best. (Grin - do we have to pick?) For once, it's a book where Chris is NOT the character carrying around a chip on his shoulder and angst in his wallet, so I'm having fun writing about him just relaxing and being on vacation and laughing at the absurdities of life. he is a major character again in The Inheritor, book 6, as well, and that will shift back to more serious conflicts. Then, I will see whether I need a break from novels and will work on a short story collection with my wife as the co-author, or whether I will start on PARKER, my ultimate Chris book, pretty much the story of his early years.

MH: Have you written about other trans characters?

LA: Well, in The Marketplace, I introduce Alison Cruz, who works as a spotter for potential slaves. She is a transwoman herself, whose story got a little rounded out in The Academy, where we learn that she want to Anderson seeking training herself at one time. As far as readers know, she is the first one to call Chris a transsexual. There have been people of mingled genders mentioned here and there as highly desired slaves - but no word from them as characters concerning how they identify. Some people have called Ken Mandarin trans, but she is most assuredly a crossdresser, or a drag king on occasion, and would not considered herself transgendered. And then, there's Stuart, in The Academy, my nod to a more modern, 90's kind of tranny boy, cute as heck and not so shy about taking his pants off, LOL. I intend to write more about Stuart, too, once he gets out of his Boy Scout phase. Or, maybe while he's still in it. That would be a challenge, to show him topping, LOL...

MH: Why do you think that there is a lack of fiction re: transmen?

LA: Well, problem number one is the lack of an audience. Who buys porn? Mostly men, and mostly straight men who were born with their own dicks, raised as boys, etc.. Straight men, as a group, would not be very interested in tranny boy smut. Now, no straight dude has written to me yet to tell me how betrayed he feels about Chris, because frankly - I assume that most of them are smug because they figure Chris is just a dressed up woman, and therefore unthreatening as a masculine character. I could be wrong. I just don't think I am. Of the few het guys who have discussed the books with me, I have found the common mistake many of them make is assuming that Chris is some sort of uber-butch dyke, and that somehow. *yawn*

So, once we get past the audience problem and assume that there are people who would love to read more transman smut, the question concerns how to convince publishers that this is viable. If I had pitched my books to my first publisher as "books about a guy who used to be a woman", they would have passed and gone onto my next proposal, which was so dreadful, I can't even begin to remember it. Instead, they were SM novels with a wide spectrum of characters ranging in all genders and orientations. "Pansexual" was a hot buzzword back then. They bought it. That Chris became a break-out character was...well, I don't know what it was. I never expected it to happen.

Then, you have to find the writers. Let's face it - I *wanted* to write about a transdude, and I had problems asking and finding out information I needed. Most writers of porn can't be bothered to find out that the Mound of Venus is a part of the HAND, not a slang term for female genitalia. Do research to write porn? That's too much like work.

So, you turn to writers like me, with my hidden agenda of writing something new, and writers who actually do know more without having to ask personal questions of relative strangers - like transmen themselves...and I think there would be six people there, LOL.

There should be more, lots more. But it shouldn't turn into something people feel the need to do, like the obligatory "lesbian" sex in a straight porn video. It should be done because it's interesting and hot and people will get turned on reading about it or watching it.

MH: How long have you been writing erotica/smut/porn?

LA: I started to write to tell the stories that were lurking in the parts of my brain that became active when SM stuff came to mind, which was at a real early age. I was always a pervert. I disguised my fantasies in world of vampires and high fantasy and science fiction and a dabble into corporate espionage - but it was all a front for getting some of my characters tied up, kidnapped, tortured, beaten, raped, humiliated, abused, etc. Oh, and then rescued, trained, redeemed, etc.

MH: What advice would you give fledgling writers?

LA: Read, read, read, read, write, read, read, write some more, read, read, write...and repeat as often as necessary. You cannot be a good writer without reading. Make the library your friend. Respect your work - don't give it away so other people can steal it and make money from it. Find people who will read it and tell you the truth, and don't get angry at what they say.

Write what you know and research what you don't. Be nice to your editors, they don't mean it. Try not to take reviews personally, although you will. Make sure you know which friends can be counted upon for that wonderfully supportive "everything you do is good" sort of praise and feed them often. Don't give up your day job. Drink 8 glasses of water a day.

MH: If someone wants more information about you and/or "The Marketplace" where would they go?

LA: To my web site! www.iron-rose.com/marketplace

MH: The Marketplace series was sold out and therefore out of print for a period of time. What books are available now and how would someone go about purchasing them?

LA: Right now, the first book, The Marketplace, and the 4th book, The Academy, are available. In January of 2001, The Slave comes back into print, and sometime in the second quarter, The Trainer. Publishing schedules and updates can be found at my web site as well, where there is a link to purchase the books from iron-rose.com Or, amazon.com and bn.com will work just fine. A lot of classy, high-quality fetish/leather stores carry my books as well - places like Toys in Babeland, The Crypt, Grand Opening, blowfish.com, and qsm.com. Or, you can order them at any mainstream bricks and mortar store, since they are nationally distributed by the largest paperback wholesalers. Thank goodness, too. It all keeps me going.