As the cold weather has you exhausting your arsenal of unwatched Shondaland seasons and blowing through titles of your "to read" bookshelf, why not cuddle up with something new, something sexy, political and controversial?
Obviously, we're talking about a whole series of erotic novels starring those aspiring POTUSes we love so dang much: the "Presidential Passion" series.
We've talked before about how the camp, irony and humor of erotica can offer some keen insights into other (admittedly less sexy) parts of our lives. So, of course, we had to hit up the publisher of these novels -- Hard Books -- to see where they're coming from.
Sugar Stevens, founder and publisher of Hard Books, told MTV News everything about the books that might just be the answer to all your literary cuffing season prayers. (You know, if you're into that sort of thing.) In the process, we also found out a bit more about what politics can do for erotica and what erotica can do for politics.
MTV: I’d love to get some background of how this series got started...
Sugar Stevens: Well, we Americans are currently lucky enough to brag that the two most powerful men in our country are supremely sexy: our president and vice president. This is not the case in any other country in the world. Canada just elected a [Prime Minister] who is very easy on the eyes, but he is just one man. We have two. The idea for Presidential Passion starts there.
MTV: When on the hunt for great erotic stories, what about the presidential candidates stands out?
Stevens: We have all had fantasies about people we see every day, at work or school or the line at the coffee shop. In a time when the media makes us stare at the faces of these candidates every time we turn on a screen, how can you not wonder about the most intimate details of their private lives?
Presidential Passion invites readers to join in a fantasy about what Jeb does with his glasses when they steam up, about how Bernie's democratic socialist ideals affects his sex life, and so on. Our books fuel the imagination, giving our readers the chance to indulge in some fantasy whose reality is probably actually disgusting. Who would prefer watching Donald's gut flop around* in a leaked sex tape over reading fiction about his expertise of making love on a yacht?
MTV: Do you feel like there’s room for politics in erotica/ room for erotica in politics? Do you think sexy, irreverent texts about political leaders makes a statement (& how so?)
Stevens: Sex is political, so why not make politics sexy? As long as Hard Books is publishing, there will be room for erotica in politics and vice versa.
That's the philosophical aspect. But on a very practical level, Hard Books is a business and our business is selling romance ebooks. We do it a little differently than the other publishers, choosing to rip our stories from the headlines like "Law & Order," kind of making us like a tabloid with more euphemisms for genitalia. The thinking is that if six TVs in Planet Fitness are plastered with the faces of presidential candidates, there must be an audience there. One of our ideas people was involved in this viral marketing stunt Hormel tried to coordinate with Netflix called "Netflix and Chili," so we're definitely about catching some buzz.
Presidential Passion is just our introduction to the world. Currently, we have writers working on stories about ISIS, mass shootings, the Syrian refugee crisis, Caitlyn Jenner, and Black Lives Matter. Are we making a statement by publishing those stories? Inevitably. What is it? Great question.
MTV: What’s it like receiving pitches about these kinds of figures and what’s the process like for crafting this kind of story?
Stevens: In the case of Presidential Passion, I sent writers a list of presidential candidates and solicited the stories that showed the best fun-house-mirror versions of their personas and platforms. When it comes to the other news topics, some will say "ISIS" and I'll say "surprise me," while sometimes we'll hammer out some plot points. I'm always trying to push writers to incorporate one of the various romance niches Amazon lists, since that puts the book into an established market.
MTV: Do you think there are subjects too taboo for the camp-factor of erotica? Is it always possible to find a sexy way in?
Stevens: There are two house rules. No depictions of rape and no depictions of sex with minors. Hard Books finds absolutely nothing sexy about non-consensual sex. Aside from that, everything is fair game.
MTV: Anything need to be cleared with lawyers?
Stevens:For all intents and purposes, this is parody, protected by the first amendment. That's the point of the disclaimer in the beginning of every novel. Wouldn't it be something if a presidential candidate took us to court questioning our constitutional right to freedom of speech? You can't buy that kind of publicity. And then, naturally, there would be the Hard Books romance ebook about the case. But who on our team would be the protagonist? That's really the question.
MTV: What do you think/hope these candidates would do/or say if they saw these books?
Stevens: I think Rand Paul would flash that mischievous smile of his. I bet Hillary would say she likes it to appeal to her younger voters. I fully expect that Bernie will publicly endorse us and then invite the Hard Books team to the White House for an IPA. The rest of them? Well, I already told you about the law suit ebook. Come to think of it, our designer Jenny Garcia has this tender sass about her...
MTV: Your books also start with that wonderful opening note about what’s fictional (everything), what’s not (the feels) and the importance of voting. Want to expand on that a bit?
Stevens: Glad you like the opening note!
Voter turn out is incredibly bleak in this country, especially in any local or state elections. We had a run-off election here in Chicago last October to recall Mayor Emmanuel and only 30% of registered voters bothered going to the polls. Is that really democracy? So, you know, if we have a platform to convince people to vote, we're going to use it.
The whole thing about fiction/reality... Well if (or when!) Ted Cruz finds out that we cast him as a gay prostitute in a cowboy get up, he's not going to be too pleased. Might as well make it clear that we're just making the stuff up, because he seems to be a very qualified lawyer. But part of that, again, is reminding people that they can forget about the gut flopping* around and indulge themselves for an hour or so.
A/N:(* Gut flopping totally isn't a problem at all for safe and fun sex. Obviously, all bodies are lovely and worthy of consensual, satisfying sexy times.)