Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Dream a little dream

Kacziány Aladár (1887-1978): A Dream

Back in the Olden Days, when I first started writing for Black Lace, they had a set of instructions for novels that specifically told you not to use dream sequences because erotica was already a fantasy, and they didn't want a fantasy-within-a-fantasy.

Naturally I ignored this rule.

In fact, if anyone ever does a college course on The Writings of Janine Ashbless, at some point in the utopian future, there's probably a whole essay in unraveling my use of dreams.

From the get-go I have used dreams in my novels, for many different reasons - as an inciting incident, to establish character, to foreshadow events, to reveal psychological truths, and (within supernatural fiction) as a sort of alternative reality that allows the characters to interact with each other.

In my very first novel, Divine Torment, our warrior-hero General Veraine has a dirty dream about the high priestess after meeting her for the first time (and being intrigued, but not overly so). That dream sparks a sexual obsession that drives the whole book, and then its sequel.

My novel Wildwood opens with a dream-sequence, because the editor asked for prologue which throws the reader into the thick of the action. I gave him a bonkers Arthur-Rackhamesque scene of fairies and woodland sex, during which lovers Avril and Ash are attacked by the malevolent Michael. Then Avril wakes up in Michael's bed - next to him and his fairy lover - and stares out of the window wondering where Ash is. That scene, which is actually a flash-forward to a pivotal episode later in the book, establishes the supernatural/fairy/woodland theme and the bitter love-triangle. All before the first chapter.

In The King's Viper (which is a non-supernatural romance) there is only one brief dream-sequence, but it is the first time that virginal Ella is shown to have some truly wild fantasies about the man she has a secret crush on. This is not just an innocent love!

I've already blogged about how the whole Lovers' Wheel Quartet was inspired by a dream I had years ago. Interspersed with the main narrative and its sexual and supernatural shenanigans, Liz is also carrying on a strange (and seemingly disconnected) affair in her dreams with a mysterious red-headed man who seems to be caught between life and death. In these books the dream-thread is a vital part of the plot and will have far-reaching, tragic consequences.

And in the Book of the Watchers trilogy, Milja has been at the mercy of demon-inspired sex-dreams throughout her life. Later on she finds that her developing powers as a witch allow her to create dreams which she can drag both angels and humans into at her whim - usually for sex with her Fallen Angel lover Azazel, but sometimes for more practical (and occasionally ruthless) purposes.

These dreams are not entirely under her control though. Sometimes they are prescient, offering clues to situations that are yet to arise, or places she has yet to visit. Sometimes she comes back from these "dreams" with mud on her feet. Dreamspace acts as an ambiguous spiritual world with its own rules and masters, and is never quite predictable.

Why am I so interested in dreams? I think it's because its the most powerful way we actually have, in this life, of escaping into fantasy realms just as we imagine doing in fiction. We take it for granted because we all do it all our lives, but when you stop to think about it, dreaming is REALLY REALLY WEIRD. It is conscious existence beyond the material realm, and that is just freaky.

Do I have naughty dreams myself? Of course I do - though not as often as I'd like ;-)

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