Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Anders' backstory

Many years ago a good friend refused to tell me something I really wanted to know. This was back in my late teens. I’d sold her a prized (but bulky) possession when I left the country, and when I came back a few years later I asked her what had happened to it. And she wouldn’t tell me. I couldn’t think of any good reason for her refusal, and she wouldn’t explain. I remember badgering her all through a long subway ride, frustrated at her baffling intransigence. Finally I gave up, not wanting to create a rift over something so minor. And anything further would have felt like a little kid whining. But it always made me wonder; it was a question that never got an answer.

Something similar happened to me with Anders’ backstory. (For those who haven’t read it, this is from As She’s Told.) In all the reviews and commentary that have come to my attention over the three plus years since the book’s been published, Anders’ backstory is virtually never mentioned. It’s as if it doesn’t exist. Someone can love the book or hate it, read it solely for the hot parts or get into the book as a whole, see Anders as a great lover and master or deride him as a psychopath – it makes no difference. Apparently the backstory doesn’t register. Which is odd, because it’s fairly important to the plot and characters; at least I think so.

Now, it’s no big surprise that the non-erotic parts of an erotic book tend to fly below the radar. But I’ve seen discussions about other books’ characters and their backstories. Why not this one?

I’ve occasionally put the question out as to why the backstory gets no mention (possibly even here; I don’t remember!). No one answers. It’s a puzzler. Did that section just not work? Was it not believable? Is the backstory overwhelmed by Anders’ incredible domliness? ;-) Or by the extremes to which he takes Maia? No one seems to want to say. Usually they change the subject. So, not wanting to whine about it, I stop asking.

My guess is that the reasons by their very nature preclude expression, or preclude expression in front of me. Or maybe I’m just waaaaay overthinking this. Still, I’m going to bet that this post gets no comments.

Want to prove me wrong?

Oh, and by the way, my friend recently brought me a few books she’d been clearing out of her mother’s place. She also brought me my prized object, which had been at her mother’s house all along. When I reminded her of that subway ride long ago and her entrenched refusal, she was just as baffled as I had been. No memory of it at all.

One question answered, the other unsolveable.


  1. The things that stand out to me in a book hardly ever seem to matter to other readers! So often I wonder if we read the same book! There’ll be something that annoys me, or seems amazing to me, and then I go and read reviews and can’t find a single one that mentions it.

    **Shrug** I have no idea how people’s minds work!

  2. That's an interesting observation. My guess is like you said, the Domliness overwhelms any hint to his past. Now, if he'd had a traumatic past, that would've been one thing. But as I remember it (and if I remember it wrong, this may be part of the problem) then it was relatively without incident.

    I interpreted that his backstory wasn't all that tied with his dominance. It did seem to play a role with in the other parts of his life, the building and the way he liked to sort of "save" people. There was that incident with the guy (was it in college?) who killed himself (or almost did?) but the question is: would he have been just as much a Dom without that experience? My thinking is yes, and therefore that doesn't enter into a discussion about his dominance.

    For me, As She's Told comes the closest to achieving consensual TPE of any BDSM book out there. So if I'm going to talk about it in a review or in a forum, that's going to be the topic. If I were to discuss something else, it would feel like avoiding the elephant in the room, ya know?

    So that's my take on it. I wonder if you're saying that his backstory does feed into his dominance?

  3. Basia Rose, I'm sure you're right. It's the consistency on this particular point that stands out for me.

    Amber, the backstory I'm referring to is the death of his college friend, and how thoroughly he takes that on. No, it doesn't directly affect his dominance, though it connects pretty tightly with his control needs and his god complex. It's quite a major theme; crops up repeatedly. Your memory of it is probably a good indication that it doesn't get through.

  4. Well now I'm puzzled. I read the story. And I honestly don't know what you are talking about. I guess I completely forgot about it. His back story wasn't something of note for me that I filed to keep in my memory banks. I guess it was in my temp storage and then recycled. (I'm waiting on upgrade to my processor as well as more storage space for my brain. Seems to be slow coming.)

    I don't know about others, but for me, Anders did nothing for me. Since he did nothing for me, I could care less about him and his back story. The mention of his friend dying rings a very faint bell, but barely enough for me to recall.

    So I guess my answer to your question is...Anders meant nothing to me so I don't remember his back story because I didn't care.

  5. Ouch! Poor Anders! ;-) Seriously, the fact that I didn't write a dom you could care about is a much bigger problem than your forgetting his backstory. What made him such an unengaging character for you?

    By the way, it occurs to me that one of the major reasons I wrote the backstory was to give Anders some vulnerability, and thus make him someone easier to care for. Didn't work, obviously.

  6. Well, it sure did for me! Of course, my husband/Master/lover is half Danish, so that may account for my attention. Poor Anders, indeed! I found him a very compelling character, and can't imagine not becoming engaged with a man so gorgeous. He might be a tad extreme for an old lady like me to envision as a dom, but jeeze, that doesn't render him uninteresting.

    More to the point, it seemed to me that without his god complex, his control issues and his *acute* vulnerability, we would never have had a chance to see Maia comfort him, and explain him to himself.

    As is true in real life, backstories in novels weave together in relationships, for good or ill. I'm glad to know more about the author's motivation in creating each character's personal mythology.

  7. GenuineRisk, every once in a while a reader reads the book I thought I wrote; thank you! It was important for Maia to have areas in which she was stronger and wiser than Anders, to redress some of the extreme imbalance in the relationship, and also because that's what real relationships are like.

  8. It's been a little while since I read the book, and I have a terrible memory. But off the top of my head, the book was a headlong dive into Maia's journey, not Anders', no matter that there were parts told from his perspective. He was instrumental, but one doesn't generally delve into the backstory of a tool that's used to bring about a huge transformation, no matter how important the tool might be.

    Not to say that Anders wasn't engaging in his own right. But he was the framework that held Maia together, the paper that sanded her rough edges, the ... I'm running out of analogies, but you know what I mean? The story wouldn't be there without him, but it felt far more like Maia's story than his, or even theirs, even though you did do a great job of balancing out the purely Dominance/submission side of things with the issues that all relationships suffer -- other areas where Maia, as a previous commenter mentioned, becomes the one with knowledge, the one who is able to guide and instruct and assist.

    I'm really tired and that probably didn't make any sense, but at least you got comments! :D