The Blagger's Guide To: Bonkbusters
It's the summer of love (and sex and sin and scandal)
Sunday 10 June 2012
Conditions in 2012 offer a perfect storm for bonkbusters to become bestsellers: it's summer; the financial climate is rubbish; and the availability of ereaders means that nobody can see you're reading smut. Look out for Perfect Strangers, by Tasmina Perry; Outrageous Fortune, by Lulu Taylor; and Friends and Rivals, by Tilly Bagshawe. "In the midst of a recession, a novel's ability to transport is all-important," says the bonk-author Victoria Fox, "and for this, the bonkbuster is queen."
Though often associated with Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins, who perfected the genre, the term "bonkbuster" is attributed by the Oxford English Dictionary to Sue Limb. The term was "popularised by the British writer Sue Limb," said the dictionary when it included the word in 2002, "writing under the pseudonym 'Dulcie Domum', in her humorous newspaper column (1990-2001)." Limb herself never wrote a bonkbuster, though she claimed that she was encouraged to do so by her publisher. Her novels Passion Fruit and Enlightenment offered about "one and a half bonks, [but] I never really got the hang of it", she said.
Mills & Boon offers 10 different categories of novel, from Superromance, in which everybody keeps their knickers on, through Blaze, where "pretty much anything goes", to the sauciest series, Spice, and a new ebook series called Spice Briefs. According to the experts, Mills & Boon novels are not technically bonkbusters as they are shorter and focus on relationships between two people – without the profligate bonking of a true blue bonkbuster novel.
The novelist Chris Manby writes bonkbusters under the pen name Olivia Darling. Similarly, Anna Maxted now writes as Sasha Blake.
Victoria Fox used to edit women's fiction at Little, Brown, handling Dorothy Koomson and others. The Blagger is reliably informed that Fox was fed up with the lack of sex in women's fiction, and set out to fulfil her dream of becoming the next Jackie Collins. Her first bonkbuster, Hollywood Sinners, was published last year. Her second book Temptation Island has just been published by Mira Books (£7.99). "Bonkbusters are back, and they're bigger, bolder and braver than ever," she tells the IoS. "My generation grew up reading Jackie [Collins] and Jilly [Cooper], those doorstop bibles of sex, sin and scandal, devouring them under the duvet by torchlight and gasping over the rude bits, and it's high time they enjoyed a resurgence." Victoria is good friends with the bonkbuster author Aita Ighodaro, who was rumoured to be dating Salman Rushdie in 2008.
Bonkbusters by the Conservative MP for Corby, Louise Mensch (who writes under her maiden name of Bagshawe) include Glamour, Glitz, Sparkles and Passion. Desire was published just three weeks before the 2010 election. The latest is Destiny (Headline Review, £12.99), described last year by The News of the World as a "sexy read for sultry summer nights". Bonkbusters by her sister, Tilly Bagshawe, include Adored, Showdown, Do Not Disturb and Fame: "A very naughty, fast-paced romp ... with lashings of sex."
E L James's 50 Shades of Grey, which achieved bestsellerdom through the medium of ebooks before being more traditionally published by Vintage, started life as Twilight fan fiction. It is now inspiring fan fiction of its own on fanfiction.net, the website where James began writing. "I'm immensely flattered, and it's humbling to know my work is inspiring others to write," she said.
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