‘Decadence’ comes to Dayton

Author Eric Jerome Dickey visits Books & Company

By Benjamin Smith
Photo: Eric Jerome Dickey visits Books & Co. on Saturday, April 27 in support of his new book, “Decadence”; photo credit: Joseph Jones Photography

According to his most recent author bio, Eric Jerome Dickey “lives on the road and rests in whatever hotel will have him.” On April 27, the New York Times bestselling author will briefly call our city home when he promotes his new erotic novel, “Decadence” (Dutton, 2013), with an appearance and book signing at Books & Company. Dickey took some time to talk with the Dayton City Paper about the novel, the erotica genre and monogamy.

“Decadence” centers on the erotic yearnings of Nia Simone Bijou, a writer you introduced to the world in 2008’s “Pleasure.” You also explored Nia’s college years in your e-book, “The Education of Nia Simone Bijou,” published this February. What inspired you to revisit this character again?

I prefer to create new characters and new adventures, but from time to time I look at the little fictional universe that I have created and decide to revisit a character … or two or three. I had just done a hard-boiled story with “An Accidental Affair” (2012) and wanted to switch both genres and voices, from mystery/murder/thriller and a male voice, to something more erotic with a female lead … I was going to create a new character, but decided to roll with Nia once again. She is an interesting and very complicated character, designed to be that way from the first word, far from boring and at times extremely unpredictable. Characters like Nia, no matter the genre, give the writer a lot of room to work and/or play. -Eric Jerome Dickey

Did you write “Decadence” and “The Education of Nia Simone Bijou” at the same time?

I worked on “Decadence” first, then expounded on her college days, had her open that metaphorical box that caused memories to flood her senses. I wanted to see her younger, before the heartbreak – idealistic, as she was before the inciting incident that changed her from being a naive girl from California, the uxorial girl who had dreams of obtaining a band of gold from the man who had her heart – and put her on the path that she walks during both “Pleasure” and “Decadence.” – EJD
Decadence, of course, is also the name of a private sex palace that serves as the setting for most of the novel. In creating Decadence, did you simply let your imagination run wild, or were aspects of the place inspired by real locations – or by settings from other books and films?

I created the edifice that housed those participating in a very private adult lifestyle from scratch. Writing is all about playing “what if?” and exercising your imagination, engaging in the dissemination of information and putting in as many reversals of expectation as you can muster without the novel becoming contrived. Putting the story in the heart of the Bible Belt, using that area as a setting, was an intended hypocrisy. I was tempted to include floor plans to the magnificent building, highlight the pool and spas and play areas, but that could have proven to be a distraction for the reader. I didn’t want them reading, then pausing and flipping to a map to see where Nia and her friends were in the fictitious building. I tried to write scenes that included fictional characters and many events commensurate with that lifestyle, no holds barred. – EJD

People often like to analyze book titles. In your opinion, how does sexual “pleasure” relate to sexual “decadence”? 

Well, the standard definition of “decadence” is a luxurious self-indulgence. It is often used to describe a decline due to an erosion of moral, ethical or sexual traditions. Whether you view that lifestyle as an awakening or a decline, as an entitlement or an abomination, is up to the reader. At times, analyzing tends to make it something that it is not. At times, a tree is just a tree. -EJD

One of the characters in “Decadence” is named Anaïs Nin, after the famous erotica writer. You also close the book with a Nin quote about how people have the right to experiment with their lives. How has Nin inspired your writing? Your life?

Nin is but one writer of many I have read. I enjoyed her work. Outside of her honesty and humanness – her tales of love and heartbreak, disappointment and curiosity – and outside of the pain she caused others, her skills as a writer were phenomenal. She was a master at what she did, a wordsmith, and her writings made her seem very accessible. It’s not what she wrote about, as that was nothing new, but the way she wrote about it that has garnered her generation after generation of loyal fans. -EJD

What’s the most challenging part of writing erotica?

It’s the same challenge no matter the genre. Making each scene, each encounter, have its own voice, making the work sing a song that you want to hear from beginning to end. – EJD

In your opinion, do men and women demand or expect different things from erotica?

I have no idea. I’ve never had a conversation with men or women regarding the subject. Demands and expectations … both sound so harsh, the latter being the setup for disappointment, the former making the art of writing less than an art. When a writer gives in to demands and expectations, even entertains them, then the cart leads the horse. – EJD

Your books about Nia Simone Bijou raise questions about monogamy. In your opinion, is monogamy a realistic condition for most modern relationships?

Modern relationships are no different from relationships of the past, only now people have Facebook and iPads and can BBM and Skype to engage in what they don’t want to come to light. If monogamy had been the standard [in the past] there wouldn’t be so many commandments about not coveting. There was a lot of “knowing” in the Good Book. – EJD
Eric Jerome Dickey will sign copies of Decadence at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Apr. 27, at Books & Company, 4453 Walnut St. at The Greene. For more information, visit ericjeromedickey.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Benjamin Smith at BenjaminSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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