I’d like to welcome Victoria Vane, who recently published The Sheik Retold (reviewed here), a retelling of the classic The Sheik by E.M. Hull. Today she’ll talk about…
Reinventing a Classic Bodice-Ripper
by Victoria Vane
Why did you do it? Why would you take on something so politically incorrect as a sheik romance? Why mess with another author’s work? Haven’t you any original ideas of your own?
These are just a few of the questions I anticipated in taking on my erotic re-write of E.M. Hull’s The Sheik. My answer is—of course I have my own book ideas, several dozen of them just waiting to be developed, but The Sheik called to me in no uncertain terms.
The Sheik by E.M. Hull (first published in 1921 and now public domain in North America) was one of the most controversial books of its time. It was also a huge bestseller that made Rudolph Valentino an international sex symbol in the silent film adaptation.
Almost a century later, there are myriad “imitators” featuring a haughty heroine who is “mastered” by an uncompromising and uber-alpha desert lord. Goodreads currently lists over 500 of these. Following the original, many of these books employ a “forced seduction” as the primary trope. While there is no explicit sex in The Sheik, repeated rape is strongly implied. Shocking? You bet!
As a reader, I have always found the rape-to-love (Stockholm Syndrome) trope appalling and have never had such mixed feeling about a book as I did The Sheik. It had so much to offer with its strong characters and beautiful descriptive prose, but it fell sadly short for me in so many other ways. I found the narrative too repetitive and plodding. There was too much navel-gazing on the heroine’s part, and far too little actual interaction between Diana and Ahmed. In particular, their “romantic relationship” was extremely under-developed.
In sum, I loved and loathed it in equal measure.
Nevertheless, it captured my imagination. Even though I had other books to work on, for weeks after reading The Sheik I was held hostage by the story. It absolutely refused to let me go. Once I began fantasizing about alternate scenarios, dialogue, and plot twists, I knew it was calling to me to re-write. I had no choice but to tell this story the way I envisioned it.
While I have taken a number of liberties in my re-telling, the main plot, characters, and descriptive prose are largely unchanged. I kept everything I loved about the original and threw out the rest. Although my version is not completely devoid of violence (to omit all of it would only have watered down Ahmed’s powerful alpha character), I have taken out the rape and animal abuse which I abhorred.
Another big difference between the two versions is my employment of first person narrative. Since so much of the story was told from Diana’s POV anyway, I felt the story would adapt very well to first person. Most importantly, however, I have held true to Diana’s strong and self-willed nature, which I felt E.M. Hull did not do. In the original story, Diana almost instantly submits to her abductor, whereas my Diana holds her own much longer. Even when she eventually submits, the decision is largely her own. Even though she falls in love with her captor, she stays true to herself right to the end.
Here is an excerpt from The Sheik Retold:
I chewed my lip as I gazed up upon the stars glimmering in the heaven like countless brilliant diamonds shimmering against a backdrop of black velvet. I wondered if in the great scheme of things, my pride was a bit over-rated.
This entire evening I had bucked with resentment against the pretense that I was a willing guest here, but had I met this same Sheik in Biskrah, in more conventional circumstances, if I had only been properly introduced, would I not have willing, even gratefully accepted an invitation to his camp? Only a week ago I would have jumped at the chance. What now prevented me from embracing that role? From enjoying that status— for as long as I had planned? I smiled to myself. Yes, it was all just a matter of perception—except for the bartering of my body— the Sheik’s expectation in return for his hospitality.
My smiled dimmed.
I could enjoy my month of holiday as planned, as long as I would willingly serve his needs—and all that implied— in his bed.
While I believe The Sheik Retold will compare very favorably to E.M. Hull’s The Sheik, I will let readers be the ultimate judge.
Victoria Vane is a multiple award-winning romance novelist, cowboy addict and history junkie whose collective works of fiction range from wildly comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Look for Victoria’s sexy new contemporary cowboy series coming in summer 2014.To learn more about Victoria, visit her website and blog or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Victoria is giving away an ebook copy of her book Treacherous Temptations to one lucky winner. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.