Marketplace Q&A with Laura Antoniou

A key being passed from hand to hand over a bowed head
The Marketplace by Laura Antoniou

When Laura Antoniou heard that the BDSM Classics Reading Group was discussing her novel The Marketplace, she offered to come over to our FetLife group to answer our questions. WOW. Now that’s fan service!

We are repaying her generosity with the toughest questions we could manage. Thank you so much, Laura!

1. Not all of us were familiar with the archetypes represented by the four slaves in The Marketplace. Were you thinking of actual people when you wrote them?

Laura AntoniouThat’s a tricky question with writers. I used to say only one was, because I really was thinking of That Person when I wrote the character and cackled maniacally while doing so. But in truth, no character springs forth, fully formed as Athena, from any creative mind. Of course real people I’ve known turn up in my characters. And even for That Character, there are elements I included completely unlike the real life person I was thinking of while typing away. But so, too, have I gotten inspiration from characters in other books, in movies, in stories told to me. The trick is to take a bit here and a bit there and make them into something slightly new.

2. Alexandra says, “You can’t blame it all on the tops.” How accountable should we hold the previous masters/mistresses (Paul, celebrity domme, Madeleine) for the slaves’ shortcomings?

Laura AntoniouEveryone makes choices every day. Trouble is never all one person’s “fault.” Submissive or slave or whatever, we decide to take certain steps, to turn this way or that, to take a risk or avoid it, to obey every single order.

Anyone who tries to make excuses about “oh, I’m a slave, I have no choice…” blah, blah, is an idiot. Or, is looking for a way to be irresponsible and lazy. Or, both, I suppose. Every one of those characters made decisions to put themselves in every situation. Sometimes, their decisions were made for bad reasons. Sometimes, they were made without full understanding. But that’s what stories are about. The choices people make form the roots and branches in a vast network of “story.”

Does that let the tops off the hook? Hell, no. They made choices, too. And some of their choices SUCKED. Sadly, a lot of drama in BDSM plotlines comes from two directions – bottoms who misbehave and tops who act like assholes. (Because of the power imbalance, right?) So, in my earlier books, people have rightly complained that many of my tops are douchebags. Yeah, I’m sorry about that. I’m doing better lately.

3. We were so rooting for Claudia. Do you consider Madeleine a responsible owner? Is Claudia’s love returned?

Laura AntoniouI think Madeleine is a good owner and a good mistress of the two types of slaves she keeps. And I think she wouldn’t have done what she did with Claudia if she didn’t love her. Yes, she would be willing to give her up, but if MP slavery with a different owner was what Claudia needed – yes, Madeleine would have let her go. Claudia gets one of the better “happily ever after” stories in the MP world, actually. If you read as far as The Academy (book 4) she comes back in a short story my wife wrote, and you find out how she fit back into Madeleine’s home and life.

4. We felt awfully bad for Robert, too. Did he have any innate femininity that the trainers chose not to develop, or was all of his gender dysphoria induced and temporary?

Laura AntoniouI think Robert was desperately unhappy and was willing to do almost anything to find a way for him to be comfortable and authentic. It’s a mark of his self discipline how willing he was to throw himself so completely into an identity and role. I do believe he has a “feminine” side, but can be perfectly happy not expressing it through stereotypical behavior.

His willingness to NOT engage in that sort of behavior was proof he was ready to be obedient without having a role to play – a chance to see whether the man he’d lived as all his life was as ready to be a slave as this mincing caricature he’d been taught to play.

Robert gets a cameo in book 2, The Slave, and is the featured character in a story by D.L. King, titled If You Try Sometime, in the first collection of Marketplace fan fiction, No Safewords.

5. In the world of the Marketplace, it seems like a lot of the hard work that goes into maintaining and shaping slaves is outsourced to trainers by the owners. We’re curious why you split the role of a real-life master in that way. We also wondered which role you would find more fulfilling: owner or trainer?

Laura AntoniouI split them because they are split in real life.

Let’s face it – a lot of tops are just fucking lazy ass mother fuckers. Oh, they’ll swing a whip and pull a scene together, but the full time job of working with someone to craft a new relationship style, individual and nuanced, consistent and maintained, with the ebb and flow of power delicately balanced to allow for variants in all environments of life, not to mention paying attention to behavior, correcting, inspiring, rewarding and oh, yeah, playing…that’s a lot of work! Wouldn’t it be so much nicer if slaves just sort of came with their own inspiration? And served willingly, no, happily, without ever showing distaste or hesitation, who could almost read your mind and know what the master wanted, deliver things when the mistress was just thinking of it…

Yeah, that would be nice.

And, on the flip side, wouldn’t it be nice for the submissive people to know those in charge over them would not only keep them healthy, but housed and fed and educated; to see to their healthcare, to build savings for them, AND who would never slip out of role as owners? Who WOULD expect things done and notice when they weren’t and act on that? Who had a genuine desire to have functioning humans in service to them, and weren’t hiding, say, just a desire for kinky fuckery?

People who want to train are excited by the change to change someone, to improve someone. If they had a slave who already did everything well, they’d enjoy the service, but they wouldn’t be getting what they actually craved. They don’t just want control, they want to see their control turn into a changed person.

People who want to own someone wouldn’t mind a slave who didn’t need a lot of correction and attention. They want their shit done. They want someone to hold personally accountable in ways not acceptable to the outside world. They do not want to listen to someone recite the 44 positions on the Duke of Pembroke’s staff in 1848, or instruct them in how to clean cashmere. They also want control – but for selfish reasons. Perfectly GOOD selfish reasons.

Of course there are people who like it all. Grendel and Alex accept Chris’s service without working to improve him. But, Madeleine wants Claudia’s submission and she wants her educated and trained. The difference is Madeleine doesn’t want to be bothered with that training. She wants the destination, not the journey.

There’s a difference between wanting to own a slave and wanting to make one. When people don’t understand this, they bring sets of expectations that will only lead to confusion and dysfunction. In my fantasy world, I get to make this distinction clear, and even show that one can be a slave and a trainer of slaves at the same time. Or, an owner and a bottom. Etc.

6. In a later book, Chris’s trainer describes him as an emotional masochist. Does he enjoy being humiliated in front of the trainees? What about being denied a place as a slave?

Laura AntoniouWhat do you think?

7. It’s been 22 years since The Marketplace was first published. If you were writing it today, would you do it any differently?

Laura AntoniouThe writing would be better. I am a much better writer now than I was then. Also, the conflicts wouldn’t be as simple; they’d have more layers, more nuance. I think I could still keep my four stereotypes as “types.” Because it’s a good place to start a story. Readers like to be able to recognize characters and situations, especially in the first books of a series. But I might have given them more depth, especially in their back stories.

8. Most of us were not aware of real-life crash courses for slaves, e.g. Butchmanns Experience, MTTA Academy, Servants’ Retreat and, of course, your own Passionate Bonds weekend. What would you like us to know about these options?

Laura AntoniouI think none of these things are crash courses for master or slavery. I think at their best, they leave people with nothing but better questions to ask. Of themselves, their partners, their deepest, hidden personal fantasy faces. Anyone who says, “I can teach you what you need to know about owner/owned relationships” or “how to be a good ” is LYING. Everything we do is personal, above and beyond anything else.

No external players or preconceived notions, no books – or authors, for that matter – should inform how we make time with those closest to us. The greatest pain in the ass in the leather/BDSM/kink community has nothing to do with riding crops and paddles and whips, sadly. It’s people telling us what our identity should look and act like, what our relationships must be like in order to be…real, or true, or right or Old Guard or whatever.

Obviously, as a teacher, I encourage you to go to ALL my classes. I guarantee, I’ll make you laugh. I’ll tell interesting stories. But if you ever hear me say, “You’re doing it wrong,” I guarantee what I am talking about is acting like an idiot, or being rude, or hurting people in ways they don’t like at all. Or, you know.

Being a douchebag.

Some reviewers have taken me to task for how the Marketplace people talk about what is actually our world of consensual kinky fuckery. But their amusement and disdain is just a mirror of the painful ways people in our world like to look down on those they think aren’t doing things “right.”

What do you think?