The talented Anastasia Vitsky is arguably one of my favourite fiction writers in this genre… and perhaps, in any genre. I have the impression that she is pretty damn successful in her field and if you read any of her fiction then you will understand why. Not only does she have a knack for writing compelling and unusual storylines, evident from her range of books which I will elaborate on later, but, even more importantly, she has a particular talent for truly getting to the heart of a character. Her protagonists are complex women who are often struggling with their own desires and their understanding of the place that they carve of the world; heroines who are flawed, realistically human. There is nothing two dimensional about any of the Vitsky’s worlds and she touches a raw nerve with almost every book.
I could spend this entire post gushing about her qualities… and that is very tempting to do, but I may instead outline why I think she deserves the success that she has and why, if you haven’t read any of her books, you should!
Intentional or not, Vitsky has written in a variety of genres from dystopian fantasy through to fairytales, her real-world fiction is set between the US and South Korea. She spans cultures seemingly without effort, even exploring, in her book “Seoul Spankings”, the miscommunications that arise from cultural differences. One of my favourite characters of hers is Mira, introduced in “Desire in any language”, who is a young woman studying abroad for her translators certificate. Through Vitsky’s series, Mira not only tries to reconcile her responses to the culture in which she was born (South Korea) and that in which she was brought up (the US) but also her relationship with authority and her desire for maternal love. This series touched on so many issues, some of them much more subtle than others, from the position of women in society, to the shame of desire and the foolhardiness of youth… Mira grows and changes through the events of the books and learns, along the way, the responsibility that she holds for her own happiness.
Perhaps, even more intriguing than Mira, whose perspective the story is told from, is her partner Hana, who represents an almost polar opposite personality. There are not excessive words used to describe Hana, who is, at all times in the series, a secondary character, but it is this paucity that makes her all the more intriguing. All of Vitsky’s dominant women are flawed, but Hana’s flaws are unusual – she is independent and unashamed, and appears genuinely unafraid of asserting herself in what she wants, but then her greatest weakness, and ultimately the agent of her undoing, is her love for Mira. Without giving too much away, her desire to put Mira first poses the risk of destroying both of them. It is this kind of heart-wrenching storytelling that I have come to expect from Ms Vitsky, and yearn for more of it.
It is well known that romance is formulaic and the formula tends to go something like this: boy meets girl, they dislike each other for a while, adversity reveals sexual tension, they overcome something, reveal that they want to jump each other and have a happy ending. It has been written many times and is so successful that the best-selling genre of books are all based upon it. Like romance, there are formulae innate to spanking fiction, and fundamental to this is the relationship between the active and passive partner. Broadly speaking there is erotic spanking and discipline spanking, and often it is a skewed spectrum one way or the other. Around this are the more subtle power plays of dominance and submission that may extend, unsurprisingly, into vanilla fiction.
I digress to this to illustrate that Vitsky explores a wide range of these power-dynamic relationships; in her fantastic books about Natalie and Kat, she explores the love between two friends, close enough to be sisters, and the price that each of them pay for their intense but platonic love. It is a story that has truly tragic elements and it almost appears as though the characters have surprised the author in their resilience to what she has made them face. In contrast, “Becoming Clissine” is an intriguingly political book that challenges the attitudes towards homo- and hetero-sexuality in a totalitarian state, which clearly has a more important message than simple entertainment. The more recent “Mistress” series explores domination and submission, the book “Gemstone” more about partnership and love. Her books may be less than formulaic, but they are guaranteed to be engaging.
Some people would argue that the escapism of spanking fiction is not the place for realistic characters or social criticism; I would argue that this makes her books all the more credible and her protagonists all the more interesting. Who hasn’t wanted to make a mess baking cupcakes with Kat? Or cause a diplomatic disaster to meet Hana? Why not throw a peanut at Hyunkyung or give Natalie a hug? They are flawed enough for us to care about them and that is where Anastasia Vitsky’s real skill is as a writer.
Check out Anastasia’s website here: https://governingana.wordpress.com
In addition to the stories, she shares her recipes and writes intriguing articles that are more than worth the time it takes to read them. Check her out, you won’t be disappointed!