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Sharp, Kerri

Sharp, Kerri

PERSONAL:

Born in London, England. Education: University of Westminster, B.A. (with honors), 1991; attended City and Guilds and Walthamstow Art College.

CAREER:

Worked variously as a goatherd, topless ice-cream vendor, cricket coach, ambulance driver, and pornographer. Virgin Publishing, Ltd., London, England, began as editorial assistant, 1992, became senior commissioning editor for Black Lace Books, 1998-2005; Simon & Schuster, commissioning editor, 2005—.

WRITINGS:

EDITOR

Pandora's Box: An Anthology of Erotic Writing by Women, Black Lace (London, England), 1996.

Pandora's Box 2: An Anthology of Erotic Writing by Women, Black Lace (London, England), 1997.

Pandora's Box 3: An Anthology of Erotic Writing by Women, Black Lace (London, England), 1998.

The Black Lace Book of Sexual Fantasies, Black Lace (London, England), 1999.

More Wicked Words: A Black Lace Short-Story Collection, Black Lace (London, England), 2000.

Wicked Words 7: A Black Lace Short-Story Collection Black Lace (London, England), 2002.

(With Jessica Berens) Inappropriate Behaviour: Prada Sucks! and Other Demented Decants, Serpent's Tail (London, England), 2002.

Sex at the Sports Club: A Wicked Words Short-Story Collection, Black Lace (London, England), 2005.

Sex in the Office: A Wicked Words Short-Story Collection, Black Lace (London, England), 2005.

(With Adam L.G. Nevill) Sex in Uniform: A Wicked Words Short-Story Collection, Black Lace (London, England), 2005.

Sex on Holiday: A Wicked Words Short-Story Collection, Black Lace (London, England), 2005.

Editor of additional Black Lace titles; contributor to periodicals, including Year Zero.

SIDELIGHTS:

Kerri Sharp has been a force in changing women's erotic fiction as senior acquisitions editor of Black Lace, the feminist publishing arm of Richard Branson's Virgin empire, which has come to be the largest producer of erotic works, for both men and women, in the world.

Sharp had a colorful childhood in a family that traveled extensively before they settled east of London. In an interview with London Observer contributor Jessica Berens, she said that she takes after her father, who was a singer and storyteller. Her mother, who saw the resemblance, sent Sharp to a convent, where the eight-year-old pinned nude pinups of Marilyn Monroe on her locker door. It was at the convent, where she was caned for every infraction, that Sharp was introduced to sadomasochism. "Ms. Sharp emerged with ‘unparalleled loathing for authority and a desire to investigate everything that was seen as a sin,’" noted Berens.

While not all of Branson's enterprises are moneymakers, Black Lace, with more than four million books sold worldwide in ten years, has been. The imprint was launched in the early 1990s when a Virgin marketing survey showed that women wanted kinky erotica, and an ad in the London Guardian for "an unshockable female" brought in Sharp, who was then working for a fetish magazine. She oversaw the first of the sexually explicit novels, all written by women for women, including Cassandra's Conflict, which created a furor and ensured the success of the line. The first four books sold out within weeks and had to be reprinted five times. By 2000, Black Lace was publishing two novels and one reprint each month, as well as collections. Readers tend to be between eighteen and forty years of age, while writers, like great-grandmother Tesni Morgan, have come from every age group.

In addition to her considerable contributions to Black Lace, Sharp has worked on books for other houses. These include Inappropriate Behaviour: Prada Sucks! and Other Demented Decants, which she edited with Berens. Urban75 online posted the introductory chapter of Inappropriate Behaviour, and a reviewer called the book "a primer for a different way of thinking. Resisting the mainstream view of women found in the media, this book spins feminism into the twenty-first century. Pornography, guns, satanism, sex—diverse issues are championed by contributors including Annabel Chong, Lydia Lunch, Tama Janowitz and Katherine Gates."

In writing about the volume for the Women's Review of Books, Amanda Nash said that the women portrayed here "do not acquire, parade and consume, they create, challenge and reflect. And although the results are not uniformly successful … they do tackle some intriguing subjects with zeal. Social activism, bestiality fantasies, mother-daughter relationships, mechanical fetishes, spiritual/religious eroticism and the beauty myth are all analyzed mercilessly and without regard for political correctness."

Rowan Pelling reviewed the collection for the London Telegraph online, writing that "thematic cohesion is not the great strength of the collection and neither is elegant prose. Too many contributions are written in the manner of a friend dashing off a lengthy e-mail. But there is an appealing energy about the book and I enjoyed its hectic biodiversity."

Angela Weiss interviewed Sharp for Mon Boudoir online and asked her to describe the development of women's erotica in general and Black Lace in particular. Sharp noted that many of their first books were historical novels, a genre that has been favored by women for a long time and which their writers embellished with more sexual content. Sharp said this has changed and that "it's difficult to put a new spin on a sub-genre where the woman's role was so subservient in society generally (as opposed to sexually and by choice). Today's readers want central female characters who are very independent and dynamic and they want characters and situations they can relate to, rather than to lose themselves in historical fantasy." Sharp said that "the knock-on effect of the ‘Bridget Jones’ books, and countless ‘chick Lit’ novels of a similar style have meant that there's a more cynical, bitchy humorous edge to the characters' thoughts. This is quite refreshing, and very much a female way of looking at the world. Men's erotica is always very serious!"

Berens concluded by saying that "Sharp's presence at Black Lace means that the imprint is more than a pulp factory churning out saucy books. She understands the subtle ebb and flow of sexual mores and tends to steer her authors towards them…. As female writers continue to explore female sexuality, Black Lace works from within the system to disseminate messages about the joy of unashamed individualism…. Creating their own cult heroines and spreading lubricious ideas about realistic possibilities, they are a fifth column percolating alternatives in an environment where the overall sexual perspective is still supervised by lowbrow yobs."

Sharp ended her successful career with Virgin in 2005, when she became a commissioning editor for health and self-help books with Simon & Schuster.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Bookseller, June 24, 2005, "Virgin Loses Kerri Sharp to S&S …," p. 7; October 26, 2007, "Muslim Autobiography to S&S," p. 15.

Observer (London, England), September 10, 2000, Jessica Berens, "She's Gotta Have It," interview, p. 20.

Women's Review of Books, July, 2002, Amanda Nash, review of Inappropriate Behaviour: Prada Sucks! and Other Demented Decants, p. 39.

ONLINE

Mon Boudoir,http://www.mon-boudoir.de/ (December 8, 2007), Angela Weiss, interview with Sharp.

Telegraph Online (London, England), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ (May 26, 2002), Rowan Pelling, review of Inappropriate Behaviour.

Urban 75,http://www.urban75.com/ (December 8, 2007), introductory chapter of Inappropriate Behaviour.

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