Italian Sonata – the past does not lie quietly

Gothic chills, secrets and intrigue!  

Italian Sonata by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

‘Italian Sonata’ is available for pre-order, at just 99p/99c

(will rise to $2.99 on release)

Launching soon

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Towering above its island of wave-lashed rock is Castello di Scogliera.

Listen to the rise and fall of the sea, vast and inscrutable, and the cold murmur of the granite. Look up at the narrow windows, and you might think yourself watched.

Something, or someone, has been waiting for Lady McCaulay to arrive…

What dark secrets lie within those walls?

Madness, abduction, imprisonment… murder?

The past does not lie quietly.

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A sumptuous Gothic Romance, filled with mystery, intrigue, and the lure of the sensuous, from the pen of Emmanuelle de Maupassant.

Italian Sonata is the second volume in the Noire trilogy. 

Pre-order here

‘Italian Sonata’ is the sequel to ‘The Gentlemen’s Club‘ 

 

Meanwhile, three signed paperbacks of my new release, ‘Italian Sonata’ are up for grabs.

Do drop your name in the hat here 

 

 

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Roadhouse Blues, by Malin James: a review

Roadhouse Blues isn’t just an outstanding collection of erotic shorts, it’s one of the most impactful, heartwarming books I’ve read, in any genre. The residents of Malin James’ fictional town of Styx, in the American South, are vividly alive, their voices as real as our own.

Malin isn’t afraid to explore taboos: our desire for what we know is ‘wrong’, for violence as well as softness. And, she shows how grief and violence mark us – that we bear scars on the inside, as well as those visible on our skin.

Her characters’ dialogue flows seamlessly, revealing to us their inner struggle and their hopes. Malin reminds us that our sexuality is woven through our identity, and that, without it, our stories cannot be fully told.

Contradictions are at the heart of this storytelling, showing that many of the things we yearn for have the power to damage us. Malin shows us the bittersweet and the beautiful, as in Marlboro Man. Her stories have humour, and they’re hot as hell; I adored Down and Dirty, and Krystal’s Revenge Fuck. I love every inch of this collection.

Roadhouse Blues by Malin James jpgWhen authors move us, it’s because they reveal to us our own truths. They show us the best and worst of humanity: our jealousy and possessiveness, as well as our capability for love. In Roadhouse Blues, Malin James explores what we fear and what we desire. She brings us all this, and more.

Malin tells us that her stories always revolve around her characters. “Some, like Mick in Roadhouse Blues and Sarah in Love in the Time of War were inspired by specific people I happened to see walking down the street,” she explains. “Most of the rest are amalgams that pulled themselves together in my subconscious. I’ve always been a people watcher—I’d much rather observe than be the center of the action (I’m a serious introvert). People are endlessly fascinating to me, and observing people first hand kicks up a strong kind of empathy.”

“It sounds really boring, but most of my ideas come when I’m alone and very quiet. I get a lot of nudges when I’m running, or meditating, or awake late at night (insomnia). They usually come in the form of characters or questions, though images prompt them too. If I’m engaged in too much externally, they flutter away, but if I’m very, very quiet, they stay long enough for me to touch them, and then the story goes from there.”

“Saying that, I listened to a lot of early jazz and blues when I was writing the collection. More generally, I tend to go with Bach and medieval choral music, though Miles Davis is a mainstay too. Unless I’m editing. When I’m editing, I do best when there’s nothing but quiet so I can hear the rhythms in the words.”  Meanwhile, Malin drinks huge amounts of tea, which she finds helps her to concentrate. “Not the caffeine per se, more the having of it.”

As to her favourite characters from the collection, Malin loves Maybelline, from Marlboro Man. “Temperamentally, she’s deeply self-contained, but also emotionally vulnerable, in a way that breaks my heart a little. She was one character that came to me almost fully formed. I also love Krystal from Krystal’s Revenge Fuck. I’m not sure I’d ever actually want to hang out with her because wow, she’s a handful, but her intensity and sheer engagement in life are incredible. She was so much fun to write. So. Much. Fun. And Sam, from Good Love. I’ve gotten very attached to Sam. She’s so strong, and resilient, and healthy, and caring. I suspect she and I will see each other again at some point.”

Good Love, without a doubt, was the hardest to write. The recovery aspects were very, very hard and came from a deeply personal (and yet hopeful) place. There were a number of knife edges I had to walk, not least of which was the process of my own recovery from trauma. The Waitress was difficult too. In fact, it wasn’t clear to me where the center of the story lay until the very last couple of drafts. Vanessa’s healing came very close to mirroring my own, and I danced around that for a long time without getting too close. They both challenged me in a cathartic way. Writing them was hard but I’m very glad I did it.”

“I learned about sex from books. Anne Rice, Ian McEwan, Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters, Anais Nin and, most pivotally, Angela Carter. These authors introduced me to something new – deeply personal narratives that knowingly walked the line between the mundane and profane. They were my  first introduction to the relationship between sexuality and the psyche – between sex and the self – and it’s that relationship that I keep coming back to again and again.  That is what fascinates me – how people relate to each other, and themselves. Sex can be joyful, painful, wholesome, filthy, simple or profound. If people are the subject, then sex is the lens.”

As to what’s next for Malin, she says, “Something different, I think. Though I’m honestly not sure. I put so much into Roadhouse Blues that I haven’t been able to see past it yet. I’ll probably give myself a little quiet time and space. Whatever comes to me out of that quiet, is the thread I’ll end up following.”

Malin James Roadhouse Blues erotic fiction short stories

Welcome to Styx—a blue-collar, American town where people can do whatever they like, so long as they don’t advertise. From a 1950s diner to the back of a rocking Camaro, the stories in Roadhouse Blues reveal sex that is by turns romantic, raw, triumphant, and desperate. Meet two women grieving the same man, a bartender looking for anything but love, and a hot, brash newlywed who knows she married a cheat. The local garage is run by a kick-ass woman who gives as fierce as she gets, and the strip club is a place full of whiskey and smoke, where memories are exposed as easily as skin.

Malin James is an essayist, blogger, and short story writer. Her work has appeared in Malin JamesElectric Literature, Bust, MUTHA, Queen Mob’s Tea House and Medium, as well as in podcasts and anthologies for Cleis Press, Sweetmeats Press and Stupid Fish Productions. Her first collection, Roadhouse Blues, is published with Go Deeper Press.

Purchase your copy here

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Come Let Us Sing Anyway, by Leone Ross : a review

I read Leone RossDrag a few years ago, and I knew right then that I’d found someone special, an author with a unique voice. For me, the story is about our desire not to be restricted or categorized. It’s a battle-cry for individuality, for throwing off shackles.

The whole collection, of Come Let Us Sing Anyway, has this feel for me, that we’re seeing characters who are defiantly blazing, refusing to be constrained by others’ expectations.

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Leone’s storytelling is fearless altogether, and radiant, which is especially apparent in her portrayal of erotic themes. Her prose is, by turns, refreshingly shocking and gorgeously sensual (often, both together!) Our desire for sexual connection is right where it should be in these stories, whether thrusting itself into the limelight, or gnawing away, silently.

Leone’s cast is diverse, eccentric, eye-poppingly theatrical. And yet their actions and words are strikingly familiar. Bizarre as they are, they show us the universal truths that bind us: that we all love, and grieve, and hope, and yearn; that we all struggle, and desire.

Few writers can deliver dialogue like Leone Ross – or achieve so much with so few words. Her stories sing in the small details, her characters built in the roll of their hips and the blossom of obscenities from their mouths, often delivered in Jamaican patwa.Leone Ross Drag quote

Her prose is dazzlingly beautiful and daringly original (as a woman masturbates in a restaurant WC, ‘…even the shining tiles on the bathroom floor seemed to ululate to help her’).

As readers, we each bring our own interpretation; it’s what makes reading exciting. Come Let Us Sing Anyway is, in many places, bravely, invitingly ambiguous. It’s a wonderful thing, because it obliges us to bring ourselves to the story, to find meaning in relation to our own experience.

You may like to read my interview with Leone, here, on her influences and intentions in storytelling.

Purchase Come Let Us Sing Anyway from Peepal Tree Press

or, if you’d like a copy for your Kindle, purchase from Amazon

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About Leone Ross

Known for melding magic realism with erotic fiction, Leone Ross’ novels and short stories are original in approach, style and voice, defying literary niches and expectations of genre. Her work incorporates elements of speculative fiction, erotica and Caribbean fiction.

Leone’s first novel, All The Blood Is Red, was short-listed for the Orange Prize, in 1997. Her second, Orange Laughter, received critical acclaim in 2000, published in the UK, US and France.

Leone worked as a journalist and editor for fourteen years, holding the post of Arts Editor at The Voice newspaper, Women’s Editor at the New Nation newspaper, and  transitional Editor for Pride magazine, in the UK. She also held the position of Deputy Editor at Sibyl, a feminist magazine. Leone freelanced for The Independent on Sunday and The Guardian as well as London Weekend Television and the BBC.  She currently works as a senior lecturer in Creative Writing, at London’s Roehampton University.

Follow Leone on Twitter

Drop in to her website: www.leoneross.com

Or find her on Facebook 

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Author Influences : Leone Ross

Known for melding magic realism with erotic fiction, Leone Ross’ novels and short stories are original in approach, style and voice, defying literary niches and expectations of genre. Her work incorporates elements of speculative fiction, erotica and Caribbean fiction.

Leone’s first novel, All The Blood Is Red, was short-listed for the Orange Prize, in 1997. Her second, Orange Laughter, received critical acclaim in 2000, published in the UK, US and France. Her latest, highly-anticipated release is a dazzling collection of short stories: Come Let Us Sing Anyway.

unnamedLeone currently works as a senior lecturer in Creative Writing, at London’s Roehampton University.

Of the impulse to write, she tells us, “I was one of those kids that read voraciously and wrote voraciously, and I guess I’ve always expected to have an audience of some type. I think I expected to publish, not that it’s been easy – at all – but it seemed a strange kind of inevitability. Apparently, when I was a child I spoke to my father about storytelling in terms of wanting to make people feel. I wrote stories and poems and plays and wanted to make people laugh and cry and think. The process through which an artist creates work and then readers take it in and feel an emotion still feels magical to me.”

Besides using the voices of older women and children in her narratives, Leone also writes stories in which we see from a male character’s point of view. She explains, “I’m interested in the way that men understand us, or don’t. Because women’s experiences are so often compromised or synthesised by men, I like creating male characters that speak for us.”Leone Ross quote 3 Echo

As a teenager, in the 1980s, Leone read erotic tales by the mysteriously named Anonymous (who Leone is convinced was a woman) and discovered Shere Hite: ‘always the profane and the intellectual for me, when it comes to sex’. It was her reading of Anais Nin that had most impact however. As Leone explains, “She showed me how to combine characterization and narrative with figurative language and sex –how to make sex intellectually viable and emotionally relevant on the page.”

Inspired by 80s pop, Jamaican dance hall, Prince and Santana, Leone often uses music during her writing and editing process. She explains, “I write in a café and I’m often dancing in my seat with earphones on. I go to music to feel an emotion, to distil an emotion, so I can find the words for it. Also, I experience plotting and structuring of narrative as musical. I have no musical training, and yet I feel as if writing a novel or writing a short story is like conducting an orchestra. So is editing. You can feel the missing beats. That’s true of overarching narrative and within sentences and individual words.”Leone Ross quote 1

Large swathes of her most recent third novel, This One Sky Day (as yet unpublished but set on a fictional archipelago somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean) were written with Jamaican spiritual and religious music – kumina, nyabingi drums, and pocomania – in the background. “The horrible rape scene in my first novel was written to the tune of Depeche Mode. There’s something about their intensity and self-indulgent darkness that makes me feel emotional and violent.”

Leone likens high quality TV drama to the short story form, saying, “Watching Homicide: Life On The Street or the prison series OZ gave me permission and narrative structure, in the 1990s and early 2000s. Good television teaches you that there is a kernel of clearly realised and expressed characterization at the heart of every dramatic movement. People often tell me they think that my work is cinematic and certainly visualisation is an excellent tool for writers. While I rarely see a character’s face, I can see their body and movement. I can smell them, touch them.”Leone Ross quote 2

As a teenager, Leone became involved in amateur theatre, with some touring in Jamaica. Among her favourite plays are Moon on a Rainbow Shawl by Errol John, and Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman. Having spent time on stage, Leone associates movement and the body with art and expression, noting that it has influenced her writing, ‘as a visual, conscious, visceral thing’. She underlines, “Words are not ephemeral or formless: they are real things, thoughts become scribbles, scribbles become paragraphs, paragraphs become a book. The script becomes interpreted through the body.” She emphasizes that the act of creation is transformative, that, in writing (and reading) stories, we alter our thinking, and this also brings physical, bodily change.

Leone Ross - lions quoteLeone admires Stephen King, for his ‘ability with narrative and good old-fashioned storytelling, as well as his expression of addiction and consumerism and working-class American lives’. “His work should be more respected, even though he can’t write black characters to save his life (something he acknowledges),” she asserts.

“I feel like I found myself, when I found the Americans,” Leone adds. “Especially Latin Americans – who really are Caribbean, essentially – but 20th century American literature in general, and the literature of the Harlem renaissance in particular.” It was her reading of Toni Morrison and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Faulkner that gave her ‘permission to see the world as I see it’. “They were a revelation, as was my introduction to magic realism. I’ve never quite gotten over it. It was as if the ridiculousness of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach was now written for adults via Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude and Morrison’s Song of Solomon.”Leone Ross Drag quote

In her younger years, with a lot of science fiction in the house (her mother was a fan), Leone devoured the Dune series, before exploring Caribbean literature, adoring the work of Anthony C Winkler and the poetry of Louise Bennett: ‘both writers with a pointed sense of mischief and a love of the Jamaican vernacular’ but finding herself less interested in other Caribbean classics. Leone comments, “I have had to return to Caribbean literature via Kei Miller and Marlon James and Jacob Ross and Kwame Dawes in my middle age – I don’t really like reading about things that I know and recognize and in my twenties I found some of what we [Caribbean writers] do, stuffy and dare I say…worthy. I probably abandoned Caribbean literature too long. Morrison and Marquez were sufficiently recognizable but also sufficiently alien for me to feel that I was experiencing something new.”

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As is evident from her writing, Leone finds the extraordinary in the ordinary and vice versa. She loves Geek Love, Katherine Dunn’s ‘opus to oddness and the body’; an editor sent it to her, knowing she would love it and Dickens, for ‘his sense of empathy and his grotesque characters’. “I enjoy a sense of the ridiculous,” she admits.

“I also have to mention two other Americans who aren’t properly lauded: Sherwood Anderson, for the astonishing empathy of his characterization – who was a major influence on Faulkner – and Jean Toomer, for his insane, poetic beauty  – who is not as well known as Baldwin or Zora Neal Hurston. (Toomer’s unfortunate conversion to a particularly virulent kind of Christianity meant that the promise of Cane, his prose poem/ poetic short story collection was never repeated).” She smiles: “They’re precious secrets to be unwrapped, not bestsellers. I have a soft spot for writers’ writers who were less recognized than their peers during their time.”

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Come Let Us Sing Anyway, short story collection ed. Jeremy Poynting (Peepal Tree Press, UK: Leeds: June 5th 2017)

The woman was sitting naked, with her shoulder blades propped up against the wall between the cubicles. Her legs were spread so far apart that the muscles inside her thighs were jumping. She had the prettiest pussy he’s ever seen, so perpendicular and soft that he had to shade his eyes and take a breath, and then, without knowing he was capable of such a thing, he stopped and stared.

‘Put simply,’ he says to his closest friend, that night, while drinking good beer and wine, ‘she was too far gone to stop.’

They sigh, together.

The woman took her second and third fingers and rubbed between her legs so fast and hard that the waiter, who thought he’d seen a woman orgasm before this, suddenly doubted himself and kept watching to make sure. In the dawn, the woman’s locks could have been on fire and even the shining tiles on the bathroom floor seemed to ululate to help her.

Purchase Come Let Us Sing Anyway from Peepal Tree Press

or, if you’d like a copy for your Kindle, purchase from Amazon

You may like to read my review, here.

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About Leone Ross

Leone worked as a journalist and editor for fourteen years, holding the post of Arts Editor at The Voice newspaper, Women’s Editor at the New Nation newspaper, and transitional Editor for Pride magazine in the UK. She also held the position of Deputy Editor at Sibyl, a feminist magazine.  Leone freelanced for The Independent on Sunday and The Guardian as well as London Weekend Television and the BBC. In 2015, she judged the Manchester Fiction Prize, alongside Stuart Kelly and judges the annual Wimbledon Bookfest short story competition.

Her short fiction and essays have been widely anthologised, including the Brown Sugar erotica series, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (14th Edition). In 2000, she co-edited the award-winning Whispers in The Walls: New Black and Asian Writing from Birmingham. Other publications include Best British Short Stories 2011 (Salt Publishing, ed. Nicholas Royle) and Kingston Noir (Akashic Books, ed. Colin Channer and ‘The Mullerian Eminence’ in Closure (ed Jacob Ross, Peepal Tree Press).

Currently with Roehampton University, Leone has also worked at Cardiff UniversityTrinity College Dublin, the City Literary Institute and the Arvon Foundation. She has edited four anthologies for Roehampton’s publishing imprint, Fincham Press (including latest, The Unseen, due out in October 2017). She received a London Arts Board Writers Award in 2000, and has represented the British Council in the United States, South Korea, Slovakia, Romania, Sweden and across the UK.

She still mourns Prince.

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Follow Leone on Twitter

Drop in to her website: www.leoneross.com

Or find her on Facebook 

imagesLeone’s Novelsimages-1

  • Orange Laughter(Picador USA 2001; Actes Sud, France 2001; Farrar Straus & Giroux, USA, 2000; Anchor Press, UK, 2000; Angela Royal Publishing, UK, 1999.)
  • All The Blood Is Red (Actes Sud, France, 2002; Angela Royal Publishing, UK, 1996.)

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Author Influences : LN Bey

LN Bey was a reader of erotica long before taking up the pen to write debut novel Blue. Attracted to the ‘inherent illogicality of BDSM’, as LN puts it, ‘the desire to be beaten, controlled and humiliated (or to do the beating) despite it making no logical sense’, Blue is a quest story, with a darkly twisted heart.

LN is adamant that what we read and erotically fantasize doesn’t always bear reflection in what we’d want to experience in real life. In fiction, in our imagination, we’re free, if we choose, to embrace situations we’d find too extreme, too distasteful or, even, too disturbing, in reality.

Speaking of early influences, LN explains, “My interest in BDSM is innate. I found power differentials and half-undressed perils interesting long before I had any idea how sex actually worked. Among the earliest things I read that were overtly sexual, and thrilled me to my core, were a couple of stories in mainstream porn magazines from a friend’s parent’s or older brother’s collection, I forget exactly. One was in an early-1980s Hustler, I believe, and was a very odd thing to find there: a story about a fem-dom slave auction, a dominatrix on stage, one man after another brought out, hurt, and humiliated, before being sold. It certainly got my interest.”

AN RoquelaureMuch later, LN read Roquelaure’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy, then Réage’s Story of O, Antoniou’s Marketplace series and Weatherfield’s Carrie novels. LN explains, “Although the styles (and intentions) of these four women authors differ radically, they each have a definite sense of erotic cruelty—consensual, yes, but often ‘consensual non-consent’. It’s about how the characters deal with the system they’ve agreed to enter. There is love, or something like it, in these books, but desire, and the drive to keep going, to keep pushing oneself, is the bigger theme.”

As LN explains, these novels explore total ‘erotic fantasy’ immersion (in particular, into situations which would be too strict for anyone to seek out in reality). Rather than promoting the safe, sane, and consensual in fiction, these novels embrace extremes, so that the ‘fantasy’ exists firmly in the imagination, rather than being a fantasy which the reader might choose to act out.

“Sometimes referred to as ‘chateau porn’ (but what I’ve always called ‘institutional Pauline Réage History of O BDSM eroticaporn’),” says LN, “They’re full of wealthy people, and take place in worldwide organizations that trade and train voluntary sex slaves, or variants thereof: Roquelaure’s world is a conquering castle; Réage’s a more local wealthy club. We follow entry into a whole new world, not just a new relationship.”

The dedication in Blue reads: ‘…to the four women who have cost me countless hours of sleep but showed me how fun it could be to put entire worlds, and all the filthy things that go on within them, down on paper: Molly Weatherfield, Laura Antoniou, A. N. Roquelaure and Pauline Réage.’ It is these women writers who, foremost, inspire LN Bey’s erotic fiction writing although, amusingly, LN admits that the impulse to pen erotica was primarily triggered by an air-freshener commercial!

89598“A woman is seen busily cleaning her sleek Modernist house, in preparation for a dinner party,” LN explains. “The guests all show up, two couples, and I remember thinking it was a little odd that she was the fifth wheel in this; she had no partner. They all look around, so impressed with her house and the food, but, being an air freshener commercial, they start to sniff the air, and we see the dog on the sofa and the fish frying, and then they all look at her, very disapprovingly. She sort of hangs her head in shame. And every time I saw it I felt this wonderful little tension, because it was obvious, to me at least, that she was going to have to be punished…by the guests!”

“It was the first fiction I’d written since, maybe, high school and I didn’t intend to do anything with it; it was just a hot little fantasy. But it kept bugging me—would this happen, this situation? For it to actually play out, the scene would either be non-consensual, or there would be a reason for all this to happen. I kept thinking about it, and I decided she would have to be ‘in on it’ — she knew beforehand that she’d be punished for infractions, imperfections. It’s what she wanted.”

This became the opening scene of LN Bey’s Blue, where the banality of suburban life meets the seemingly contrary drama of BDSM ‘theatre’.

LN recalls that the first drafts were full of head-hopping and clichés. However, through reading more erotica, taking Rachel Kramer Bussel’s online writing class, and experimenting with short story fiction, LN began to gain confidence, and refine skills.

Precision is a focus for LN, who admires this in Kubrick’s work, where the ‘loving, longing gaze lingers over small details’. As LN notes, Kubrick lingers not only on objects but on people (often using people as objects in his films) and on their conversations.

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photography by Araki

Of the many erotic artists loved by LN, several are graphic novelists: Crepax, MichaelManning, Eric von Gotha, and Stanton. “These artists create entire worlds, where liberties can be taken with reality, practicality, and consent. I also love it when highly skilled painters apply themselves to erotically themed works. I adore Saturno Buttò. A painter named Roberto Negrón did a fantastic series on B&D behaviors, and there is the work of photographer Araki.”

ETHEREA III Saturno Butto
Work by Saturno Butto

Other authors admired by LN are Donna Tartt, Thomas Pynchon and Margaret Atwood. Of Pynchon, LN says, “I love the twisty, screwed-up quests, taking unexpected directions, with multiple plotlines. You travel with characters who only briefly cross paths or just miss each other. I love his willingness to have important characters drop out early, and the book is suddenly someone else’s story. Mysteries are slowly uncovered, or added, and his language is incredibly colourful and rhythmic.”

Speaking of Donna Tartt, LN admires her use of minutia to 2-1immerse the reader. “So much erotica seems to lacks detail until the sex scenes,” LN regrets, ‘As if they’re taking place on an empty stage with no setting.”

LN is a fan the ‘epic quest’, naming 2001: A Space Odyssey, Excalibur, and Apocalypse Now. “Episodic, segmented, linear but winding, they’re exhausting to the participants, and for the viewer, feeling as if we’ve been right there with them. In comedies such as The Blues Brothers Movie and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, the quest explodes into absolute chaos. The latter has multiple quests taking place simultaneously, all inflicting insane, comic violence onto the world. What drives people to such extremes? The goals of these quests are all completely different; it’s the drive that fascinates me.”

“1970s erotic film rules my world: The Image, Story of O, the Tani Naomi films, and The Education of the Baroness. Cheap sexploitation movies,” LN declares. “There was a brief period, before the video format took over, in which ‘porn’ directors made sexually explicit, feature-length films with actual plots and some degree of characterization. They had budgets. They would, in their limited way, attempt to tackle issues: the psychologies of sexual power and submission, with varying degrees of consent (Tani Naomi films = 0 on that scale). They took chances! Considering how we can now find any filthy fetish recorded for the Internet, it’s amazing that such films aren’t made today.”

317fRIVTvWLRead my review of LN Bey’s Blue here

and purchase from Amazon

As her guests arrive for dinner, Janet is both fearful and aroused—because this is no ordinary suburban dinner party. Recently divorced and looking for something new, Janet definitely finds it when her friend Jon invites her to join an exclusive club of kinksters whose initiation is to be the host—and the entertainment.

Before the food is even served, she’s naked and on her knees, not to mention in over her head.

Kinky and sexy, intelligent and perceptive, Blue is both highly entertaining social satire and red hot erotica.

LN has written Blue from a position of knowledge, having been practicing BDSM for decades, in private. Meanwhile, in creating the group dynamics and small-group politics of the kink Scene, LN drew widely on the experiences of close acquaintances. “I’m interested in examining why some of us are attracted to dispensing or receiving the intense stimulations that others would call pain, or submitting our will and body to another (whether within the limits of safewords in real life or without them in erotica, porn, and fantasy).”

Blue’s protagonist, Janet, fears disapproval, and shunning — from her conservative family, her neighbours, and her co-workers. As LN admits, “These are the very things that keep me up at night. She fears being photographed, of there being a record of her perversion. I envy those who can be open about their kinks. Some of us simply cannot, which makes writing this kind of thing (or, rather, publishing this kind of thing) risky, though it is constantly surprising to me that, in this day and age, consensual habits still need to be kept secret.”

 

About LN Bey

LN has lived in various cities and towns throughout the American West and Midwest with spouse and pets in tow, pursuing various creative endeavours and playing interesting games. LN’s debut erotic novel Blue was released in 2016 and the three of five segments of the Villa series are now released. LN also appears in the following anthologies:

Best Bondage Erotica 2015, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Love Slave: Sizzle, 2016, ed. by Dom Exel

No Safewords 2, 2017, ed. by Laura Antoniou.

 

Find LN at lnbey.com and at Viscontipress.com

On Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon 

 

Blue, by LN Bey: a review

LN Bey was a reader of erotica long before taking up the pen, with particular attraction Pauline Réage History of O BDSM eroticato the inherent illogicality of BDSM — as LN puts it ‘the desire to be beaten, controlled and humiliated (or to do the beating) despite it making no logical sense’.

As a reader, LN embraced Molly Weatherfield, Laura Antoniou, AN Roquelaure and Pauline Réage, each with their own brand of erotic cruelty, of ‘consensual non-consent’, exploring systematized sex slavery.

AN RoquelaureAs LN explains, “In Story of O, in the Beauty trilogy, and in The Marketplace, the subs are there to serve and to lose themselves, not to be coddled before and after a spanking. It’s assumed that Masters are entitled to their slaves’ submission, and that’s what the submissives expect, and want, as well.”

317fRIVTvWLUnlike Story of O and the worlds of Antoniou, Weatherfield and Roquelaure, there are no castles or billionaire mansions in Blue, which is set in the blandest of American suburbs, where our cast of kinky suburbanites, each flawed and ego-centric, have day jobs, shop in supermarkets and battle traffic jams.

As LN explains, “I’m not a fan of overly romantic language, sweeping us along doe-eyed and swooning, with our hands clasped under our chins. I wanted to write realistically, taking what I most love about fantastical erotica and placing the scenarios into a believable setting.”

LN Bey, in Blue, presents characters each on their own quest for self-realization, usually through extremes of self-expression – through film, photography and performance, but also, as ‘artists’ of their identity, shaping themselves as living works of art (naturally, as works in continuous progress). The most obvious example of this is the character of Mai, who stands, in imitation of a statue, throughout the novel, decorating a niche of Carolyn’s home, but there are many others, less overt.

89598Blue references erotic art and fiction, creating a nod to the reader, in their role as ‘connoisseur’: we recognize ourselves in these characters who read erotica, peruse erotic art works, and indulge in sexual fantasy. Janet, the leading protagonist, begins her journey in just this way, with a collection of well-thumbed novels of ‘erotic peril’ and some coffee-table books of provocative images.

Janet engineers her entry into a fantasy, built upon expectations from her reading of sensational fiction (in this way, Blue is rather like a kinky, 21st century version of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey). Unsurprisingly, she is destined for disappointment, as reality fails to match her imagination (although there are elements of her experience that do appeal to her, and keep her coming back for more). Meanwhile, Janet’s fears must be overcome, in order for her to attain self-realization. LN tells us, “She isn’t looking for love but thrills, for her fantasies to come true, even if the book is largely about the impossibility of that. She knows how she wants to be treated now (‘strictly, but not callously’) and she’s suddenly got the opportunity she’s been looking for.”

Blue is about the artistry of pain, and control, and the struggle to fulfill yearning, to gain self-realization. Janet discovers, through her ‘quest’, that she craves being dominated, being compelled to serve and to take pain (despite disliking discomfort). She is a submissive, rather than a masochist, gaining pleasure from obedience rather than from the endorphin rush of pain itself.

Blue quote chapter 14In parallel, Carolyn, a dominant seemingly in control of everything around her, struggles to control her own emotions. LN tells us, “I modelled Carolyn’s crisis on the HAL 9000 character from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. An artificial intelligence-level computer, HAL was faced with two contradictory missions; unable to cope with conflicting impulses, as in Carolyn’s case, all hell broke loose.”

The most moving chapter in Blue is unveiled entirely through phone voice-mail, revealing Carolyn’s true feelings for her submissive.

LN comments, “I’m fond of alternative means of narration. That chapter shows us relics of communication, with a different timeline. We later learn that the voicemails weren’t even effective, because he wasn’t checking his messages. She was talking to no one.”

Some of the most vivid scenes in Blue evolve around hyper-stylized film-making, where Laura Antoniou The Marketplace BDSM eroticatension is heightened, since we, like Janet, have no idea what will happen next. Speaking of the inspiration behind these scenes, LN references director Kubrick’s ‘lingering’ shots and wide angles, and his tendency to shoot people as he would objects, examining them in minute detail.

As LN comments, “Blue is a book about erotica. About people who read erotica, and how we build expectations from reading it. One of the goals of the book is to subvert the expectations that the reader is likely to have about the story and characters, just as Janet’s expectations are constantly subverted.”

Purchase Blue from Amazon

As her guests arrive for dinner, Janet is both fearful and aroused—because this is no 317fRIVTvWLordinary suburban dinner party. Recently divorced and looking for something new, Janet definitely finds it when her friend Jon invites her to join an exclusive club of kinksters whose initiation is to be the host—and the entertainment.

Before the food is even served, she’s naked and on her knees, not to mention in over her head.

Kinky and sexy, intelligent and perceptive, Blue is both highly entertaining social satire and red hot erotica.

About LN Bey

LN has lived in various cities and towns throughout the American West and Midwest with spouse and pets in tow, pursuing various creative endeavours and playing interesting games.

LN’s debut erotic novel Blue was released in 2016 and the three of five segments of the Villa series are now released.

LN also appears in the following anthologies:

Best Bondage Erotica 2015, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Love Slave: Sizzle, 2016, ed. by Dom Exel

No Safewords 2, 2017, ed. by Laura Antoniou.

 

Find LN at  lnbey.com and Viscontipress.com

On TwitterAmazon and Goodreads

 

 

 

Author Influences : Sonni de Soto

Sonni de Soto loves to tell stories, exploring not just the world of our sexual fantasies, but the practicalities too. She laments that most mainstream BDSM fiction avoids looking at the ‘realities’. She explains, “For real-life players, kink takes connection. Not the kismet kind or the magic soulmate sort, but the type that comes with a lot of communication and a lot of earned trust. Too often, in fiction, that’s seen as unromantic but, for me, that’s where the romance and sizzle always lie.”

Of her own reading, she tells us, “I’m a big fan of interconnected stories: when we follow characters within the same world, seeing how one character sets in motion events which affect all the others, in their own stories. This echoes the truth that everything we do affects everyone else (whether on butterfly-wing levels or typhoon ones).”

sonni quote 2Among her favourite such reads is David Schickler’s Kissing In Manhattan collection, which gives readers a ‘strange and seemingly random cast of characters, centred on a mythic Manhattan apartment complex called The Preemption’.

Sonni asserts, “I love that each story is complete, and can stand entirely on its own, but gains greater impact when viewed alongside the others. Like people in the real world, everyone has a story. Everyone is the star—the main character—of their own story, as well as being a side character in everyone else’s. We all make an impact. I wonder if my own Donovan’s Door world would even exist without Schickler’s Preemption.”

Although Sonni rarely writes speculative fiction, she notes “I love to read such stories, and sonni quotewatch films which take a fresh look at our everyday world by adding extraordinary elements, making our familiar settings seem somehow strange and unknown. Unexpected futures we’ve yet to fulfill. The occult lurking in our shadows. Hidden powers that manifest in the meeker among us. The magical meeting realism.”

Among Sonni’s favourite films are surrealistic-fantasy masterpieces Pan’s Labyrinth, Brazil, and Mirrormask.

She adds, “That’s how kink scenes in stories feel for me. A fantasy constructed within—constructed from—reality. They require a certain suspension of disbelief but also rely on there being basic, consistent ‘rules’.”

“Whenever we try to translate fantasy—whether sexual or speculative—into the believable, we need a firm grounding in reality or we risk straying too far from the humanity that connects stories to audiences,” warns Sonni.

“In movies, you want the special effects to be mind-blowing and unlike anything anyone sonni quotehas ever seen before but, if they go too far or are overdone, the film falls flat. For me, kink scenes follow the same logic. I want my sexy story bits to be steamy and hot, but I want to be sure that they’re still grounded in something real. Do body parts actually move and react that way? Is proper safety, negotiation, and consent being observed? Does the kink serve a purpose to the plot and character development or is it more flash over substance?”

She asserts, “Speculative films taught me that if you want to make someone believe something unknown and strange—be that aliens walking among us or that pain can be exquisite pleasure—you have to really sell the setup.”

Theatre made a significant impact on Sonni from an early age. She tells us, “I’ve been involved in theatre one way or another since I was able to walk, but it took thirteen years before I really saw roles on the stage—and in stories in general—that looked like me. RENT was a huge influence on me, as a writer and as a person. It was the first time I really got to see characters of color and LGBTQ+ characters as the stars of a show. That was so powerful: to see that our stories are worth telling and that there are people who want to hear them.” She adds, “I never used to tell stories that featured characters of color or LGBTQ+ characters. Now that’s pretty much all I do.”

Sonni underlines, “As creators, we fear that nothing we do is original… that everything has been done before. I know that all stories have been told in some form or another before, but mine offer my own special spin.”

Sonni’s latest release, with Sinful Press, is Show Me, Sir, exploring the themes of feminism, BDSM, kink, and community.

Show Me Sir

Max Wells is a ball-busting, ass-kicking testament to female empowerment, who’s yet to meet the person who can push her down.

Until she meets a man she only knows as Sir. Shamelessly deviant, Hayato knows exactly what Max thinks of Dominants like him. Ready to dismiss his lifestyle, she’s the type to assume she knows everything about it, and him, after one cursory glance from the outside in. But, looking at Max—at her intelligence and passion—he can see more in her than the misconceptions with which she’s deliberately blinding herself. And, determined, he plans to show her more.

Max and Hayato engage in a dance of wit, will, and seduction as they negotiate roles, rewrite rules, and learn the true meaning of empowerment.

However, just as their game heats up, someone threatens to drag their private lives into the spotlight. With high stakes and bitter scandal looming, Max and her Sir must work together to show that they’re not defined by what the world thinks they are.

Buy Show Me, Sir here

About the Author

Sonni is an office-grunt geek with a passion for cosplay, taking cloth, paint, wire and, even, plumbing parts to bring some of her favourite fictional characters to life.

She describes herself as a kinkster of colour, and is the author of The Taming School (Sizzler Editions) and Show Me, Sir (Sinful Press), as well as Give to You (Deep Desires Press). Her short stories feature in six anthologies, including in Riverdale Ave Books’ First Annual Geeky Kink Anthology, in Sexy Little Pages’ Sacred & Profane, and in Stupid Fish Productions’ For the Men (and the Women who Love Them).

Follow Sonni on Facebook, pay a visit to her blog, or find her on Amazon

Author Influences : Terrance Aldon Shaw

Terrance Aldon Shaw (TAS to his friends) has written more than 70 erotic short stories, 10001405_268601389969496_1314269374_nand is currently at work on a novel The Seven Seductions. His work explores the thoughts, feelings and emotions that accompany the erotic experience.

Having worked as a musician for much of his adult life, eking out a modest living as a singer and a classical composer, TAS stresses that music has been the primary influence on his writing: not just his love for classical works and grand opera but classical-influenced jazz and 70s rock, folk, bluegrass and country, hip hop and rap.

TAS asserts, “There’s nothing that equals the power of music to express emotion, to evoke atmosphere, and establish mood. This is why a film without a score often seems to fall short of its potential, lacking the full measure of visceral impact—just compare the scene in Jaws where the shark attacks the boat, first without John Williams’ music in the background, then with it. Whether conjuring a sense of existential anxiety and dramatic tension, desolation or euphoria, claustrophobic horror or the sublime vastness of space, nothing comes close to music.”

Comparing musical composition with that of writing, TAS underlines, “You have to be able to discern structure. Melody, harmony, and rhythm have to be coordinated to form a coherent statement. When I sit down to write, I consider the musical quality of the words, the prose-melodies that are created by the artful combination of words and phrases gradually built up into the literary equivalent of a symphony (that word, by the way, means ‘sounding together’). The way writing sounds when read aloud is important; if it doesn’t flow, if it doesn’t reach out and tickle the reader’s ear—if it doesn’t make music—it’s not ready to publish.”

Terrance Aldon Shaw Moon-Haunted heart quote 2

As to how we make music with words, TAS advises varying the length of our phrases, never letting rhythms become too predictable, and avoiding repeated syntactical patterns. He emphasizes, “Understand that each word (or each note) carries its own innate energy, like a charged particle. If you arrange words carelessly, putting similar words too close together you drain them of their emotive power.  Finally—and this is quite important, I think—don’t always play your music in the same key. Vary the mood and pace—especially in multi-chaptered works. Occasionally, dark clouds need to roll in and, sometimes, the sun needs to break through the dark clouds, if only long enough to keep the reader interested.”

He adds, “Great music has a sense of flow, an inevitable logic, leaving the impression that every constituent element is perfectly coordinated with every other. In the great operas of Wagner, particularly Die Walküre and Siegfried from Der Ring des Niebelungen, the music never seems to pause. I want that quality of sensuousness—that inevitable sense of flow—to permeate my prose and animate my storytelling .You can’t be a great composer if you only grasp what’s on the surface. You have to appreciate the way disparate elements come together. You have to see it all from the inside.”

Terrance Aldon Shaw Moon-Haunted heart quote 1

TAS is profoundly near-sighted, which perhaps explains his desire to evoke sensory detail. As he comments, “When you’re a storyteller, everything you see and hear and touch has its own story.”

Nevertheless, he has a love of photography, sculpture and painting, and these have influenced some of his stories directly. In Night Vision, based on his own experience, the near-sighted narrator takes off his glasses and sees a jazz ensemble ‘reduced to its essential shapeless elements of light and colour’. As TAS explains, this gave him sudden appreciation of the nature of abstract art. He names ‘the intriguingly distorted figures set in the bleak urban landscape of Di Chirico’s The Disquieting Muses’ as an influence and Jackson Pollack’s Mural, which he believes ‘evokes its own strange multi-verse of fractal layers, like grains of sand under a powerful microscope’. As he notes wryly, “If you can’t find a story prompt there, you’re not looking.”

TAS points out that theatrical and cinematic works ‘all begin with the written word’. He comments, “I’m attracted to the same qualities in film that I find irresistible in books; an evocative sense of atmosphere, and sharp narrative focus (look at Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men based on the P.D. James sci-fi novel, or Kathryn Bigelow’s dystopian masterpiece, Strange Days with its seamless tracking shots and breathtaking leaps into the realm of virtual reality). I also appreciate intelligent storytelling that does not patronize the viewer with obvious ‘set-up’ dialogue or linger on superfluous detail: I am reminded of those long stretches of silence in the films of Alfred Hitchcock, so richly detailed—a perfect example of showing as opposed to telling. And then there’s that wonderful Pixar animated film Wall-E, where the poignance of the story is heightened by the lonesome stillness of an abandoned earth.”

He adds, “I also adore movies that engage my playful side (Charlie Chaplain’s City Lights and Modern Times, The Marx Brothers A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races, Kevin Smith’s Dogma, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, and absolutely anything by Mel Brooks. And . . . and . . . and!  I LOVE Joss Whedon’s stuff for its intelligent ‘meta’ storytelling, its wisecracking archetypes, and its cheeky—very intentional—employment of bathos. These are all things I aspire to in my writing. Effective scene-setting through the evocation of atmosphere, an unblinking eye for crucial detail, and an uncompromising demand for clarity of narrative.”

He also muses, “I’m moved by great dancing in the movies and I admire those who can dance well—their gracefulness is just so often a mystery to me, I can’t help but be dazzled even as I’m sad that I can’t join in with them. In my writing, I often refer to dance, employing it as a metaphor, sometimes citing the techniques, or the physical characteristics associated with dancers.”

Terrance Aldon Shaw Moon-Haunted heart quote 3

TAS asserts that he ‘categorically rejects magical thinking and superstition’, yet admits that tales of fantasy and magic have deeply influenced his own storytelling. Beyond early influences of fairy tales and myths, Shakespeare and the Hebrew Bible, he is drawn to ‘sweeping, mythic, quasi-poetic narratives’: Stephen King’s Gunslinger, and William M. Miller’s Canticle for Liebowitz (which he callsprobably one of the greatest sci-fi novels ever written, and certainly a great work of humanist fiction’).

TAS tells us, “Angela Carter’s Bloody Chamber blew my mind apart and put it back together in the same revelatory instant—such beautiful, daring language! Reading Anais Nin is like soaring across the astral plains and never wanting to come down again. Imagica, by Clive Barker, is a creepy, atmospheric tour de force, while Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is powerfully thought-provoking, exploring the conflict between faith and science, politics, and sex. What all these books have in common is that they’re intelligently conceived, elegantly written, evocative, colorful, always—always!—feeding the reader’s intellect while stimulating the imagination. That’s the kind of book I love to read—and certainly the kind of book I want to write.”

Other books that have stayed with him are The Engineer of Human Souls by Czech author Josef Skvorevski, which he calls ‘a tragi-comic masterpiece of sex, politics and academia as seen through the bemused eye of a cynical college-English professor and political refugee’. TAS notes that Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, ‘with its deeply sympathetic yet relentlessly unblinking descriptions of suffering’ has influenced not only his writing, but his life.

Unsurprisingly, given his musical ear, TAS also has a love of poetry. He explains, “I came to deeply appreciate poetry through my interest in classical music, and the masterful settings of the great poets by modern composers, like Benjamin Britten and Ned Rorem. When I heard a setting of a poem that affected me, I went out and bought everything I could find by that poet, looking for things that I, too, could set to my own music: everything from medieval lyric fragments, Chaucer and Shakesperare’s sonnets, to Blake, Keats, Shelly, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Tennyson, to Walt Whitmann, Emily Dickinson, W.B. Yeats, Wilfred Owen, Vachel Lindsay, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings, Sylvia Plath, W.H. Auden, Robert Frost, and Pablo Neruda in translation.”

He continues, “Poetry has taught me the importance of being concise and a sense of rhythm. I loved poetry long before I became serious about writing prose.”

In his writing, TAS gives us all that is ‘distilled within that secret place where love and madness meet’. He tells of what might have been; tales not only of mortality and desire, but of nostalgia, regret, isolation, loneliness and longing, lost inspiration and the search for one’s place in the cosmic scheme of things. These aspects he surveys through the lens of the erotic, inviting us to scrutinize ourselves as sexual beings: naked, vulnerable, passionate, longing. Only in so doing can we know ourselves.

As Mr. Shaw declares, writers ‘live in hope that what they write will have meaning, though it is almost always left to readers to find it’.

 

Works by the author

Terrance Aldon Shaw’s Moon-Haunted Heart comprises fifty short pieces, exploring the The Moon-Haunted Heart (print cover image) 4 - Copy (4)human condition through the lens of the erotic. See my review here.

Eight Erotic Tales print (front) cover 1Another of his short story collections is Take Me Like the World Ends at Midnight. As TAS tells us, “They say forbidden fruit is always the sweetest. These eight short stories are about the thrill of the unexpected; a handsome stranger’s touch in a dark theater, a night of passion with the most unlikely of mystery men; the sheer adrenaline rush of sudden contact; the silent promise of ecstasy.”

 

About the author

Terrance Aldon Shaw (TAS to his friends) lives in a 167-year-old farmhouse in the heart of southeast Iowa’s Amish country. His neighbours do not know what he does for a living. (Sometimes, he’s not quite certain himself.)

 Find Mr. Shaw’s reviews, musings on the craft of writing and short stories on his site: Erotica for the Big Brain

Find him also:

On Smashwords 

On Amazon

On Facebook

On Goodreads

 

Author Influences : Krissy Kneen

krissy kneen author uncertain grace  

Today, I welcome Krissy Kneen. Although now focusing on fiction writing, she has previously written for theatre, for film and for television, and has directed documentaries. Inventive and provocative, she’s written across a range of genres, including erotica, science fiction, horror, memoir, and poetry.

Interested early on in Theatre of the Absurd, she tells us that ‘the obsession morphed into my love of surrealist novels’.

An enduring theme in her work is ‘coming to terms with being an outsider, finding a voice, finding other outsiders, and forming community at the margins’. Krissy explains, “In everything I write, there’s a longing for family and community. People say we only ever have one story to tell and that we tell it over and over in different ways. I really believe this is true. My latest novel, An Uncertain Grace is no exception.”

Badlands remains her favourite film, delving our quest for connection, and alienation from family. She comments, “It does so in such a poetic, minimalist way. I used to watch that movie over and over, and look at it structurally, and try to replicate that structure in my early novels.”

Speaking of her intent, she asserts, “I want a conversation with readers. I want to pose questions and then I want readers to go away and think of answers. This is how I interact with books I read and I love to share that process with others. I don’t have any answers because there are no fixed truths. All I ask of a reader is that they actively participate in the process. I want my book to be a different book to every reader.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 11.49.23Krissy explains that her love of literature began when her grandmother would pay her 20c for reading and reviewing books. She adds, “I moved on from stories about mice to Moomintroll, and by the time I hit Ray Bradbury I no longer needed the money. The books themselves became the reward. I started to write because books like R is for Rocket and S is for Space by Bradbury left so much space for me as a reader that I needed to add to the dialogue.”

Speaking of other authors’ influence on her writing, Krissy explains, “There are certain books that feel like they’ve unlocked something in my brain and I can feel more space freeing up. This is the most exciting thing for me. I felt it when I read Ray Bradbury as a child and that set me on the path to becoming a writer. Bradbury made me pick up the pen for the first time in a serious way. Before reading The Golden Apples of the Sun, I was dabbling, drawing my own picture books and writing little adventures, but Bradbury challenged me to be serious about the work. I was young but I was ready to be challenged.”

The graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, by Chris Ware, changed the way Krissy looked at the world, as did Here, by Richard McGuire. Most particularly, she is compelled by their use of nonlinear narrative. She asserts, “This was a revelation for me. I’ve felt the same thing reading Michael Ondaatje, who does amazing things with sentences. Anne Carson unlocked a new space in my brain with her poetry. Similarly, Maggie Nelson melted my brain with Bluets.”

Krissy is inspired by the way poets and graphic novelists play with form, ‘challenging what we think we’re doing as writers and making us want to engage with new forms of storytelling’.

Speaking of Lidia Yuknavitch, she tells us, “When I read The Small Backs of Children, things changed again. I felt her work physically, as if her words were pushing me, challenging me, encouraging me to fight back. She’s made me interested in writing my relationship to my family history, and has shown me new ways to approach the material. I feel challenged to start looking at genetics and family.”

krissy Kneen TriptychIt comes as no surprise that art has inspired Krissy’s work. Her family are visual artists and, as well as designing the sets for a couple of theatre shows in her youth, she enjoyed her own art exhibition. Her Triptych comprises three conjoined novellas, each named after, and referencing, well-known paintings: The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, by Katsushika Hokusai; Susanna and the Elders, by Artemesia Gentileshi, and Romulus and Remus, by Peter Paul Rubens. Krissy stresses, “I can’t seem to write anything without the inspiration of the visual arts.” An Uncertain Grace is inspired by a photo created by Sebastio Salgado, which holds a central position in her narrative.

Krissy’s latest release, An Uncertain Grace, is a novel in five parts, about who we are—our krissy kneen author interview uncertain gracebest and worst selves, our innermost selves—and who we might become.

Some time in the near future, university lecturer Caspar receives a gift from a former student called Liv: a memory stick containing a virtual narrative. Hooked up to a virtual reality bodysuit, he becomes immersed in the experience of their past sexual relationship. But this time it is her experience. What was for him an erotic interlude, resonant with the thrill of seduction, was very different for her—and when he has lived it, he will understand how.

Later…

A convicted paedophile recruited to Liv’s experiment in collective consciousness discovers a way to escape from his own desolation.

A synthetic boy, designed by Liv’s team to ‘love’ men who desire adolescents, begins to question the terms of his existence.

L, in transition to a state beyond gender, befriends Liv, in transition to a state beyond age.

Liv herself has finally transcended the corporeal—but there is still the problem of love.

 

Purchase from

Amazon UK

Amazon Australia

Text Publishing

 

About Krissy Kneen

Krissy has six books in publication (with Text Publishing and UQP) and a number of short stories and personal essays published in anthologies, newspapers and journals. Three documentaries written and directed by Krissy have been screened on SBS and ABC TV.

She tells us, “I’ve always gravitated towards work in the arts although I often threaten to quit my job and retrain as an astro-physicist. I may only be partially joking. For relaxation, I paint and experiment with symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast in fermented food experiments, most of which are deliciously successful. I am owned and operated by Heathcliff, the neighbourhood cat, who has adopted me and puts me to work as an inconvenient lap and an open-all-hours cat-restaurant. Bi-sexual by nature, I’m lucky enough to have captured and held on to the nicest and most attractive man in the world.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 11.49.23

 

Find Krissy at 

https://www.textpublishing.com.au/authors/krissykneen

www.krissykneen.com

www.furiousvaginas.com 

 

Writing Erotic Literature: Ultimate Top 20 Tips

 

Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller whiled away many an evening debating their top 20 tips:

see mine below…

You’re never too old to write (or read) erotica

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There’s a fetish for everything

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Cultivate characters’ individuality and inner charm

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Men are optional 

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Hats are optional (especially at orgies)

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Helmets work best in size extra-large

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Aliens like sex

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So do sea monsters

20,000 Leagues under the sea

So do dinosaurs

dinosaur love

So does Bigfoot

yeti bigfoot

Tied up ticklings can be titillating

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There’s more to erotic fiction than romance

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The tongue can be mightier than the sword

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Tangos can be for more than two

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Temper pleasure with pain

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Wield words with the care of an artist’s brush

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An unexpected perspective can prove thrilling

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It’s good to innovate

hair pinned to washing line

Inspire playful urges

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Render the reader lightheaded with arousal

victorian fainting fit

We all like to be shocked (just a bit) 

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Happy writing (and reading)

See how I do it here…

Part Five: Behind the Erotic Pen – interviewing the authors of ‘For the Men’ anthology

This is the final installment in my review of the tantalizing new anthology, For the Men erotic fictionwritten For the Men (and the Women Who Love Them), edited (and narrated) by Rose Caraway

Rose Caraway erotic fiction author interviewTwenty-five tales: from bitter chocolate and acidic citrus, to lush caramel.

In this series, I’ve shared insights from the authors: their thinking as they wrote each tale…

The collection aims to show that erotic fiction isn’t just for women. The  Rose Caraway reading narrating erotic fiction conduit for author passion‘erotic’ in literature has the power to speak to everyone.

In Part One, I looked at the theme of ‘watching and being watched’: our desire to exhibit ourselves sexually, the thrill of revealing, and concealing.

In Part Two, I delved tales filled with tension and conflict, exploring dichotomies of power: giving and receiving, vulnerability and strength.

Rose Caraway  Erotic Fiction audio quote express your sexualityIn Part Three, I looked at stories in unusual settings: futuristic, supernatural, and off-planet: locations thrilling and unexpected.

In Part Four, I examined psychological and emotional depth within some of the stories, taking us to places unsettling, in which to face our own truths.

Here, I present tales which combine fantasy with ‘the everyday’: on journeys, within the home, on the simple Rose Caraway quote on honest and unflinching audio narrationsetting of a farm. We see the meeting of strangers, and passion between those in established relationships.

Jade A. Waters and Spencer Dryden both contribute ‘handyman fantasies’ to the collection. Jade’s 73A portrays the fantasy of sex with a stranger. She recalls a crush on a handyman who came to work on her satellite dish, admitting that she considered trying to get him back for ‘more repairs’. Jade combined that memory with another of a good-looking painter working on a neighbour’s fence. The result is sassy and humorous.

jade a waters author erotic fiction eroticaIt came together like a lust letter in my head!” she admits, adding, “While I think the anonymous sex/no strings attached sex idea often appeals to men, I don’t think that’s lost on women, either.

Jade muses on perhaps Emma Stone or Blake Lively playing her lusty jade-a-waters-for-the-menheroine, with a confident, dude next door as her handyman suitor: Gerard Butler, Wentworth Miller, or Simon Baker.

Spencer describes his tender handyman story, MILF and Cookies, as a ‘holiday romance suitable for the Hallmark Channel, if Hallmark gave us erotic romance, told from the perspective of the male protagonist’. For his fantasy casting, he’d use Matt Damon and would love to hear reader’s thoughts on who’d be suitable for his female protagonist.spencer-dryden-for-the-men

He tells us, “Like many of my short format male POV works, an earnest but somewhat clueless guy falls into the orbit of an enchanting woman… From that, I’m sure something could be inferred about my own romantic encounters!”

Terrance Aldon Shaw’s Making Hay is a re-telling of one of the classic Norse myths: a tale of lust, of longing, of restlessness, and our search for our place in the scheme of things. It’s set on a small tenant farm, such as his paternal grandfather worked upon, struggling to make ends meet and could be set ‘somewhere between the late 1930s and early 1960s’.

He asserts, “I wanted to write a story about men and women working side by side, doing real, hard physical labor, and respecting each other for their work.” He notes that people ‘close to the earth’ tend to be more ‘matter-of-terrance-aldon-shaw-for-the-menfact about sex’. Meanwhile, ‘hard work in close proximity often becomes an aphrodisiac in itself’.

In writing the tale, Terrance gave thought to what a man in this setting would find attractive and desirable. He tells us, “Gunni is not just physically beautiful but is given the great compliment of being ‘a good worker’.” Meanwhile, she is physically strong yet has a certain vulnerability: a ‘subtle duality’ as Terrance puts it.

“I also thought it would be interesting to describe these people’s relationship with the machinery they depend on for their livelihood. (Is Erotic fiction Terrance Aldon Shaw quotethat ‘a guy thing’ or what?) The image of the baling machine as a kind of sexually voracious creature–comprising both male and female characteristics, really gets to the essence of this story.

Terrance emphasizes that the need to harvest promptly, before the hay is ruined by rain, lends a sense of realism and urgency, which underscores the erotic elements in the story.

As for the inspiration behind the tale, Terrance explains, “The god Odin assumed human form to learn the ways of men. He plucked out one of his eyes in exchange for the gift of foreknowledge, and, in the guise of a farm hand, seduced the maiden Gunlöo.”

Terrance Aldon Shaw quote erotic fiction pornA fan of the TV series Vikings, Terrance imagines Kevin Durrand (who plays Harbard, the bard/wanderer) and Alyssa Sutherland (who plays Princess Auslaug) in his main roles, saying that Alyssa ‘would make a lovely Gunni, with just the right amount of vulnerability and spunk’.

Rachel de Vine‘s Hitchhiker gives us a female protagonist with an uninhibited attitude to sex. Rachel recalls her own youthful days of hitch-hiking around Europe, feeling that ‘anything was possible’. Rachel wished to present hiker Jezebel ‘without her being judged and found morally lacking’. She tells us, “I wanted my female character to be bold and fearless, and honest about her intentions and needs.”rachel-de-vine-erotic-fiction

For Jezebel,  and trucker Hermes (the name Jezebel gives to him as the Greek god of travelling), Rachel imagines casting Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson from the TV series Poldark, admiringhis dark intensity and fiendishly good looks’ and ‘her mass of auburn hair and strong character’.

D. Lovejoy describes Take It Like a Man as ‘a humorous story about a guy whose wife uses her seductive wiles to convince him to try pegging’; meanwhile, he is anxious as to what this means for his manhood. Dahlia explains, “I wrote a story I wanted to read—sexy and funny with a touch of the ‘forbidden.’ I love when erotica uses humor; it’s a great tool for lowering defenses and allowing the reader to dahlia-lovejoy-for-the-menexplore new possibilities and discover new turn-ons. I wanted to show how sex doesn’t have to become stale or predictable. Exploring fantasies together is a great way to connect and keep the fires burning. And things don’t have to go perfectly. It’s fine to laugh together when they don’t.”

As for her leading man, she laments that Seth Rogen doesn’t make erotica.  

Josie Jordan’s The After Party gives the reader a very steamy ménage, her female protagonist entering into a consensual encounter with two men.

She notes, “It’s the first erotic story I’ve written without a woman being thejosie-jordan-for-the-men main character. I figured being approached in a club by a gorgeous girl who wants to go home with you would be a popular male fantasy. Except there’s a twist: she wants his best friend to come too. I thought couples could read this story together and imagine themselves in this situation.”

Josie imagines Channing Tatum as her leading man, and admits that the fantasy is one she has come close to enacting in real life. She muses, “I’ve always wondered what it would be like. I had so much fun fantasizing about it to write this story!”

***

Erotic fiction isn’t just for women. It’s for everyone.

Explore the unexpected, and the uninhibited.

To read more from the authors behind this exciting anthology, you may like to read parts one,  two, three and four.

for-the-men_cover-copy-back-02An audio version is now available to complement the e-book (narrated by huskily voiced, utterly fabulous Rose Caraway.

My darkly erotic story, ‘Labyrinth’, features in final place in the collection, following stories by authors Adrea Kore, Tamsin FlowersRachel Kramer BusselAllen Dusk, Terrance Aldon Shaw, Rachel de Vine, Jade A WatersDorothy FreedD.L. KingChase Morgan, Marc AngelCharlie Powell, Landon Dixon, Sonni de Soto, D. Lovejoy, Erin Pim, J.T. Seate, Spencer Dryden, Winter Blair, Simon Drax, Lynn Lake, Josie Jordan, Daily Hollow, and T.J. Christian.

Find out more here, in Terrance Aldon Shaw’s interview with Rose: on creating an Stupid-Fish Rose and Dayv Caraway interview erotic fiction pganthology attempting to encompass the scope of male desire, on advice to aspiring writers, and the importance of plain speaking when it comes to sex.

You may enjoy a peek at my own interview with Rose, and husband Dayv, on their superb work in creating for-the-men_official-cover-copyerotic audio-fiction and anthologies.

More from Rose, including sexy snippets from each story, and her own interviews with each author, at Stupid Fish Productions.

Purchase your copy of ‘For the Men: And the Women Who Love Them’ from Amazon.

Part Four: Behind the Erotic Pen – interviewing the authors of ‘For the Men’ anthology

for-the-men erotic fiction fantasy For the Men (and the Women Who Love Them) is the latest anthology release by editor (and narrator) Rose Caraway, gathering together twenty-five authors, each with their own, tantalizing flavour, filled not just with strawberry creams but with dark truffles, delicate marzipans and sharp ginger.

The collection aims to show that erotic fiction isn’t just for women. The  ‘erotic’ has the power to speak to everyone.

For the Men erotic fiction In this series, I’m sharing  insights from our authors. Read on, to discover their thinking as they wrote each tale…

In Part One, I delved the theme of ‘watching and being watched’: our desire to exhibit ourselves sexually, the thrill of revealing, and concealing.

In Part Two, I examined tales filled with tension and conflict, exploring dichotomies, emmanuelle-de-maupassant-quote-erotic-fictionparticularly relating to power: giving and receiving, vulnerability and strength.

In Part Three, I looked at stories in unusual settings: futuristic, supernatural, and off-planet: locations thrilling and unexpected.

In this instalment, I look at two tales which defy erotic fiction’s reputation for focusing only on the superficial. They demonstrate not only the power to arouse the reader, but to engage us with psychological and emotional depth, taking us to places unsettling, in which to face our own truths : Odd Man, by Sonni de Soto, and Charlie Powell’s Winning Big. 

Sonni’s Odd Man explores the psychology of jealousy, and the fragility of our relationships, built upon assumed identities. Using an intimate narrative voice, she probes our vulnerability.

Sonni drew on her own experience of open relationships in writing her tale, wanting to explore not only the thrill of the fantasy but the ‘train-wreck tragedy’ that can come from attempting polyamory. Her story aims to show that we cannot expect our relationships to remain unchanged by time.

sonni-de-soto-for-the-men-erotic-fictionAs women have been emboldened by feminism and attitudes of sex positivity, becoming more open in articulating their needs (which may include the desire to have sex with more than one person), Sonni believes that men are faced with pressures to find their role. She notes that, in dismantling traditions, men can feel vulnerable, questioning not only the validity of their relationship but their ‘value’ as a man. Her story aims to confront some of those anxieties.

She admits, “It can be scary and, even, disheartening but, instead of looking at this as a relationship-ending inevitability, it can be seen as an opportunity. To grow as individuals as well as partners. As I age, the more it seems that the only way to keep the promise we bought into when we were young is by being open to change.”

In casting a film version of her complex story, she sees Ryan Gosling as her protagonist, Russel Crowe as his romantic rival and ‘someone ethereally beautiful’, like Olivia Wilde, as the woman in their lives. Sonni advocates for evolving and adapting, believing that happiness is ‘something we must strive towards everyday’.charlie-powell-for-the-men

Charlie Powell’s story, Winning Big, is a bittersweet tale, exploring the themes of infidelity and lost love, as well as whether we can love someone without being sexually compatible. She says, “Sometimes, great sex isn’t enough – you can have that with someone and they can still be bad for you. Don’t be surprised if that means you never lose the temptation to go back there…” 

Charlie does not offer a ‘happily ever after’. Her clever, smoothly narrated tale explores the forbidden: our desire to be unfaithful to those who trust us. She explains, “I wanted to show that people are complex.” Her story is set during a hen celebration, when the bride-to-be sees the old flame she has never been able to forget. She is moved to act where she knows she would be best advised to leave well alone.

As for who would play her leading roles, she admits to adoring the film ‘Riot Club’. “I found it very sexy,” she reveals, “…almost against my better judgement. I’d love to reunite Max Irons and emmanuelle-de-maupassant-for-the-men-anthologyHolliday Grainger.” Charlie’s story is set at a race-course, a predominantly male domain, which she notes is an environment she finds inherently sexy.

My own story, Labyrinth, also focuses on uncomfortable themes. It looks at our tendency towards self-destructive behaviour, our struggle to fulfil the roles others expect of us, and our internal conflict, including the compulsion to hurt those we love (whether physically or emotionally).

***

Emmanuelle de Maupassant erotic fiction versus porn what is the difference author quoteMore from the authors behind this exciting anthology in part five.

Erotic fiction isn’t just for women; it’s for everyone.

Taste the unexpected, and the uninhibited.

Twenty-five authors bring you tales of temptation and seduction.

for-the-men_cover-copy-back-02An audio version is now available to complement the e-book (narrated by huskily voiced, utterly fabulous Rose Caraway.

My darkly erotic story, Labyrinth, features in final place in the collection, following stories by authors Adrea Kore, Tamsin FlowersRachel Kramer BusselAllen Dusk, Terrance Aldon Shaw, Rachel de Vine, Jade A WatersDorothy FreedD.L. KingChase Morgan, Marc AngelCharlie Powell, Landon Dixon, Sonni de Soto, D. Lovejoy, Erin Pim, J.T. Seate, Spencer Dryden, Winter Blair, Simon Drax, Lynn Lake, Josie Jordan, Daily Hollow, and T.J. Christian.

Find out more here, in Terrance Aldon Shaw’s interview with Rose: on creating an Stupid-Fish Rose and Dayv Caraway interview erotic fiction pganthology attempting to encompass the scope of male desire, on advice to aspiring writers, and the importance of plain speaking when it comes to sex.

You may enjoy a peek at my own interview with Rose, and husband Dayv, on their superb work in creating for-the-men_official-cover-copyerotic audio-fiction and anthologies.

More from Rose, including sexy snippets from each story, and emmanuelle de maupassant quote porn versus erotic fictionher own interviews with each author, at Stupid Fish Productions.

Purchase your copy of ‘For the Men: And the Women Who Love Them’ from Amazon.

Part Three: Behind the Erotic Pen – interviewing the authors of ‘For the Men’ anthology

I’m delighted to announce my inclusion in a tantalizing new anthology,for-the-men erotic fiction fantasy written For the Men (and the Women Who Love Them)

The collection aims to show that erotic fiction isn’t just for women. The  ‘erotic’ in literature has the power to speak to everyone.

Editor (and narrator) Rose Caraway has gathered together twenty-five tales, each with its own, tantalizing flavour.

emmanuelle-de-maupassant erotic fiction fantasy men womenIn this series, I’m sharing  insights from our authors. Read on, to discover their thinking as they wrote each tale…

In Part One of this series, I looked at how several authors in the collection explore ‘watching and being watched’ in their stories, looking particularly at our desire to exhibit ourselves sexually, at the thrill of revealing, and concealing.

In Part Two, I examined how some of the stories in ‘For the Men’ delve into tension and conflict, exploring dichotomies, particularly relating to power: giving and receiving, vulnerability and strength.

This time, I’m looking at stories which locate our fantasies in unusual settings: futuristic, supernatural, off-planet or elevated from the everyday. They feed into our primal impulses but do so in locations for-the-men-erotic-fiction-tj-christian-quote-enhancedthrilling, fascinating and unexpected.

When we enter the realm of fantasy, there are no limits, so it’s no surprise that two of the tales in ‘For the Men’ have sci-fi settings.

T.J. Christian’s innovative story, Enhanced, evokes stylishly sexy 1982 film Bladerunner, probing the pitfalls of technology, in a society where upgrades to our limitations are the norm. In such a world, the author speculates, wouldn’t we lose sight of what’s real, and what it means to be human, where ‘the lines between human and artificial become blurred’? His story also explores the philosophy that we rarely know someone as well as we imagine, and that our actions (or inaction) directly affects the mental state of others.

T.J. sees his leading man, Tom, played by Adam Driver allen-dusk-for-the-menand his female protagonist acted by the enigmatic Rooney Mara. He adds that Tom’s dislike and resentment of his employer is likely to resonate with many men.

Allen Dusk’s Wayward Drift, set on another planet, gives a nod to the exotic bar scenes from Star Wars. His lead character enters an alien strip club and is bewitched by a dancer with hypnotic moves, who makes him an intimate proposal.

His space pirate might make some readers think of Harrison Ford as Han Solo, but Allen imagines Jason Statham as his lead, and Remy LaCroix as the stripper, slathered in glitter makeup to transform her.

Allen found inspiration for his story during a visit to his local strip club (with his wife). He tells us, “There was one raven-haired beauty who caught our eye, not only because she was jaw-droppingly gorgeous with graceful moves, but because she had this distant look in her eyes that said ‘I’m not here for you, I’m here for your money, so pay up’.”

His tale touches on the theme of loneliness, his main character having developed a relationship with his spacecraft. We see him as a ‘stranger in a strange land’ and as a man with misogynistic tendencies.

Allen notes that most of his erotica work is female-erin-pim-for-the-menfocused but was eager to make this story male centric, turning the lens on male sexual experience and perspective.

Erin Pim takes her erotic tale in another direction entirely, but one firmly set in fantasy, within the format of a crime thriller. She hopes it will appeal to men and women alike. She wrote Undercover Cop as if it were a screenplay, scene by scene, cinematic style.

Her strong female lead uses her sexuality to apprehend the perpetrator of a bank robbery: a role in which she imagines Emily Blunt. For her perpetrator, she imagines Johnny Lester, scruffy, cocky, handsome, and unhinged, or Games of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster.

She tells us, “Rose’s call for For The Men was an inspiration in itself, as I’d never thought about writing with a man’s aesthetic in mind, and was curious to give it a try.  Rose is a fantastic editor, who continued to ask questions and push my piece to its limit. She even suggested that I read a ‘Stuff You Should Know’ article winter-blair-for-the-menon hostage negotiations.  I want readers of my story to feel sexually empowered enough to act out similar scenarios in their own bedrooms.”

Two of the tales within the collection take sexual fantasy into the supernatural. Winter Blair’s Lonely Spirits is an erotic ghost story in which she imagines Jensen Ackles as her leading man, with his ‘soulful eyes’. Winter aimed to write from the man’s perspective for the action of her story and notes that, to her surprise, her methodology ‘really wasn’t that different’. She notes her intention not only for the reader to be aroused but to contemplate what it is to be lonely, to seek companionship and to find redemption.

Meanwhile, Daily Hollow’s The Devil Went up to the Bronx was written back in 2013, as his first foray into erotica. Firmly tongue-in-cheek, his inspiration was Adam Ezra Band’s music video for ‘The Devil Went up to Boston’. This is a great example of combining daily-hollow-quotehumour with sexy storytelling. In an imaginary filming of the story, he sees Ian Somerholder playing the Devil, and Courtney Cox as Marge.

Adrea Kore, the author of Dance for Me, stresses the transformational potential of our sexual fantasies. She tells us, “If readers feel inspired by this story to own and explore their fantasies, I’d feel my work as ‘sexual provocateur’ is done.”

She relates a reader messaging her to share that they were inspired to perform an erotic dance for their partner after reading Dance For Me, which is set in a high-octane sex club environment. “They both ‘thanked me’ for the sex that happened later!” Adrea smiles, adding that it’s responses such as this that convince her that writing erotica ‘has value beyond adrea-kore-for-the-men-quote-erotic-fictiontemporary titillation’.

Adrea emphasizes the associations between dance and female sexuality, reminding us that ‘they are apparent in so many cultures, from Middle-Eastern belly-dancers to clubs featuring exotic dancers for male titillation in Western culture’. She explains, “In Tantric practices, to dance for one’s Beloved, to express Shakti (the divine feminine) and Shiva (the divine masculine) through movement, making your partner the sole recipient, is one of the sacred rituals for deepening intimacy.”

Speaking of where she gained her inspiration for Dance For Me, Adrea tells us that she’s always been fascinated by the ‘inherent theatricality’ of sexuality, and has been keen to explore the idea of dancing for a man as ‘a gift – expressing desire through the art of dance’.

***

More from the authors behind this exciting anthology: in parts one, two, four and five

Erotic fiction isn’t just for women; it’s for everyone.

Peel back the pages and discover.

Taste the unexpected, and the uninhibited.

Twenty-five authors have pooled their talent to bring you teasing tales of temptation and scorching stories of seduction.

for-the-men_cover-copy-back-02An audio version is now available to complement the e-book (narrated by huskily voiced, utterly fabulous Rose Caraway.

My darkly erotic story, Labyrinth, features in final place in the collection, following stories by authors Adrea Kore, Tamsin FlowersRachel Kramer BusselAllen Dusk, Terrance Aldon Shaw, Rachel de Vine, Jade A WatersDorothy FreedD.L. KingChase Morgan, Marc AngelCharlie Powell, Landon Dixon, Sonni de Soto, D. Lovejoy, Erin Pim, J.T. Seate, Spencer Dryden, Winter Blair, Simon Drax, Lynn Lake, Josie Jordan, Daily Hollow, and T.J. Christian.

Find out more here, in Terrance Aldon Shaw’s interview with Rose: on creating an Stupid-Fish Rose and Dayv Caraway interview erotic fiction pganthology attempting to encompass the scope of male desire, on advice to aspiring writers, and the importance of plain speaking when it comes to sex.

You may enjoy a peek at my own interview with Rose, and husband Dayv, on their superb work in creating for-the-men_official-cover-copyerotic audio-fiction and anthologies.

More from Rose, including sexy snippets from each story, and her own interviews with each author, at Stupid Fish Productions.

Purchase your copy of ‘For the Men: And the Women Who Love Them’ from Amazon.

Part Two: Behind the Erotic Pen – interviewing the authors of ‘For the Men’ anthology

I’m delighted to feature in a tantalizing new anthology, for-the-men erotic fiction fantasywritten For the Men (and the Women Who Love Them), edited by Rose Caraway.

As we know, erotic fiction isn’t just for women; the ‘erotic’ has the power to speak to everyone.

The collection features twenty-five tales, each bite offering a new flavour: from darkly bitter chocolate, to lush caramel, with some tangy surprises.

As a reader, I love it when a story keeps me thinking long afterwards, moving me to speculate. We don’t need all the answers on the page. We, as readers, should be ‘filling in the spaces’, finding parallels to our own experience, or emotional state. Through contemplation of the fictional, we take away some understanding of our own self. For me, this is what’s meant by finding ‘truths’ in fiction. I discover what is true of myself in reading about others’ motivations, behaviours and choices.

In this series, I’m sharing insights from the authors of ‘For the Men’. Last week, in Part One, I looked at stories exploring the theme of sexual exhibition, revealing what is usually concealed, for the delectation of other eyes. Today, I’m looking at dichotomies, particularly those relating to ‘power’.

Adrea Kore, in Dance for Me, explores seduction through performance, showing a woman’s elation and liberation through ownership of her sexuality. Her character reveals herself through dance, and is ‘fully seen’. In this way, she demonstrates both ‘vulnerability and power’.

adrea-kore-for-the-men-quote-erotic-fictionAdrea goes on to say that, in contemporary sexual culture, we tend to think of men being ‘hardwired’ to initiate. In Dance for Me, Adrea presents, first, her male protagonist as the recipient of pleasure, through dance. She explains, “In the second scene, the dynamic is reversed – he becomes the giver and she the receiver. Of course, the sharing of pleasure in reality is not so clearly polarized – the current of energy flows both ways, in varying intensities. Across the two scenes in this story, there’s an exchange in roles of who primarily plays the giver and the receiver.”

In response to editor Rose Caraway‘s call, I wrote Labyrinth: a scenario of sexual and emotional conflict. I look at our self-destructive side, and how we channel that ‘destruction’ onto those we love. In association with this, I wanted to look at our desire to inflict (and receive) pain as well as pleasure. I find it fascinating how these two opposing elements sit alongside each other, whether we speak of physical pain/pleasure or emotional.

My story uses the metaphor of the maze. We are ever seeking, though for what, we emmanuelle-de-maupassant-for-the-men-anthologyare unsure. Within, are our unspoken yearnings, and our fears, our ‘monsters’.   Our inner life is the labyrinth: action following on from action, leading us to where we stand now. We are as we are in this moment, though shaped by moments that have gone before, and the promise of those yet to come.

We are the protagonists of our own stories. We wander our personal labyrinth, slaying ‘monsters’ as we go. This very act of exercising choice, of being active in how we determine our path, brings our sense of ‘being alive’. In this, there is another dichotomy: that of passivity and action.

In a similar vein to Adrea Kore, Rachel Kramer Bussel emphasizes  that ‘dominance is not a one-way street; it’s an interplay’. For Picturing You Naked, Rachel relates ‘the way desire can overtake us, especially at work, when we’re supposed to be thinking about other things’, and the ways in which a dominant/submissive couple can ‘push each other’s boundaries’.

Rachel asserts that, although her businessman talks tough, he is ‘undone’ by his partner’s charm and creativity. She adds, “I liked the idea of him getting flustered by her. They are equally masterful. I want readers to enjoy the wordplay.”

for-the-men-fiction-erotic-rachel-kramer-bussel

As for who might be cast in the role of her heroine, were the story to be filmed, Rachel mentions Emma Stone, for her mischievous personality. 

Dorothy Freed conceived her story, Love Sling, first from a submissive female point of view. She then became curious as to how it would read from a Dominant viewpoint. The second version of the story is ‘longer and more detailed, presenting more of the male protagonist’s feelings and motivations’. She underlines, “I intend my portrayal to illustrate how much care, consideration, and understanding is involved in safe, sane, consensual BDSM.”

Casting a film version of Love Sling, Dorothy imagines actors similar to Mickey dorothy-freed-for-the-menRourke and Kim Basinger in Nine and Half Weeks. 

D. L. King believes her stories speak to men ‘because they can see themselves in the role of the protagonist’. She prides herself on showing ‘the softer, emotional side of the male psyche’ and underlines, “It’s different from its female counterpart, but is there, hiding in plain sight, waiting for the right woman to notice. I notice.”

As to who she’d cast to play her characters in Cupcakes and Steel, she opts for Margot Robbie as her dominant female, and Eddie dl-king-for-the-menRedmayne as her male lead.

Simon Drax’s The Binding of the Babe in the Backseat evokes his own fantasy of being in a position to save a sexy woman (in bondage) from danger. His character does battle, winning the woman’s respect, and his ‘reward’ in her arms.

Full of action, the story quickly evokes tension. Meanwhile, his damsel in distress isn’t passive (she bites off her attacker’s nose). Simon notes the arousing dichotomy of a ‘powerful woman’ being in a vulnerable position.

He pictures Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Taxi Driver, and Chyler Leigh as Erin.

simon-drax

Discover more from the authors behind this anthology, in parts three, four and five.

***

Erotic fiction offers an amazing space in which to explore. Dare to dip your toe into the unexpected, and the uninhibited.

Twenty-five authors have pooled their talent to bring you teasing tales of temptation and scorching stories of seduction.

for-the-men_cover-copy-back-02An audio version is also available to complement the e-book, narrated by huskily voiced, utterly fabulous Rose Caraway.

My darkly erotic story, ‘Labyrinth’, features in final place in the collection, following stories by authors Adrea Kore, Tamsin FlowersRachel Kramer BusselAllen Dusk Terrance Aldon Shaw, Rachel de Vine, Jade A WatersDorothy FreedD.L. KingChase Morgan, Marc AngelCharlie Powell, Landon Dixon, Sonni de Soto, D. Lovejoy, Erin Pim, J.T. Seate, Spencer Dryden, Winter Blair, Simon Drax, Lynn Lake, Josie Jordan, Daily Hollow, and T.J. Christian.

Find out more here, in Terrance Aldon Shaw’s interview with Rose: on creating an Stupid-Fish Rose and Dayv Caraway interview erotic fiction pganthology attempting to encompass the scope of male desire, on advice to aspiring writers, and the importance of plain speaking when it comes to sex.

You may enjoy a peek at my own interview with Rose, and husband Dayv, on their superb work in creating for-the-men_official-cover-copyerotic audio-fiction and anthologies.

More from Rose, including sexy snippets from each story, and her own interviews with each author, at Stupid Fish Productions.

Purchase your copy of ‘For the Men: And the Women Who Love Them’ from Amazon.

Part One: Behind the Erotic Pen – interviewing the authors of ‘For the Men’ anthology

I’m delighted to announce my inclusion in a tantalizing new anthology,for-the-men erotic fiction fantasy written For the Men (and the Women Who Love Them)

The collection aims to show that erotic fiction isn’t just for women. The  ‘erotic’ in literature has the power to speak to everyone.

Editor (and narrator) Rose Caraway has gathered together twenty-five tales of assorted flavour: from bitter chocolate and acidic citrus, to lush caramel. Some come with surprises, hidden nuggets of pleasure unearthed with each bite.

emmanuelle-de-maupassant erotic fiction fantasy men womenIn this series, I’ll be sharing  insights from our authors. Read on, to discover their thinking as they wrote each tale…

A prominent theme through the anthology is that of exhibiting our sexual selves, of revealing what is usually concealed, for the delectation of other eyes. There are tales not only of being watched, but of watching, illicitly, or through invitation.

Chase Morgan, the author of Night Watch, points out that the very act of reading is voyeuristic (magnified many-fold when we’re reading erotic fiction). He explores this theme explicitly in Night Watch, noting, “I love Rose’s calls because she makes a point to encourage authors to write without boundaries. My intent was to take the reader chase-morgan-for-the-men-anthologydown a darker path.”

He emphasizes that he prefers to leave characters without any particular ‘face’ but, were he to cast actors for a film version of his story, he’d choose Edward Norton, for his ability to use facial expression to convey conflicted feelings.

Speaking of her story, Dance for MeAdrea Kore tells us, “I love dancing, and have often noticed how much men love being ‘danced to’. Giving a man your sensual and sexual attention through movement, eye contact and energy, and touch if you’re actually dancing with them,… it can be a total turn-on for both people. I confess I’ve done it often enough in life to want to explore it in a story.”

Adrea reminds us that dance has long been used to both honour and seduce men. Just think of the days of Salome and her dance of the Seven Veils.

adrea-kore-for-the-men-quote-erotic-fictionShe reveals, “The first half of Dance for Me is only a slight fictionalization of a night out I shall always remember. Gorgeously corseted for my date, it was a spontaneous flow of events – but I got to be ‘the girl in the cage’ that night. The spontaneity of it all meant there was very little time for me to be nervous!”

As to who would take the leading roles in her story, were it to be filmed, Adrea imagines Clive Owen, saying he ‘plays a contained character well’, and the ‘sensually gracious and feline’ Scarlett Johansson.

Marc Angel also indulged a personal fantasy in writing The Bust, delving voyeuristic pleasure, and the theme of infidelity, when a man discovers his wife unexpectedly in the arms of another. He examines the anger and pain evoked at discovering betrayal, as well as arousal and shame.

Marc tells us, “I wanted to explore a less indulged side of male sexuality. marc-angel-for-the-menInstead of reacting with horror or anger if you found your partner having sex with another man…what if you found yourself turned on? It might open a door…”

Marc imagines Bruce Willis as the protagonist, with Scarlett Johansson returning to set as his cheating partner, and Ryan Gosling as the other man.

More from the authors behind this exciting anthology, in parts two, threefour and five.

Erotic fiction isn’t just for women.

It offers an amazing space in which to explore, and it’s for everyone.

Dare to dip your toe into the unexpected, and the uninhibited.

Twenty-five authors have pooled their talent to bring you teasing tales of temptation and scorching stories of seduction.

for-the-men_cover-copy-back-02An audio version is also available to complement the e-book (narrated by huskily voiced, utterly fabulous Rose Caraway.

My darkly erotic story, ‘Labyrinth’, features in final place in the collection, following stories by authors Adrea Kore, Tamsin FlowersRachel Kramer BusselAllen Dusk, Terrance Aldon Shaw, Rachel de Vine, Jade A WatersDorothy FreedD.L. KingChase Morgan, Marc AngelCharlie Powell, Landon Dixon, Sonni de Soto, D. Lovejoy, Erin Pim, J.T. Seate, Spencer Dryden, Winter Blair, Simon Drax, Lynn Lake, Josie Jordan, Daily Hollow, and T.J. Christian.

Find out more here, in Terrance Aldon Shaw’s interview with Rose: on creating an Stupid-Fish Rose and Dayv Caraway interview erotic fiction pganthology attempting to encompass the scope of male desire, on advice to aspiring writers, and the importance of plain speaking when it comes to sex.

You may enjoy a peek at my own interview with Rose, and husband Dayv, on their superb work in creating for-the-men_official-cover-copyerotic audio-fiction and anthologies.

More from Rose, including sexy snippets from each story, and her own interviews with each author, at Stupid Fish Productions.

Purchase your copy of ‘For the Men: And the Women Who Love Them’ from Amazon.

Siri Ousdahl: contradiction, paradox and CONSTRAINT – a review

Constraint is Siri Ousdahl’s debut in the genre of erotic fiction, although she has written prominently under an alternate author name for many years. She holds several prestigious writing awards and has worked extensively in publishing.

Within this, my critique of Siri Ousdahl’s novel, she joins me to discuss transgressive themes and the contradictions within our psyche. 

Constraint pulls no punches. There is no sweetening of the pill. It is a tale of kidnapping, siri-ousdahl-constraint-emmanuelle-de-maupassant-critiquerape, violence and humiliation.

Our natural response is outrage. How dare one human being treat another this way? The early phases of the story are written clearly with the intention to arouse this reaction from us.

We are told that Alex is a sadist and has always been so, musing, from the youngest age, on ropes, chains and controlled violence. As an adult, he rises to the challenge of exercising precise control. ‘He wants to work out how much he can darken her flesh without breaking her skin.’

It is from this position that Siri Ousdahl unravels her story: winding back and forth, through past and present, and presenting us, readers, ready to judge and condemn, with knots we must unpick.

What should be simple is not, because we are human, and to be human is to be a creature of paradox.

Siri, while no writer can ‘control’ the reactions they inspire in readers, your story clearly aims to manipulate strong emotional responses, shaping them in various ways as the tale progresses. In this way, where do you hope to lead your reader?

This is my first formal erotic writing. In my other world as a writer I’m committed to psychological realism, and my ambition is to elicit a complicated, conflicted reaction from my readers. Very little is unequivocally one thing or another, red or blue or green; everything is tints, shades, and blends. If our understanding of ourselves is at all realistic, it is full of unresolvable contradictions. I wanted to write a sex novel that reflected that.

When I decided to write a noncon BDSM novel, I was my primary reader, so the person I was challenging was myself. I wanted to write a book that was as morally problematic as Lolita and as sexy as The Story of O. I wanted to see whether I could balance unsentimental realism with the poetry of eroticism, telling a story that, ideally, would both repel and attract. I wanted to see how long I could stay on the tightrope without falling off.

siri-ousdahl-author-writing-quote-1Our psyche comprises contradictory elements. Linnea, we are told, is ‘an alloy’, stronger than the metals from which she is made. A powerful metaphor in the story is given through Linnea’s sculptures, which comprise contrasting, yet harmonising materials: hickory and chestnut or oak and walnut. They symbolize Linnea’s inner being. ‘There are three tiny knots… clustered like moles on a woman’s shoulder.’ This metaphor continues. ‘The twisting shapes hint at lovers entangled ankle to throat’, bound by fine steel wire, brass straps, clear glass bands, rough rope knotted. Linnea’s art is a visual representation of what she desires for herself: bondage and forced compliance. We are told that ‘wood fucks wood’ and that the scent is ‘musky, human’.

Later, we read that Alex and Linnea’s bodies are a ‘sculpture’, representing ‘blood and hunger’.

Siri, you use Linnea’s art to reveal her state of mind (both during her captivity and beforehand). Can you tell us more about your research into the art world and how you’ve used art to bring layers of meaning to the story?

As a child, I didn’t study art (though I drew a lot), but I was raised in a family that valued art, much of it carved wood and stone sculpture. I’m sure my mother would not be thrilled to know how often I touched the art, running my hands along the shapes, marvelling at the three-dimensionality of it, its gravity.

I knew Linnea was a sculptor almost before I knew anything else about her. She was strong-muscled and ‘saw’ with her hands. Her art needed to be nonverbal, because I’m entirely verbal. Her sculptures were very clear in my head from the start, and I wish I had some of them!

Her photorealistic paintings were a surprise to me, but as I spent time in her head, trapped in the siri-ousdahl-author-quote-writing-4enclosure, I knew she would become obsessive about the walls: that she would make art from this constraint, as well.

I did a lot of research into the women of the abstract expressionist movement, and I developed immense respect for them. A woman artist of the first half of the twentieth century – in any movement – was in a horrible situation: her work ignored or treated with contempt, expected to model for and/or have sex with the men who defined whether she would ever be taken seriously.

As we enter deeper into Constraint, we’re given insight into the mind of kidnapper Alex, and the subject of his fixation, Linnea. Neither are as they seem and, as the story unfolds, the paradoxes within their natures are made more explicit.

A central theme of the story is our inward battle: our desire for self-determination and our wish to surrender some part of ourselves, to forfeit control, to allow another human ‘under our skin’, even (or sometimes, especially) where we know that surrender has the power to harm us. Most love stories explore, to some extent, this contradictory push and pull. In Constraint, there is an overt ‘battle’ between Linnea and Alex.

We’re told that the attraction for Alex is the paradox of the situation: that he enjoys Linnea’s compulsion to fight him, while witnessing her simultaneous arousal, seemingly against her wishes. He enjoys the ‘battle’ yet also wishes ‘for her to want him as much as he wants her’. We witness Alex’s violence towards Linnea, yet also his tenderness. ‘She has rolled close to him in her sleep, with her hands tucked close to his ribs and her face pressed against his shoulder… He…turns his face into her sleep knotted hair and breathes and breathes and breathes.’

We also see Alex’s compulsion to lose himself to a place of otherness, of transcendence. ‘He snaps the switch lightly against his forearm. It’s barely a touch, and the bright sting is no more challenging than walking out into icy-cold air or biting into raw ginger, but a faint white stripe flares and flushes red, a color shift as sudden as an octopus shifting camouflage. He observes this siri-ousdahl-author-writing-quote-3with interest. He is dropping into the strange, abstract space where she stops being entirely real to him, where he stops being real to himself: the no-place that is all places, and their bodies become geometries and his body and brain divide themselves into pieces simultaneously dissociative and entirely, pulsingly, engaged.’

While whipping Linnea, Alex ‘…does not think as he builds rhythms, patterns… He switches to using both floggers, infinite eights overlapping. And faster, until he is breathless, fighting a strange wild laugh that is rooted not in his mind but his body’s work… Linnea is barely present in his mind; she is also the entire focus of all his attention.’

Meanwhile, we learn that, as a child, Linnea played games of self-torture for pleasure. ‘In her teens she started to make sense of it all. She read Réage, Millet, Nin, Roquelaure, McNeill; eventually (with a horrified blend of alienation and recognition) de Sade.’ Linnea ‘knew she longed for bondage and all the sorts of torment ingenious men and women had developed. She was hungry for the whip, the collar, marks.’ She ‘knows that her body will respond in complicated ways—as it always has been complex, pain and pleasure tangled like necklaces tossed onto a bed…’

In this way, they are sexually well matched. We are told that their ‘games and rituals’ are such as ‘their natures decree’. Linnea watches coyotes outside, dancing, playing, fighting, then mating: another metaphor for her relationship with Alex.

Siri, can you tell us more about the psychology of the dynamic between your siri-ousdahl-author-quote-writing-6protagonists?

 I was a lot like Linnea as a girl, with a high tolerance for pain and a craving for adventure that was not satisfied by my quiet upbringing. I did many dangerous and stupid things, all of them exhilarating. I was also a pain in the neck, for reasons I did not then understand: My mother says that I would ‘cruise for a spanking’, restless and clearly pushing rule after rule until I eventually did get spanked – ‘and then you would calm right down, happy and settled’ – which is how I remember it, as well.

My nature decreed what I wanted, even as a child. As I became sexual in my late teens, I found I moved effortlessly into BDSM, though I didn’t always understand how to get what I needed until I was in my 30s. As an adult, I have both topped and subbed for floggings, whippings, bondage, D/s, and many other things. When I write, I write from experience.

Despite this, I think I understand Alex better than I understand Linnea. Writing is basically a top’s game: I write something to elicit a response. I design a scene and then execute it and if I do it right, the reader feels things they didn’t expect. I am in charge, though the reader can always safeword out, put down the book and walk away.

In exploring the theme of constraint and freedom, we see the metaphor of inside and siri-ousdahl-author-quote-writing-6outside spaces – looking inward and outward. Linnea struggles against Alex’s constraint of her freedom, but we come to see that her constraint is also internal. ‘She’s a coyote in a leg-hold trap, chewing at her own ankle.’ When she asks what he wants from her, he laughs, evading, ‘because the answer is love and he cannot admit that’. Linnea evades, as well. ‘It is not the house and enclosure that blocks honesty; their constraints travel with them.’

Alex seeks tension. He ‘draws a narrow line around Linnea and longs for the moments she breaks past them… What hawk comes to your hand without training, without bribes and constraints…? How is this different than other, more conventional relationships?’ He muses that even true love is built from ‘unconscious accommodations, invisible chains.’

The non-consensual elements of Constraint are, by nature, disturbing, while yet having power to arouse. It is this very juxtaposition that makes the story compelling, since we are encouraged to examine paradoxes within our own behaviour. You’re exploring where many authors fear to tread. Siri, what inspired you to choose this theme, of our contradictory, paradoxical, self-destructive nature, and of the constraints we carry within us?

A correctly structured BDSM experience (or relationship) has clear rules and expectations, but many ‘traditional’ experiences do not: in most relationships, love and trust change meaning unilaterally, over time, without negotiation. A lot of BDSM fiction is actually terrible BDSM: even if the sex/play itself is safe, sane, and consensual – even if there are contracts – the characters lie, manipulate, gaslight, misdirect, and cheat their way into the relationship.

Alex is, at least, honest about what he wants, to the extent he understands it.

Having delved into Linnea’s romantic past, Alex challenges her lack of intimacy with siri-ousdahl-author-writing-quote-2anyone. She resists, saying, “No one is anyone’s.” Later, taunted by dominatrix Klee, Linnea asserts, “I am not yours. I am no one’s.” Klee responds, “So sad. We all belong to someone…”

We see Alex’s desire topossess’ Linnea, to make her love him, while this can never be true until she wishes it to be so, until she recognizes an emotional connection to him.

The relationship between Linnea and Alex progresses, through shared intimacies, until she feels that he is ‘seeing her, actual her, instead of whatever he usually sees when he looks at her’. We read that he sees ‘she is her own person’.

By the closing pages, he has accepted that his non-consensual treatment of her has been unacceptable, to the extent that he is willing to suffer any consequences (including imprisonment). He notes that he no longer has ‘certainty that his decisions are the right ones’.

Alex tells Linnea explicitly that he loves her and offers that she may choose what happens next, even if it means her turning him in to the police. He has the power to continue as he did, but recognizes his error in having attempted to force her love.

Meanwhile, Linnea admits to Alex that she believes he knows her as no one else does, and chooses to submit because it is what SHE wishes, not because it is forced upon her. ‘Her skin is her own. She is not afraid of him. She never has been; fear was never the thing that kept her here.’

Siri, did you consider other conclusions to Constraint or, for you, was this ending inevitable?

As with The Story of O, several endings are possible. This is the HEA ending, or as close as a story like this could honestly have – and it is dependent on where I typed ‘The End’. I can’t believe they bdsm-erotic-fiction-story-of-o-pauline-reagewill stay together as things are, but there’s a sequel I have thought about that starts six months from now, when Linnea has left Alex and ends up in Switzerland, using Klee, Berndt, Vadim (and others) to make sense of her experience. Can they return to one another after that? Depends on the next book.

There’s also a less romantic ending where she escapes or he lets her go and she returns to her life (or a life) without talking about this to the police – which is how women often address rape. And an ending where she does turn him in, and has to then deal with the fact that she will never be as satisfied sexually, as seen by her partner, as she was with him.  

Fiction, within the safety of its pages, invites us to explore what disturbs us, to process what is written and to respond. It asks us to reflect upon our own behaviour, our motivations and compulsions. The non-consensual theme of Constraint is liable to inspire controversy, reaching as it does into realms of discomfort for many readers. To anyone who would criticize the story as eroticism of rape, how would you respond?

It’s fiction. In what way is this different than reading book after book about a murderer? If someone is fucked up enough to think that an erotic novel gives them permission to rape someone, the problem is the rapist’s. That said, we do live in a culture permeated with sexual violence against women; the (substantial) percentage of women who like to read or watch noncon and dubcon erotica are as conditioned to this as the men who think it’s okay to rape. A hundred years from now, if we sort out rape culture, will books like this still be being written? I don’t know, though I have theories.

I am an intelligent, philosophically inclined woman who values honesty in interpersonal dealings. I am writing this book as a direct response to the artificiality of most noncon and dubcon fiction. Is it eroticizing rape? It is also engaging directly what what’s wrong with eroticizing rape. It’s a complicated stance.

Siri, your language is both precise and lyrical. Which authors have inspired you in creating your distinctive voice?lolita-nabokov

I was thinking a lot of Lolita while I was working on this. Nabokov never sets a foot wrong: every word is exactly calibrated. I was also thinking a lot about the French writer Alain Robbe-Grillet’s strangely opaque voice.

I’ve no doubt that readers will anticipate further works from you. Can you share what’s in store?

I do write fiction under another name, and some of Siri’s readers may recognize her voice elsewhere. I have thought about writing about Klee as a young woman in 1970s France: how did she become the woman she is? I was partway through the book when I read a recent Vanity Fair article about erotic novelist/octogenarian dominatrix Catherine Robbe-Grillet, wife of writer Alain (and what a strange coincidence that was). Robbe-Grillet has a lot in common with Klee, I realized.

siri-ousdahl-constraint-emmanuelle-de-maupassant-critiqueI’m also researching an erotic fantasy novel! Yes, research: I can’t bring myself to write anything without lots and lots of reading ahead of time.

Thank you once again to Siri for taking time to discuss her intent in writing and the complex psychologies of her work.

If you’d like to read Constraint, you’ll find it for sale, here.

You can also find Siri at Visconti Press

Read more from Siri on motivations in writing erotic fiction here, as part of the 130 Authors series.

You may also like to read critique of Constraint written by Remittance Girl, here, and by Terrance Aldon Shaw, of Big Brain Erotica, here.

 

Women Writing The Erotic: Part Three

erotic-fiction-women-writersIn this series (within the 130 authors survey), I’m sharing women’s views on exploring sexuality through fiction. If you haven’t already read Part One or Part Two,  it’s best to begin there.

Here, we look at what first inspired these women authors to tackle sexual themes, and the significance of gender to their work.

In writing erotic fiction, sex is the lens through which we explore our world and our identity. Our writing is a pathway to knowing ourselves: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

In expressing our understanding of our sexual self, looking at how erotic impulse shapes us, we recognize that we are more than intellect, and more than emotion. We are also ‘of the body’.

Ina Morata tells us, “Sex is the medium I use to investigate psychological boundaries: my personal insecurities and fears. I explore who I am and see how far I can push myself. Erotica, more than any other genre I’ve worked in, allows me to do this without feeling contained or isolated. Writing erotica has been the best move I’ve ever made; I’ve evolved so much since I began.”

Remittance Girl urges us to write with honesty, and without fear, embracing whatever understanding of pleasure and eroticism is true for us. She notes, “Society offers rigid ideals of the right and wrong way to experience, pursue and satisfy desire… It’s hard to conceive of new eroticisms, because we fear that people will judge us if we veer too far away from the accepted.”

RG asserts “As writers, we all write a little of ourselves into our stories, and we all have a tendency to protect ourselves. This is especially true, I think, with erotic fiction. Our understanding of what is erotic, how to be erotic, how to ‘see’ pleasure, use pleasure, give pleasure seems to reflect so strongly back on ourselves.” She warns us to be brave in how we write, avoiding self-censorship through fear of judgement.

Meanwhile, writing the erotic can help in eroding sexual stigma, encouraging women, and men, to voice their desire more honestly. As Rose Caraway asserts, “I want to break down notions of sex being ‘bad’. We mustn’t be afraid or ashamed.”

First Inspirations and Influences

A remarkable number of the women taking part in the 130 authors survey have a background in the visual and performing arts, which they universally acknowledge as an influence on their writing. Jane Gilbert studied art history, as did Nya Rawlyns. Meanwhile, Renee Rose, Malin James and Adrea Kore trained in dance. Jade A Waters has studied circus arts. Madeline Moore has worked as a screenwriter for television, while Krissy Kneen and Tobsha Learner have worked in playwriting, and Adrea in stage direction. Jade, Malin, Lee Savino, Elizabeth Black and Suzette Bohne’ Sommers have also worked in theatre. I could go on…

Adrea Kore describes her search for ‘new and evocative ways of writing about feminine desire and describing the desiring female body’, influenced by her time as a sculptor’s life model, her study of dance and theatre, and her many years in stage direction. She notes her fascination with stories ‘of growth, transformation and dislocation, felt through and mediated by the body’ and ‘translating the physical arts into words: my experiences of dancing and life-modelling’. She relates, ‘…more arduously, carving out narratives of sexual trauma. Death. Then, the sensual pleasures. Sex. Light, dark, light, dark. lidia-yuknavitch-author-quote-eroticAlways this dance, and writing has helped me embrace the totality in the supposed contradictions.’ – read more here

Tobsha Learner began exploring feminist/sexual themes while studying sculpture, before moving into playwriting. There she continued to delve sexuality and gender, and became inspired to write her first erotic short story collection, Quiver.

(find out more about Tobsha here, in my interview).

Krissy Kneen similarly began by writing for the theatre, alongside film, and comes from a family of painters and sculptors, which she cites as an influence. She notes, “There are so many facets of the erotic. I’m drawn to those which lead me to extend myself. I explore. The surrealists taught me to go beyond the knowable and I have followed that call.She stresses her ‘never ending quest to express sex as a growing changing thing’ and emphasizes her ‘desire to transgress’, saying, “I’ve been boundary pushing since I started writing about sex. I experience the world in a very physical way. It’s how I relate to the world in general.”

Malin James trained as a ballet dancer with the San Francisco Ballet before being accepted into NYU’s acting programme, noting that her acting training influences her writing in subtle ways. She states that her writing of erotic elements wasn’t a conscious decision but the result of feeling stifled by avoiding sexual themes. Malin says, “I write to explore and reflect experiences. I like digging beneath a constructed, social surface to get at an emotional reality.”

Donna George Storey describes her writing style as literary, feminist (focusing on the female experience) and realistic. She lived in Japan for three years, receiving a Ph.D. in Japanese literature, and her writing is influenced by Japanese poetics and the literature of the ‘pleasure quarters’. She states her desire to ‘report on the truth of the female experience’. Her storytelling ‘always turned to erotic themes’ and she believes that erotica can be intelligent, challenging and mind-expanding, exciting to the mind as well as to the libido’. She recalls being struck by Di Prima’s ‘brilliant description of several kissing styles’ [in ‘Memoirs of a Beatnik’], saying, “It still amazes and challenges me to capture the truth of the erotic experience in my own work.”

(more on first inspiration here)

The Compulsion To Write

Some women note a very early awareness of sexuality, and a desire to express this on the page. Cecilia Tan wrote on this topic in childhood notebooks and diaries, even from the age of six.

nya-rawlyns-erotic-fiction-quote-women-writersOthers discovered the liberation of writing much later.

Nya Rawlyns asserts, having spent ‘seven decades on this planet’, that writing is never passive. It is a ‘contact sport, dangerous, exhilarating, totally engaging’. She underlines, “I’ve worked at several different careers, and had an uncommon amount of tragedy and strife in my life. I have scars aplenty and I wear them with pride, along with the wrinkles of failure and the thinning skin of hope.” Nya notes her excitement at writers ‘peeling away the socially acceptable and revealing layer-by-layer the most intimate cravings of tortured souls’. She tells us, “I want to step far outside the boundaries of acceptable and explore the intersect of pain and pleasure, right and wrong, good and bad, need and desire.”

Elizabeth Safleur states,I can’t imagine writing anything that doesn’t involve sex on some level. Sex is part of the human experience. It’s one thing every human being has in common – either by avoiding it, being scared by it, recognizing its power (or not), having it, or trying to get it. How anyone can leave out such a powerful element in a story about love, I’ll never know.”

Cate Ellink recounts, “At a manuscript development week with other unpublished female writers, I realized that I was the only one comfortable writing fully depicted sex scenes. I began to see it as a strength, which gave me courage to move into the erotic genre and look at publication.”

Brantwijn Serrah recalls being ‘wildly curious’ about erotic novels. She tells us, “I read short stories first, as I imagine most do. Unfortunately, the first I read was incredibly disappointing. I felt so let down, I decided to write my own… and found compelling, emotive energy from the exercise.”lidia-yuknavitch-author-quote-women

KD Grace comments that it was never her intention that her stories be only erotic, but that she has ‘always found sex to be a fantastic catalyst’. She asserts, “Few actions can change a story more dramatically than sex properly placed. I can’t imagine trying to tell a story without sex included. Neither can I imagine writing sex that isn’t an integral part of a story.”

Kay Jaybee admits to feeling surprised by her impulse to write erotic themes. “I had no intention of writing erotica that first day, sat in a cafe in Scotland at the age of 33. I was daydreaming out of the window, having not written a thing since I left university, when an idea suddenly came that was so naughty it shocked me. It wouldn’t let me go, so I wrote it down on a napkin. The story was taken by Violet Blue three months later. That was nearly twelve years ago, and I’ve never looked back.” She adds that it’s now ‘an obsession’. “If I ‘m not writing, I’m not me.”

Lily Harlem echoes this sentiment, saying, “I ‘have’ to write; it’s very much part of my daily life. I simply write because I love to.”

Telling Women’s Stories

One of Madeline Moore’s first erotically themed tales (writing as Madeline de Chambray) was for an anthology entitled Amazons: tall tales of strong women, about a woman who loses her breast to cancer.

nya-rawlyns-women-writers

Alexis Alvarez asserts her desire to see ‘female-centric’ portrayals of BDSM and sexuality in fiction. She explains, “Most stories, for all of their modern settings and vocabulary, remain stuck in a patriarchal mind-set.”

Donna George Storey emphasizes, “I definitely identify as a woman writer. One of the main reasons I write is because I believe we need more female voices in the chorus of literary expression. I know we are supposed to respect the creative effort of every artist and applaud a writer’s attempt to write across gender. When someone does this well, it is a pleasure to read (plus I applaud every effort to empathize with people who are different from ourselves). However, often, I find that when men write female characters, they don’t connect with the deeper aspects of the female experience. Women (and other groups discriminated against) have not had enough of a chance to share their own experiences honestly. Those are the stories I feel are worth my time to read and write.”

Malin James comments ‘being a woman is the only gendered experience of which I have first hand experience’. She continues, “There are issues, such as sexual abuse, reproductive health and abuse in relationships, upon which I take an entirely gendered view. My perspective on these issues is reflexively female and, while I strive for a balanced perspective, I honor and acknowledge that bias.”

Zak Jane Keir tells us, “I write as a woman; I identify pretty much as a woman and a feminist (this is not making any claims to superiority over men, transpeople or the gender fluid, just a statement that I am content to be me). I like to write about women and women’s sexual autonomy and their independence.”

Within and Beyond Gender

Cate Ellink asserts that she prefers to write from a female perspective, since it is the one she knows and feels confident with, worrying that an attempt at male perspective would weaken her storytelling. Similarly, Christina Mandara is adamant that she writes with strong identification as a woman and believes that, in writing men, she is less skilled than a male author would be.

Madeline Moore states, “Even when writing from the point-of-view of a man, I’m a female writer.” She believes, ‘the discrepancy between what men think women want and what a woman actually wants is enormous’.cecilia-tan-erotic-fiction-quote

However, a number of women authors note their desire to write without a predominantly female voice, preferring to focus on character, regardless of gender. Cecilia Tan underlines, The gender of the character is irrelevant. I’ve written more male protagonists than female, as well as trans characters and characters who magically change gender partway through. I’m biologically female, and my social identification is female, but my self-identification has never been particularly female/feminine.”

Madeline Moore tells us, “I’ve always written from a male perspective as well as female, just as I’ve always written characters of colour and I’ve written sexual orientations and fetishes that differ from my own.”

KD Grace raises an interesting point in her belief that writing from a male perspective gives her ‘permission to explore erotic themes more directly’.

A growing number of women authors feel the same way, choosing to write M-M erotic fiction, stating the motivation that protagonists can be more easily presented as ‘equals’, without navigating social baggage of the roles/expectations of M-F power balance.

Writing Our Own Truths jeanette-winterson-author-quote

Tobsha Learner notes the struggle to find ‘a sexy word for vagina – something that purrs as well as has claws’. Her comment is playful but she touches upon an issue at the heart of women’s writing of the erotic.

Our sexuality is multi-layered, and the ways in which we express our desire are just as complex. We are fluid. We are changeable. We are the tiger and we are the pussy cat.

We, as writers, are exploring the many facets of desire.

We are liberating our voices.

As the reader, you can liberate yours too.

Further Reading 

Coming Soon…

Writing Craft

Authors’ Recommended Reads

Author Inspirations: film, theatre, dance, fiction, art, music

My thanks go to the following authors for giving their time and for their candid answers; my thanks also to authors who contributed their views anonymously.

Tobsha Learner, Laura Antoniou, Susan St. Aubin, Shanna Germain, Remittance Girl, Malin James, Janine Ashbless, Adrea KoreKristina LloydCecilia Tan, Donna George StoreyKathe Koja, Justine Elyot, Sorcha BlackCari Silverwood, Siri OusdahlZander VaneTamsin Flowers, Krissy KneenZak Jane Keir, Jade A WatersKD Grace, Kay Jaybee, Nya RawlynsSessha Batto, Rose CarawayTabitha RayneElizabeth Safleur, Devi AnseviK. L. Shandwick, I.G. Frederick, Jacqui Greaves, Ina MorataFinn MarloweElsa Holland, Elizabeth SchechterLucy Felthouse, Alexis AlvarezLily HarlemMadeline MooreRia Restrepo, Scarlet Darkwood, Victoria Bliss, Jane GilbertCharlie Powell, Cate Ellink, Lee SavinoElizabeth BlackFelicity Brandon, Nicolette HugoAmelia SmartsSue MacNicol, Cassandra ShawArdent RoseSylvia Storm, Renee Rose, Rachel de Vine, Cherry Wild, Patient Lee, Pandora Spocks, Suzette Bohne’ Sommers, Molly Synthia, Meg Amor, Lizzie Ashworth, Cara Bristol, Finn Marlowe, C.A. Bell, Brantwijn Serrah, Aubrey Cara, Kathleen Bradean, Stormchase, Lisa Fox, Allyson YoungEmma JayeDee Maselle, Christina MandaraSue LyndonRebecca Branch, Molly Moore, Vanessa WuJaye Peaches, Ashe Barker, Tilly Andrews and Catherine Mazur.

Women Writing The Erotic: Part Two

women-writing-erotic-fictionIn this series (within the 130 authors survey), I’m sharing women’s views on exploring sexuality through fiction. If you haven’t already read Part One, it’s the best place to begin.

Here, we look at recurring themes within erotic fiction. 

What do we find to challenge and empower us?

What motivates us to write within this diverse, often liberating, yet sometimes misunderstood genre?

Writing ‘sex’ is a pathway to understanding. We recognize that we are more than intellect, and more than emotion. We are also ‘of the body’.

In writing erotic fiction, we use sex as the lens through which we explore our world and our identity.

We, as writers, look at how sexual impulse shapes our motivations, and how it impacts our relationships.

We speak our desire and, in doing so, our voices only become more powerful.

At its best, erotica reaches far beyond formulaic parameters and the ‘comfort’ of perceived ideals.

At its best, there are no parameters.

Kristina Lloyd asserts, “The erotic disrupts, destabilizes and threatens order, both personal and social, and its power is widespread and pervasive.”

lidia-yuknavitch-author-quote-truth-of-bodyChristina Mandara voices the opinion that women’s reading material is being dictated to them: a view shared by Sorcha Black, who believes, “The policing of women’s sexuality includes censoring what we read.”

While being receptive to critique (as would be expected in any genre) we, as authors, need to stand resolute in our belief that sexuality is a valid theme for literary exploration, and that we have the power to write as we see fit.

I.G. Frederick notes, with frustration, “It’s perfectly acceptable to use sex to sell anything from cars to beer, but we’re discouraged from examining the impact of sex on relationships in works of fiction.”

Many of the women taking part in this survey note commercial ‘constraints’ within the genre — such as are difficult to ignore for any writer seeking to earn an income from their work. However, we can argue that responsibility lies with us, as authors, to become less commercially risk-averse. If we write from a place of truth, we’ll find our audience.

Brantwijn Serrah praises erotica’s ability to play with possibilities, assisting ‘readers and authors in exploring new ideas about sexuality’.

Fiction Mirrors and Identifying the ‘Self’

In exploring the psychology of desire, how we behave ‘in the raw’, erotic fiction invites us to open our minds to all possibilities. It has the power to delve not just our fantasies but our truths. It holds a mirror to versions of our ‘self’ rarely let out in polite company; within that mirror, we gain deeper understanding.

nya-rawlyns-author-quote-erotic-fiction-literature-21st-century-emmanuelle-de-maupassantRemittance Girl, in her article, On Writing Erotica, explains her desire ‘to articulate the conflict within ourselves, to make sense of it, and then to reach out to others via the page’. Nya Rawlyns believes the genre has the power to ‘redefine how we see ourselves and our society’.

Sessha Batto emphasizes that her goal is ‘to trace a character’s growth, as revealed through sex’ and to ‘dig deeply into a character’s personality and motivations’, as ‘catalysts for growth and personal discovery’.

Malin James states,Authorial intent comes down to one thing: I want to understand.” She underlines that fiction ‘can reflect the human condition in all its individual, specific forms. It can explore the cause and effects that drive our lives and form our emotional realities.” She adds, “I write to explore and reflect experiences. I like digging beneath a constructed, social surface to get at an emotional reality.” – read more from Malin on her intent here and hereremittance-girl-quote-fiction-reality-author-erotic-fiction

Fantasy v. Realism

Fantasy (all the ‘what ifs’ of our imagination) is a well-recognised aspect of erotic fiction. If not here, then where else, can we explore ‘the forbidden’. As Malin James stresses, “While a great deal of erotica falls into a realistic vein, much of what people actually want is that which they can’t (or don’t feel they can) have in real life. This is why rape fantasies, incest and other transgressive sexual acts continue to sell erotica and generate clicks.” – more on ‘fantasy’ here

 Janine Ashbless sees fiction as ‘a safe area in which to let our darker selves, our fears and our desires, out for a little exercise…’

It may seem contradictory to seek out greater realism within erotic fiction.siri-ousdahl-author-quote-erotic-fiction-21st-century-emmanuelle-de-maupassant-sex However, the majority of writers with the 130 authors survey assert a desire to write recognizable, diverse characters, and situations, with psychological depth, to better allow readers to empathize, and enter into alternate possibilities.

Siri Ousdahl declares, “I’d like there to be a larger place for high-quality, graphic sex writing: fiction that is not coy, does not romanticize or trivialize, and is psychologically realistic.”

Tobsha Learner comments,I like to make my characters normal people with fallible, normal bodies of all ages. The premise being that lust, sex and love is not just something that happens to gorgeous under thirty year olds, with ridiculously youthful and beautiful billionaires.” She asserts, “There is a certain joyful bawdy finger up to the Heavens when such coup de foudres fall upon our heads, whether we be 80, 50, 30 or 16.”

Similarly, CA Bell declares, “I’d like to see sexy, real, and honest writing: no billionaires who can shag for hours and come five times a night.” In her own words, Elizabeth Safleur writescontemporary billionaire erotic romance with a lot of fantasy’ but admits that she’d ‘like to read stories that involve real people, who aren’t great at being together (yet) and figure it out’. She adds, “Instead of the sex being amazing right off the bat, what did they do to make it great? I’d like to read something that allows for insecurities… vulnerabilities can be sexy.”

Diversity

Krissy Kneen tells us, “I’d like to see a broader range of people represented, fat people, old people, the disabled, all types of sexual orientations. I’d also like to see more gender fluidity. I think the masculine/feminine divide is boring and needs to be retired. Manly men and femme women is a cliché that really must go.”

Zak Jane Keir is keen to see more trans characters represented in stories remittance-girl-erotic-fiction-quote(where the plot extends beyond the surprise reveal of them actually being a §transperson). She laments the ‘generic’ in erotic fiction.

Sorcha Black also asserts her goal of challenging assumptions about gender roles and sexual attraction by avoiding ‘stereotypes’. She explains, “A lot of my characters are sexually fluid and are also into kink. I don’t have to limit myself to what’s expected. It’s far too easy to paint caricatures.”

On the theme of ‘perfection’, Madeline Moore states, ”We’re all looking for it and when we’re in love we believe, for a brief time, that we’ve found it.” However, she laments that women often feel that sexual encounters should be ‘perfect’, while men have ridiculous expectations of ‘perfection’.

Lily Harlem underlines her interest in exploring flawed characters, ‘because no one in real life is perfect or makes the right decisions all of the time’. Meanwhile, Donna George Storey notes that fantasy sex is ‘soothing’ but that she’s ‘now trying to capture something more real’. She explains, “I appreciate that erotic fiction often explores a world where characters are free of sexual repression. You meet a gorgeous partner, fall into bed immediately, and the physical tobsha-learner-erotic-fiction-quoteexperience is fantastic even though you don’t know his/her name. The female version usually has the gorgeous partner falling in love for the first time in his life after the aforementioned great sex.” Donna asserts, “I’d like to see more celebration of the magic of sex between people who know each other well. I’d like to acknowledge that time and trust are important in creating a situation where great sex can happen. Couples who’ve been together for a long time are not necessarily bored with each other. They can go deeper, they can play, they know each other well enough to trust it will be mutually enjoyable.”

Cecilia Tan notes her aim to write ‘power dynamics between lovers’ and the ‘ways they explore each other’s inner lives, imagination, and fantasies’.

In the realm of BDSM themed erotic fiction, Nicolette Hugo would like to see ‘alternate sexuality explored more positively’, stating her irritation with ‘sadism being relegated to villains.’. KD Grace explains, “I’m sick to death of weak, cardboard women being written as subs and mean, unlikable, men being written as Doms (or, even worse, as really creepy, stalker types). I want depth, I want a connection that has more to do with what drives the characters, and with the chemistry between them, and less to do with the trappings.”

Zak Jane Keir expresses her desire ‘to share a worldview that isn’t entirely mainstream’.

Meanwhile, Adrea Kore reminds us, “Human sexuality is vast, varied, and complex. The spectrum of people’s turn-ons and kinks is almost verging on infinite. And so is writing about it. As authors, we don’t all have to be covering the same ground… there is room for diversity.” – more here

Themes: Identity

Many authors view ‘identity’ as a prevalent theme, often expressed through understanding of the self (and what motivates our behaviour). Cate Ellink describes this as ‘finding your place in the world’. Malin James notes that she is drawn by the fluidity of the concept of self, and ‘sexuality as a window into deeper understanding of ourselves and each other’.

Cari Silverwood asserts that her stories aim to make us question our ‘relationship with the world and humanity’, to the point where we are ‘uncomfortable and, even, disturbed’. She embraces writing fiction with ‘an inherent moral challenge’.

Remittance Girl, in exploring darker elements of human nature — ‘guilt, emmanuelle-de-maupassant-erotic-fiction-writing-quotemistrust, fear and emotional wounding’ — shows characters obliged to ‘reconstruct their identity in the light of what they’ve done’ –more here. We watch her characters push through their inner-sanctions, and see how they deal with the consequences. In this way, her work exposes our uncertainty and our inconsistencies.

Elizabeth Safleur states her fascination with the theme ofbecoming more yourself’, telling us, “Most of my women are fiercely independent… [but] often find it difficult to reconcile that quality with their submissive and other kink/BDSM yearnings. I’ve noticed a new pattern lately, which is people believing they don’t deserve love, not deep down. Who said writing isn’t cathartic?”

Brantwijn Serrah also explores the theme of identity, of ‘who we are in our most naked moments’. She asserts, “It’s amazing to me how much can be understood through our sexual self.” Nicolette Hugo similarly refers to ‘acceptance of self’ as a theme in her work.

Themes: Truth and Deceit

So many authors, across the centuries, have sought ‘truth’ and, conversely, examined the deceits we perpetrate.

Erotic fiction well lends itself to exploring ‘grey areas of morality’, as Tobsha Learner calls them: to the small lies we tell ourselves, to our unspoken motivations, to the ways in which we manipulate or make use of others. Nicolette Hugo refers to this ‘moral duality’ in her own work, alongside ‘the marriage of sex and violence’.

Donna George Storey states her major theme as ‘the lies we tell, whether malevolent or benevolent… and especially lies involving sex’. Donna explains, %22we-must-kill-the-false-woman-who-is-preventing-the-live-one-from-breathing-%22-quote-helene-cixous“I love exploring the slippery relationship between truth and fiction. The stories I value convey truths that spring from careful thought and deep feeling, truths we often keep secret from others and ourselves. Exploring those truths is what I aim for when I write.”

Sessha Batto views sex as ‘a vehicle of revelation, a way to expose characters when they are most open and vulnerable’. She writes sex to ‘expose the parts we tend to keep hidden’.

Themes: Freedom and Constraint

Another common theme for exploration is that of the nature of freedom (as explored in Siri Ousdahl’s novel, ‘Constraint’). We speak of sexual liberation as a form of ‘freedom’: to make our own choices, without inhibition or shame.

The pursuit of freedom is a preoccupation of my own, although I little realized it when I began writing, exploring the myriad ways in which women are ‘pinned’, ‘exhibited’ and ‘dissected’ by society.

Cecilia Tan takes this idea further in linking sexual expression to creative expression. “Just last weekend I was in a workshop for writers where I discovered that one of my main underlying themes is equating sexuality with creativity at a metaphoric level. My characters tend to be not only on a search for love and sexual gratification; this is usually tied up with their need for creative or artistic expression.”

cecilia-tan-erotic-fiction-quoteShe adds that the public versus private face of a person can exist not only in terms of their sexuality (how they express it to the world versus how they are in private) but their art form (dance, painting, sculpture, music, songwriting, writing, and so on).

Themes: Connection, Yearning, Trust

Tobsha Learner asserts, “The erotica reader doesn’t just want to look; they want to be in the skin of the protagonists. They need to feel the aching frustration and longing and then the blissful release of orgasm, both in the emotional, physical and sometimes spiritual sense.”

Tobsha underlines the importance ofpsychological foreplay’ in erotic fiction (a factor that is largely irrelevant to pornography) – more here.

Lily Harlem asserts her exploration of the ‘many complications that arise from the emotions of love and lust’ – a theme mentioned by many who responded to the 130 authors survey. A significant number underlined, as we might expect, interest in delving the complexities of connection and, as Malin James calls them, ‘social and sexual power dynamics’.

Kay Jaybee, alongside quite a few of the respondent authors, is fascinated by the BDSM world. She tells us, “I don’t inhabit that world, but the psychology of it, the dynamic of total trust that it requires, is an endless source of inspiration.” Meanwhile, Madeline Moore tells us that she writes about people who are ‘in a state of yearning’ or ‘obsession’.

sign-my-death-with-your-teeth%22-author-quote-helene-cixousThemes: Mortality

Shanna Germain notes her desire to break open the relationship between sex and death, to ask her characters ‘How are you going to handle this? Will you grow and change? Will you show your true self? Or will you hide?’ Malin James, too, finds herself returning often to explorations of mortality and ‘the relationship between sex and death’, as does Christina Mandara. 

Cultural Relevance

Shanna Germain underlines that, of all genres, erotica (and horror) most reflect ‘the mores of our current culture’. She tells us, “Sci-fi looks ahead, fantasy looks back, literary fiction looks askance. But erotica looks right at the now and says, ‘This is happening, in the streets, in the bedrooms, in the bars.’ Where will erotica, as a genre go? It will go where the culture goes. I hope it goes somewhere open-minded, joyous, and hot as fuck.”

As Remittance Girl asserts, “I hope that I can play some small role in the evolution of erotic writing and help, if only in a tiny way, to push it into the light, and towards being recognized as a fertile and unconstrained form of critically recognized literature.” She urges us, “We are adventurers. We are explorers. Be brave. Dare to write what frightens and unsettles us, as well as what delights us. In doing so, we may write words worth remembrance.” – more here

It’s time for us to write our own rules.

We can be whoever we wish to be.

Own your sexuality, own your voice, own your words.

In Part Three: Inspirations, influences, and the relevance of gender

Further Reading 

Coming Soon…

Writing Craft

Authors’ Recommended Reads

Author Influences: music, theatre, dance, fiction, art

My thanks go to the following authors for giving their time and for their candid answers; my thanks also to authors who contributed their views anonymously.

Tobsha Learner, Laura Antoniou, Susan St. Aubin, Shanna Germain, Remittance Girl, Malin James, Janine Ashbless, Adrea KoreKristina LloydCecilia Tan, Donna George StoreyKathe Koja, Justine Elyot, Sorcha BlackCari Silverwood, Siri OusdahlZander VaneTamsin Flowers, Krissy KneenZak Jane Keir, Jade A WatersKD Grace, Kay Jaybee, Nya RawlynsSessha Batto, Rose CarawayTabitha RayneElizabeth Safleur, Devi AnseviK. L. Shandwick, I.G. Frederick, Jacqui Greaves, Ina MorataFinn MarloweElsa Holland, Elizabeth SchechterLucy Felthouse, Alexis AlvarezLily HarlemMadeline MooreRia Restrepo, Scarlet Darkwood, Victoria Bliss, Jane GilbertCharlie Powell, Cate Ellink, Lee SavinoElizabeth BlackFelicity Brandon, Nicolette HugoAmelia SmartsSue MacNicol, Cassandra ShawArdent RoseSylvia Storm, Renee Rose, Rachel de Vine, Cherry Wild, Patient Lee, Pandora Spocks, Suzette Bohne’ Sommers, Molly Synthia, Meg Amor, Lizzie Ashworth, Cara Bristol, Finn Marlowe, C.A. Bell, Brantwijn Serrah, Aubrey Cara, Kathleen Bradean, Stormchase, Lisa Fox, Allyson YoungEmma JayeDee Maselle, Christina MandaraSue LyndonRebecca Branch, Molly Moore, Vanessa WuJaye Peaches, Ashe Barker, Tilly Andrews and Catherine Mazur.

Women Writing The Erotic

women-writing-erotic-fictionIn this series (within the 130 authors survey), I’ll be sharing women’s views on exploring sexuality through fiction.

Which themes tug to be unravelled and explored?

What motivates us, challenges us, empowers us – as readers and as writers?

Women are not only the predominant readers of erotica but form the lion’s remittance-girl-erotic-fiction-author-quoteshare of authors, and our voices are growing louder.

More of us than ever are letting rip on the page, opening our sexual imagination. As we know, when it comes to erotic fantasy, it’s more fun when you’re sharing.

Women continue to face battle after battle for equal rights, respect and recognition, across every sphere imaginable, but when it comes to erotic fiction, our feet are firmly under the table.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we’re stepping into an age where we’ll have the freedom to read (and write) what we damn well like: within the pages of erotic fiction, and beyond.

In her interview with The Paris Review, Ursula K. Le Guin nailed it in saying: ‘Don’t shove me into your damn pigeonhole, where I don’t fit, because I’m all over. My tentacles are coming out of the pigeonhole in all directions.’

ursula-k-le-guin-women-writers-emmanuelle-de-maupassantThere’s still a degree of censorship, and traditional publishers remain somewhat cautious about stepping outside of the box, but, if we keep writing up against the boundaries, inch by inch, they will surely come down.

As Remittance Girl notes, on her website manifesto: ‘As a woman, I have inherited the burden of thousands of years of social, religious and sexual oppression. My understanding of self, my agency, my language and my sexuality were born, molded and twisted by that oppression. I am happy to have a discussion on why I write what I write, but I will not tolerate being told what I can or cannot write about.’

Brantwijn Serrah admits to considering using a pseudonym for her first title outside of the  genre, believing that preconceptions exist as to who can write what. She asserts, “Erotica, being conceived as a subgenre of romance, seems to be the realm deemed most appropriate for women to write, while adventure, fantasy and science fiction appear to be realms reserved for men. The perception that women are good for sex while men are the ones trusted with more “serious” business is an offensive and disappointing reality.”
adrea-kore-author-quote-erotic-fiction-sexuality-emmanuelle-de-maupassant

Remittance Girl comments, “Erotica can be breathtakingly beautiful because it’s about us at our most naked, our most vulnerable. It is an exposure of both our passions and our hideous flaws. Our destructive jealousy, our brittle pride, our hunger for what doesn’t belong to us, our need for the strange and the transgressive.

I’m keen to see men embracing erotica too: sending a big cheer to all men writing and reading sexually-themed stories (read more about male authors of erotic fiction here). However, when women write ‘the erotic’ it makes my heart sing.

Some would argue that gender is irrelevant to how we approach the page as writers, that we have the ability to portray any human being, from any time in history, and from anywhere. All that’s needed is imagination.

emmanuelle-de-maupassant-author-quote-erotic-fictionIt’s true that some elements of the human condition are universal. We all, surely, know what it is to love, to despair, to smile, or to regret. We know the fragility of life and we share wonder in the world we inhabit.

And yet, as women, aren’t we best placed to portray what it’s like to walk in our skin?

Double-standards, Repression and Censorship

As little girls, we’re taught all the things we should never mention, and never do; for many of us, it’s a lifelong journey to free ourselves of inhibition.

Adrea Kore reminds us, “Women writing and speaking about their own desire, being open with what gives them pleasure and turns them on … even finding the words for that is something that is still seen as taboo in corners of Western culture, let alone in comparison to cultures where women are more repressed ideologically, and socially.”

helene-cixous-author-quote-laugh-of-the-medusa-write-yourself-your-body-must-be-heardAs Cecilia Tan states,  “I was put on Earth to write but it wasn’t until I started writing erotic fiction that I found my voice. I want a world where sexual freedom, not sexual oppression, is the norm, and so I write about sexual pleasure and fulfillment.”

Ina Morata comments, “Sex is the medium I use to investigate psychological boundaries: my personal insecurities and fears. I explore who I am and see how far I can push myself. Erotica, more than any other genre I have worked in, allows me to do this without feeling contained or isolated.”

Adrea sees erotica writing, particularly as a female author, ‘as a political act jeanette-winterson-author-quote-books-fictionas well as a creative one’. She explains, “French feminist Helene Cixous phrased it beautifully in an essay called ‘Laugh of the Medusa’ – ‘Write yourself. Your body must be heard.’ I think this applies to all women’s stories, but particularly those around sexuality. The political aspect of it, the desire to confront and subvert, is a strong motivation for me – as strong as the desire to seduce and arouse.”

Brantwijn Serrah notes that her focus is on women’s pleasure and the satisfaction of ‘the sexual spirit we are programmed, as women, to suppress or deny’. She notes, “When I write from a male point of view, I’m aware of the disparity, the ‘privilege’ of men to express sexual interest while women still struggle with this.”

Lily Harlem explains that she loves to write heroines who ‘break the rules’, but laments adrea-kore-erotic-fiction-author-quotethat some readers have criticized her writing of female protagonists who lack ‘the same moral compass’ as themselves. She notes, “I call these cardboard cut out heroines. From my personal experience, people make crazy decisions when it comes to love and passion.” She asserts that ‘flawed, impulsive, manipulative heroines’ breathe life into fiction.

Elizabeth Safleur underlines, “Men and women are still pressured to conform to certain standards. What’s odd is how hypocritical those standards can be. Be attractive! Be Sexy! Attract a mate! Yet, not too much. The minute anyone takes full ownership of their attractiveness, sexuality and relationships, they are deemed too aggressive or too [insert negative label of choice]. Both men and women fall under pressure, albeit differently, to conform to others’ ideas of what is acceptable. I can’t help but tell these stories because I see (and have experienced) the cost of burying yourself and your sexual urges under layers of ‘I shouldn’t be like this’ or ‘I shouldn’t want this’. I hope people find kindred spirits in my characters.”

Writing Beyond Conventions

Almost half of the authors responding to the 130 Authors survey mentioned, to some degree, discontent with formulaic, restrictive expectations and publishing ‘rules’.

Shanna Germain asserts that she wants readers to ‘question assumptions’. She explains, “I like to give people a slant-mirror. Not a perfect reflection of themselves, but a could-be reflection.”

Nya Rawlyns adds, “Much of what passes for erotica today feels stale, too often reflecting romance tropes. Lust and desire, needs and wants… all have consequences. I’m interested in how an individual changes under conditions of denial or when personal and other boundaries are smashed.”

Similarly, Jade A Waters states, “Sex is transformative. I tend to take my characters on journeys of discovery, often as an echo of something I’ve learned in my own life.”

Erotica lends itself well to exploration of ‘grey areas of morality’, as Tobsha Learner calls them: to the small lies we tell ourselves, and to the ways in which we manipulate or make use of others.

Adrea Kore emphasizes, “Erotica writes into areas of the human sexual psyche and behaviour that some genres gloss over or shy away from. Erotica brings into the light contradictions between our inner sexual desires and our outward behaviour. What do we secretly long for, and to attain that, what lengths would we go to?” (more here)

In particular, kristina-lloyd-author-quote-erotic-fiction-21st-century-literature-emmanuelle-de-maupassantsome authors mention a desire to explore the realm of non-consent.

Christina Mandara laments, “I love non-consensual elements in erotica but the world at large has decided that this isn’t acceptable. It seems that women, particularly, must have consensual, hearts and flowers stories.”

Kristina Lloyd feels similarly that there is potential to explore ‘the erotic’ beyond the ‘shackles of romance conventions’.

As Anne Rice notably stated in The Guardian newspaper (2012), erotica writers seek freedom to explore. With particular reference to women, Ms. Rice states:As a feminist, I’m supportive of equal rights for women, and that includes the right of every woman to write her sexual fantasies and to read books filled with sexual fantasies that she enjoys. The whole world knows women are sensual human beings as well as men. It’s no secret anymore that women want to read sexy fiction just as men do, and there’s a new frankness about the varieties of fantasies one might enjoy. So many cliches have been broken and abandoned. And this is a wonderful thing.” 

Sorcha Black believes that many books named as ‘too graphic or taboo’ are those aimed at women. She underlines, “The policing of women’s sexuality still includes censoring what we read.”

Malin James asserts that her writing of erotic elements wasn’t a ‘conscious decision’ but that she began to feel stifled by avoiding sexual themes. She notes, “It stifled my work and, as a writer, that sort of self-censorship was discouraging and unproductive. Censorship is a complicated issue and to ina-morata-author-erotic-fictionpreoccupy myself with it as I write would be to stymie the story before it’s even formed. While I acknowledge the reality of censorship, I try not to let it, or fear of it, influence my writing. I serve the story. If it trips censors, so be it. I have the luxury of pulling it and sending it elsewhere.“

KD Grace voices a view raised by a significant number of those who took part in the ‘130 authors’ survey: the lack of respect for the erotic fiction genre in the literary world. Ina Morata echoes this, saying that writers outside of the erotic fiction genre have challenged her, asking why she doesn’t write in a genre more ‘befitting’.

kd-grace-author-erotic-fiction-literature-quote-21st-century However, KD Grace stresses that this generates an attitude of ‘us against the world and circle the wagons’ and a real sense of camaraderie among erotica writers (with little of the petty jealousy I’ve seen among writers in some other genres).’ She feels the erotica writing community as ‘a family’, saying, “That encouragement has meant a lot to me through the years.”

Writing Women’s Sexuality

Adrea Kore remembers being in her mid-twenties, studying feminism and theatre, and dating a poet, when she discovered Adrienne Rich’s poem ‘In My Rose-wet Cave’. She recalls the image, of ‘being underwater, and yet botanical. Fragrant and secret. Hidden away, deep-hued and moist’. She tells us, “I was intrigued and delighted. And I began to search for more of this kind of writing, that could re-invent the feminine body, the feminine experience of adrea-kore-erotic-fiction-sex-sexuality-author-quote-taboo-underworld-emmanuelle-de-maupassantdesire. I think it put light on the seed already in me to find new and evocative ways of writing about feminine desire and describing the desiring female body.”

Tabitha Rayne notes that writing erotic  fiction, ‘felt like discovering a new colour‘. “I couldn’t stop expressing myself in the erotic. It was like opening a door to myself,” she asserts.

Donna George Storey tells us, “When I got the courage to start writing again as an adult (after getting my B.A. in creative writing and then taking a long writing break as I felt I had nothing interesting to say), all the stories that came out had to do with sexuality. I still find the erotic experience the one adrea-kore-author-quote-women-writing-erotic-fictionthing that truly inspires me to silence the inner critic and just write and enjoy the pleasure of speaking the unspeakable.”

Susan St. Aubin comments, “I’m interested in the mystery of human life, and sex is a big part of that, perhaps the thing that most illuminates the mystery.”

Rose Caraway, speaking of her work in audio narration of erotic fiction, tells us, “Together, we’re helping people awaken, at their own pace. Each story narrated acknowledges sexuality, our own and others’, because it’s being read aloud. Those words want to be heard, making us stronger, so that we can better express and own our sexuality.” (more from Rose here)

Adrea notes her fascination with ‘feminine experience of the world’ and stories ‘of growth, transformation and dislocation, felt through and mediated by the body’. She explains, “These were the things that I began to write about: Love and longing. Loss. Translating the physical arts I most loved into words: my experiences of dancing and life-modelling. Then, more arduously, carving out narratives of sexual trauma. Death. Then, the sensual pleasures. Sex. Light, dark, light, dark. Always this dance, and writing has helped me embrace the totality in the supposed contradictions.” (read more on this topic from Adrea here)

Kristina Lloyd relates this to her own journey, saying, “Through writing, I’ve learned so much about my own sexuality and desire. Writing has given me an understanding; it has allowed me to own a sexuality I’d been conflicted about and confused by when I was younger.”

Emerging Changed

Remittance Girl tells us that ‘all fiction carries the traces of its author’. She asserts, “The difference between really good writing and mediocre writing is not when the characters emerge changed, but when you know, as a reader, that the author has also emerged changed.” 

In writing, we gain greater understanding of our motivations, our pleasures jeanette-winterson-author-quoteand our fears. We emerge changed and, as RG tells us, we ‘expose something true’ of ourselves (more here).

Adrea Kore adds, “Language and ideas, once encountered, live inside you, and can effect changes, both subtle and catalytic. Words endure. And the feelings they conjure up in the body can endure too, leaving traces, imprints in the cells, the memory.” (more here)

Write your own truths, write your own pages.

Our voices are here to be heard.

READ ON – Women Writing the Erotic: Part Two and Part Three

Women authors tell us what compels them to write in the erotic genre, including the themes which refuse to lie quietly, their influences and inspirations, and the relevance of gender to their work. 

You may also be interested to read:

Also coming soon…

Writing Craft

Authors’ Recommended Reads

Author Influences: theatre, music, art, film, fiction, dance

Among the women writers taking part in the 130 Authors survey were:

Laura Antoniou,  Susan St. Aubin, Shanna Germain, Remittance Girl, Malin James, Janine Ashbless, Adrea Kore, Tobsha LearnerKristina LloydCecilia Tan, Donna George StoreyKathe Koja, Justine Elyot, Sorcha BlackCari Silverwood, Siri OusdahlZander VaneTamsin Flowers, Krissy KneenZak Jane Keir, Jade A WatersKD Grace, Kay Jaybee, Nya RawlynsSessha Batto, Rose CarawayTabitha RayneElizabeth Safleur, Devi AnseviK. L. Shandwick, I.G. Frederick, Jacqui Greaves, Ina MorataElsa Holland, Elizabeth SchechterLucy Felthouse, Alexis AlvarezLily HarlemMadeline MooreRia Restrepo, Scarlet DarkwoodVictoria Bliss, Jane GilbertCharlie Powell, Cate Ellink, Lee SavinoElizabeth Black, Felicity Brandon, Nicolette HugoAmelia SmartsSue MacNicol, Cassandra ShawArdent RoseSylvia Storm, Renee Rose, Rachel de Vine, Cherry Wild, Patient Lee, Pandora Spocks, Suzette Bohne’ Sommers, Molly Synthia, Meg Amor, Lizzie Ashworth, Cara Bristol, Finn Marlowe, C.A. Bell, Brantwijn Serrah, Aubrey Cara, Kathleen Bradean, Stormchase, Lisa Fox, Allyson Young,  Emma Jaye, Dee MaselleChristina MandaraSue LyndonRebecca Branch, Molly Moore, Vanessa Wu,  Jaye Peaches, Ashe Barker, Tilly Andrews and Catherine Mazur.

Under the Skin: with Tobsha Learner

Erotica.

Too formulaic? Clichéd? Predictable?

It’s impossible to lay these failings at Tobsha Learner’s door. Original in the extreme, she writes to explore, to fling open doors, to see where language might take her.

She is a risk-taker.

tobshaauthorshotRejecting typical notions of what constitutes ‘literary quality’, her own narrative voice is distinctly lyrical yet she also weaves a good tale. Ms. Learner is a story-teller.

British-born Tobsha originally trained as a sculptor of stone, before she began sculpting words. After around 25 years as a playwright, she moved into novels (thrillers and historical fiction) and her sexy, soulful fables, glittering with lashings of the erotic. Tobsha aims to deliver more than titillation. She delves the psychology of characters, exploring power-play and moral ambiguity.Her first collection of short stories, Quiver, has sold over 200,000 copies. Her latest novel, Picture This, is a study in corruption,quiver the erotic gaze and the creative process.

Tobsha, as writers, we process and refine our experiences, influences and thoughts onto the page, inviting our reader to then enter their own process of interpretation. As we know, there are some stories that change us forever. Years later, we recall how such books made us feel, even if we cannot recall the details. Which authors have stirred you to new understanding of yourself?

I tend to go for the DNA of plot. As a child, I was deeply obsessed with the Robert Graves edition of the Greek myths.

In my thriller writing, I’ve referenced a number of these consciously: Orpheus and Eurydice, the Minotaur, and Medusa.

tobsha-learner-yearnI lost my father when I was 16, while in the middle of studying King Lear for my O’ levels, so this play has particular emotional power for me. Various Shakespearian characters fascinate me: Ariel, Puck, Ophelia, King Lear (and his fool) and Falstaff (an incarnation of Bacchus really).

Many stories have thrown new light onto my own emotional experiences, as has some poetry. In terms of short story craft, authors who stand out for me include Greene, Dahl, Chekov, Bukowski, Nin, Poe, Maupassant, Lawrence, Turgenev, Nabokov, Isaac ben Singer and Wilde.

16171282I’m eclectic in my influences. Definitely, when I discover a new writer who has broken a rule, or who perhaps has an original onomatopoeia to her/his prose, it can be inspiring.

Which themes tug at you?

Each author has an emotional template resonating under each story or narrative, regardless of their conscious intention. For me, quintessentially, it’s free will versus determinism. In terms of my erotic writing, I look at how instinct and sexual desire can over-ride the rational.

tremble-by-tobsha-learner-paperback-2012Are you influenced also by film?

My original training as a scriptwriter (and my experience as a playwright) has influenced my writing, in that I try to make it as visually simulating and visceral as possible. I tend to like films with a magical blend of great dialogue and plot but which also use the craft of film making to tell the story: mise en scène, visual subtext, great editing and so on (such as in the early Coen brothers’ Blood Simple).

As a former sculptor, tell us your artistic influences.

I once played with the idea of basing an erotic short story around a very graphic 19th century sculpture of a male angel in Prague Caste. He was a very defined, handsome man with wings of about eight foot tall (everything in proportion!). I’m inspired in the moment but then it all gets fermented and used later in imagery far less consciously.

louise-bourgeois-maman-1999-steel-35-ft-in-height-tate-modern-london
Louise Bourgeois, Maman (1999) Tate Modern, London, 35 ft

I might be expressionistic (as opposed to cubist!). Certainly, as I get older this evolves like an underground stream of passing references and obsessions. I know I’m a little baroque in language (and I don’t necessarily like this about my work). I love the video instillation of Bill Viola, some of the drawings and sexual themes of Emin, and I really appreciate the cultural madcap commentary of Grayson Perry. When I was a sculptor in training, I was orientated to the narrative/figurative – with, I guess, similar feminist/sexual themes to Louise Bourgeoise. Lately, the abstract and more muted sublime has begun to appeal.

1710567Tell us a little about your writing processes.

I’ve developed a very specific writing process that really heralds back to my playwriting training at N.I.D.A [the Australian equivalent of RADA]. Paul Thompson was my lecturer and mentor then, and he taught us to breakdown each scene with ‘units of action’: what happens in that scene physically and plot-wise. Beforehand, I’d develop character backgrounds (for all characters – detailed for protagonists) as well as undertaking research and creating a plot line. I know this is very unromantic in terms of how people like to imagine writers sitting down to a blank sheet, weaving from their imagination, but I truly believe in the craft of writing (talent being about 10% of the equation, and the rest sheer bloody-mindedness and making the discipline of writing a daily habit).

Do you listen to music while you write?picturethis-cover-tobsha-learners-next-book-picture-this-will-be-available-on-amazon-from-november-2017

I can only write to classical music, without lyrics, but, at other times, I enjoy The Clash, T. Rex and Nick Cave.

How did you approach the writing of your latest release, Picture This, set in the art world of New York?

I interviewed a number of gallery owners and artists, as well as visiting locations. I drew on my experiences as a sculptor and observed artist friends’ ways of seeing. I explore the dilemma that all working creatives face, of ‘commerce versus the artistic soul’.

tobshaauthorshotTobsha Learner was born in Cambridge and raised mainly in North West London but has lived and worked in Melbourne, Sydney, Los Angeles and London. She is the author of three volumes of short stories (Quiver, Tremble and Yearn) seven 2116855novels and dozens of plays. Her latest release is Picture This. Besides writing erotic fiction, she is known for her historical fiction, and for her thrillers (writing as T.S. Learner  – The Sphinx, The Stolen and The Map).

Read more about Tobsha Learner here, in her interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, or view her chatting about her work here.

www.tobshaserotica.com

www.tslearner.co.uk

picturethis-cover-tobsha-learners-next-book-picture-this-will-be-available-on-amazon-from-november-2017More about Picture This

English instillation artist Susie Thomas finds herself investigating the supposed suicide of her female lover Maxine, a young sculptress, while embarking on an affair with notorious gallery owner Felix Baum.

Tobsha is among 130+ authors who took part in my recent series of articles on ‘Writing Erotica’. Find out more here.

Empress of the Erotic: an Interview with Rachel Kramer Bussel

Rachel Kramer Bussel interview erotic fiction writingEmpress of the erotic, Rachel Kramer Bussel, is an icon in the world of erotic fiction and blogging. Her credentials are unsurpassed. Besides contributing to more than a hundred anthologies and having edited sixty herself, her articles have appeared in the hallowed halls of the New York Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Time Out New York, as well as in Penthouse, Cosmo UK, and the Village Voice.

Rachel’s passion to encourage other authors has led to her conducting erotic writing workshops worldwide and, for five years, she hosted the In The Flesh Erotic Reading Series in New York City, helping introduce authors to the wide-eyed public. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and women’s studies from the University of California at Berkeley.

Here, she reveals what inspires her to write ‘the erotic’, advice she shares with novice authors, thoughts on the current face of publishing and avoiding the ‘formulaic’.

Rachel, what first inspired you towards sexual themes, and what impact did the writing process have on you?

My first few erotica stories were largely inspired by events in my life. I’d been reading erotica for a few years without any intention of writing it. I was just curious. In my college years, just as I was exploring sex, including queerness and kink, dating women, discovering I was bisexual, I found erotica. Some of the earliest anthologies I read were the Best American Erotica series and Shar Rednour’s lesbian first time anthologies Virgin Territory I and II.

I seem to remember the writing coming fast and furious. I’ve always tended to think in full sentences, whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction. I never plotted back then (and rarely do now), but rather had a vague sense of where I wanted the story to go. I didn’t overthink the writing, or the process of sending it out, or using my real name. All of those could have given me pause, and maybe even scared me into not submitting my work, because I was in law school or had just dropped out.

It’s sometimes odd to me to read or hear one of my early stories, because of course there are things I’d do differently now. However, I like that I just dove right in, without stressing about all the what-ifs. It made it a fun experience.

Have your motivations changed since those first years?Best Women's Erotica of the Year Rachel Kramer Bussell erotic fiction interview writer author writing

I’m still excited about erotica, but I have to work harder to write it now because I don’t want to be repetitive. As an anthology editor, I read hundreds of stories, so I often look beyond erotica recreationally, choosing mystery, YA and memoir. I do also read within the genre, to remain aware of trends, and it’s great to see so much more erotica on bookstore shelves, as well as e-publishing thriving.

Besides writing to ‘arouse’ the reader, do you have other aims?

I’m interested in exploring aspects of sexuality and attraction largely ignored by pop culture: specifically bisexuality, polyamory, promiscuity, men and women with larger bodies and body image, male submissives, fetishes, or affairs. I don’t sit down to intentionally humanize and eroticize fat people (and those who love and are attracted to fat people) or male submissives and so on; it’s a by-product of the types of characters I tend to write. That’s not to say I don’t also write about people who have seemingly “perfect” or “normal” lives (those terms being subjective) but even then I try to subvert those standards, looking beneath the surface. Their lives may not be so glamorous and carefree, and their erotic (and perhaps other) desires run deeper than the surface.

In what ways has writing ‘the erotic’ empowered you or promoted your self-knowledge?

Writing erotica has made me more open-minded and empathetic. Getting inside the heads of characters who do things I’d never do has been a wonderful challenge and has taught me so much, as has editing similar stories. It’s shown me that humans can eroticize anything.

Rachel Kramer Bussel interview writer erotic fictionWhat do you want readers to take away from your work?

Foremost, I hope they enjoy the process of reading. I never want them to feel like they’re slogging through my writing. I want it to entertain but I also want to make them think, perhaps even more than arousing them; to think about how they relate to the sexual dynamics of the story, or about what I left out, or about what happens beyond the page. I want to arouse readers but I feel that it’s up to the reader to take away whatever they choose.

Which authors inspire you and in what ways?

I’m a huge fan of L. Marie Adeline’s S.E.C.R.E.T. trilogy, about a group of women who join forces to facilitate women down on their luck in living out their most exciting sexual fantasies. It’s incredibly hot but also about forming a community, supporting women and giving them the autonomy and authority to decide what’s arousing to them. Plus, it’s a progressively developing love story. Even against this highly fictional setting, where women swoop into the lives of strangers and arrange sexual trysts, there was a reality that made the sex scenes even hotter. I truly cared about the characters.

That’s also what I liked about Everything I Left Unsaid by M. O’Keefe. It’s about a Rachel Kramer Bussel erotic fiction writer interviewwoman who’s left an abusive, violent marriage and is in hiding, slowly giving herself permission to explore her own sexuality again. It’s an erotic romance but, true to the character, much of her sexuality in the book takes place by herself, but inspired by her new love interest.

That element of reality is something I also enjoyed about Let It Shine, by Alyssa Cole, a romance set during the civil rights movement, which builds tension and passion between the protagonists, who have a history as childhood friends. Every interaction is laden with tension and a push/pull dynamic. It’s a slim but wonderful book.

On a lighter note, I really loved the humor in Nuts, by Alice Clayton. It’s madcap and zany (when the protagonists meet actual nuts go flying everywhere around them) but very sexy.

Your LitReactor classes (teaching elements of erotic fiction) have an excellent reputation, and have been a starting point for many successful authors in our genre. Which key pieces of advice do you find yourself offering?

Often in my LitReactor classes, beyond any specifics about the genre, the best erotica writing advice I give is that we should believe in ourselves. I think overcoming that hurdle is a vital first step. Even in a small class, people self-censor, or don’t let their imaginations travel freely. They’re nervous or worried about what people will think. I’m Rachel Kramer Bussel quote erotic fiction writingsure this hinders many would-be erotica writers. It’s not the same as writing mystery or sci-fi or other genres. Even though there’s now more openness about erotica reading and writing, and about alternative sexualities, it can still be awkward to tell your neighbors that you write erotica.

I face that as well. When I meet someone new and we seem to get along, I never know if I’m going to ruin a budding friendship by outing myself as an erotica writer. So, I totally get that fear. However, I think you have to forcibly set it aside while you write. Pretend it doesn’t exist. You can tackle it when it’s time to decide whether you want to find a broader audience and, if so, what name you want to use.

The processes of writing and submitting work seem to get conflated in people’s minds, as if strangers can immediately see the words as you type them. Nobody ever has to know you write erotica if you don’t want them to, not even your significant other or best friend. Writing, exploring, digging as deep as you can into what turns on your characters, are the building blocks of my online and in-person writing classes.

The criticism we seem to hear time and again of the erotic genre is that it’s Rachel Kramer Bussel interview erotic fiction writingformulaic, in content, and in style.

Varying your writing style is important. It’s helpful to step out of your usual style sometimes, even if it’s just as a “throat-clearing” exercise. Doing so gives you a greater appreciation of different points of view and, I’ve found, can give a story a different rhythm. In my story “The End,” which was published in Best American Erotica 2016, I use a more fast paced tone. I’ve written in first person, second person and third person and all have taught me different things about the storytelling process.

As an anthology editor, this variety is essential. I want the reader to experience a range of sexual practices as well as a range of characters and types of stories: historical, futuristic, contemporary, or from different points of view, using various tenses or pacing.

How far do you think publishers are risk-averse? While commercial success is the bottom-line, in what ways would you like to see publishers pushing boundaries?

I don’t know if I’d say publishers are risk averse, though perhaps they are more so than I realize. I see some pretty edgy content being published by mainstream publishers, like Lilah Pace’s Asking for It, which came out from Berkley in 2015 and is about a woman who has a rape fantasy. There are so many new publishers. Writers can push boundaries (and can self-publish).

The market for what was once considered taboo has expanded since I started reading erotica, 20 years ago. We’ve had many cultural shifts; even the romance market is more open to sexual variation. I believe that’s helped normalize a lot of kinky practices, male and female bisexuality, open relationships and other aspects of sexuality.

You’re extremely open in your persona as a sex-blogger and author of erotic fiction. Do you ever find yourself fielding disapproval?

I don’t consider any of my work a “persona” although there are, of course, aspects of my personal life that I don’t share (though not many). I’ve been lucky in avoiding much negative feedback. Occasionally I’ll write a nonfiction essay or article and have people disagree, or think I’m making things up, as either a storyteller about my life or as a journalist. One notable one was when I wrote about taxicab hook-ups for The Village Voice and someone told me I was lying. Now, obviously, as a journalist, I have no way to fact check people’s sex stories, but I have pretty good radar for knowing when people are telling me a true story. It can be challenging for people to conceptualize that what they know of sex personally is their subjective viewpoint, not a universal truth.

 Rachel Kramer Bussell erotic fiction interview writer author writing Thinking of the positive feedback you’ve received over the years, do you have any stand out stories?

My first story, “Monica and Me” (a fantasy about a woman who’s a barely changed version of me having sex with Monica Lewinsky) is a favorite. You can listen to it on Rose Caraway’s podcast The Kiss Me Quick’s.

Also “Doing the Dishes”, which is about a woman with a dishwashing fetish. I gave a public reading over ten years ago and still have people remarking on it. It was loosely inspired by a real life experience of washing a lover’s kitchen full of dishes, but I took that concept and ran with it. You can also listen to it, here, on The KMQ podcast.

Having edited around sixty anthologies, do you ever feel that you’re on a treadmill? Do you yearn to undertake a radically different project?

While each anthology is different, the basic process of anthology editing is similar. I have an idea, acquire a book contract with a publisher, post a public call for submissions, read all the stories that come in, winnow them down to the ones I think best suit the theme and go well together, and edit and arrange them. What’s kept me from becoming bored with that process is that I’m always working with new writers and receiving submissions from around the world. I love it when a writer completely surprises me, either with an unusual take on a given theme or with a new approach to writing or sexuality that I hadn’t considered before. In that sense, it feels fresh each time.

I have a lot of other things I’d also like to do. I’ve never wanted to only be an erotica or sex writer because I’m interested in a wide range of topics. This year I’m exploring SEO copywriting as well as entertainment blogging. As a freelancer, I never know what I’ll be working on in a week’s time, or in a month or a year. I like the surprise element but plan to edit anthologies as long as I have readers for them!

Can you share some future plans?Best Women's Erotica of the Year 2 Rachel Kramer Bussel erotic fiction writer interview

Because I’m a freelancer, my workload tends to change monthly, and sometimes weekly or daily, so I don’t necessarily know what’s next. I do debate whether I want to keep editing anthologies or try something new, but editing the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series has made me more passionate about the process and determined to publish as many authors as I can for as long as I have that opportunity. Other than that, I’ll do my best to keep writing for new publications and stay open to new possibilities.

Thank you Rachel for sharing your plans, your motivations and your inspirations.

Find Out More

Find out more about Rachel’s LitReactor classes here, next taking place in 2017

Or her private erotica writing consulting, via eroticawriting101.com

Look out for various events around the release of Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 2, at the start of 2017. To subscribe for exclusive book giveaways via Rachel’s monthly newsletter, sign up at www.rachelkramerbussel.com

You can find samples of Rachel’s writing here, and can follow Rachel on Facebook or Twitter: including alerts on ebook sales (several are upcoming)

London Triptych, by Jonathan Kemp: a review

 

Jonathan KempJonathan Kemp explores hungers we cannot explain and paints images not only intensely erotic, but tender.  Here, in London Triptych, he shows us the unfolding of three men’s lives, each an unravelling ribbon, fluid, twisting, looking back upon itself. Their stories are confessionals, inviting us to enter the nocturnal, hidden recesses of the psyche. Meanwhile, London’s shadows and secrets echo those within our protagonists, and remind us that we readers, too, have our untold stories.

Each of the tales within the ‘triptych’ takes place, primarily, in London, though separated by five decades. We see the details of the setting change, while the themes remain eternal: our desire for what we cannot articulate; our struggle to express ourselves freely; our eagerness to navigate the ‘geography of possibilities’; our delight in love, glorious, overwhelming and unexpected; and the vulnerability of that state.

1890s rent boy Jack Rose falls into an almost unwilling passion for Oscar Wilde, leading towards a path of disappointment and betrayal.  1950s artist Colin tentatively explores his sexuality, against a backdrop of prudery and prejudice. In the 1990s, David awaits release from prison, telling of the lover who deceived him.

Jonathan Kemp

With each interchanging narrative, we learn more of each protagonist’s history and motivations, and we see the ways in which their stories resemble one other. They do not go in search of love. Rather, it surprises them, catching them off guard. They experience transcendence and then misery: a change in their worldview.

Sex is central to the story, an enduring, irresistible force, with or without love. It is the engine driving each of our narrators to discover a version of the ‘self’ yet out of reach.

Jack Rose tells us: ‘I became a whore in order, not to find myself, but to lose myself in the dense forest of that name.’

However, love is the transformative emotion. Love enervates and destroys, bringing ultimate joy and torture. We are shown its ability to shed light on our restricted, repetitive paths.

Kemp explores what it has meant to be homosexual in a world which views those desires as dangerously inverted, and shows us the tension between pleasure and danger, when there are ‘no laws but those of the body’:

‘When you can be free, free to pursue any desire, acquire any knowledge… it’s the most terrifying place to live. It’s dangerously beautiful…’

Jonathan-KempAs ever, Kemp’s storytelling goes beyond action and consequence, or the clever use of dialogue to reveal character, or the exploration of eternal themes. His talent lies in his use of language, probing words for their secrets, for their ‘blood-beat’, for their ability to reveal ‘meaning held within the contours of the skin’. He returns, again and again, to the inadequacy of language to express the erotic truths of the body, the ‘cannibal, animal hunger’ of desire.

And yet, he, as few authors can, animates the ‘universal language of lust written on the body and spoken by the eyes and fingers’.

He shows us that sex can take us to other destinations within the ‘self’, as if ‘opening doors that lead to other corridors, and other doors’: ‘I am here without knowing how. Suddenly, terrifyingly present. Here, now, lost and hot…

Meanwhile, London itself embodies the elusive, enchanting paradox of existence. It is a place of anonymity, and simultaneous intimacy; London is the unseen, legion-faced (and thus faceless) listener, inviting the narrators to share their secrets. It is a place of judgment (all three stories bring to bear the presence of the law and prospective punishment for homosexual transgression) and of liberation. It is a place of contradictions, just as we are contradictory.

 

Jonathan Kemp 26 Ghosting London TriptychJonathan Kemp teaches creative writing and comparative literature at Birkbeck College, London.

London Triptych, his first novel, won the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Polari Prize and the Green Carnation Prize.

He is also the author of Ghosting (my review here) and 26, my review here.

Hear directly from Jonathan Kemp, on how the novel came to be, here, in an interview with Polari Magazine.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 11.20.45

Also, you may like to visit this article, featuring Jonathan Kemp: Men Writing Erotic Fiction

 

 

 

 

Darkly Delicious Victorianesque Erotica

 

 

 

The Gentlemen’s Club: set in London, 1898

Recommended by Stylist Magazine UK‘A mind-blowing read that balances kinky Victoriana with beautifully crafted prose.’

Buzzfeed: 9 Erotica Books That Should Be More Famous Than ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’: layered protagonists and hot, hot writing.

Bookbub: 8 Series That Take ‘Fifty Shades’ to the Next Level: wild escapades yet tasteful and scintillating: highly recommended.

‘A beautiful example of erotic literature – one that shows the genre to be capable of intelligence and elegance. Wonderful and truly impressive.’  – Malin James

‘This book. This book! This is the book I wish I had written. The language…oh, the language! It grabs you and propels you smack dab into Victorian London from the first paragraph. It weaves a net about you, it draws you in. Iit has you shouting ‘yes, yes, yes,’ like Meg Ryan at the diner, because finally there is a well-rounded, well-written, exquisitely crafted story which redeems the genre.’  – Julia Rist

‘I don’t think that I’ve ever read a book quite as erotic as this one. Ms. de Maupassant! AMAZING – I love every second!!!’  – Ashley S

‘The writing is crisp and evocative, the plot anything but Victorian, with plenty of exceptionally well rendered scenes to titillate even the most jaded reader of erotica.’  – KT McColl

 

advert-emmanuelle-de-maupassant-gentlemens-club-erotic-fiction

Damage by Josephine Hart: a review

Damage is a tale of desperate erotic obsession, and its inevitable path to destruction.

The narrative, told by the male protagonist, eminently respectable, and respected, cabinet Damage Josephine Hart a review minister Fleming, is clinical in its formality, in keeping with his social position. His life revolves around public service, and the care of his family and, at the heart of this seeming ‘order’ he is deeply unhappy.

This very formality, with its lack of true passion, has suffocated him, so that we have some understanding of his leap from empty order into consuming chaos, into the danger of an affair with his son’s fiancée, Anna.

The icy detachment of this narrative is a perfect foil to Fleming’s inner turmoil and the depth of his catastrophic infatuation. His spiralling descent is forever tempered by a façade of civility and order. Josephine Hart’s sparse, simple, even elegant language balances the fevered undercurrents of Fleming’s psychological state.

DAMAGE_610‘… my life would have been lost in contemplation of the emerging skeleton beneath my skin. It was as though a man’s bones broke through the face of the werewolf. Shining with humanity he stalked through his midnight life towards the first day.’1992 film Damage Jeremy Irons Juliette Binoche Josephine Hart a review of the book Emmanuelle de Maupassant

His affair with Anna is both an awakening and a dream-state, a loss of self to the intoxication of desire, and a finding of the self.

Fleming tells us: ‘I eased her gently to the floor. Leaving my elegant disguise on the sofa I became myself.’

We are left in no doubt that destruction is inevitable, that Fleming is at the precipice. There are no mitigating circumstances, and we know that there will be no happy ending, or forgiveness. What we see is a chillingly honest portrayal of sexual obsession, and our potential for destruction: lives damaged, or soon to be so.

Many will be familiar with the wonderful film of the same name, starring Jeremy Irons and 1992 film Damage Jeremy Irons Juliette Binoche Josephine Hart a review of the book Emmanuelle de MaupassantJuliette Binoche, directed by Louis Malle, in which we witness more of the sexual nature of the affair. In her book, Hart does not describe sex at length, and yet we are left in no doubt that the acts are intense.

Fleming tells the reader: ‘We were made for other things. For needs that had to be answered day or night – sudden longings – a strange language of the body.’

They involve a degree of mild violence and of domination (there are references to slavedom, to being tied, and blindfolded, of Anna giving herself over to his will, of being physically ‘arranged’). These scenes leave us with a sense of the brutality of Fleming’s sexual desire, and of Anna’s desire to submit to it.

… there would be time for the pain and pleasure lust lends to love. Time for body lines and Damage-film-still-007angles that provoke the astounded primitive to leap delighted from the civilised skin…There would be time for words obscene and dangerous. There would be time for flowers to put out the eyes and for silken softness to close the ears.’

This is a love story of sorts, as Fleming proclaims in the closing lines, but the journey is heartbreaking, unsettling, terrifying. It is a nightmare from which the protagonists cannot wake. We are shocked, horrified, even to the bitter close, but cannot look away.

Hart reminds us that, when tragedy strikes, as when Anna’s brother Aston kills himself ‘silence, separation and sadness… become a way of life’ trapping us ‘in the unresolved agonies of long ago’. In some part, this is offered as a reason for Anna’s detachment, but we are not invited to judge, only to witness.

We see Fleming acknowledge his folly, cruelty and deceit. He takes full responsibility, never Josephine Hart Damage review by Emmanuelle de Maupassantattempting to apologize or make excuses. He is in the grip of what he knows will destroy him, and we abhor him for it. And yet, we see that he is powerless, just as Anna is powerless.

They are presented as equally culpable and yet, equally, without blame. They are damaged and are destined to destroy not only themselves but others.

At one point, Fleming asks Anna: ‘Who are you?’ and she replies: ‘I am what you desire…’ While Fleming fantasises about the possibility of leaving his wife and living with Anna, she realises that their relationship is outside of normal bounds and social conventions. It is only there that it can exist.

1992 film Damage Jeremy Irons Juliette Binoche Josephine Hart a review of the book Emmanuelle de MaupassantJosephine Hart achieves something rare in this novella: a helplessness that speaks deeply to the reader, a knowledge that, however sane and ordered our life, we carry our own destructive flame, the potential for our own acts of ‘damage’.

Publishing’s Dirty Secret: erotic fiction in the 21st century

publishing dirty secret marketing self-publishing publishers writers marketing editing authorsHaving interviewed just over 130 authors of erotic fiction, this article tackles their experience of working with publishers, and of self-publishing, of the role of marketing, and the importance of releasing well-crafted work. Does erotic fiction remain publishing’s ‘dirty secret’: a genre without due recognition or respect for authors?

As ever, this article is intended as a starting point for discussion. All comments are welcome.

Around 20% of respondents to this survey have worked with larger houses, such as Penguin, Harlequin, Orion, Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette, Simon & Shuster, Little Brown, Pan McMillan, and Nexus.

Some have published with mid-sized houses, such as Cleis, Myriad and Serpent’s Tail, while the overwhelming majority have worked with smaller presses, such as Go Deeper Press, Stupid Fish Productions, Circlet, Little Raven, Stormy Night Publications, Totally Bound, House of Erotica, Accent, Riverdale, Two Dame Productions, Sweetmeats Press, Xcite, Baronet Press, and Blushing Books.

Around half have explored self-publishing with some of their titles, often in addition to having worked with a small press.

A handful have received readership only via their own website or other online platform.

Authors report most of their sales taking place in e-book format, regardless of short story/novella/novel form, while several note that audiobook sales appear to be taking off. Rose Caraway advises, “Make sure that you story works equally well in audio as in print.” She notes that most of her audience (for the KMQ Podcast) listen at work, or at home while doing chores and ‘prefer the privacy and intimacy of audio’.

 

Easy Money?

While it’s well-known that some writers enter the erotic fiction market hoping to earn ‘easy money’, the majority within this survey write, primarily, from creative impulse, with financial reward as a secondary consideration. However, a small number do rely on their writing as their main source of income.

As Wade Esley admits,Initially, I chose to write erotica for a terrible reason. I thought it would be an easy genre to break into, because, in my mind, there kay jaybee erotic fiction author quote writing Emmanuelle de Maupassant publishingwas so much poorly written erotica. How hard could it be to climb to the top of that dung heap? However, the more I read, the more I discovered truly talented writers, and became determined to write quality stories myself.”

Vanessa Wu warns against tailoring your craft purely with sales in mind. She asserts, “If you want to be mediocre and feel luke-warm about yourself and what you do, write for a market. If you want to free your subconscious, touch people and be radiant with pleasure, write for yourself. All the works I like have one thing in common. They capture moments of intensity with clarity and focus. You feel something when you experience them.”

Naturally, where the creative impulse is strong, we write for reasons other than significant financial gain. We write because the impulse cannot be ignored, or because we seek to share our voice.

Kay Jaybee stresses,Don’t expect significant financial return. I’ve been blessed with many private messages, via FB and my webpage. Readers have thanked me, saying that I’ve saved marriages, stopped them feeling lonely and generally improved their personal life. That sort of thing is priceless. Write because you burn to do it. If you are in it for money or prestige then you’ll be disappointed, whoever you publish with.”

Rose and Dayv Caraway note similar satisfaction from receiving listeners’ feedback on their erotic fiction online podcast (more from them here).

Sessha Batto comments,My expectations were high, as most people’s are when they start publishing. It is no surprise that they were dashed almost immediately. Without a following or much targeted promotion it is unrealistic to think sales will be high. As my work is niche at best, those odds are even higher. My best advice is to take a long-term view, grow your audience one reader at a time, and view the work, not the sales figures, as the reward. If you get bogged down in numbers you will always be dissatisfied.”

Brantwijn Serrah tells us, “I’ve put out stories I love and have received feedback from people who’ve loved them too; being a ‘storyteller’ has made me incredibly happy. Financial reward is icing on the cake.”

Speaking of her blog, Molly Moore states that her focus is upon ‘pushing boundaries’. She asserts, “If I never made a penny I would still do it.” She notes that having her own online platform enables her to share work without concern for publishing restrictions.

Rose Caraway tells us, “It’s good to look at your intent. Whatever that is, give it your undivided attention. Remember that it’s ridiculous to imagine that you’ll become a millionaire.”

 

A Living Wage?

While recognizing the pleasure that writing brings of itself, more than half of the survey respondents also mention their desire to earn some form of income from their efforts (modest though that may be). Accordingly, they lament online publishing platforms’ expectation of authors contributing content in return for ‘exposure’ and the low rates offered by some publishers: a position that writers perceive, reasonably, as devaluing their craft.

As Tobsha Learner notes, the Internet has been ‘a mixed blessing’. She says, “On one hand it provides (theoretically) a much larger readership, on the other hand the notion of not having to pay for intellectual property is virtually pandemic in anyone under the age of 35. This basically is suggesting that professional writers do not merit a living wage.”

Laura Antoniou notes that, being commissioned to write short story erotica for men’s magazines in the late 1980s-early 1990s, she received $50 per story. She notes wryly that ‘three decades later, the rate remains the same’.

The reality is that few authors can rely solely on their writing income to maintain a roof over their head; the majority have other employment (or are of retirement age).

Following on from this, Tobsha Learner notes the creative compromises authors are often obliged to make, saying, “’Commerce versus the artistic soul’ is the dilemma all working creatives have to face. In the last ten years, the publishing industry has changed remarkably. Most mid-listers have been wiped out to the point where the advances do not allow enough income to live, so established and highly skilled writers are forced to compromise their work (writing part-time or churning out a book a year to maintain readership and publishers’ expectations).”  

 

Risky Business

One of the most prominent comments by authors within this survey was the expression of disappointment at traditional publishers’ lack of risk-taking.  Jonathan Kemp notes experiencing censorship in 1999, having written an academic article about John Addington Symonds’ homosexuality.  He tells us, “My article quoted some graffiti that Symonds writes about in his memoir: ‘Prick to prick, so sweet’, written next to a crude Sessha Batto author quote erotic fictiondrawing of two pricks. The editor of the volume asked me to remove the phrase.” He felt obliged to concede, being a young academic and this being his first publication. He asserts that he would not do so today.

We might imagine that, of all publishers, those specialising in erotic fiction would be most open minded, and most willing to ‘push limits’ in offering readers diversity. However, being primarily in the business to make money, few wish to take commercial risks. They tend to play safe, either within the realm of romance, or on well-worn ‘trope’ paths. Where does this leave us as authors? Writing repeatedly down the same avenues? (more on this here).

Siri Ousdahl comments, “The erotic books they’ve embraced in recent years had proven track records… so the risk hasn’t been significant. When Random House or Penguin ‘take a chance’ on erotica, the works are far from transgressive.”

Even independent erotica publishers are prone to request ‘light and fun’ stories, with the accent on ‘happy endings’, which are thought to have more commercial appeal, ignoring the huge potential of the genre to take us into the deeper, darker (arguably far more compelling and fulfilling) spaces within the human psyche.  

Patrick Califia tells us,I’ve had publishers tell me they would take my books if only I would not be explicit about sexuality, or stop writing about gay sex, or stop describing kinky acts.”  Kristina Lloyd notes, “I wish more publishers would take risks instead of chasing the latest bandwagon.”

Maxim Jakubowski (known for writing crime and science fiction under his own name) makes note that his publisher advanced the use of a female penname for his co-written erotic-romance series, citing this as a sensible commercial move in the wake of the ’50 Shades’ phenomenon. As his female alter-ego ‘earns five times the level of advances’ he cannot afford to jettison her.

Donna George Storey muses, “I’ve published in over 80 print anthologies and, over the past twenty years, I’ve seen several market cycles. Mainstream publishers solicit erotica in the hope of making money (because that’s what they are about) and when they don’t make as much as they’d like, they blame erotica rather than themselves. But there is always an interest in intelligent, sexually explicit writing among human beings, if not business folk, so the wheel turns again and new editors seek out projects.”

Jonathan Kemp notes, “Getting ‘London Triptych’ published was quite difficult because of the sexual content. Rejection after rejection from mainstream publishers praising the writing but admitting it was just too risqué for them. A small, Brighton-based independent publisher, Myriad Editions, finally took it on, courageously, some might say. He recalls the surprise of a friend’s younger brother, upon hearing that ‘London Triptych’ was available to buy from bookshops, ‘positioned there on the shelf without any warning of its scandalous contents!’ Kemp notes, “That both amused me and made me feel a little bit proud.” He adds that Myriad ‘also brought out ‘Twentysix’, knowing it would be harder to sell than ‘London Triptych’, which was definite bravery’.

Speaking of risk-aversion, Will Crimson emphasizes that, if an author expects a third party to disseminate their work, then ‘their skills as a writer had better be commensurate with their subject matter’. He believes, “The responsibility of the writer isn’t to avoid censorship but to survive it by writing persuasively and beautifully.”

 

Marketing

The majority of authors believe that publishing houses should invest more effort in effective marketing. Lizzie Ashworth comments,Publishers want a big chunk of the profit while expecting the author to market the work. To me, the Cecila Tan erotic fiction author writing skills publishing Emmanuelle de Maupassantonly benefit of a publisher is the promise of reviews, which many small presses don’t bother to solicit.”

Tobsha Learner emphasizes that publishers expect authors to take on much of the responsibility of marketing, despite authors often lacking the skills of ‘natural performers’, so that they ‘struggle to brand their personalities’. She notes, “One of the first things a publisher will now ask a wannabe novelist is how big their ‘platform’ is – this is of far more importance than the actual manuscript.” Tobsha warns, “Do NOT expect ANY publisher (large or small) to market you aggressively – unless you’re already branded. This is an irony and a vicious loop; they will only market you if you are already branded.” 

Janine Ashbless finds, with exceptions (naming Sweetmeats and her work with Cleis some years ago), that larger publishers ‘just churn out books as a production line and you can get lost in the noise’.

Meanwhile, KD Grace comments,I suppose the thing that has shocked me most about the publishing industry is just how abysmal communication is between publishers and authors. There’s a huge disconnect, bringing misunderstanding and lost opportunities.  The right hand often doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”

Ashe Barker tells us, “Not all publishers are as collaborative as I’d like, i.e. not consulting me when deciding to covert all my books to US English, or being rigid on pricing policy to the extent that books are not competitively priced and are difficult to sell. Overall, I’d suggest working with more than one publisher even if you do have a favourite. All eggs in one basket is never a good strategy.”

 Asserting his ‘extremely positive experience’ with his publisher, Myriad, Jonathan Kemp comments, “I’m consulted on cover images and they push their books and authors out into the world effectively, as well as organising great events.” Other praise was notably directed at Go Deeper Press (run by Lana Fox and Jacob Louder), and at Stupid Fish Productions (run by Dayv and Rose Caraway), particularly for work in promoting anthology contributors. Several writers working with Blushing Books and Stormy Night Publications also emphasized effective marketing and professional conduct.

Alexis Alvarez shares, “I started out self-publishing, and then published one with Stormy Night. Despite being of similar quality and content, the edition with Stormy Night sold far better, I assume because of their marketing machine and client base.”   

Jay Willowbay warns of investigating a publishing house carefully before signing your contract. He relates, “My only full-length publication to date was a Adrea Kore editing language fiction writing writers quotehorror novel through a small press. It was a disaster. There was so little editorial work done that it went on sale within a week of me submitting it. I should have smelled a rat. They did no promo and the company quickly went bust.”

Sue Lyndon echoes this, underlining, “I highly recommend that writers do their research…. Look on Absolute Write to see what other writers are saying. Email a few of their authors, and look at the sales rankings for their recent releases on Amazon. If a publisher doesn’t have a good readership, happy authors, eye-catching covers and catchy blurbs, reasonable contract terms, and a reputation for paying royalties on time, you’ll want to move along and look elsewhere.” 

 

Contracts

In offering advice, a great many authors warn against giving away rights arbitrarily. However flattered we are by the attention of a publisher, remain level headed, and read contracts carefully. Be wary of signing off on all your rights in one fell swoop. Separate payments can be negotiated for print, e-book and audio rights (and for print rights across various global regions).

It’s also wise to have a clause in the contract limiting the duration of exclusivity (anything from 3 to 12 months is typical) so that you retain the right to resell your work, or compile within your own anthology.

Moreover, ensure there’s a clause stating that, if a publisher fails to use your work within a specific time period, or ceases operation, that all rights revert to you, as author.  Molly Moore warns that, due to her contract terms within anthologies, a number of stories ‘remain unpublished and therefore have not earned any money or gained readership’.

Contracts do vary, and sums offered for short story submissions are often negligible, while royalty payments (where given) may have relatively high thresholds, and only become payable once editors have received their payment share. Sign with your eyes open.

Adrea Kore urges, “Read your contracts thoroughly – don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek legal advice and re-negotiate clauses if you feel something really doesn’t suit you or impedes your own vision of your work. Respect your own intellectual work and rights as a content creator and, as much as possible, only sign your work with publishers that appear fair, professional and respectful.”

Decide what’s important to you in handing over your work. Do you simply wish your voice to be heard? Is financial recompense a guiding factor? Or are you content with the commercial exposure you believe a publisher can offer you?

IG Frederick feels strongly that authors should ‘walk away from low paying offers’. At US$25 for 3,000 words, she points out that the author is receiving barely 1/10 of a cent per word, ‘while 6 cents per word is considered a professional rate’. She adds, “If you have a royalty share arrangement, be wary of how the prorating is distributed and when payment is triggered. Restricting the rights you sell (particularly the term) allows you to make money on reissue of your work in the future.” IG is desirous of more authors refusing to write for a ‘pittance’ or for exposure, or to sign ‘restrictive contracts’, noting that ‘it would be easier for all of us to make a living’.

 

Taking Control

Around half of the writers taking part in this survey have experience of self-publishing, with most voicing satisfaction at the level of control, being able to choose their own cover, make decisions on final edits, steer their marketing strategy and set prices. Moreover, in undertaking this work themselves, they maximize royalty payments.

Jaye Peaches stresses, “The big advantage of self-publishing is total control over the creative process. I’ve been able to publish books quickly and build my audience in the space of two years. Whereas big publishers move like snails and the lack of momentum is frustrating.”

Self-publishing offers writers the opportunity to make their voice heard, regardless of being viewed as too ‘edgy’ or ‘niche’ by traditional publishers. It invites liberation from compliance with a ‘commercially successful’ formula. In this way, authors are creating their own flavour, outside of genre stereotypes, accessing niche readerships otherwise ignored.

Siri Ousdahl tells us, “I have an extensive career under another name as a traditionally published writer of genre fiction. I was much happier with the indy press that put out one of my recent books than the big NY publishers I had worked with previously. This got me thinking about self-publishing as a legitimate venue for experimental and transgressive works. So far I have loved it. I have total control and have published a book I could not have done through conventional avenues.”

Cecilia Tan suggests using traditional publishing to access readers and marketplaces otherwise inaccessible, while using self-publishing ‘to build access to an audience that you’d be disconnected from if you relied on publishers alone’.  

In most cases, authors note the ease with which self-publishing is possible.

Will Crimson states, “If the author’s only goal is to be disseminated and read, and if the author is protected by anything like the First Amendment (US Constitution), then times have never been better. He or she need only start a blog. Publishing (or self-publishing) is as simple as writing a post─-instantly and easily available to hundreds of millions of readers. In that respect, the dissemination of erotica has never been easier.”

Cara Bristol echoes this, saying, “This is one of the best times to be an author because there are so many opportunities to be published and to market one’s books (although there are still no guarantees). For the first time in the history of publishing, self-publishing is a financially viable, socially-accepted option.” 

A common frustration voiced by authors is that the ease of self-publishing has encouraged some to believe that there is little more to launching a book than replicating another writer’s commercially successful idea, creating a first draft, giving this a cursory read through to check for errors, and choosing a stock-photo cover. The resulting glut of low quality editions has, in the eyes of most, devalued authorial craftsmanship and given self-published works a poor reputation.

Unsurprisingly, creating a polished work and engaging a significant readership involves discernment and persistence. It takes time, focus and certain talent (whether inherent or learnt). As Cecilia Tan notes wryly, “If you’re a terrible cook because you don’t have the skills, you either need to develop the skills or rely on someone else to do the cooking for you. Now replace the word ‘cooking’ Adrea Kore writing craft author quote lanugage reveal concealwith ‘publishing’ in that sentence.”

The foremost advice offered by authors is to invest in the services of a good editor: not only a copy-editor (to correct such issues as grammar and repetition), but a developmental editor, to help the author explore deeper aspects of their work: characterisation, and a compelling story arc, as well as building tension and creating layers of meaning, to fully engage the reader.

Finn Marlowe underlines, “Self-publishers need editors, end of story. Every writer needs another set of eyes, and not just beta readers [early readers of a story, who offer informal feedback to the writer]. If you’re going to publish unedited crap, you might as well not bother, as you will ruin your reputation and your brand before you even get started.”

Writers repeat time and again the necessity of ruthless editing, cutting away the dead wood of redundant detail.

Adrea Kore, emphasizing that every word chosen by the author should serve a definite purpose, underlines that words are like ‘breaths that keep the blood of the story pumping‘ and that ‘no word should be wasted’. Additionally, that the skilled writer ‘knows what to conceal, what to reveal, and the vital relationship between absence and presence on the page’. (more from Adrea on editing here)

Jaye Peaches admits, “I struggled to recover the start-up costs of editing etc. However, I learnt a lot from the editing process.”

Rose Caraway adds, “Spend time on your skills and, when you believe you’re ready for someone to offer feedback, pass it to them to read and critique.  Choose someone you trust, with a good eye for detail. It’s impossible for you to see everything in your own work. Do read aloud to yourself too, as part of the editing process (or have a friend read to you).”

The aspect of self-publishing most commented upon with dislike is the necessity of marketing: an activity essential to the visibility of books. Writers are, often, not natural extroverts, and find the immodesty of ‘blowing their own horn’ excruciating.

Tamsin Flowers comments, “I wouldn’t recommend self-publishing unless a writer is already established in the market and is willing and able to put in a huge amount of time and effort on marketing. It’s really hard to build visibility as a new writer, particularly in erotica.”

Clearly, there are advantages and disadvantages to the traditional and independent routes of publishing, with each offering its own allure.

K L Shandwick states that being self-published allows her to avoid constraints, while ‘the down side is the amount of work that goes into trying to make the Vanessa Wu author erotic fiction writing publishing Emmanuelle de Maupassantbooks visible’. She asserts, “My advice to new authors would be to ensure you have built a brand before you set out. Know the image you’d like to portray to your followers and work hard to build on what you’ve achieved.” She also warns against expecting ‘instant success’.  

Speaking of ‘brand’, Tobsha Learner expresses regret in her chosen path of marketing herself as an author, telling us, “I have made the mistake of writing in several genres and not settling in one and exploiting that genre as a franchise. The concept of genre and placing authors into rigid boxes differs greatly from territory to territory. However, particularly in the UK, once you’re in that box, it is extremely difficult to break out of the way you are perceived. First-timers should not be naïve on this front. Be clear as to what you want to write, how you wish to be seen (not just by the reading public but also by the publishers).”

 

Finding Your Voice and Your Readership

The creative impulse is not borne of desire for financial gain. Any writer will tell you that there are easier (and more lucrative) ways to earn a living. For many, the art of writing and that of generating income make uncomfortable bed-mates; they compromise one another; they compete for attention; they thwart each others’ success. And yet, there is an argument for an author’s work receiving recognition not simply through praise, but through financial reward. Meanwhile, for those dedicating their days to writing full-time, monetary recompense is often essential.

Speaking of her desire to write with readers (and sales) in mind, Cari Silverwood comments, “Some people love to read about the bizarre, wanting to be taken to new places. However, the vast majority of readers want entertainment and they want a happy ending. You can choose to forge a trail that veers off the beaten path a little, and your readership may be willing to accompany you. Veer too far, and you lose readers. Veer a long way, and…crickets.”

Meanwhile, Sessha Batto is an advocate for placing writing craft above the pursuit of meeting reader expectations. She would rather remain true to her vision, and write for her niche. She reminds us, “There are thousands of formulaic books in every conceivable genre, but the ones you remember are the ones that are more, that push boundaries, that sing their own song.”

I believe in the value of our genre, and am keen to see its profile raised, bringing with it greater recognition of authors’ talent.

 Write boldly, write proudly, write with passion.  

Resources

Editing services tailored to erotic fiction

Adrea Kore: creative consultancy, developmental editing, writing workshops, and copy-editing services  

Zak Jane Keir’s Dirty Sexy Edits

IG Frederick’s Pussy Cat Press: editing service

Zander Vyne’s Full Sail Publishing: editing services – info@fullsailpublishing.com

  

Articles on effective editing:

Remittance Girl: Over Writing 

and 

Malin James: Character Limits

 

Workshops to develop writing craft:

Corporeal Writing (run by Lidia Yuknavitch)

and

LitReactor (Rachel Kramer Bussel)  

Further Reading

Coming in 2017

  • Author Influences
  • Writing Craft
  • You may like to view this post, on the ‘Male/Female Hand, in which readers are challenged to identify writers’ gender.
  • Men Reading Erotic Fiction‘ – looking at why men seek out fiction in this genre, and their preferences for style and content.
  • The Erotic Vein: the male pen – on trends in men’s authorship of erotic fiction.

My thanks go to the following authors for giving their time and for their candid answers; my thanks also to authors who contributed their views anonymously.

Tobsha Learner, Laura Antoniou,  Susan St. Aubin, Shanna Germain, Remittance Girl, Malin James, Janine Ashbless, Adrea KoreKristina LloydJonathan Kemp, Patrick Califia, Maxim Jakubowski, Cecilia Tan, Donna George StoreyKathe Koja, Justine Elyot, Raziel Moore, Will Crimson, Sorcha BlackCari Silverwood, Siri Ousdahl, L.N. BeyZander VaneTamsin Flowers, Krissy KneenZak Jane Kier, Jade A WatersAshley Lister, KD Grace, Kay Jaybee, Nya RawlynsTerrance Aldon Shaw, Sessha Batto, Rose CarawayAllen Dusk, Tabitha RayneMarc Angel, Elizabeth Safleur, Jeremy Edwards, Spencer Dryden, Devi AnseviNicholas Tanek, K. L. Shandwick, I.G. Frederick, Jacqui Greaves, Ina MorataFinn MarloweElsa Holland, Elizabeth SchechterAleksandr Voinov, Lucy Felthouse, Alexis AlvarezR.V. Raiment, J.D. Lexx, Lily HarlemThomas Roche, Madeline MooreRia Restrepo, Scarlet DarkwoodWade Esley, Victoria Bliss, Jane GilbertJim Lyon, Charlie Powell, Cate Ellink, Chase Morgan, Lee SavinoC.P. McClennanElizabeth BlackC.J. Czelling, Felicity Brandon, Nicolette HugoFrank Noir, Amelia SmartsNobilis Reed, Sue MacNicol, Cassandra ShawArdent RoseSylvia Storm, Renee Rose, Rachel de Vine, Cherry Wild, Patient Lee, Pandora Spocks, Suzette Bohne’ Sommers, Molly Synthia, Charlie Bee, Meg Amor, Lizzie Ashworth, Cara Bristol, Finn Marlowe, C.A. Bell, Brantwijn Serrah, Aubrey Cara, Kathleen BradeanJay Willowbay, Stormchase, Lisa Fox, Allyson Young, Vinnie Tesla, Emma Jaye, Dennis Cardiff, Dee Maselle, Frank Lee, Christina Mandara, Big Ed Magussun, Sue Lyndon, T.J. Vermillion, David Flint, Delores Swallows, Vanessa Wu, Ian Smith, Rebecca BranchJaye Peaches, Molly Moore, Ashe Barker, Tilly Andrews and Catherine Mazur.

Like Water For Chocolate: a review

Like Water for Chocolate Laura Esquivel review Exploring the burning pleasure and pain of physical desire is Laura Esquivel’s ‘Like Water for Chocolate’. It is an erotic tale in the purest sense, delving the agony of repressed love, and the intense delight and suffering of which we are capable. It evokes the smells and tastes of the body, as well as those of the kitchen, showing the power of the senses to overwhelm us.

Tita falls in love with Pedro. Their eyes meet, and:
‘She understood how dough feels when it is plunged into boiling oil… The heat that invaded her body was so real. She was afraid she would start to bubble… like batter.’

Even a single look can be erotic. Pedro finds Tita grinding ingredients in the kitchen and his gaze transforms her ‘from chaste to experienced’ without even Like-Water-for-Chocolate-film-images-13fcd109-647b-4368-80dd-f6556923164touching. She is ‘like water for hot chocolate’ because she is ‘on the verge of boiling over‘ with desire.

Every erotic experience is conveyed in terms of food and cooking, rising heat, flesh seared and long simmering. Chillies appear in recipes repeatedly, symbolising the fiery heat of passion. Tita’s emotional journey is told alongside and through her creation of cuisine.

Tita’s fearsome mother, Elena, insists that Tita must never marry, being destined to take care of her until the day she dies. Pedro agrees to marry older sister Rosaura instead, declaring it as a means of staying close to his beloved, but, of course, as a servant declares, ‘You can’t just exchange tacos for enchiladas!’

Like Water for Chocolate Laura Esquivel review Passion is contained and beaten into submission as surely as Tita herself whips eggs into meringue. Each dish provides a metaphor for Tita’s love life and cooking remains her only way of expressing her emotions, with magical results. Weeping as she beats the wedding cake for Pedro and Rosaura, her tears enter the mixture. As each guest takes a bite, they are overcome by an intense longing for their lost loves, by sadness at opportunities missed and sacrifices made. Their despair is such that they end by vomiting it from their bodies, like poison.

When Tita pours her sexual yearning into her Quail in Rose Petal Sauce, her blood mixing with the soft petals, she induces in her guests a sexual frenzy. The dish brings on a ‘voluptuous delight’, acting as an aphrodisiac so potent that Gertrudis, Tita’s other sister, feels ‘an intense heat pulsing through her limbs’. She rushes to an outdoor shower to cool off but her body is so like water for chocolate esquivel reviewpowerfully charged that the wooden boards catch fire.

Gertrudis’s sexual allure is carried upon the air to the nose of the captain of the rebel troops, Juan, who leaves the field of battle to whisk her off, quite naked, to become his lover. The scent of her ‘red-hot fire’ draws him and he recognises ‘the lust that leapt from her eyes, from her every pore’. He scoops her onto his horse and they make love for the first time, immediately. ‘The movement of the horse combined with the movement of their bodies.’

Gertrudis is so filled with amour that one man cannot satisfy her, and we hear that she seeks out employment at a brothel, before joining the rebel troops, Like Water for Chocolate a review Esquivel and rising to the position of general. There, she meets Juan once more, and they become marrie