Kay Jaybee – Writing Sex and Disability

Kay Jaybee is no stranger to my blog, regularly popping in to share news of her latest releases, and letting us know what inspires her writing (see more here). Today, she’s talking about the final novel in her Perfect Submissive trilogy (Knowing Her Place) and the challenge of writing disability within erotica.

The third volume in Kay’s trilogy continues Jess Sanders’ erotic journey of self discovery. Having survived her exercise and endurance-based submissive training in Book 1 (The Fifth Floor), and being held hostage in Book 2 (The Retreat), Jess is about to face her biggest challenge.

 Full of unanswered questions after her erotic fairytale experience at the hands of David Proctor and his staff at The Retreat in Scotland, Jess Sanders is desperate to return to her submissive position at the exclusive Fables Hotel in Oxfordshire.

Having been thwarted in his plans to keep Jess at The Retreat permanently, Proctor isn’t willing to let Jess go back to her employer, Mrs Peters, without sending her on one final mission. Only if she succeeds in her task, will Proctor remove the collar of servitude he has locked around Jess’s neck.

With a list of five unfamiliar addresses in her hand, Jess is placed in a car and driven away from The Retreat towards England. With no idea of what, or who, awaits her at each location, all Jess can hope for is that her journey will eventually take her back to where she belongs: to the fifth floor of the Fables Hotel, where Jess Sanders truly knows her place.

Kay tells us, “One of the biggest challenges a writer can take on is the creation of a story on a subject about which they know nothing: especially when the subject they wish to tackle involves emotions they’ll never truly comprehend, regardless of how much research they do. After a request from a wheelchair-bound reader, not long after the first book of The Perfect Submissive Trilogy came out, I decided to bite the bullet (not without some hesitation), and make one of the people Jess is forced to visit disabled.”knowingherplace_socialmedia

In fact, this wasn’t the first time Kay had considered writing erotica to include characters with disabilities.  Almost completely deaf in one ear, and very deaf in the other, deafness is a subject Kay feels she can relate to. She explains, “Perhaps I have the knowledge which gives me the right to commit a tale about a deaf person to paper. Blindness is another condition of which I have some experience. My husband lost 50% of his sight after an illness some years ago: an event which led to complete blindness for a while. Although I’ve never yet written stories featuring either deaf or blind people, this is more due to lack of time than any cowardice on my part and is something I plan for the future.”

For Knowing Her Place, Kay decided to create a wheelchair-bound character for Jess to entertain. “I’ll admit to being a little fearful when I was drafting the scenes. I worried that I’d inadvertently write something crass – or worse – patronising. Even now, with the finished product out there for scrutiny, I remain nervous. But, with lots of positive encouragement from my reader, and inspired by well written erotica involving wheelchair users, such as the excellent Wheels on Fire (by Mathilde Madden) – a short story in Black Lace’s Best of Wicked Words 10 collection, I created Harry Bishop: a wheelchair-bound woman whom Jess’s nemesis, David Proctor, owes big…”

Here’s an extract to set the scene…

…Jess’s muscles tingled as the uncertain nature of what she was about to face doubled now she had arrived at the correct address.

Number 52 was right in front of her. With a finger at the collar, reminding her why she was here in the first place, Jess knocked.

Almost a minute passed. There was no movement from within. Jess began to wonder if David had told the occupant to keep her waiting outside as long as possible to make her edgier than she already was. Or perhaps they’d forgotten she was coming. What would happen if that was the case – if she’d been forgotten, or if David sent her somewhere she wasn’t really expected at all? What was she supposed to do with only small change and no mobile phone on her?

Before Jess could go any further down the road of hysteria, she saw a shadow approaching through the small, square glass window in the front door.

Awkwardly, the door was edged open, and Jess found herself looking down into the face of a very attractive, extremely cross young woman.

‘For fuck’s sake, didn’t he tell you I was stuck in this bloody contraption?’

‘No. No, he didn’t. All I was told was that I was meeting someone called Harry Bishop. Is that you?’

The girl’s voice hung heavy with anger. ‘Yeah, that’s me, and I can well imagine David enjoyed making you think I was a man. I assume that’s what he did?’

‘He did.’

The girl wheeled her chair back into the wide hallway. ‘Come in, Miss Sanders, and I will tell you what service I require from you, for I assume David hasn’t told you that either.’

Hoping her shock didn’t show on her face, Jess walked into the hall as directed, carefully assessing the blonde woman who was staring back at her with similar curiosity.

Perhaps 25 or 26 years old, her porcelain face was sprinkled with light freckles, and her eyes were a piercing indigo which Jess had no doubt would have kept her previous companion fascinated for hours. She was dressed in washed-out blue denims and a tight-fitting T-shirt that did nothing to hide the extent of her chest, which seemed even bigger than perhaps it was due to the spindled nature of her frame from the waist down. Harry’s thin-framed spectacles had slid down her nose, making her look like a belligerent librarian.

‘So, you’re young, then.’

Jess wasn’t sure whether this was a complaint or a complement, so she replied politely, ‘A little older than you, I suspect, Miss Bishop.’

‘And what makes you so sure I’m a miss? This fuckin’ wheelchair, I expect!’

Jess felt her cheeks blanch. ‘No, not at all; I just … Well, you look so young.’

‘If you say so.’ Pushing herself past Jess, Harry headed towards the end of the hallway. ‘Well, come on, then! You can’t sort me out from there!’

This was new ground for Jess. She was used to being on the wrong end of people’s tempers, but it was usually to do with their sexual aggression. This felt personal, as if she was being blamed for being there somehow.

‘I’m sorry if I offended you. I don’t know what it is you want me to do.’

‘Oh really!’ Disbelief dripped from the woman’s lightly rouged lips. ‘And so that collar around your neck is just jewellery, is it?’

Jess didn’t reply, but retreated into her submissive role, her lowered eyes taking in as much of her surroundings as possible. They were in a large, open-plan living room now, with a short sofa and a table with only one other chair alongside a home cinema-sized television and a low coffee table, which was covered in books, magazines, spent coffee cups and chocolate wrappers. On a desk piled with reference books sat a laptop. This was without doubt the hub of the flat and served as an office as well as a place of relaxation. Cleaning up was obviously an optional extra.

‘Cat got your tongue?’ Harry wheeled over to her desk, regarding Jess more quizzically. ‘Look at me! Do you honestly not know what David has sent you here to do?’

Feeling incredibly self-conscious as she stood next to Harry, peering down at the top of the girl’s yellow hair, Jess said, ‘Beyond knowing you require me to entertain you in a way of your choosing, presumably sexual, I truly have no idea what you intend me to do, nor how long we have in which to do it.’

Harry ran her eyes over Jess, from her booted feet, up her stockinged legs, to her shirt-covered chest, and her shoulder-length red bob, before dropping her gaze back to her breasts. Her voice became less sarcastic and hectoring. ‘You really didn’t know about the wheelchair, did you?’

knowingherplace_ebookKay tells us, “If you want to know what kinky service Jess provides for Harry (and kinky is underselling it to be honest), then all is revealed within the final part of this fast paced BDSM trilogy.”

After Knowing Her Place first came out (this re-release is the novel’s second edition) it received an honouree mention at the National Leather Awards in America (2015), for the Pauline Reage award for “Excellence in BDSM writing concerning disabilities”. Kay adds, “At the time, I had no idea such an award even existed, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to be recognised in this way. (Who is Pauline Reage? Well, she wrote the acclaimed Story of O). Last week, at a local literary festival, I was asked if there was any subject I wouldn’t tackle within erotica. The answer to that is a clear ‘no’. However, that claim comes with an unshakable rider – that respect and understanding (or an acceptance of my lack of understanding) has to be maintained. Erotica has to be as much about trust and respect in the world of fiction as in reality. Oh! I should tell you that my lovely reader adores the story of Harry Bishop. If she hadn’t, I’d never have published that bit!”

Although each of The Perfect Submissive Trilogy novels can be read on their own, reading them in order is recommended.

Find the trilogy on Amazon, and at all good book and e-book retailers.

Buy links for Knowing Her Place

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon AU
Amazon CA
Barnes & Noble
iBooks UK
iBooks US
Smashwords

The Fifth Floorhttps://wp.me/P75ZDl-u9

The Retreathttps://wp.me/P75ZDl-10E

_MG_1689More about Kay 

Kay Jaybee was named Best Erotica Writer of 2015 by the ETO.

Kay received an honouree mention at the NLA Awards 2015 for excellence in BDSM writing.

Kay Jaybee has over 180 erotica publications including, The Retreat- Book2: The Perfect Submissive Trilogy (KJBooks, 2018), Making Him Wait (Sinful Press, 2018),The Fifth Floor- Book1: The Perfect Submissive Trilogy(KJBooks, 2017), Wednesday on Thursday (KDP, 2017), The Collector (KDP, 2016), A Sticky Situation (Xcite, 2013), Digging Deep (Xcite 2013), Take Control (1001 NightsPress, 2014), and Not Her Type (1001 NightsPress), 2013.

Details of all her short stories and other publications can be found at www.kayjaybee.me.uk

You can follow Kay on:

Twitter-https://twitter.com/kay_jaybee

Facebook –http://www.facebook.com/KayJaybeeAuthor

Goodreads-http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3541958-kay-jaybee

Brit Babes Site- http://thebritbabes.blogspot.co.uk/p/kay-jaybee.html

Kay also writes contemporary romance and children’s picture books as Jenny Kane www.jennykane.co.uk  and historical fiction as Jennifer Ash www.jenniferash.co.uk

 

 

 

SaveSave

Author Influences : Donna George Storey

If you’re a fan of erotic fiction, you’re probably familiar with the incredible writing of Donna George Storey, where storytelling and scorchingly hot scenes combine in perfect harmony.

Donna tells us, “Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved the way a good story can transport me to another world, giving the magical sense of living another person’s life. I’d always been drawn to creating stories and characters of my own. I wrote a novella for my senior thesis in college, but then didn’t write creatively for another 14 years! In my mid-thirties, after a stint in academia and the birth of my first child, my urge to write creatively returned with a new intensity. I not only began to write with great passion, but began to read with a new eye and a new appreciation for the art and craft of storytelling.”

“Authors who impressed me at that time were women who had a confident and nuanced sensibility. Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse amazed me for its keen insight into the magic of ordinary life and its effortless movement through the consciousness of  varied characters. Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Mary McCarthy’s The Group inspired me with their sharp wit and clear vision of the female experience within a male-dominated society. Their sensibilities and voices drove me to do the same, to the best of my ability — to report on the truth of the female experience, seeing the humor and the beauty in our lives.”

“I found that my storytelling always turned to erotic themes, and felt ashamed to be writing “dirty stories.” Serendipitously, at that time I came upon a trio of inspiring books: The Mammoth Book of International Erotica, edited by Maxim Jakubowski; Best American Erotica 1997, edited by Susie Bright, and Diane di Prima’s Memoirs of a Beatnik. These books showed me that erotica can be intelligent, challenging and mind-expanding, exciting to the mind as well as to the libido. Di Prima’s contention that “there are as many kinds of kisses as there are people on the earth” and her brilliant description of several kissing styles still amazes and challenges me to capture the truth of the erotic experience in my own work. I must add, however, that it’s only the first two chapters of Memoirs of a Beatnik that I liked—the chapters about her affair with Ivan that had plenty of romance and emotion. After that, the book devolves into what it apparently was—stories written for the rent money for a pornographic press. The difference between the two sections was instructive to me. I adore sex stories with some sense of attraction beyond the physical, but am impatient with formulaic writing. Di Prima did actually have an affair with a man like Ivan. I’m not saying all writing is autobiographical in the strictest sense, but that section felt very real. That’s what I aspire to in my writing.”

“I think it’s a myth that writers are solitary geniuses who create their novels from nothing. For me, writing is more like a dialogue with authors who’ve come before, and those destined to come after. There are endless possibilities for the imagination, revealing the secrets of our inner lives. Storytelling is about connection, about expressing experience as freshly and vividly as I’m able, so that I can reach out to my readers, sharing what we rarely can in our ordinary lives. I feel connected to my favourite authors and often pick up their works to “prime the pump” when I’m writing. If I’m having trouble with my concluding sentence or first line, it helps me to read several first lines of good stories. I don’t copy, but I get in the mind-space of “good first line” and it really seems to help! Above all, the vision and humor of Mary McCarthy, Virginia Woolf, Diane di Prima and Muriel Spark encourage me to give the reader my best effort and not hold back. I feel I write better stories, especially erotic ones, when I remember this is not about me, this about us.”

On the subject of film, Donna views it as the ‘premier storytelling form of our age’, alongside television. “When my not-so-mainstream novel Amorous Woman was published, a lot of people asked when the movie version was coming out. Not that they were totally serious, but a movie adaptation is the mark of an “important” work of fiction. I’m impressed by the collaborative nature of making a movie; it’s not just one person’s vision. A successful film requires so many different levels of artistry and co-operation. That helps me appreciate how a published work also involves various levels of dedication—editing, publishing, marketing, reaching the reader. Also, I’ve found “how to write screenplays” books more helpful for my fiction than how-to’s aimed at fiction writers. Robert McKee’s Story is an equally useful guide to writing a good novel. The focus on the structure of the story is particularly helpful, as I can sometimes get lost in the words when I’m writing.”

Lauren Bacall in ‘To Have and Have Not’ (1944) 

Speaking of the treatment of sex in film, Donna laments that the heterosexual male gaze tends to dominate. “Many ‘sexy’ movies don’t reach me emotionally. In considering the ones that have, my list includes In the Mood for Love (2000), Raise the Red Lantern (1991), The Lover (1992) and the conversation in the hotel lounge between George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight (1998). I’ll add the “You know how to whistle, Steve, don’t you?” scene from To Have and Have Not (1944). What do they have in common? The exploration of the erotic through sizzling words and suggestive images, keeping the viewer suspended in a state of possibility. Actual sex scenes can destroy that magic because they reduce the act to two particular actors, whereas the moments before are tinder to the imagination. What happens off-screen occurs in our own minds and is more exciting than what we see.”

She adds, “My stories are explicit, but these films helped me realize that the sexiest scenes involve the building of tension and desire. It might not be a coincidence that the majority of the films I’ve listed are made in Asia and/or have an Asian theme. Nuance and suggestion tend to be more appreciated in Asia. Out of Sight is pure Hollywood, but they got it right at least in that one scene!”

Donna is currently researching a historical novel set in New York City, in the 1910s. “To my surprise, I’m finding the most exciting source material to be paintings from that time, in particular the Ashcan School artists, and the work of John Sloan. Photography captures things ‘as they are’ (although we know photography is an art… just look at Alfred Stieglitz) while a more impressionistic mode of painting was well established by the early twentieth century. While we might think that photographs would be a better source, to gain a sense of life at the time, I’ve found most to be stiff and posed, due to technological limitations. They’re great for buildings and costume, but a little bit low on life energy. The Ashcan School artists, however, were trying to capture the vitality of the city on their canvases; I think they succeed where photographs of the time didn’t. Photographs express the sensibility of photography, but for this project, I’m really impressed by the way John Sloan can evoke a mood, an entire personality, and a time period in a few lines or strokes of paint.”

Roofs, Summer Night (1906) – John Sloan

Donna continues, “Another theme in John Sloan’s work is his inclusion of the erotic voyeur’s experience within the painting or drawing itself. Japanese pornographic prints of the Edo period often included a figure spying on the lovers, and I appreciate how this adds an element of spice to the scene—as if our own sexual arousal is reflected in the watching figure. I’m thinking of Roofs, Summer Night (1906) and Turning Out the Light (1905). Sloan chooses scenes we might easily observe as a city dweller in less wealthy parts of town. Roofs is set on the rooftop of an apartment building where residents would sleep to gain relief from the summer heat. A man eyes sleeping women in their shifts, enjoying the exposed flesh; there’s no getting around the erotic implications. We can feel the voyeur’s desire for another man’s wife, a hundred and ten years later.”

Turning Out the Light (1905) – John Sloan

Donna notes that Turning Out the Light fascinates her in representing exactly what she wishes to do in her own writing: ‘peek into the bedroom window of the early twentieth century’. “I love how the woman is so voluptuous and eager to proceed with the evening’s activities. I love the subtle way that the man’s anticipation is shown, in his confident posture, and in the look the two lovers exchange. It’s smouldering. That one image inspires me when I need a little juice to keep going with a long and complicated story!”

“Last year I saw a staging of John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt: A Parable. I’d seen the film (2008) several years before and really liked it, but the acting in this particular stage version was excellent, giving me a new understanding of the power of dialogue in advancing a story. I’ve long been aware that dialogue tends to be the most arousing element in an erotic story. I try to step back and listen to my characters speaking to each other, as if I’m watching a play. So, the theatrical experience is an important part of my writing.”

“I acted as I much as I could in high school and in college, becoming someone else for a while. I’m sure that spirit lingers in my creative life.”

Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman and The Mammoth Book of Erotica Presents the Best of Donna George Storey 

Find her at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com

SaveSave

Author Influences : Malin James

 

Malin began exploring erotic fiction about five years ago, with the first piece she ever wrote accepted by Rachel Kramer Bussel for The Big Book of Orgasms, published by Cleis Press. “I doubt I’d have stuck with the genre if Rachel hadn’t plucked it up,” Malin admits. “Writing it was kind17465824._UY446_SS446_ of a lark.”

Since then, Malin has created a wealth of captivating short-story fiction, often inspired by fairy tales, folklore and magical realism, exploring the themes of grief, isolation, alienation, connection, self-discovery, power dynamics and psychological expression through sex. She’s known for her originality, her powerful characterisation and her mastery of beautiful prose.

“Sharing my work with readers is a natural extension of writing. There’s a symbiotic relationship between the story and the reader. Without the reader, a story only gets a half-life, so submitting my work for publication has always been a natural part of 51M-N0h8tLL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_the writing process,” Malin asserts. “As for what I’d like people to come away with…empathy I suppose. Or resonance. A sense of understanding — feeling understood and, more importantly, gaining an understanding of situations or people who may fall outside their realm of personal experience. My stories should feel like slices of other people’s lives that the reader can experience in some way.”

“The authors who inspire me — Angela Carter, AffinitySarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson, Anais Nin — explore what it is to live, love, hate, and hurt, and they do so beautifully (and arousingly) with sex. They’re an intersection between the literary and erotic,” asserts Malin. “Their exploration of sexual themes occurs with fearlessness and frankness; it’s the lack of implied apology that appeals most to me.”

driversseatShe adds, “The Magic Toyshop and The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter, have made me aware of my sexuality in a much more complicated way, while Muriel Spark’s The Driver’s Seat has opened my eyes to my own lack of sentimentality, just as Affinity, by Sarah Waters, has made me aware of how deeply my empathy runs. Angela Carter’s emphasis on sexuality as mundane, profane 81026and transcendent has definitely influenced my storytelling. Muriel Spark’s work has given me permission to be unflinching and unapologetic with my characters, and Sarah Waters has taught me to pay attention to physical and emotional details, which are often more telling than paragraphs of exposition.”

Malin trained as a ballet dancer with the San Francisco Ballet until she was 18 before moving into NYU’s acting program at Tisch School of the Arts and, later, to San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre. In her mid-twenties, she began to concentrate her energies on writing. Malin double majored in acting and English, and has a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature (focusing on the medieval period in Spain, France and CretienEngland). She underlines, “My acting training (as well as the critical training I received during my MA) directly influences my writing in many subtle ways: particularly in how I approach characters and the circumstances that inform the narrative arc. I think of writing in terms of lenses and angles—sex is, very often the lens, but the angle is determined by influences, from things I’ve done and read.”

Malin tells us, “My fascination with form and narrative and, most notably, character is grounded in plays and staging.” She particularly notes Fool for Love, by Sam Shepard, for its ‘sparseness, violence and emotional interiority’. The play directly inspired some of the stories in Roadhouse Blues, Malin’s newly released short fiction anthology, event_venus_in_furpublished by Go Deeper Press. Malin also names David Ives’ Venus in Fur, for its ‘cleverly subversive viciousness’ and Prelude to a Kiss, for its ‘use of magical realism to examine a woman’s fear of death’.

“The SF Ballet’s production of Prokofiev’s Cinderella also touched me deeply,” Malin adds. “The Russian composers who drew from myth, legend and fairy tales have influenced me most: Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Stravinsky’s ballets have taught me about pacing and the need for emotional hooks.”

Malin admits that, in watching films, she tends to pay more attention to the actorsRita-Hayworth-Gilda-Poster than plot. She names The English Patient, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (directed Francis Ford Coppola) and Gilda (starring Rita Hayworth) as influential films for her writing, as well as Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Shadow of a Doubt and Vertigo. “While they’re all very different, there’s something compelling in their emotional landscape: a tension and melancholic tragedy. That said, one of my favorite movies of all time is Clue; I love the ridiculous humor of it.”

Edward Hopper Summer Evening
Edward Hopper’s Summer Evening

Art is another important influence for Malin. She explains, “Often, a story will start as a central image and evolve from there. Edward Hopper’s paintings are a massive inspiration. All of them: his nudes, landscapes, and slices of observed life. His work has a human element and a loneliness that’s prompted much of my work, directly and subconsciously. Hopper is all over my Roadhouse Blues.

by nicolas laborie - malin james
Malin James, photographed by Nicolas Laborie

Malin is also a fan of Ansel Adams, Jack Vettriano and Jeanloup Sieff and the photography by Nicolas Laborie, Marc Legrange and Marco Sanges, as well as the wonderful studio portraits of Golden Era Hollywood.

Often listening to classical and jazz while writing, Malin says that it encourages her stream of thought. “Debussy’s Claire de Lune, Andras Schiff performing Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis, are the aural equivalent of meditation,” Malin explains, adding, “I love early Tom Waits. Oh, my god, do I love early Tom Waits. And electroswing. like Caravan Palace, and regular swing, as performed by Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. I also love Billy Holiday and Nina Simone, and Medieval choral music (like the Tallis Scholars). Really, I’m all over the map.”

About Malin James

malin james by nicolas laborie
Malin James, photographed by Nicolas Laborie

“I’m fairly boring in real life,” Malin jokes. “I love to knit and bake and do all introverted things with wild abandon. This restores my mental and emotional energy, for my work. I live with my husband and daughter, who are the loves of my life, as well as two lovely, meddling cats and many, many, many overflowing bookshelves. Outside of writing, I love to read. I would happily spend my life in books.”

Malin’s short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies for Cleis Press, including Best Women’s Erotica 2015 edited by Violet Blue. Her work has been narrated by Rose Caraway for The Kiss Me Quick’s Erotica podcast, as well as for anthologies for her Roadhouse Blues by Malin James jpgcompany, Stupid Fish, including the #8Authors project, Libidinous Zombie. The Master, her fencing novella, came out with Sweetmeats Press in an anthology called The Athletic Aesthetic. She has recently released her collection of linked short stories, Roadhouse Blues, with Go Deeper Press. Read my review (with commentary from Malin) here.

Find Malin at www.malinjames.com

Twitter: @MalinMJames

Facebook: Malin James

and on Go Deeper Press: www.godeeperpress.com

Author Influences : Leslie McAdam

I became friends with Leslie McAdam last year, during release of the bestselling Because Beards anthology, in which we both featured, raising funds for the Movember Foundation.

In 2014, Leslie was diagnosed with clinical depression, and began receiving hospital treatment.

“It’s embarrassing for me to admit,” she comments. “I have an advanced degree and a steady job. I’ve been married, with children, for a long time; I did what was expected and did everything right, but giving to others, without taking care of myself, made me depressed. Part of my depression was from repressing my feelings.  I didn’t let myself be angry, or hurt, sad, or upset.  I also didn’t let myself feel pleasure. Through help, medication, better diet, exercise, and learning to say no, I recovered, slowly, from depression. But something was missing.”

Leslie read Fifty Shades of Grey and had an epiphany: that it was permissible for women to be sexual, to read erotic fiction, to talk about it, and embrace their arousal. “By reading it, I gave myself permission to be sexual,” Leslie asserts. “I got a whole lot closer to my husband, and through pursuing pleasure, pursuing the feel-good hormones from an orgasm, being in communities that are sex-positive, I’ve really recovered from the depression.  I can say that, without a doubt, opening myself up to sex, in a healthy and positive way, made my life so much better.”

She realised also that, to find her bliss, she needed to pursue her dream of writing. Leslie draws on her own experience to write about recovery from mental illness, as well as exploring such topics as addiction, low self-esteem and poor body image. As she explains, “I try to always write about what I know or have experienced.”

Leslie’s stories portray our common pre-occupations, anxieties, and fears, and the universality of our desire to love and be loved.

“My first novel, The Sun and the Moon, is about a depressed lawyer who recovers from sexual repression with the help of a sexy surfer.  It won a Watty, which is the world’s largest online writing competition.” In writing the story, she aimed to reach out to others living with depression, or who feel sexually repressed, hoping they find solace.

Leslie is a fan of anything that acknowledges, and celebrates, women’s sexual nature. She laughs, “Magic Mike XXL has the barest whisper of a plot (“we’re getting the band back together!”), but it doesn’t matter. It’s a joy to watch Channing Tatum and the rest of them dance!”

Maynard Dixon 1931 October Gold
Maynard Dixon 1931 October Gold

Leslie also has a soft spot for old Fred Astaire films, delighting in the amazing movement of the body (she studied ballet as a child) and often listens to music while she writes. She played Wild Child’s Break Bones repeatedly while creating All the Waters of the Earth. “The strong female voice has a heart-breaking quality,” says Leslie. “However, Beck is my favourite, and has been since I was a radio DJ, in the 1990s, in college. More recently, when I wrote The Ground Beneath Our Feet, I was influenced by the twenty one pilots’ song, Car Radio.”

Leslie often paints, using oils to capture the colours of her home landscape, in California. She names Maynard Dixon (whose Californian landscapes, and portraits, have great realism, and use colour vividly) as an influence on her painting, and on the way she approaches ‘painting’ characters and settings in her fiction.

One of Leslie’s film favourites is The Secret of Roan Inish. As Leslie explains, ‘It’s a fairy tale about a fearless young girl who goes to look for her little brother, who she finds watched over by seals. I saw it in the theatre when it came out in the 1990s and have loved it ever since. I named my daughter Fiona after the heroine. I like her bravery and her fierce desire to take care of her family.”

She also adores the quirkiness of Wes Anderson’s films, and The Darjeeling Limited in particular. She relates, “Three brothers go on a trip across India by train, carrying their deceased father’s baggage, with an itinerary for their spiritual journey. It resonated with me for a long time.”

17474014_1740825132913879_1183380954_oYou can purchase Leslie’s Giving You box set at http://amzn.to/2veo2eQ

Book One: The Sun and the Moon
Book Two: The Stars in the Sky
Book Three: All the Waters of the Earth
Book Four: The Ground Beneath Our Feet

 

About Leslie McAdam

Leslie McAdam has written four novels (the Giving You series) and co-wrote All About the D with with Lex Martin. Her novella, Lumbersexual, won first place in the Romance category of the Summer Indie Book Awards, while her novel The Sun and the Moon won a prize in the world’s largest online writing competition (the 2015 Watty). Her short story Man Bun Christmas received a Wattpad romance award.

She lives in a drafty old farmhouse on a small orange tree farm in Southern California, with her husband and two small children. Leslie always encourages her kids to be themselves – even if it means letting her daughter wear leopard print from head to toe. She loves camping with her family, and mixing up oil paints to depict her love of outdoors on canvas. An avid reader from a young age, she’ll always trade watching TV for reading a book, unless it’s Top Gear. Or football.

 

Find Leslie at18318223_448344175517796_1463840938_o

www.lesliemcadamauthor.com

www.facebook.com/lesliemcadamauthor

www.instagram.com/mcadam_leslie

www.twitter.com/lesliemcadam

SaveSave

SaveSave

Author Influences : Tabitha Rayne

 

Tabitha Rayne lives with three two-eyed cats and one single-eyed cat, in the country, where she has the joy and heartbreak of rescuing injured animals. She feels certain that, if more people read erotica, they’d ‘reach out to their fellow humans more readily and world peace would ensue…’ #EroticaForWorldPeace

She declares, “My main motivation for writing erotica is to turn my readers on, and make them feel good about that. I also love to explore the inner workings of my characters, by bringing in their sexual and sensual experience. They usually have an obstacle to overcome (like the world dying around them, or a sudden, life-changing injury). It’s their intimate, inner world which drives my work. My writing doesn’t always end in sex or climax, but I like to think it’s always erotically charged. Hooray for erotica! I think it can be overlooked in terms of exploring the human psyche.”

Tabitha adds, mischievously, “It’s not all about the fucking…  though of course, it can be…”

Music is a huge influence in Tabitha’s work. She reveals, “If I want to feel horny, to get in the mood for a big fuck scene, I put on Whole Lotta Love by Led Zepplin. God, that is a sexy song. Honestly, I could go on for hours about music. I go to see bands and concerts a lot and get so fired up. No musical genre is excluded, from country to classical, rap to rock, folk to jazz, dubstep and drum n bass – I love it all.”

“If I ever need to be transported I listen to Chopin’s Valse 64 ,” Tabitha adds. “Then there’s the dark sublime grind of Be Your Dog, by the Stooges; this gets me growling with energy and desire. Music gets me so high. Really, I can hardly bear it. I go for music that grabs me and keeps me pinned – so much so that I panic if someone wants to have a conversation while the track is playing. Led Zepplin, Peaches, Aphrodite, The White Stripes, Handel, Mozart’s  Queen of the Night – from The Magic Flute… chills!”

“I played The Wolf And I, by Oh Land, over and over while writing a werewolf shifter story situated in the animal section of the museum. It was a very visceral story, strongly featuring scent and sound.”

Dance, too, has shaped Tabitha’s writing. “I adore watching rhythmic gymnastics – and ice dancing,” she explains. “I’m absolutely in awe of what humans can do with their bodies. It thrills me – absolutely thrills me – I sometimes pirouette around my garden, as if I’m a ballerina. I’m delighted by the aesthetic of the body being put through physical paces. In my stories, I often refer to the sinews and muscles moving beneath skin. The flutter of a vein, the rise of the chest. The poise of a pointed toe.”

“I saw Mathew Bourne’s version of Swan Lake. It utterly blew me away – it was so raunchy and sexual – beautiful and raw. The males as the swans really brought out a darker, more vicious, side which was delicious.”

Game On by Jack Vettriano

Tabitha’s writing has also been inspired by her love of Surrealism, especially Dali. “I get quite emotional when standing in front of an original painting,” she admits. “I love the sensuality that comes from the power of one artist and a brush. I’m obsessed by the artist/muse dynamic too. It’s a theme I explore over and over. I love the way art can capture a moment in time – especially if that’s a sexual moment, such as Game On, by Jack Vettriano. It makes me think of the electric atmosphere between artist and muse. I wrote The Conference as an exploration of this idea. I met the artist once, and tried to woo an invitation to becoming one of his models… to no avail. I also love Egon Shiele – oh there’s too many! Mucha – oh Mucha drives me wild too.”

One of Tabitha’s favourite films is Wild At Heart, by David Lynch. “I love the energy, passion and sleaze of it. It’s gloriously odd and earthy and sexual – and Nick Cage and Laura Dern are fucking hot. I love how Lynch makes you aroused and disgusted in the same moment. The need to add repulsion and, at times, shame into my work, perhaps that came as a result of watching films like this.”

Tabitha names the film Secretary as an influence on her BDSM stories, saying, “Seeing it portrayed so beautifully on screen was wonderful; it made me feel more comfortable about writing those stories. My work often delves into emotional trauma or mental health issues and how sex (and exploring your sexuality) can help.”

Speaking of her literary influences, Tabitha tells us, “Toni Morrison changed me. She was the first writer, for me, to have sensuality woven throughout every sentence – making it a rich part of her work, rather than a separate thing. In my own writing, I try to keep all things sensual. Not just when I’m writing a sex scene. I like the whole piece to have an air of arousal, of something impending.”

A lover of poetry, Tabitha expounds on Edwin Morgan’s beautiful verse. “It’s so sensual – shockingly so at times. His poem, Strawberries, has me gasping. Finding eroticism in daily things delights me.”

An extract from Tabitha’s The Gamesman

She watched as he kept lifting up logs to split and throwing them onto the pile to his left. His limbs swung in that cocksure way of a person at ease in his own physicality. Beautifully lubricated joints working in perfect unity with the muscles and bones surrounding them. The flex and glide of flesh beneath clothing and muscle beneath flesh. She was actually salivating as her eyes skated across his torso, then his ass, taking in the shape of his peachy cheeks, oh how she’d love to run her hands round and down into the waistband, and cup those perfect globes, feeling for the dip at his hip when he thrusted.

He flung a split piece of log but instead of picking up another straight away, he turned and caught her staring once more.

“Like what you see eh, lassie?”

Taken from British Bad Boys – a boxed set of stories written by bestselling and award-winning British romance authors. No one knows British bad boys better than they do!

Purchase here

About Tabitha Rayne

Tabitha Rayne has been told she is quirky, lovely and kinky – not necessarily in that order or by the same person. She writes erotic romance and as long as there’s a love scene, she’ll explore any genre. She also has a passion for painting nudes.

Tabitha is the designer of Ruby Glow – pleasure for the seated lady, a hands-free sex toy made by Rocks Off. Her Ruby Glow was nominated as ‘Most Innovative New Product’ by Erotic Trade Only, last year, and came second in Good Housekeeping magazine’s Annual Vibrator Reviews.

She has also drawn up plans for a perpetual energy machine using inverted pendulums, and is in the process of designing a hamster wheel: ‘it will be better for their little backs and smoother, for less nocturnal noise annoyance… yes, I have a noisy hamster’.

Tabitha’s novels are with Beachwalk Press and her short stories are included in anthologies from Harper Collins Mischief, Cleis Press, Stormy Nights, Totally Bound, Xcite, Oysters & Chocolate, Ravenous Romance, Burning Books Press, Velvet Books and House of Erotica.

In 2016, Tabitha was named ‘best erotic author’ by Erotic Trade Only, and is a nominee again this year. Last year, she also won the ‘EuphOff’ – a marvellous competition to award parody erotica. In 2015 and 2016, she was named among the Top 100 sex bloggers, by Molly Moore.

Find a full list of Tabitha’s books  here  – including Her Stern Gentleman – a 1950s romp, set on a cruise liner.

Read more from Tabitha at www.TabithaRayne.com and www.thebritbabes.co.uk

Follow her:

on TwitterGoogle + or Facebook

To find out more about the Ruby Glow, click here

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.”

C-bOa-0XcAExBRx.jpg-large

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.”

18118866_1398470063545236_3759263090414562679_n

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.

unnamed copy

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.

f47b5d_85ff4256944587487f5e6bf2f19cd8e0

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.)

18118630_1398470256878550_8214246133565077013_n

Author Influences: KD Grace

Voted ETO’s Best Erotic Author of 2014, and a proud member of The Brit Babes, KD Grace tells us that she believes Freud was right. She says, “In the end, it really IS all about sex… well sex and love. And nobody’s happier about that than I am, otherwise, what would I write about?”

KD is pulled time and again towards the conflict between the light and dark, our attraction to what we fear, and our need to recognise both elements within ourselves. “Even the darkest characters struggle for balance, and that’s why so many of the villains in modern film and television are so wonderfully appealing,” explains KD. “The way out of the dark is neither easy nor is it straight forward. What happens in the darkness can be as powerful and as appealing as what happens in the light.”

She adds, “I love Phantom of the Opera for its powerful theme of darkness juxtaposed with light. From the journey underground comes salvation, as light and dark come together.”

Bernini Hades and Persephone close uptumblr_lg4h59T3z31qe2nvuo1_500
Bernini’s Hades and Persephone

Greek mythology has been a powerful influence on KD Grace’s work, being, as she underlines, ‘unabashedly sensual’ and so often portraying the ‘stark relief between darkness and light’. She comments, “Bernini’s Rape of Persephone sculpture is incredibly powerful. There’s terror, there’s lust, there’s sensuality, there’s the sense of flesh being dragged unwillingly into dark places, from which there’s no return. Once you leave Eden, you can’t go back. Once you’ve eaten the pomegranate seed, you can no longer live completely in the light.”

Bernini's Hades and Persephone
Bernini’s Hades and Persephone

KD continues, “I’m fascinated with the journey underground, the journey into the realm of the dead, and the impossible tasks placed upon a mortal by the gods. That’s a huge part of the Psyche and Eros tale, as Orpheus goes into Hades to bring back his wife from the dead. Impossible tasks and going underground play major roles in my stories.”

psyche_et_lamour_327x567
Eros and Psyche

KD Grace’s novel, The Initiation of Ms. Holly is a retelling of the Psyche and Eros Story, while her Pet Shop evokes the traditional tale of Beauty and the Beast (itself a retelling of Psyche and Eros). She notes her fascination with stories of the Greek gods’ seduction of humans, since those unions, of the Divine seducing mortal flesh, often result ‘in the birth of a saviour character’. As KD says, “Intimacy with the Divine brings enlightenment, on some level.”

waterhouse_apollo_and_daphne
Waterhouse’s Apollo and Daphne

She muses, “While we might admire Daphne for not allowing Apollo to seduce her, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if she’d turned to him and said, ‘I’m all yours, just show me the mind of God.’ Fair exchange, I think. My online serial, In The Flesh hinges on the idea of the divine’s desire for enfleshment.”

431px-Medusa_Mascaron_(New_York,_NY)
stone carving of Medusa

KD is currently exploring the character of Medusa. As she puts it, ‘traveling into the darkness with her’ to gain understanding of how she came to be.

While drawing inspiration from Greek heroes, KD is similarly a huge fan of the comic book genre, with its larger than life characters. “Few people are more pleased than I am to see so many of the comic book and super hero stories being made into films. I love the way the hero is often blind-sided by the realization that there IS darkness in him or her, and there IS an appeal, and even more important, there’s a need for balance. I’m loving the new Netflix series, Dare Devil, and Jessica Jones. To me they’re classic examples of the battle for balance, which is one of the most powerful, most archetypal themes in storytelling.”

Although KD doesn’t dance herself she has used this in her novels, as a connecting point between characters. “There’s almost a courtship and an intimation of sex through dance.” Music has also played a role in influencing scenes in her novels. For instance, KD used Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in An Executive Decision, to accompany an angry masturbation scene. She adds, “Not the first movement everyone is familiar with, but the driving, pounding third movement.”

Like most writers, KD can’t help but approach reading as a source of instruction and inspiration, to improve her own craft. She adds, “I know some writers are afraid that they’ll be influenced by what someone else has written, but I think that can only be a good thing. I’ve no need to steal anyone else’s ideas, since I have so many of my own.” KD stresses, “One book that has changed the way I look at the shape of a novel and the way a writer can lead a reader in completely unexpected directions is Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. It’s one of the most chilling novels, and one I’ve gone back to repeatedly as an instructional guide to what truly frightens us.”

Fred Saberhagen’s Empire of the East and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mist of Avalon (and her Darkover novels) are other influential reads for KD, as is Diana Gabeldon’s Outlander series. Of the latter, KD admires her willingness to tackle sex that is realistic, including that which is uncomfortable or unsatisfactory (covering also the writing of rape). “Her lack of fear at describing sex at its worst, as well as at its most erotic, is something I’d love to learn,” she states.

 

The Tutor – by KD Grace

KDGrace_TheTutor_Banner

When physical touch is impossible, intimacy may become a powerful work of art or a devastating nightmare, but above all, it’s an act of trust. 

KD Grace The Tutor quoteStruggling writer, Kelly Blake has a secret life as a sex tutor. Celebrated sculptor and recluse, Alexander ‘Lex’ Valentine, can’t stand to be touched. When he seeks out Kelly’s advice incognito, the results are too hot to handle. When Kelly terminates their sessions due to what she considers to be her unprofessional behavior, Lex takes a huge risk, revealing his identity to her at a gala exhibition, his first ever public appearance. When Kelly helps the severely haphephobic Lex escape the grope of reporters and paparazzi, rumors fly that the two are engaged, rumors encouraged by well-meaning friends and colleagues. The press feeding frenzy forces Kelly into hiding at Lex’s mansion where he convinces her to be his private tutor just until the press loses interest, and she can go back home. They discover quickly that touch is not essential for sizzling, pulse-pounding intimacy. But intimacy must survive secrets uncovered, as their sessions become more and more personal.

For an entire month, beginning April 4th, for the first time ever, KD Grace’s The Tutor is on sale for 99c across all ebook formats.

Reviews and Buy Links for The Tutor

“I was amazed at how well the author fanned the flames without the characters even kd grace quote the tutortouching. From well-detailed interactions to the steamy interludes, this is a story that is blazing hot.” 5 out of 5, The Romance Reviews

“I fell hard for these characters…Each one has their own secrets and darkness, but they learn from each other…” 4 out of 5, The Jeep Diva

eBook:  Totally Bound Publishing   Amazon UK   Amazon US   Amazon AU   Amazon CA   Amazon DE   Barnes & Noble   iBooks UK   iBooks US   Google Books   Kobo 

Print:  Totally Bound Publishing     Amazon UK     Amazon US

thetutor_800

About K D Grace/Grace Marshall

When she’s not writing, K D is veg gardening. When she’s not gardening, she’s walking. She and her husband have walked Coast to Coast across England, along with several other long-distance routes. For her, inspiration is directly proportionate to how quickly she wears out a pair of walking boots. She loves mythology. She enjoys spending time in the gym – right now she’s having a mad affair with a pair of kettle bells. She loves to read, watch birds and do anything that gets her outdoors.

KD has erotica published with Totally Bound, SourceBooks, Xcite Books, Harper Collins Mischief Books, Mammoth, Cleis Press, Black Lace, Sweetmeats Press and others.

Visit KD Grace at http://www.kdgrace.co.uk and at http://www.thebritbabes.co.uk

or follow her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest

Author Influences : Tamara Lush

 

Tamara Lush is a journalist with The Associated Press by day and an author by night, having graduated from Emerson College with a degree in broadcast journalism. The real-life events she reports on rarely end happily, which, she muses, may well have inspired her desire to write stories which do. Back in the summer of 2014, she felt drawn to creating a tale of love, which became Hot Shade: the story of a young reporter who meets a mysterious man while covering a plane crash on the beach.

Tamara’s latest release, Tell Me a Story, follows the path of Emma, a bookstore owner and TMAS-3D-bookwriter, who meets Caleb at a literary event in Orlando. Daringly, she begins to share with him readings of her erotic fiction. Both soon feel the effects, leading to an exploration of their own erotic fantasies.

The full five-part story is available from AMAZON (and currently on sale at 99p/99c). Also from iBooks,  Kobo and Barnes & Noble

Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying made a huge impression on Tamara as a teen in the 1980s. As she notes, “It showed me a world in which a woman can be a feminist and an unabashed lover of men.” While writing primarily in the romance genre, Tamara emphasizes her belief in the importance of exploring the intersection of lust and love, alongside the themes of trust and forgiveness.

Pathless Woods photo by Adam Larsen
Image by Adam Larsen

Speaking of a recent visit to The Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Tamara is full of admiration for artist Anne Patterson’s Pathless Woods installation, which comprises 8,472 satin ribbons, hung from the ceiling (24 miles of ribbon). She explains, “As visitors walk through, it’s as if they’re swimming in colour and fabric. Nature sounds play in the background and various lights shimmer and flicker in the darkened room. The streaming fabric is tactile and you can lose yourself wandering around.” She compares the experience to that of reading, in which we ‘enter an alternative dimension’. Tamara hopes her own writing offers this opportunity, to enter a place that is ‘sparkling and gorgeous and different from the everyday’.

She was a punk rocker as a teen and loved ‘harsh, loud noise’. “Sometimes I still do,” says Tamara, “But, lately, I’ve been drawn to ambient electronica, which I listen to while I write. I find that it captures a sensuality that I’m trying to convey in my books. I also love Italian opera and the bombastic drama that it conveys. I think I need more of that drama in my books!”

While Tamara writes protagonists that she hopes readers will identify with and root for, her own reading choices tend to run a little darker. She tells us, “I find it mentally intriguing to read about people I dislike.” On her bedside table of late have been Hakumi Murikami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Renee Carlino’s Swear on This Life and Leah Konen’s The Romantics.

Tamara is also fascinated by the short story form, citing Stephen King’s The Langoliers as a great example of crafting a compelling tale in a shorter volume of words. For a spicy read, she recommends Cleis Press’ Best Women’s Erotica series.

71Uf8bOiB+L._UX250_About the author

Tamara lives on Florida’s Gulf Coast with her husband and two dogs. She loves vintage pulp fiction book covers, Sinatra-era jazz, 1980s fashion, tropical chill, kombucha, gin, tonic, beaches, iPhones, Art Deco, telenovellas, colouring books, street art, coconut anything, strong coffee and newspapers.

Despite working in the media, Tamara admits to rarely watching television or films. She admits, “It’s a joke among my friends that I haven’t seen any TV series since 2014, when I began writing fiction.” When she does indulge, she’s likely to choose a foreign film. However, having never seen the Disney films as a child, she has recently, at the age of 46, been discovering the magic, watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Her next film in the Disney Princess Project (as she’s calling it) is Cinderella.

Tamara was recently chosen as one of twenty-four authors for Amtrak’s writer’s residency, creating fiction while circling the United States by train.

FB-banner

Find Tamara on GoodreadsTwitter and Facebook 

Or visit her website www.tamaralush.com

Tell-me-a-Story-print-FOR-WEB

 

 

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.

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

 

 

 

 

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’.

First Inspirations

writing erotic fiction authors Patrick Califia Jonathan Kemp Tobsha Learner Remittance Girl Janine Ashbless Kristina Lloyd Adrea Kore Emmanuelle de MaupassantOn inviting authors to share their thoughts regarding writing ‘the erotic’, I couldn’t have imagined that so many would respond, nor that they would answer with such honestly. To find out more about them, click here.

This series of articles is the result, tackling our inspiration, our motivation and our intent, our use of fantasy, and our desire for authenticity. Why do we write in this genre, so maligned, so sneered at, so disregarded?

These issues deserve further discussion and analysis; they are a starting point for onward debate.

 

First Inspiration

There’s no doubt that, as writers, we tackle more than ‘sex’ in our storytelling. We write conflicted emotions, shame, regret, obsession, and the compulsion that sits alongside desire. We write the complexity of the human condition.

Some authors emerge in creative fireworks, realizing almost instantly what they wish to achieve, and blazing their trail brightly, capturing startling nuances of the psyche.

However, in many cases, we begin by dipping our toe in the water, writing primarily to arouse, rather than stir intellectual or emotional debate. It’s a good place to start too.

Remittance Girl quote on Erotica Erotic Fiction TransgressiveSometimes, the revelatory urge to write in this way can come as a huge surprise to the author, as if characters have turned wayward, leading us down a path hitherto hidden.

Commending our thoughts to paper is wholeheartedly liberating. We emerge braver, and that’s a wonderful thing.

As the seed matures, we begin to see layers beneath layers. We seek out the deeper psychology of our characters, and more intricate reflections of our own passions.

Perhaps, more than any other, writing ‘the erotic’ lends itself to this exploration.

 

Early Awakenings

While the majority of surveyed authors began writing fiction with erotic elements well into adulthood (in their 30s and 40s, with some even finding their inspiration much later, in their 60s and 70s) a significant portion mention first writing in this way as teenagers. A handful recall having written ‘excitingly’ at an even younger age, being unaware fully of what they were exploring, but realising, on reflection, that they were expressing first awareness of sexuality.

Patrick Califia tells us, “I started looking for sex in fiction and non-fiction as soon as I could read! I was hungry for acknowledgment of what went on behind closed bedroom doors.”

Cecilia Tan adds, “I have some notebooks from when I was 11 or 12 years old, but there were some earlier diary entries (that I destroyed) probably going back as early as 7 years old. It began as a private exploration of my own interior mental life and became the drive to express myself creatively and as an activist, trying to create a world more cognizant and tolerant of my sexuality (which is to say bisexual and BDSM-based).”

A voracious reader from a young age, Adrea Kore recalls finding a steamy paperback at the age of just five or six. She remembers, “I felt guilty as hell, but I scoured those pages looking for the ‘rude’ scenes – and let me tell you, I was well rewarded in that book! I remember being both fascinated and horrified. I knew what a penis was, but it was for peeing, so the fact that women were described putting one (well, several) in their mouths was pretty shocking for me.” (more here)

Catherine Mazur relates a similar experience, saying, “I’ve had an intense, almost academic, interest in sex since childhood. I find everything about it fascinating, from the scientific and anatomical/physiological aspects, to its influence on culture and language. I recall wanting to know everything about it (and continue to feel that way).”

Janine Ashbless echoes this, mentioning telling herself stories from adolescence, whichEmmanuelle de Maupassant quote erotic fiction she later recognized as being ‘paranormal erotica’. She notes, “It just needed me to discover the genre and realize there was an outlet!”

Shanna Germain recalls writing fiction using erotic elements from the age of about 16, although without full understanding of either fiction or the erotic. “I was definitely trying to figure those things out,” she asserts.

Tilly Andrews remembers crying on reading of the death of Ginger in ‘Black Beauty’, and realising that writing ‘could have a physical effect on a person’. She adds, “A few years later, I stumbled on my brother’s ‘girlie’ magazines and I read some of the stories; of course they also had a physical effect on me. That is when I realised the power of erotica.”

LN Bey comments, “I’ve been kinky since before I knew what sex was—BDSM chose me. I finally decided to apply what writing skills I have to the creation and study of it.”

 

‘Truthful’ Perspective

Adrea Kore remembers being in her mid-twenties, studying feminism and theatre, and dating a poet, when she discovered Adrienne Rich’s poetry.  “There was a line: ‘in my rose-wet cave’. It entranced me, I associated the image with being underwater, yet it was also botanical. Fragrant and secret. Hidden away, deep-hued and moist. This evocative image for the female genitalia set off something subtle but profound in me.” She began to seek out women’s writing that was ‘re-writing the experience of feminine desire and describing the desiring female body’, and began exploring those ways of writing herself in her journals.

Adrea Kore author quote erotic literature writing craftAdrea tells us, “What I most felt drawn to reading was the feminine experience of the world, and stories of growth, transformation or dislocation, felt through and mediated by the body. 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.”

Donna George Storey notes, “I wanted to read about real experiences. So I figured I had to write them! I wanted to tell my truth about the female sexual experience. I know there are many truths. I felt that literary fiction always focused on the negatives: adultery, frigidity and social censure. Good girls were not allowed to write about pleasurable sex; they and their characters couldn’t enjoy it without some negative consequence. Male writers never got our experience right, in my opinion. The first sex scene I remember reading was that between Sonny and Lucy in Mario Puzo’s ‘The Godfather’. Even in my [limited] experience, I knew it was not how women got off in real life.

Emmanuelle de Maupassant erotic fiction quoteSimilarly, Devi Ansevi recalls wanting to portray an authentic woman’s perspective. She underlines,“Most of the stuff I found when I first started writing fell into two extremes: written from the male perspective – too short, too mechanical, too much like Playboy porn, too unlike how I experienced pleasure; or written from the female perspective – hyper-romantic metaphorical descriptions of making tender love after both parties have declared undying adoration. I wanted hot, detailed, messy sex from a woman’s perspective.”

In the same way, Jonathan Kemp tells us,“The impulse to write about sex was twofold. It came from reading others and seeing what they did with it. People like Edmund White, Genet, Neil Bartlett, Oscar Moore, Kathy Acker and Alina Reyes. But it also came from a desire to write about my own sexual experiences and describe the subculture of gay cruising in London: to celebrate promiscuity, hopefully push boundaries (creative or otherwise), and give voice to the voiceless, in the case of my first novel, ‘London Triptych’.”

Around a third of the authors taking part in this survey state that they wrote first in other fiction genres but found themselves drawn towards exploring protagonists from a sexual angle, which inspired a new writing persona. Most compartmentalise their genres for commercial reasons, using alternative pen names for other writing.

KD Grace explains,“I’ve always had an open bedroom door policy with my fiction, no matter what I was writing. Sex is as much a part of our lives as eating, sleeping, and interacting with other people, so why shouldn’t it be part of our fiction as well. I first brought erotic elements to the forefront when I wrote a little piece for the now defunct UK women’s mag, ‘Scarlet’, which had a section called ‘Cliterature’. That was the first time I was published.

Susan St. Aubin recalls, “As a student of creative writing at San Francisco Erotic Fiction Yellow SilkState University in the 1970s, I wrote the usual stories about sex and human relationships, which begin with a couple meeting, going to the apartment of one or the other, going to bed . . . and then the next morning. One day I saw an ad asking for erotic stories for a journal called ‘Yellow Silk’. I had one of those flashes of inspiration, a realization that I’d been writing erotic stories all along, and all I needed to do was fill in what happened during those three dots . . . In 1984, my first erotic story was published in ‘Yellow Silk’; it won first prize, worth $25, which was more money than I’d ever made from writing.”

Sue Lyndon tells us, “I’d been reading ‘naughty’ books for years, but didn’t consider writing one until about a year after I’d been writing mainstream sci-fi and fantasy. One day, my heroine misbehaved, and the hero was upset with her, so I thought, “You know what, she really needs a spanking!” From there, the book became a spanky smutfest; I was hooked!”

 

Revelations

A great many authors report feeling a sudden, almost revelatory, compulsion to dissect their characters in a new way, taking them into the realm of the erotic.

Kay Jaybee asserts that the impulse came very much as a surprise, saying,It came from nowhere, with no warning. One minute I was eating a Mars Bar cake, the next I was writing a cross-dressing story on a napkin.”

 Victoria Blisse tells us, “I had a dream (this is my lesser known ‘I had a dream’ speech) it was an erotic dream and it wouldn’t leave me alone. I told my husband and he wisely suggested that I write it down. He read it, liked it and said it was good enough to show others. So I popped it onto literotica.com and, having receiving positive feedback, I continued. I might never have started without my husband’s encouragement.”

Tabitha Rayne notes that, as soon as she began writing erotic elements into her fiction, ‘It 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.

Almost a third of the writers surveyed mention sharing early attempts with their bed partners, writing to arouse. Many continue to do so after decades of writing, finding their lovers to be reliable critics.

Raziel Moore notes that his writing began as correspondence with a lover, then grew Emmanuelle de Maupassant quote erotic fiction visceral intellectual emotionalinto exploring more deeply, probing into how people tackle their monsters.

Will Crimson jokes, “The most important question any male erotic writer should be asked? Have you ever used your erotic writing superpowers to seduce women? His answer is, Yes. Shamelessly. (Well, maybe a little shame.) My first piece of erotic writing opened the hearts (and more importantly the legs) of several women. This was before I was married and before I fully understood or appreciated the extent of my XXX powers. You know, with great power comes great responsibility… Truth be told, I write all my erotica for women.”

Some authors identify their yearning to write the erotic with a particular life event. Meg Amor experienced her revelation on hitting fifty. She emphasizes, “I realized that I wanted to ‘rebel’. I wasn’t ready to hang up my sexual slippers and sink into plain cotton underwear and sensible shoes; that impulse became a compulsion.”

Patient Lee wrote her first story while pregnant with her third child, explaining, “My libido was going haywire!”

For Ashe Barker, the idea of writing erotic fiction grew as a slow burn. She recalls, “I used to commute a lot. I spent more hours than I care to remember in motorway traffic jams, and would run erotic fantasies through my head. I had favourites I would ‘replay’ again and again, and of course new ones would pop up. Over the years I plotted lots and lots of snippets and scenes. I had quite a vivid collection by the time I started to write any of them down. In the last three years or so, many of my motorway fantasies have been developed and placed in my stories.”

 

Seeking the Echo of our Desire

Siri Ousdahl admits that her writing was borne of dissatisfaction with available fiction, “I’ve been very sexually active; kink was part of my life even before I was sexually aware: stained into my bones. I wrote the book I did in part because I was sick of the fact that the most common (and most commonly accepted) narrative about women and BDSM was predicated on innocence: she doesn’t know anything and someone more experienced leads/corrupts/tempts her into it. To me it felt insulting, and it had little to do with who I am. I really enjoyed writing ‘Constraint’, creating a complicated emotional arc for my characters. I’d now like to unspool more of their psychological tangle, following them through the consequences of their actions.”

Patrick Califia explains that he too was inspired to try his hand at writing because he wasn’t finding what he wanted. He tells us, “There was so little same-sex erotica, and almost none that featured sadomasochism. I wanted fiction set in the time that I lived in, with characters facing dilemmas about sex that I too pondered late at night.”

Sessha Batto tells us, “My motivation is to write the books I want to read that no one else is tackling. It’s hard to find anything that captures my interest, that isn’t the same old tired plot in a new wrapper. The only way to get around it is to tell my own stories.”

We each tell our own stories, our own truths: the truths that creep upon us until we cannot help but speak them.

Read on, to discover what keeps authors writing: their lasting inspiration, their motivation, their intent, their dark dreams and white-hot flashes of transcendence.

 

Further Reading

Coming soon…

  • Authors’ Recommended Reads
  • Women Writing the Erotic
  • Writing Craft

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 KojaRaziel Moore, Will CrimsonSorcha 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 Rayne, Marc 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, Charlie Bee, Meg Amor, Lizzie Ashworth, Cara Bristol, Finn Marlowe, C.A. Bell, Brantwijn Serrah, Aubrey Cara, Kathleen BradeanJay Willowbay, Lisa Fox, Allyson Young, Vinnie Tesla, Emma Jaye, Dennis Cardiff, Dee Maselle, Frank Lee, Christina Mandara, Big Ed Magussun, Sue Lyndon, T.J. VermillionDelores Swallows, Vanessa Wu, Ian Smith, Jaye Peaches, Stormchase, Rebecca Branch, Molly Moore, Molly Synthia, David Flint, Justine Elyot, Ashe Barker, Tilly Andrews and Catherine Mazur.

A.S. Byatt’s Angels and Insects: a review

Angels and Insects comprises two novellas: Morpho Eugenia and The Conjugial Angel.

As we know, the Victorian age provides the perfect setting from which to explore themes of freedom and suffocation, as well as moral hypocrisy; it is these which are central to Byatt’s first tale, Morpho Eugenia.

Angels and Insects A S Byatt Victorian fictionShipwrecked naturalist William Adamson is brought under the wing of a wealthy Victorian family and soon falls ‘in lust’ with the enigmatic Eugenia. The sheer beauty and eroticism of Byatt’s prose is magnificent:

‘She sat beside him on the bench, and her presence troubled him. He was inside the atmosphere, or light, or scent she spread, as a boat is inside the drag of a whirlpool, as a bee is caught in the lasso of perfume from the throat of a flower.’

and, later, when they are married:
‘…he felt that their bodies spoke to each other in a kind of fluttering bath of molten gold, a raidiant tent of silky touch and shimmering softness, so that long, tender silences were a natural form of communion during the mundane grey light.’

Just as Adamson has collected specimens of the natural world, Sir Harald Alabaster ensnares him, setting him upon the endless task of classification: an activity requiring meticulous ordering (mirroring the strict order of upper-class Victorian society). This parallel is taken further as we see Adamson studying ant colonies living near the house, each as minutely complex and strictly ordered as the society within the Alabaster home.

Byatt reminds us repeatedly of the contrast between Adamson’s bold past as an explorer of A S Byatt Angels and Insectsthe Amazon, and the suffocating restrictions of polite aristocratic society. However, we come to realise that the family conceals just as many secrets as the darkly exotic jungle. Eugenia, for example, may outwardly (and symbolically) resemble the beautiful butterflies her father enjoys pinning to his boards, but the behaviour we discover of her is closer to the tumbling, devouring, ruthlessness of the insect world.

The pure ‘Alabasters’ are degenerate: stifled, congealing and corrupt, trapped within narrow, inward-looking mindsets. Using more symbolism, Byatt gives us a grotesque description of Harald Alabaster’s hands as ‘ivory-coloured, the skin finely wrinkled everywhere, like the crust on a pool of wax, and under it appreared livid bruises, arthritic nodes, irregular tea-brown stains. The flesh under the horny nails was candlewax-coloured, and bloodless.’

The Conjugial Angel examines the themes of grief and transiency through the Victorian obsession with séances and the next world. Byatt quotes significant portions of Alfred Tennyson’s In Memoriam, which explores mortality, and decay, inspired by Alfred’s love for Arthur Hallum (who died aged 22 and was engaged to Alfred’s sister, Emily). It is Emily who stands as the central figure in the story, as heartbroken in her loss as Alfred in his.

While the physicality of Emily and Alfred’s desire for Arthur is mostly hinted at, their suffering is vividly echoed in that of Mrs. Papagay. Torn by desire for the physical love of her husband, thought lost at sea, she dreams of ‘male arms around her in the scent of marriage-sheets’.

In both stories, there are dark themes at work, of selfishness, betrayal and deceit (of others and the self) but also an element of the fantastical. Byatt draws us into the stifling world of parlours and manners, but leaves doors open to possibilities: of adventure, of love, and of reignition of self-purpose. Both novellas end with protagonists looking to the future with more optimism, with eyes cast up to the stars.

The Victorianesque language is heavy at times, as dense and complex as Byatt’s themes, but there is beauty here, and such insight. Worth persevering for.

byatt authorA S Byatt‘s novels include the Booker Prize-winning Possession, The Biographer’s Tale and the quartet, The Virgin in the Garden, byatt_childrens_bookStill Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman.

Among her most recent works are The Children’s Book and Ragnarok: The End of the Gods.

Her highly acclaimed collections of short stories include The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, Elementals and Little Black Book of Stories.

 

 

 

26, by Jonathan Kemp: a review

Jonathan Kemp‘s 26 is a series of bittersweet vignettes: perfect slices of agony and ecstasy, ‘visions of excess’ burning brightly beyond the civility of language and manners, taking us on a journey of tJonathan Kemp 26 literary eroticaranscendence, of sexual gratification and drug-induced otherness.

Explicit and, often, disturbing, his scenes lead us into dark places in search of meaning, exploring our isolation and our need for connection, our yearning for intense physical experience and our desire for oblivion. Kemp celebrates the raw, terrifying beauty of sexuality, showing its capacity to ‘make and unmake the world’ and to ‘speak a different tongue’.

He explores the hunger we cannot explain and draws with tenderness love unrequited, misplaced, and abandoned: ‘The difference between what we want and what we are able to do emerges with the slow, poisonous crawl of grief.’

He gives us poignant fragments of lost love and intense eroticism, underpinned by the repeated theme of the limits of language to convey human feeling, and the role of the body in remembering its past. It is the pulsing archivist, memories ‘rippling beneath the skin’.

Jonathan Kemp 26‘I wake to find your presence still alighting on my skin, a fragment of your warmth, the weight of you still pressing, and a blurred memory of the dream’s end.’

Kemp shows us physical sensation as another language, our desire to tear open and ‘release something monstrous and wild, from the other side of language’. He voices his longing for ‘a new tongue that licks closer to the contour of bodies’.

Yet, amidst this despair at the inadequacy of language is Kemp’s thread of richly satisfying poetic prose. His images and metaphors blaze.

‘This is for when the blood turns black and burns you from the inside, for when you get the hunger – feel it unravelling within its long, dark spine of want… This is for then, for those crystalline moments when your body molds to your desires, contoured by the red heat of longing…’

Kemp has created a masterpiece, Jonathan Kemp 26 erotic fictionmoving the reader emotionally, intellectually and viscerally, our hearts captured and broken alongside those of his anonymous protagonists.

’26’ is haunting, unsettling and erotically compelling.

Kemp gives us the night folding up like a sheet of paper, sliding itself into memory, ‘to be unfolded and relived, recounted and treasured’. In ’26’, Kemp has created a book of night dreams, vivid imaginings and shadows, half-remembrances and images seared on the skin. These pages close but the emotions he stirs remain close-caught.

‘There are places only the night knows, places only shadows can show us… I walk… looking for something, looking for something, looking for something… Forgive me for not having the words to describe it, this place in which I dwell. I have tried, I have tried. I have drenched myself in words and sensations, seeking a way to make them speak to one another. This is all I have to offer.’

How do you describe a book which has such power to manipulate the reader, to draw so deep from the well that you discover yourself anew?

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

His first novel, London Triptych won the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Polari Prize and the Green Carnation Prize (my review here).

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

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 11.20.45“There is a deceptively relaxed quality to Kemp’s writing that is disarming, bewitching and, to be honest, more than a little sexy… As a writer, Jonathan is somewhat akin to the Pied Piper if only because there is something magical you cannot help but follow.”
– Christopher Bryant, Polari Magazine.

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