Italian Sonata – the past does not lie quietly

Gothic chills, secrets and intrigue!  

Italian Sonata by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

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

(will rise to $2.99 on release)

Launching soon

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

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

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

What dark secrets lie within those walls?

Madness, abduction, imprisonment… murder?

The past does not lie quietly.

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

Italian Sonata is the second volume in the Noire trilogy. 

Pre-order here

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

 

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

Do drop your name in the hat here 

 

 

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Roadhouse Blues, by Malin James: a review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malin James Roadhouse Blues erotic fiction short stories

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

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

Purchase your copy here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Come Let Us Sing Anyway from Peepal Tree Press

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

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About Leone Ross

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

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

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

Follow Leone on Twitter

Drop in to her website: www.leoneross.com

Or find her on Facebook 

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Patricia Dixon : author interview

It’s rare for me to be up until after midnight because I can’t put down my book, but I found myself almost reading through my fingers recently, with a copy of Patricia Dixon’s Over My Shoulder in my hands.

This is a tale where something dark is afoot: a tale of secrets unearthed, and of how we deceive ourselves.

All stories take us on a journey, but this was especially apparent in Over My Shoulder, which leads us into realms intentionally provoking and uncomfortable.

Patricia Dixon reveals that a message from a stranger, a woman seeking help, inspired her to write the book, which draws partially from her own experiences. Patricia tells us, “Without giving too much away, I delved into my past and wrote Over My Shoulder to exorcise a ghost. At the same time, I want to help other women (and men), who find themselves in a dark relationship. The final part of the book is pure fiction; snippets of the rest are drawn from real life.”

Exploring the theme of domestic abuse, mental and physical, Patricia comments, “I relied heavily on my memories of working in Manchester (UK) and the flat in which I lived during my early twenties, as well as memories of an unfortunate relationship.”

She adds, “I considered carefully how far to go during the more violent and disturbing scenes, as I know only too well that once you’ve seen, heard or read something that upsets you, it cannot be easily undone. Rather than graphically describing the abuse, I tried to lead the reader into the scene, leaving them to use their own imagination and draw their own conclusions.”

“While I’m aware that anyone who’s suffered abuse will want me to get it right and may be more critical, I also want to ensure that those who haven’t, understand the psychological aspects of being trapped in such a relationship. I’ve tried to find a balance that won’t alienate the reader,” Patricia explains.

“A particularly difficult scene to write was the one on Christmas Eve, for which I used my own memories of a Christmas that crashed and burned. I know that many women have been through similar; the festive season can bring out the worst in people.”

The final portion of the book takes a dramatic turn, realizing the worst fears of the female protagonist Freya, and those of the reader. It was at this point, reading at around 11pm, alone in a tiny cottage on the Shetland Island of Unst, during a snow blizzard, with a gale rattling the windows, that I decided I couldn’t close the book without finding out what happened. The tension of Patricia’s storytelling became overwhelming. I knew that I’d be unable to sleep unless I gained closure on the story.

34851706Patricia admits, “The scene where Elena is taken downstairs still makes me cry each time I read it; the bond between two women, total strangers who have found each other in a moment of crisis, is very moving for me.”

“The most satisfying scene to write was that in which Freya escapes – I actually held my breath while I wrote it. I even asked a friend to show me exactly how it would work so I knew it was feasible and authentic.”

Patricia asserts, “I’d like readers to take away some new awareness from reading the book. In the prologue, I allude to the fact that we’re surrounded by women (and men) who may be hiding abuse. You might think somebody needs your help but, for all the reasons I describe in the story, they may not be ready to accept such help. If you’re being abused, I want you to know that you can make it stop. There are people who’ll help you, when you’re ready. “

“Over the past thirty years, I’ve heard some dreadful tales, told largely in confidence, many from women who’ve hidden their abuse, mental or physical, for years. The reasons for this are many and complicated: fear of not being believed, fear of upsetting their family or of losing their home and lifestyle, fear of having nobody to turn to, and shame. The subject has been covered in film and soaps on television but I wonder if this touches us in the same way as the written word. This is why I wrote the book in first person; Freya speaks directly to the reader. I hope that, by the end of the story, the reader feels a personal connection, as if they would speak with Freya, if only in their mind.”

Over My Shoulder will have you rooting for Freya, hoping that she’ll find the courage to escape her abuser, and the terrible, disturbing situation in which she ultimately finds herself.

Some stories are so provoking that they cannot help but stay with us. I remain haunted by Over My Shoulder.

As for what’s next, Patricia is currently writing a story set in Manchester and France, telling of a man and a woman whose deep and enduring friendship is misunderstood by their friends and family, causing heartache. “There’s an aspect of the male character’s personality that I hope will inspire sympathy and understanding,” says Patricia. “I also have a murder mystery to write, featuring a dysfunctional family.”

Patricia Dixon is an author with serious storytelling skills. She’s one to watch.Patricia Dixon

Purchase link : Amazon

Follow Patricia Dixon on Facebook  here  and here

 

About Patricia Dixon

Patricia Dixon lives in Manchester and is the author of six novels: À Bientôt, Three Mothers, The Christmas Cottage, A Perfect Summer Wedding, Return Journeys, and Over My Shoulder. After a career in fashion, she swapped all things fabric for bricks and mortar, working alongside her husband in running his building company. Now, with an empty nest, her time has come to write.

 

Author Influences : Leone Ross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They sigh, together.

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

Purchase Come Let Us Sing Anyway from Peepal Tree Press

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

You may like to read my review, here.

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About Leone Ross

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

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

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

She still mourns Prince.

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Follow Leone on Twitter

Drop in to her website: www.leoneross.com

Or find her on Facebook 

imagesLeone’s Novelsimages-1

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

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Author Influences : Kay Jaybee

 

Specialising in BDSM, S&M, and literary erotica, Kay Jaybee has been having the time of her life writing erotica for the last twelve years. Usually to be found with her trusty notebook in the corner of her local café, she often wonders if she shouldn’t really be stowed away in a dusty university, writing learned papers on Medieval England and Robin Hood. (Kay really knows her outlaws!)

She swears that at no point during career guidance did her school recommend ‘this girl should write erotica’…

 

2857379Kay recalls Cassandra’s Conflict, by Frederica Allen, as her introduction to the world of BDSM/S&M literature. She remembers, “It made me realise that you could read about pushing sexual boundaries, taking pleasure from reading, without entering that world yourself.” It was another decade before she put pen to paper, but Kay believes this book had greater influence than she initially realised.

Kay reveals that she began writing without thought of sharing her work. In fact, she’s rather bemused as to what led her to a place of writing at all. She tells us, “There was no planning, no years of dreams, no stories stacking up in my head to write. I just sat down one day, felt a story arrive in my head, and I wrote it down.”

A friend encouraged her to send that very first erotic story to Cleis Press and, to Kay’s amazement, it was accepted. “If it hadn’t been, I’d probably never have written again!” she admits.

At an Eroticon conference a few years later, Kay saw a photograph by John Tisbury of a naked woman tied at the wrists and ankles, bent over a hostess trolley, as if on all fours. “I stood and stared at the photograph for a long time, and it sent my imagination into overdrive,” Kay tells us. “I visualised other things being placed upon the trolley, with the young woman beneath as nothing more than an interesting tablecloth.” The idea began to stir and, a few weeks later, became a scene in Kay’s Making Him Wait (published by Sweetmeats Press).

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Bondage Ballet by John Tisbury

Kay often listens to music whilst writing, with certain tracks always close to hand, being convinced that they help her focus on the concept of trust: Evanescence’s Bring Me To Life; Within Temptation’s What Have You Done; and Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus. She asserts, “BDSM, S&M, spanking, and any form of surrender in sex has to be based on the concept of trust. Take that away and it becomes something entirely different. Erotica written without awareness of the importance of consent is irresponsible.”

WedsOf her most recent work of erotica, Wednesday on Thursday, Kay says, “I’m fascinated by words. Their origins, the way we use them and the power they have. What could happen, I wondered, if someone became obsessed with how individuals react to certain words when used in certain situations? Certain erotic situations…”

Shrugging off her friend’s concern about the way the man in the cafe stares at her every lunch hour, Wednesday can’t see how his love of words could possibly be hazardous.

The fact is, Wednesday rather enjoys being the centre of an attractive man’s undivided attention. His dark blue eyes alone have provided her with many delicious erotic fantasies, a welcome distraction from the pressures of the real world and a dull job.

It’s totally harmless…

…until there’s an accident with a cup of coffee.Kay Jaybee quote

After soaking Wednesday with a hot latte, the coffee guy’s attention suddenly becomes far more enticing—and dangerous.

Drawn into a bizarre world of human behavioural research, where crosswords are used to initiate sexual experiments, Wednesday finds herself driven, not by a desire to further scientific research, but by the need to be rewarded for her hard work by the coffee guy’s captivating research assistant.

A stunning redhead by the name of Thursday…

Find Wednesday on Thursday on Amazon UK or Amazon US

About Kay Jaybee

Kay Jaybee was named Best Erotica Writer of 2015 by the ETO, and received an honorary mention at the 2015 NLA Awards for excellence in BDSM writing. She has over 180 works of erotica in publication, including titles with Xcite, Sweetmeats, and NightsPress.

Find details of her short stories and other publications at www.kayjaybee.me.uk

You can follow Kay on TwitterFacebook, and Goodreads, and on the Brit Babes site.

Kay also writes contemporary romance and children’s picture books as Jenny Kane and historical fiction as Jennifer Ash

Kay on sofa

 

Author Influences : Suzette Bohne’ Sommers

Suzi Holland, writing as Suzette Bohne’ Sommers, began writing seriously in 1981, while at UCLA, as a journalism major. Her first piece was Dying Well: a memoir of sitting with her dying sister for weeks, until she passed in Suzette’s arms. In 2013, based on her own life experiences, Suzette began writing erotica, encouraged by her ‘dear departed’ Alex Truheart: a talented poet and writer. “I hear his voice every day, “ says Suzette, “Saying, ‘You can do this!’ I’ve had the courage to begin divulging my secrets.”

Suzette notes, “As a young woman, I had issues with my own sexuality; a violent father, a rape by a trusted family friend, and some deeper losses. My secret non-virginity, a boy who betrayed me, and an older man who plucked me up during my teen years because he thought I was a virgin. Who could I trust? I decided to replace romance with sexuality, literally. I was destined to become a writer of erotic fiction.”

Working on her Masters in Art, Suzette was drawn to the human body and subversive artists, such as Andres Serrano and the German Expressionists. She studied alternative processes in photography, and spent many hours in the darkroom, creating a memoir. Much of her work is based on contempt for sexist religious practices. She explains, “When my brother died at age thirty, our church told us that he was dying because he’d denied their teachings. How corrupt is that? I railed against it even more when my sister died of the same kidney cancer in her early thirties; I created a grand installation for her as my thesis exhibition, entitled The God of My Father,  a subtle innuendo exploiting the myths of religion. This featured her photographic image on linen, with her arms thrown out, similar to the Shroud of Turin, hanging above a large, hand-hammered lead sarcophagus. It stirred many people to tears. Others were offended.”

Her first position after graduating was with a college Drama Department, where she designed sets and costumes, and applied stage makeup. She became familiar with contemporary playwrights and recalls it as a time of her imagination ‘catching fire’. She moved to a theatre company as their in-house Artistic Director, while freelancing for other theatre venues, including helping in staging Shakespeare productions at local wineries.

“In the 1970s, I frequented disco clubs in Los Angeles. It was an invitation to bliss. Modeling clothing for Ci Amber of Hollywood, I danced out onto the floor with a male partner… and got paid for it! This led to some interesting opportunities to meet men. I’ve written stories about those days, when men would invite me to their private after-parties.”

Suzette then began working as a stylist for Penthouse, Inc. assisting the celebrated photographer Suze Randal as her stylist. Some Hollywood parties featured behaviour she believes ‘would frighten most women’. She admits to feigning innocence. “Meanwhile, I allowed specific men to believe they’d taken advantage of me. Yum!”

At that time, Suzette was introduced to Larry Flynt, who asked her to pose for him. As a result, her ex-husband demanded custody of Suzette’s children, insisting that she stop working in the ‘sex industry’. She explains, “This paradoxical situation was almost laughable because of his personal collection of pornography; while hypocritically calling me a whore!”

In the late 1970s, Suzette took a position with a corporate  law firm in Beverly Hills, where she reveled in the endless possibilities of dating eligible educated men, mainly attorneys. She kept a journal during that period, and turned her research into a series of erotic stories entitled The Attorneys.

By the mid 1980s, she was managing a high end art gallery in Los Angeles. There, she met an archeologist and joined him on a trek to the Anza Borrego Desert, on the border of Baja. The trip inspired her historical adventure story, Anza Borrego.

english-patient-dancingSpeaking of film, she tells us, “I’m a deeply sensual, visual person. I clearly remember elements of my early life because I’m able to visualize the past in detail, recalling the tone and words expressed: desire, contentment, wrath, violence, and mourning. The same goes for particular films that have touched me. I love the cinematic panning of the desert landscape in the film The English Patient and find its theme of forbidden sex entralling.”

Suzette continues, “The most deliciously intimate scene is that of Kristen Scott Thomas scrubbing the sand from Ralph Feinnes’ hair, before disrobing and sinking into the warm water of the bath with him. Later, during the Christmas party, she (as Catherine) feigns dizziness in order to be alone with him, and we understand the risk! He finds her naked body beneath her clothing and ravishes her willing body while the crowd, including her husband, continues to party on the other side of the wall . When she returns, her husband suggests she smells of almonds…(a heady comment that slayed me!) Meanwhile, every time I watch the ending, as Feinnes carries her body out of the cave, the white sheet blowing in the desert wind, I weep with the despair and tragedy of it all!”

She adds, “In the same film, Juliette Binoche searches for the young sikh male, desperate to know why he is being so elusive, and he tells her, “I want to be found”. It’s the most romantic line in the film, and touched me, making me wish I had love like that (while realizing it’s just an illusion for me).”
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Of the authors influencing her writing, her ‘honest ones’, she names Cormac McCarthy, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, and James Baldwin. She comments, “Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina inspired me to finish my novel about forbidden, unfulfilled love, and the eternal theme of yearning. I’m currently excited by themes dealing with the future of humankind, virtual reality, and science fiction. Infinite Reality by Jim Blascovich, and The City & the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke particularly inspired my own Bitterroot (as did my antagonist, and biggest influence, Alex Truheart).”

Suzette is now writing full-time and is excited to finish her novel. She tells us, “I’ve a keen interest in the relativity of time. Bitterroot deals with timelessness and immortal virtual beings.” Her protagonist begins an ‘online sexual affair’ with Alex, unaware that he’s not a living man. She feels safe with him, having been abused, and falls deeply in love, but also finds herself attracted to Jacques, who she meets ‘in the flesh’. Little does she know that Alex is cognisant of her every step. Later, her online lover contrives the murder of a man who rapes her.

Jacques pushed me down on the velvet sofa pressing his weight on top of me. I hadn’t felt the true weight of man’s body since Jack, that last night in L.A.

He straddled me, one foot on the floor, holding my arms above my head with one hand and pulled off my fur hat with the other, letting my hair halo around my head. I admit I felt a longing desire for his flesh because his male scent was intoxicating. I decided to let him take me, and relaxed…

Afterward, Jacques was sorry, he was contrite. He begged me to forgive him while I dressed and let myself out. Entering my own apartment I threw my vanquished body into my bed, feeling strangely satisfied that Jacques’ cum was mingling with my own version of Alex’s creeping down my thighs. I was sure Jacques was not the man for me, because he hadn’t bothered to kiss me, or bring me to climax, but his beating heart made up for that.

About the Author

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Suzette Bohne’ Sommers describes herself as a product of 1960s counterculture, the anti-Vietnam War peace movement, and the sexual revolution. She has a Masters in Fine Art and lives at Artspace, Loveland, Colorado, where she uses her studio to paint and explore her photography skills. “It’s such a thrill and a circus, almost like living in a dorm in college!” she laughs. “We’re a mix of musicians, dancers, sculptors, and writers.” She listens to jazz while painting, and writing, saying, “It resonates with my interpretive style. Improvisational and Avant Garde are my favorites.” She has recently begun writing full-time, drawing on her own memoirs to create fiction exploring sexual themes.

Find Suzette at The Essential Erotic

and on Facebook, where she curates the Authors and Artists’ Discussion Forum

 

 

Author Influences : Alexis Alvarez

Alexis Alvarez is not only an author, but a photographer and a chemical engineer.

Swan-Lake-Ballet-northwest-3From a young age, she took ballet, dreaming of becoming a ballerina. Dancing was in her blood. While she adores The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and La Sylphide, she’s also drawn to vibrant modern dance that pushes the human body in incredible ways. “I love to see crazy twirls and pirouettes, leaps that defy gravity, a dancer almost taking off into flight. It’s like they’re saying: Take this, Earth. I’m loose and free. Fuck you, death. Right now I can fly.”

“As for theatre,” Alexis adds, “While I love the bombast of opera and musicals, I tend to find that serious dramatic theatre fails to engage me, lacking realism.”

Alexis likes to listen to Latin music and modern rock, but also classical pieces by Mozart and Beethoven, which can send her ‘into a near trance’. “I like a minor key,” says Alexis. “Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Mozart’s Symphony 25 in G Minor and Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D Minor.” She asserts, “I love the resolution of minor to major, of dark to light, writing these transitions into my own work.”

a2d5b9a17da87b489d4825f0a49fd203Speaking of references to art in her books, Alexis explains, “I have a feeling of glorious abandon on viewing certain artworks — especially the surrealism of Magritte, Dali, and de Chirico, and works by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. I love Vermeer, and such fantastical modern artists as Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, Ai WeiWei, and Vija Celmins.” She adds, “I want to bring that feeling of abandon to my fiction, and I’m intrigued to explore why certain works move us emotionally.”

Alexis enjoys the films of Gael García Bernal, and Luis Buñuel, stories ‘with complicated plots, surprise endings, and hidden themes’, ‘full of insight’, and drama. She also enjoys watching mysteries and thrillers, such as La Reina del Sur, The Fall, Top of the Lake, and Wallander. “I’m sure these steer me towards themes of resolution and redemption in my own work.”

Of her reading, Alexis asserts a love for fiction delving the psychology of choice and desire, and the indomitable human spirit. She’s also fond of poetry and of lyrical prose: words so beautiful that they make her wish she’d written them.

Alexis is inspired by such women writers as Donna Tarrt and Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver and Mary Gaitskill, Susan Orlean and Jhumpa Lahiri. She loves to read Federico Garcia Lorca, Octavio Paz, Wallace Stevens, Augusten Burroughs, David Foster Wallace, Kazuo Ishiguro and David Mitchell, and admires the poetry of ee cummings and Sappho.

Describing their works as ‘jewels against the night sky’, these are the friends upon her shelf, ready to be returned to for inspiration.

Alexis also has a passion for romance novels, naming Christine Bell, Natasha Knight, Renee Rose, Jasmine Haynes, and Jessica Clare among her favourites, and an enduring soft spot for Pride and Prejudice.

“When I read something powerful, it inspires me to try harder, to make my own work better,” Alexis emphasizes. “I started writing when I learned to read, and I never stopped. I want readers to use my stories as both an escape and an entry; a solitude away from everyday life and yet also a vehicle to bring them closer to our common human experiences, and our fundamental desires, hopes and dreams.caseyschoice cover 800 size

Alexis’ latest release is Casey’s Choice, which she describes as being ‘about choices, love, and self-determination, interwoven with art themes, sizzling sex and steamy kink, to melt your Kindle’.

If you wish to purchase Casey’s Choice, published by Stormy Night, you’ll find it on Amazon 

Alexis has pages on Amazon, on Facebook, and on the Graffiti Fiction website, which she shares with her two lovely sisters.

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About Alexis Alvarez

Alexis is not only an author, but a chemical engineer, a wife and a mom. She loves taking unposed, candid photographic portraits, as well as capturing interesting lines and light. Alexis is a fan of exotic food, interesting travel, people who make her think, and laughing. She stresses that reading is as necessary as air, and writing is her intoxicant.

Alexis AlvarezShe writes kinky romance and contemporary romance, featuring heroines who get what they want, both in and out of the bedroom.

Interweaving humour, realistic dialogue and poetic prose, she creates books that appeal to the smart, modern reader.

Author Influences : Janine Ashbless

Janine Ashbless is known for taking risks, bringing fierce intelligence to her tales of magic, myth and mystery, exploring dangerous power dynamics, borderline terror, and the not-quite-human.

Of her decision to incorporate sexual elements into her stories, she declares, “Sex is massively important to us as human beings. It is motivation and identity. It can be beautiful or ugly, destructive or redemptive, cruel or loving. We need, as individuals, to weave sexuality into our lives, with respect and understanding of its power.”

She tells us, “The stories I’d been telling myself in my head since adolescence were all paranormal erotica. It just needed me to discover the genre and realise there was an outlet! When a friend gave me a Black Lace book (a collection of BDSM stories about the Knights of the Round Table) it was like a sign from the Publishing God – ‘Go forth and do likewise!’ So I did…”

Janine explains, “When I come to write a novel, I work it through in my head like a movie—starting with the visual scene, winding it back and forth, listening to the characters’ dialogue and working out their emotional arc from there.”Janine Ashbless quote 3

“It’s all in the visuals! Movies often provide ideas for details in my work – the way a god or monster looks, say, or the way one character kisses another – more than plot inspiration.”

Janine loves to watch fantasy and Sci-Fi films, naming Stardust as the inspiration for her steampunk tale And Their Flying Machines and Ridley Scott’s Aliens as the electricity which fired her Military Mind.

She adds, “A huge huge influence on my imagination and work has been the SF/fantasy comic 2000AD, which I’ve been reading since I was 16. It’s the sheer breadth of imagination showcased there, and the emphasis on dramatic action, as well as the very visual way of telling stories. Maybe my ideal writing medium would be erotic graphic novels!”

As a writer of fantasy erotica and steamy romantic supernatural adventure stories, Janine pinpoints several works as having directly influenced her writing. In particular, she names the Earthsea books, by Ursula K Le Guin, and C S Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles, alongside his Till We Have Faces, for inspirational world-building. She asserts, “You can draw a direct line between Le Guin’s Tombs of Atuan and my first novel, Divine Torment.”

51UgcaLha9L._AC_UL320_SR194,320_Janine also names Angela Carter’s Bloody Chamber as an influence on her own short stories, for style and erotic/fairytale subject matter.

She is indebted to Alan Garner’s Weirdstone of Brisingamen and Elidor for evoking the British landscape in a manner ‘frighteningly magical’, which has inspired her writing on many levels.

Traditional folk music lyrics have informed the plots of several of her short stories, 515QRZ58H0Las have Sondheim’s lyrics, which move and inspire her, being ‘clever and emotionally complex’. She enjoys musicals at the tragic end of the spectrum: Cabaret and Jesus Christ Superstar, and Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

Janine owns to a fascination with Victorian Orientalism. “It’s atmospheric, erotic and wildly exotic. Yes, I know it’s politically and culturally problematic (due to overtones of colonialism etc) but I don’t care; I love it.” Janine loves the work of Victorian Pre-Raphaelites and Symbolists, with their ‘pseudo-medievalist fascinations’, and ‘the Academics with their mythological and historical depictions’. Her love of Orientalist art is evident in her novel Heart of Flame, enhanced by her travels through the Middle East.

Among more modern influences, Janine recommends Antony Gormley, known for his sculptures and bold, stark installations.

 Janine Ashbless’ latest release is the second in her Book of the Watchers trilogy: In Bonds of the Earth. Unafraid to tackle the more complex issues surrounding good and evil in mainstream religion, Janine has created a thought-provoking and immersive novel. The first in the series, Cover Him With Darkness, was released in 2014 by Cleis Press, to outstanding reviews.

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“I will free them all.”

Janine Ashbless quote 2When Milja Petak released the fallen angel Azazel from five thousand years of imprisonment, she did it out of love and pity. She found herself in a passionate sexual relationship beyond her imagining and control – the beloved plaything of a dark and furious demon who takes what he wants, when he wants, and submits to no restraint. But what she hasn’t bargained on is being drawn into his plan to free all his incarcerated brothers and wage a war against the Powers of Heaven.

As Azazel drags Milja across the globe in search of his fellow rebel angels, Milja fights to hold her own in a situation where every decision has dire consequences. Pursued by the loyal Archangels, she is forced to make alliances with those she cannot trust: the mysterious Roshana Veisi, who has designs of her own upon Azazel; and Egan Kansky, special forces agent of the Vatican – the man who once saved then betrayed her, who loves her, and who will do anything he can toJanine Ashbless quote 1 imprison Azazel for all eternity.

Torn every way by love, by conflicting loyalties and by her own passions, Milja finds that she too is changing – and that she must do things she could not previously have dreamt of in order to save those who matter to her.

Read more about Janine’s Watchers trilogy here

About Janine Ashbless

Born in Wales, Janine now lives in the North of England with her husband and two rescued greyhounds. She’s worked as a cleaner, library assistant, computer programmer, local government tree officer, and – for five years of muddy feet and shouting – as a full-time costumed Viking. Janine loves goatee beards, ancient ruins, minotaurs, trees, mummies, having her cake and eating it, and holidaying in countries with really bad public sewerage.

Janine’s books have been in print since 2000, encompassing three collections of short stories and nine novels so far. She’s had numerous short stories published: by Black Lace, Nexus, Cleis Press, Ravenous Romance, Harlequin Spice, Sweetmeats, Xcite, Mischief Books, Sexy Little Pages and Ellora’s Cave, amongst others. She is co-editor of the nerd erotica anthology ‘Geek Love’.

IBotE coverYou may like to visit Janine’s website

Her blog

Find her on Facebook

Or locate her on Sinful Press

Purchase In Bonds of the Earth from Amazon UK or Amazon US

From the Apple store or Kobo

Print copies from Sinful Press, Waterstones, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon UK

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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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

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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

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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 : Sonni de Soto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show Me Sir

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

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

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

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

Buy Show Me, Sir here

About the Author

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

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

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

Author Influences : 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.

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Find Tamara on GoodreadsTwitter and Facebook 

Or visit her website www.tamaralush.com

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Author Influences : Krissy Kneen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Later…

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

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

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

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

 

Purchase from

Amazon UK

Amazon Australia

Text Publishing

 

About Krissy Kneen

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

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

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Find Krissy at 

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

www.krissykneen.com

www.furiousvaginas.com 

 

Chatting with Janine Ashbless : Angels and Dragons

I’m so excited to be hosting Janine Ashbless today, introducing the second in her Book of IBotE coverthe Watchers trilogy: In Bonds of the Earth. It’s a thought-provoking and immersive novel, setting new standards for paranormal erotic romance.  Janine’s authorial style is unforgettable. She likes to write about magic, myth and mystery, dangerous power dynamics, borderline terror, and the not-quite-human. She takes exciting risks in her storytelling; she’s innovative, and she brings fierce intelligence to all she writes. 

Cleis Press released the first in Janine’s series, Cover Him With Darkness, in 2014, to  outstanding reviews. In Bonds of the Earth is published by Sinful Press and has just been launched.

What do serpents, or dragons, have to do with the angels who fell from God’s grace? Read on…

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 13.32.38“Stretching up into the great vertical space of the tower, they had become a living helix of light—a caduceus coiled about the pillar of the world. I thought of all the legends from across the Earth. I thought of the Garden of Eden and the Great Dragon of Saint John’s Revelation; stories bookending the whole of human history.

Oh dear God—was this what they looked like before they took human shape? Giant golden serpents? Winged snakes? Is this what angels are?” – In Bonds of the Earth

Janine tells us, “This is a little story about folklore and wonderful writers’ serendipity—the kind of thing that makes my heart sing, as a confirmed pantser.

I’m writing a trilogy of novels about fallen angels. In the first, Cover Him with Darkness, my heroine Milja releases the damned Azazel from his five-thousand year imprisonment, and I mention in passing that the angels only took human form in Genesis/prehistory, when they acquired mortal women as lovers (thus incurring heavenly wrath, the Flood and so on).

What did these angels look like (if anything) before they became human, then? Well, the answer is in the ancient Hebrew texts, if you dig down. The very word “Seraphim” means “the burning ones” and the word is used in the Old Testament to denote both angelic beings and poisonous serpents. In the Book of Enoch it’s interchangeable with the word for dragon.

Seraphim were, according to Shinan and Zakovitch, originally envisaged as winged snakes Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 13.32.51with hands (remember that the Serpent of Eden is punished by being made to crawl in the dust, strongly suggested that it previously had other forms of locomotion).

So I went happily with that when filling in the details in the second book of my trilogy: In Bonds of the Earth. Now, my heroine Milja happens to be of Serbian ethnic origin, so I thought I’d have a poke round in Balkan folklore to find any specifically Serbian dragon lore.

And I came rapidly across the word zmaj (or zmey).

Zmaj are benevolent dragons with ram-like heads and winged, serpentine bodies, who protect the crops from the evil demons causing bad weather. Their blood is poisonous. They can change form and take on human aspect, and in this shape their obsessive interest is in getting into bed with human women. In fact, when thunderstorms threatened, Serbian peasants would go round the village and ritually chase the dragons away from young women in order to make them get on with their proper job!

Sons born of a Zmaj father and human mother are zmajeviti with shamanic spirit-walking powers. Many Slavic heroes both legendary and historical claimed descent from dragons.

These similarities with the fallen angels of Hebrew mythology, are—I assume—entirely coincidental. But they made me very excited and very happy! There’s an angel-child in my book and Milja knows just what to think. It all helps in adding depth to the story and to my characters.”

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More about the story

When Milja Petak released the fallen angel Azazel from five thousand years of imprisonment, she did it out of love and pity. She found herself in a passionate sexual relationship beyond her imagining and control – the beloved plaything of a dark and furious demon who takes what he wants, when he wants, and submits to no restraint. But what she hasn’t bargained on is being drawn into his plan to free all his incarcerated brothers and wage a war against the Powers of Heaven.

As Azazel drags Milja across the globe in search of his fellow rebel angels, Milja fights to hold her own in a situation where every decision has dire consequences. Pursued by the loyal Archangels, she is forced to make alliances with those she cannot trust: the mysterious Roshana Veisi, who has designs of her own upon Azazel; and Egan Kansky, special forces agent of the Vatican – the man who once saved then betrayed her, who loves her, and who will do anything he can to imprison Azazel for all eternity.

Torn every way by love, by conflicting loyalties and by her own passions, Milja finds that she too is changing – and that she must do things she could not previously have dreamt of in order to save those who matter to her.

IBotE coverBroad at the shoulders and lean at the hips, six foot-and-then-something of ropey muscle, he looks like a Spartan god who got lost in a thrift store. He moves like ink through water. And his eyes, when you get a good look at them, are silver. Not gray. Silver. You might take their inhuman shine for fancy contact lenses. Youd be wrong.” – In Bonds of the Earth

About Janine Ashbless

Janine’s books have been in print since 2000, with short stories published by Black Lace, Nexus, Cleis Press, Ravenous Romance, Harlequin Spice, Storm Moon, Xcite, Mischief Books, and Ellora’s Cave, among others. She is co-editor of the nerd erotica anthology ‘Geek Love’.

Born in Wales, Janine now lives in the North of England with her husband and two rescued greyhounds. She’s worked as a cleaner, library assistant, computer programmer, local government tree officer, and – for five years of muddy feet and shouting – as a full-time costumed Viking. Janine loves goatee beards, ancient ruins, minotaurs, trees, mummies, having her cake and eating it, and holidaying in countries with really bad public sewerage.

Her work has been described as:

“Hardcore and literate” (Madeline Moore) and “Vivid and tempestuous and dangerous, and bursting with sacrifice, death and love.” (Portia Da Costa)

Janine-Ashbless-photo credit David WoolfallLinks:

You may like to visit Janine’s website

Her blog 

Find her on Facebook

Or locate her on Sinful Press

Purchase In Bonds of the Earth from Amazon UK or Amazon US

From the Apple store or Kobo

Print copies from Sinful PressWaterstonesBarnes and Noble, and Amazon UK

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Lingerie Wish Lists

I cannot lie: I have a LOT of lingerie. Where another woman’s pulse might rise at the sight of shoes and handbags, mine elevates at impractical lacy gowns and slivers of silk.

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-07-32-52Here is a peek inside my underwear drawer, and my tips for some of the loveliest treats out there.

Drop some hints to whoever gets to see your underthings most regularly, or treat yourself (far quicker and just as satisfying!).

You’ve caught me almost in the act, as I’ve just ordered this gorgeous lace dressing gown, from the Figleaves website.

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Figleaves – Gigi collection

The robe is called Gigi, and there are several other little slips of lacy nothing to match. It looks so lovely that I’ll probably order one for my sister too: shhh… don’t tell her.

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Rosie for Autograph: Marks and Spencer

I love simple silk and satin designs too. Marks and Spencers’ Rosie for Autograph range has given us some (affordable) gems in recent years.

I’ve been wearing this dressing gown, in midnight blue floral silk, almost every morning, and there’s not a single snag, despite our dog often climbing on my lap.

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Myla

London based Myla is known for its luxurious, sheer robes: absolutely on my wish-list.

This season, Myla presents its silk heritage range: I’m drooling.

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Myra
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Myla
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Rosie for Autograph: M&S

The Rosie for Autograph (M&S) range includes some beautiful 1930s inspired silk nightgowns and chemises, in pastels and in jewel tones (up to UK size 22).

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Rosie for Autograph: M&S
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Rosie for Autograph: M&S

From the same collection, I have several ‘Rosie’ bra and knicker sets. They’re well-made, wash well, are comfy and are heart-stoppingly pretty. The Rosie range has some lovely silk camisoles too.

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Rosie at Autograph: M&S .
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Jewel tones: from Agent Provocateur and Rosie at Autograph

Lots of other customers must think so too, as M&S continues the same range year on year, simply adjusting the colour palette/placement of lace.

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LBD : little black drawers

Like most of us, I have a significant amount of black underwear, but I also tend to buy in flesh-tones (often the best option under pale coloured clothing).

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Nudey-shades, from Agent Provocateur, Freya and M&S

For a smooth-finish, I buy Freya bras (very comfy, and a good selection in larger cup sizes).

Meanwhile, it goes without saying that every woman should go for a regular fitting. If your weight fluctuates, this is especially important. I recommend Bravissimo as a great place for bra fitting (book ahead for this service). Getting your baps out for someone you’ve only met a few minutes previously may seem scary, but wearing an ill-fitting bra is far more frightening in the long run.

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Dita Von Teese collection: Marlene

I’ve noticed that Figleaves is now stocking the sumptuous Dita Von Teese range, which I plan to give a whirl. This red and black set hits just the right note (called Marlene).

If your budget is more generous, there’s British store Rigby & Peller, established in the 1930s and offering the royal bosom uplift since 1982 (as the official corsetiere to H.M.Queen Elizabeth II).

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Aubade

Among their collections, they stock French brand Aubade : the quality of the lace is just as it should be.

Another French brand I love is Simone Pérèle (available from various UK department stores). The accent tends to be on embroidered pieces, making them feel very special.

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Simone Perele:  with embroidered floral motif

When the sales are on, I occasionally allow myself a treat from Agent Provocateur (hooray for the bigger cup sizes).

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Agent Provocateur

Another brand for my wish list is  Ayten Gasson  (silk lingerie made in the UK). They make some super-cute frilly knicks. I plan to investigate…

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Ayten Gasson

In my younger years, (ahem) I would regularly don corsets, suspenders and stockings. Husband and I have now been together for twenty-seven summers and I admit that I don’t bother as often as I used to. However, I’m planning to rectify this.

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Advice on corset wearing, from Victory Lamour

Next time I’m in London, I’m planning to visit What Katy Did, for a corset fitting. I’ve had several recommendations for their good service. To find out more about corsets, you may like to visit Lucy’s Corsetry or Tara at Victory Lamour.

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Eclipse collection, in blue and black, from Figleaves

When it comes to the nitty-gritty of what to wear under tight-fitting clothes, I’m sold on smoothing shapewear.

Such garments are not guaranteed to inspire swoons of lust, and I know it’s not politically correct to admit to potentially restraining your internal organs in the pursuit of a smoother tummy area, but I’ve reached an age (and shape) at which I do feel I need a little help.

Some feature lace or satin panel inserts, which do make them prettier. This slip, in blue and black, from Figleaves, called Eclipse is a good example.

I have control-pants and slips (which render me suitably submissive), from Wacoal, Spanx (available from Debenhams in the UK) and dear old M&S.

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s (this style from Sucking it all in: with Maidenform

Another trusty friend is my tummy smoother, from Maidenform.

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Shapewear is so much nicer with roses on!  (from Maidenform)

My ultimate tips? Unless you enjoy being tortured by your undergarments, avoid bras with cheap, scratchy lace and NEVER wear knickers (or any garment) in a size too small.

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The art of hoiking up one’s melons

If you want to dance, eat a full plate of food, and bend over without passing out, choose wisely.  I once fainted wearing a particularly powerful M&S control slip.

Know only that I learnt my lesson.

One of the joys of lingerie is that it’s a form of ‘dressing up’. Your persona in a diaphanous  1940s inspired Hollywood-esque dressing gown may differ wildly from the version of you who laces on a leather corset. The fun is in the finding out.

emmanuelle-de-maupassant-profile-headerTo hear more from me (giveaways, book reviews, articles, and general gossip) subscribe to my newsletter here

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

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

Which themes tug to be unravelled and explored?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Double-standards, Repression and Censorship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing Beyond Conventions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing Women’s Sexuality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emerging Changed

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

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

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

Write your own truths, write your own pages.

Our voices are here to be heard.

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

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

You may also be interested to read:

Also coming soon…

Writing Craft

Authors’ Recommended Reads

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

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

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

Under the Skin: with Tobsha Learner

Erotica.

Too formulaic? Clichéd? Predictable?

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

She is a risk-taker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which themes tug at you?

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

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

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

As a former sculptor, tell us your artistic influences.

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

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

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

1710567Tell us a little about your writing processes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.tobshaserotica.com

www.tslearner.co.uk

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

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

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

An interview with Joey W Hill

Joey W. Hill is passionate about her craft. The author of over forty titles, she believes in writing compelling characters who explore ‘their darkest sexual needs’. Love is at the heart of her stories, as she takes her readers on a cathartic emotional journey.

Here, she reveals how she began writing from a young age, tells us what inspires her, and offers advice to new writers.

Joey, do tell us how you began writing fiction… 

I was reading before I ever started school, thanks to my wonderful mom teaching me. Stories that had a central love story or an abundance of romantic elements were the ones that most captured my interest. The more I read, the more I wanted to be part of those worlds, and somewhere along the way I realized the closest I could come to joining them was creating those worlds myself.

I wrote my first novella in 5th grade and spent my teenage years learning about craft, the business and writing a multitude of short stories and novels. I entered college as a creative writing major but that’s where my intentions took a turn. I became involved in the animal

DeskInspirationlores1
Joey’s desktop companions: Jeremy Renner, Thor, Jax (Sons of Anarchy) and Jayne (Firefly), Batty Minion and fuzzy stork guy

rights/animal welfare movement and spent the next ten years giving that my primary energy. Then, one day, it was as if a switch flipped and said, “It’s time to get back to writing stories.”

I’m glad for that hiatus, not only because I supported a great cause still dear to my heart, but because it provided the vital life experience necessary to write emotionally intense Dom/sub stories. I couldn’t have done that in my teens or early twenties, because I just didn’t know enough about love, disappointment, sacrifice, and what it takes to make a relationship work.

 

What brought about the incorporation of more explicit erotic elements, and why are they integral to your work?

Since I started writing in 5th grade, my understanding of erotic elements was a lot different then than it was about 15 years later (laughter). However, even as an adolescent and teenager, there was sex in my books. I knew what sex was and had reached the age that it intrigued me. I think it fascinated me differently than it does most adolescents, however.

Aside from the typical interests caused by hormones, intellectually, the power of it, the way it intertwined with emotions and helped define a relationship, absorbed me. I was also intrigued by the spiritual elements: in the way sex can be used to take love to a deeper level (as with Tantra) and in how various faiths/cultures have used it in their rituals. When I embraced the Wiccan faith in my mid-twenties, I loved the idea of sex being used to raise spiritual energy in the Great Rite.

Back in my teens, my (then dormant) submissive orientation was driving my interest as well. I had a subconscious sense of how deep, intense and diverse sexual expression could be. If I still had my hands on those early manuscripts, I’m pretty sure there would be more than a hint of Dom/sub dynamics to come, because the spicy romances I read as a teenager were the bodice rippers whose heroes are barely disguised Doms.

When I was young, I had my Ken doll put my Barbies in the dungeon and tieJoey W Hill author quote erotic fiction interview them up, so it really shouldn’t have been a surprise when I wrote my first Dom/sub romance in my late twenties. And yet, it was. I initially intended Make Her Dreams Come True to be a spicy romance, but instead it became a day-long exploration between a Dom and a sub in a mall environment. It not only surprised me that it took that turn; what it unlocked inside of myself was even more surprising. I finally understood and embraced my own submissive side. When I began the exploration of my orientation, I channelled what I was feeling and learning into an exploration of all aspects of the Dom/sub relationship on the written page.

 

Can you remember how you first felt on discovering that you could write a scene able to ‘arouse’?

I’m not sure I ever thought about it consciously. I was always captivated by the spiritual and emotional power of sexual relations, so writing stories that reflected that was as intuitive as breathing. While I do love to hear “oh, that scene was hot” or “that character melts my panties”, what I like most is to hear that the emotional component added extra wattage to the erotic quotient, because that’s what ratchets it up for me. If I can’t pull heartstrings and stroke the libido at the same time, I know it still needs work. I believe that arousal works best for women when body, soul, heart and mind are all involved.

 

 

What do you hope to accomplish through your writing?

Whenever I have a reader contact me to say that I’m an auto-buy and on their keeper shelf, or that my work gives them an escape, a chance to feel better about life, or has helped them through a rough patch, I know that I’m doing exactly what I hope to do. I think a writer needs to write for themself first;  I must write a story I love before I can give it to anyone else.

I don’t write to motivate people to any kind of action, because I don’t feel that’s the role of a romance author. However, I do think that, when we do our job right, we help people feel good. People who feel good tend to reach out and perform kindnesses for others. This makes the world a better place overall.

 

NightsTemplarJoeyWHill
Joey’s latest release in the ‘Vampire Queen’ series

What has been your experience of the publishing industry? Have your experiences matched your expectations?

Ups and downs, like any business. Not too long after I was first published, in 2000, both my ebook publishers closed down. Fortunately, soon after, I found a good home with a supportive erotic romance publisher. That was my primary home for fifteen years, before their business troubles convinced me it was time to turn my hand to self-publishing. I’m also published by a NY house.

With the recent shake ups and struggles related to ebook pricing, Amazon’s influence on the market and other dynamic factors, it’s been harder than usual to predict the best ways to pursue this business. I’ve always spread my eggs across multiple baskets, having books with my NY house, as well as with a small press, and through self-publishing. I pursue an eclectic market strategy, always evolving. When push comes to shove, it’s mostly up to the author to make her/his book successful, if it’s going to happen at all.

To answer the question directly, the publishing business is pretty much what I expected it to be. Often unfair but, overall, a system where persistence, hard work and writing a good book pays off. You sometimes have to push through with a battering ram, and lose family, friends, home and sanity in the process. But don’t let that discourage you! (lol)

 

Have you been shamed or otherwise discouraged for your choice of writing?  

I’ve always been straightforward about what I write, yet courteous and considerate about where and with whom I discuss particulars. That behavior seems to go over well, no matter my audience. There is a continuing misconception that erotic romance is low quality adult bookstore porn, and a BDSM romance author is a trashy, outrageous character with the morality of a crack whore.

Meeting me (and many other erotic romance authors, who are a talented, wonderful group) helps people correct that impression, and allows them to take a closer, more balanced look at the genre. I act, sound and look like exactly what I am: a middle-class, well-educated, pretty traditional, Southern-polite kind of girl.

When I worked a day job as an administrative assistant, I did have a board member who had a problem with me. They tried to “expose” what I write in an attempt to discredit me. However, since most of my customers and my employers already knew (because of my professionalism/openness about it, as noted above), the attempt fell flat.

My family doesn’t necessarily understand why I write what I write, but they’ve been very supportive, particularly my mom. Also, I have no idea how I’d do any of it without my husband’s help and support.

 

While erotic fiction has many loyal fans, it’s often denigrated as ‘pulp’. What would you say in its defense?

Stories that present sex in a positive, respectful or sacred way make many people uncomfortable, let alone those that explore alternative sexual practices. It’s easier to trivialize these as “mommy porn” than to acknowledge that Joey W Hill author quote erotic romance interview, to help them embrace their libido in a context we understand – love, commitment, family. My hope is that we’ll grow up enough one day as a society to understand that, but I often fear we’ll never evolve beyond the mentality of two ten-year-old boys snickering over a Penthouse they’ve found in the trashcan.

 

What appeals to you about the work of other authors within the erotic genre? 

I hate that I’m not able to read more but, often, it’s too much like a busman’s holiday. I can’t turn off the internal editor:  “oh, I like how she did that transition” or “he really needed some better character development there”. Those thoughts make it REALLY hard to get lost in a story, which is the best part of reading a book.

VJ Summers is probably one of my favorite erotic romance authors, though she’s currently on a short (I hope!) hiatus. She connects you to her characters quickly, writing stories that make you feel interested, aroused, moved, and invested: as you want to in a love story. That sounds so simple, but it’s actually quite difficult.

I also love Alexis Hall’s For Real and Glitterland, and look forward to reading more of his brilliance. Denise Rossetti’s Phoenix Rising series is a personal favorite in the paranormal/erotic romance arena, as is Shelby Reed’s Fifth Favor and Michelle Polaris’s Bound Odyssey. I also recently finished Master of No One by Tricia Owens, which was excellent.

What all of these books have in common is their strong craft, great characterization, and their integration of erotic elements within the emotion of the story. I expect the same quality from my erotic reads as I do from any other genre, and these authors deliver in these titles. On my GoodReads page, you can see my reviews for various erotic books, and find out which other genres motivate my work (grin).

 

How would you describe your current writing style, and what are your inspirations?

I write emotionally intense, character-driven, BDSM love stories. The characters always lead the way for me. I don’t care for complicated political or action plots, though I do use these when my stories demand them. For me, the excitement and drama is in the relationship.

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Joey’s garden view from her desk, complete with mermaid and fairy companions

As far as inspirations, I love relationship stories, where the characters figure out conflicts together, rather than enduring a frustrated string of “misunderstandings” that only get resolved in the final pages. Nora Roberts was the first author I read who did away with the “misunderstanding” crap and focused on letting her characters resolve emotional obstacles together. Although she is not an erotic author, her command of sexual tension has heavily influenced how I built this in my own stories.

Laura Kinsale, Kathleen Woodiwiss and Penelope Williamson are other influences. They avoid the “expected”, writing steamy love stories with unforgettable characters that squeeze your heart in your chest and make you cry. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series is the cherry-on-the-top. Her Jamie and Claire relationship is unforgettable.

 

What advice would you share with ‘new’ writers? 

I always give aspiring authors three pieces of advice: know your craft, know the business, and never give up. Sounds simple, but there are hours of work and tons of emotional and physical energy involved in all three of those.

Know your craft – Learning the craft of writing is like learning any complex skill. It takes practice, studying the style/craft of authors that you love, reading books about craft, attending workshops, joining a writing group that can critique your early attempts and give you feedback (which also teaches you to be brave enough to subject your work to review), and more practice, practice, practice. You never write the best book you can write. You attempt to write it with every new project, whether you’ve written one book or fifty.

Know the business – these days, this is even more of a challenge, because you can seek a home for your work with small press, self-publish, or try for the NY houses. Fewer authors are going NY, however, since some of the NY houses hold onto a lion’s share of rights. Small presses tend to offer short term contracts (more than seven years is a mistake, and for digital media, three to five years  makes far more sense), and quicker turnaround of royalty statements/payments, while allowing you to retain subsidiary rights, and the freedom to provide input into the prep of your book.

In self-publishing, you control all those aspects, which makes it a very appealing choice for authors with an established following. I still recommend that aspiring authors seek out a publisher for their early work, however, because a good publisher tests your craft and helps you determine if your work is ready to be published. You only get to make a first impression once, and you don’t want to have to win back readers you alienated by putting stuff out there that was weak craft/immature writing. Yes, getting published is hard, and yes, sometimes, editors can’t see past the latest trends to something of quality, but that’s

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The latest in the ‘Nature of Desire’ series, from Joey W Hill

why small press is an even better training ground, because they are far more likely to consider the quality of the writing than whether you’ve written “the next Twilight” (name your trendy title here).

To learn the business, attend industry or online conferences, check out industry publications like Writer’s Digest, and RT Book Reviews and read articles/blogs by established, successful authors. It’s the age of the Internet, so you have to use discretion to weed out the good from the chaff but, if you do, you’ll find good info to help you learn about this crazy business. Once you get published, those same sources will help you learn to market, since that’s pretty much all on you unless you’re one of the few Chosen Ones who become the favoured child of a publisher with a large marketing budget. No sour grapes there—just the way the business is, and getting resentful or angry about it doesn’t help your career in the slightest.

Never Give Up – Only you can decide how much effort you want to put into becoming a good writer and getting published. You’re also the one who decides how far along that road you want to go. Some people decide they’re going to just write for themselves, and, honestly, that’s valid. At its heart, writing is about the passion we feel for telling a story. The publishing business can suck that passion right out of you if you don’t develop the right combination of inner creative sensitivity, outer rhino skin, and unflagging professionalism. If you think you have that combo, the secret is to not give up. Persist, persist, persist. Keep writing better and better stories, learn more about the business, and keep trying to meet your goals.

Thank you so much!

Want to learn more about Joey or ask her anything else?

Free excerpts from her works are available on her website, www.storywitch.com. Additional vignettes, character interviews and graphics inspired by her work can be viewed at the fan forum site, here. You can also find her on TwitterFacebook and GoodReads.

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.

 

 

 

Wanted: Intelligent Smut

 

 

Yes, yes YES!!!

Such is the battle-cry of millions of insatiable readers in the erotic-romance genre: currently worth around $1.5 billion Dollars annually (more than any other).

Yes, women have sex drives (as do men).

Yes, women have fantasies (as do men).

Yes, women sometimes just want to get down and dirty (need I say more).

Fear of Flying - erotic fiction

It’s clear that the popularity of e-readers and tablets has aided sales of erotic fiction, offering as they do the chance to enjoy any amount of knee-trembling ‘naughtiness’ with anonymity.

Looking back to the 1970s, Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying was one of the first to gain international bestselling status, with the uninhibited ‘flying free’ of Isadora, on a wild journey of liberation and self-discovery. Nancy Friday’s taboo-shattering My Secret Garden (1973) not only sets out to show us that we are not alone in enjoying fantasies (the kind that nancy_friday  erotic literature still have women wondering if they are the only ‘bad’ girls thinking saucy thoughts) but that, whatever spice your imagination can conjure up, someone else is undoubtedly doing the same, and possibly adding quite a few jalapenos on top.

Although I grew up on the salacious 1980s offerings of Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper, eating up each morsel like a dog falling upon a plate of fat sausages, these days, I much prefer my fiction without ‘hearts and roses’. Erotic literature is widely classified as exploring sexual themes for their own sake, viewing our humanity through the  lens of erotic desire. The development of a romantic relationship is not obligatory to the menu.

Classic examples come from the kinky pen of the late 18th-century’s much fanny-hill by-john-clelandimprisoned Marquis de Sade and John Cleland, whose Fanny Hill (1748) inspired over two centuries of obscenity trials and censorship. Brazen for its time, Theophile Gautier’s Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835) sees a woman use her beauty to captivate not only a young poet but, disguised as a man, his mistress! It oozes sexual deception and intrigue. Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899) similarly shocked readers by its Mademoiselle de Maupin heroine seeking out passion for its own sake, beyond the confines of her marriage. Also published in 1899, The Torture Garden, by Octave Mirbeau, follows desire and depravity to a shocking, sadistic paradise, where debauchery knows no bounds, its premise being that self-knowledge and fulfilment are only attainable by experiencing extremes. Reaching back even further into the annals of sexy literary history, there is The Perfumed Garden. Written in the 16th Century, it looks at the sexual customs and behaviour of Arabia in the Middle Ages (much as the Kama Sutra reflects ancient Hindu culture).

Henry Miller Tropic of Cancer Other storm raisers, banned from public consumption for decades, include D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer (bawdy adventures in 1930s Paris) and Tropic of Capricorn (debauchery in Lady Chatterley's Lover  erotic fiction 1920s New York).

The question is, amidst a sea of erotica, how do you locate the more challenging, intelligent sauce? The sort that not only arouses at a visceral level, but inspires us to rethink sexual conventions: to challenge our minds as well as delivering a thwack to the groin.

In Delta of Venus, Anais Nin pens several provocative and elegantly Delta of Venus, Anais Nin - intelligent eroticastyled tales: a Hungarian adventurer seduces wealthy women then vanishes with their money; a veiled woman selects strangers from a chic restaurant for private trysts; and a Parisian milliner leaves her husband for a mini-break to the opium dens of Peru.

Another titillating collection is The Gates of Paradise: 35 stories exploring the infinite variety of erotic experience, by such authors as Tennessee Williams, Marguerite Duras and Isabel Allende. Ms. The Lover - Duras - erotic fiction Duras is best known for her poetically scribed The Lover.

Belle de Jour (1928), by Joseph Kessel, inspired Luis Buñuel’s film Belle-de-jour  Catherine Deneuve (starring the luscious Catherine Deneuve). A wealthy Parisian housewife seeks fulfilment of her own vivid, sadomasochistic fantasies via a brothel, where she submits to her customers, revelling in (yet also repulsed by) her ‘debasement’. Each evening, she returns home to her oblivious husband.

Another French novel better known as a film adaptation is Emmanuelle Arsan’s Emmanuelle (1959), whose protagonist embraces the full Emmanuelle - erotic fiction scope of her sexual nature. Served with a dollop of French philosophical reverie, it’s smut at its most stylish.

There is a wealth of contemporary erotic fiction for you to explore, covering every nuance of kink and desire. The more time you spend looking, the more likely you are to find a tantalising surprise. Standing on the sado-masochistic shoulders of Pauline Réage’s Story of O (1954) is Anne Rice’s 1980s Sleeping Beauty Trilogy Story of O - erotic fiction BDSM(written under her A.N. Roquelaure pseudonym). It has spawned a rich seam of fairy-tale inspired erotic tales. Meanwhile, Twilight has brought forth a host of alpha-male werewolves and lustful vampires.

My modern day recommendations are Tobsha Learner’s kaleidoscopic anthologies of short stories: Quiver, Tremble and Yearn. Highly original, provocative and Tobsha Learner - Quiver - erotic fiction often shocking (erotic encounters at the dentist’s and a disembodied penis providing endless nights of pleasure), they admirably challenge conventional notions. More a ‘wake-up’ call than overtly sexy, I find Tobsha a breath of fresh air.

For a dystopian erotica mash-up, treat yourself to a look at Steelwhisper’s masterfully written George. Disturbing, and infinitely touching, it is one of the most powerful pieces I’ve come across in the erotic genre.

For hauntingly beautiful, evocative and challenging short-stories, visit the sites of Malin James and Remittance Girl.

Indulge the paradox of sexual agony and ecstasy via Jonathan Kemp’s 26: ‘visions of excess’ burning brightly beyond the civility of language and manners, taking us on a journey of transcendence, of sexual gratification and drug-induced otherness.jonathan-kemp-26-erotic-fiction

Or venture into the radical sex writing of Patrick Califia; I recommend his gothic classic, Mortal Companion, as a great place to start.

We are in charge of our sexual choices: we don’t need ‘permission’ to bed as we please, and the same applies to what we choose to read. I say, dare to be as adventurous with your erotic reading as you would be with any other genre.

Make free to add your suggestions for reading below…

(you may like to visit my Author Page on Amazon to see where my pen has been tickling…)

Battle-born: Feisty Females in Fiction

Looking for female characters with a brain? With attitude? With something to say? Are the novels you’re reading measuring up?

 

Romance addicts might be hoping that a hunky man is waiting at the end of the rainbow, but isn’t it great to feel that there’s more on a woman’s mind than just a wedding band? She may be driven by the pursuit of love, but let’s also see her achieve self-love (and self-knowledge) along the way.

 

We can do worse than encounter Austen’s JENNIFER EHLE - Elizabeth Bennett - feisty females in fiction Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) who oozes independence, wit and pragmatism. She bags Darcy in the end, but not until he’s gone the extra mile to prove himself worthy of her. Most satisfyingly, she learns to better understand her own foibles in the meantime.

 

vivien-leigh - scarlett-oharaIt was Southern Belle Scarlett O’Hara (Gone With The Wind) and Vanity Fair’s Becky Sharp who first lit my fire. Equally conceited and ambitious, they thought nothing of defying convention. Here were women who might have something to teach me. While Scarlett refuses to allow roguish Rhett Butler, or the inconvenience of civil war, to interfere with her determination to enjoy life, the flirtatious Miss Sharp manipulates her way up the social ladder. Both endure trials and the humiliation of plans thwarted, but retain their inner spark, finding their own Becky Sharp Vanity Fair strong women in  literature version of contentment by the closing chapters. Their selfish acts are allowed to stand, without excuse or pardon, leaving us to judge as we may.

 

As a teenager, I remember blushing at Defoe’s sexually effusive Moll Flanders and being repulsed at her casting off of various children like so much unnecessary baggage, but I also delighted at her social scheming, her sense of Moll Flanders - Alex Kingston - strong women in fiction adventure, her impervious determination and her high spirits. She was infinitely preferable to the melancholy ‘victims’ and infuriating ‘saints’ of Hardy and Dickens.

 

Jane Eyre was no Moll, lacking even a speck of glamour, but she hooked Rochester with her own brand of quiet confidence and intelligence, scorning his perceived right to ‘command’ her. She declares: ‘superiority depends on the use made of time and experience’. I couldn’t help cheering her as she withstood theJane Eyre - Bronte - strong women in fiction familiar inventory of hardships, relying on her own powers of endurance to prevail.

 

Intent on showing that there is more to life than the frivolities of a romantic dalliance, Max Beerbohm presents femme fatale Zuleika - Max BeerbohmZuleika Dobson. She gains entrance to the privileged, all-male domain of Oxford University, whose students become uniformly infatuated by her beauty. Then, the ‘sillies’, forlorn at her refusal to accept a husband, make a pact of suicide, drowning in the river to ‘prove’ their devotion. The loss is not great; the academics barely notice the absence of the young men and impervious Zuleika heads to Cambridge

 

Of course, female protagonists don’t need to be young, sexy or beautiful to capture our attention – and their stories can exist outside of the realm of romance. Think of Agatha Christie’s outwardly demure Miss Marple: quietly Agatha Christie - Miss Marple - feisty strong women in fiction determined on sniffing out killers, as she knits yet another pair of baby booties. As one police inspector puts it, she may be ‘fluffy and dithery in appearance but, inwardly, she’s as sharp and shrewd as they make them’. Of herself, she remarks: ‘Inertia does not suit me and never has’.

 

Fellow detective Mary Russell, written by Laurie R King, shows the legendary Mary Russell - Laurie R King Sherlock how it’s done, not only working beside him but often eclipsing Holmes. Over a series of novels, Mary grows in stature and experience, providing an intriguing, and often amusing, foil to Conan Doyle’s snooty sleuth. Go Mary!

 

In heart-wrenching contrast, the bleak yet compulsive Scandi-Noir Millennium Trilogy has given us Lisbeth Salander. Having read the books in my 40s, I wonder what I would have made of the vengeful violence meted out by this fiercely ‘anti-social’ heroine in my teenage years. Brutality against women permeates the lisbeth salander - strong women in fiction - Millennium Trilogy - Larssonstory at all levels, to a degree that obliges us to accept the ‘justice’ of Lisbeth’s actions. Although she lives firmly outside of conventions, she retains a need for love and companionship. Infinitely complex, she is one of most compelling female characters of our modern age, exemplifying resilience in the face of adversity.

 

The Song of Ice and Fire series (brought to the screen as our beloved Game of Thrones) presents a dazzling host of powerful female characters: resolute Arya and her mother, Catelyn Stark, female warriors Ygritte and Brienne of Tarth, cunning Margaery Tyrell Game of Thrones  Song of Ice and Fire  Mother of Dragons Strong women in fiction and her grandmother, Melisandre and Cersei Lannister, and the brave and noble Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen: a chocolate box of infinite satisfaction. In terms of ‘role models’ there’s something to appeal to every woman, of every age.

 

Young Adult fiction also offers us some corkers: His Dark Materials’ Lyra, Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, Hermione Granger of Harry Potter fame and Divergent’s Tris. They celebrate not only bravery but compassion and intellect and, most importantly, assertion of individuality.

 

My vote is for women who whisper encouragement long after I’ve closed the pages, urging me to be strong and self-reliant, marching to my own drum.

 

Raise your ‘bravo’ by adding your feisty favourites below…

 

(For more feisty females, you may like to visit my Author Page on Amazon)