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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Explore the unexpected, and the uninhibited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Taste the unexpected, and the uninhibited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Peel back the pages and discover.

Taste the unexpected, and the uninhibited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

simon-drax

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erotic fiction isn’t just for women.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Easy Money?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Living Wage?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Risky Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Contracts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Taking Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Finding Your Voice and Your Readership

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

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

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

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

 Write boldly, write proudly, write with passion.  

Resources

Editing services tailored to erotic fiction

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

Zak Jane Keir’s Dirty Sexy Edits

IG Frederick’s Pussy Cat Press: editing service

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

  

Articles on effective editing:

Remittance Girl: Over Writing 

and 

Malin James: Character Limits

 

Workshops to develop writing craft:

Corporeal Writing (run by Lidia Yuknavitch)

and

LitReactor (Rachel Kramer Bussel)  

Further Reading

Coming in 2017

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

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

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

What the Future Holds: 21st century erotic fiction

Interviewing just over 130 authors of erotic fiction, I asked what the future holds for our genre.

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

For writers and readers seeking access to an online community,erotic fiction 21st century Emmanuelle de Maupassant where ideas may be further debated, and professional expertise shared, you may like to visit the Erotica Writers and Readers Association, or The Erotic Literature Salon.

 

Writing Craft

In her inspiring and uplifting article, On Writing Erotica, Remittance Girl describes the act of passionate creation: ‘Do you remember falling in love with someone and being so addicted to them that it almost made you sick? You could not leave them alone, and when you had to, they were like a huge, dark cloud that blocked out half your horizon, so that everything you did was in a half-dream?… You felt the ghost of their hands on you hours afterwards? Some of my pieces have been like that…The story, the characters haunt me. Those stories are like insatiable, brutal lovers…When it’s like that, I am in ecstasy. And when it’s over, I feel emptied of everything, but not abandoned. Because the story is there and finished and lives. I often wonder if my readers can tell which stories were like that for me. Part of me hopes they can’t. Part of me thinks they can smell the ones that were.’

Lily Harlem notes that skill is required to keep a reader ‘invested’ and ‘in the moment’. She muses, “Some only want to be thrilled. Some want only to be horrified. Erotica is for readers who want to be Horrified but Thrilled!”

With the explosion in self-publishing, many e-editions appear hastily written and, as such, are often felt to muddy the reputation of the genre, so that many readers are, perhaps Kristina Lloyd author quote erotic fiction 21st century literature Emmanuelle de Maupassantunsurprisingly, apt to denigrate erotic fiction as no more than ‘poorly written filth’.

Kay Jaybee tells us, “I fear a continued dilution of quality as more unedited self-pubs hit the e-shelves (across all genres).” She believes that the publishing system may adapt in some way to compensate. Zander Vyne underlines, “The market is flooded with crap. I sometimes wonder if I’m like a high-class call girl who doesn’t want to be lumped in with crack-whores giving $5 blow-jobs in alleys. Maybe, this explains why I’m gradually moving myself out of the ‘erotic fiction’ classification.” Elizabeth Black adds, “People are uploading poorly written porn and presenting it as erotica. Not only is it poorly written, it is a grammatical mess. The covers are ugly. There are misspellings and formatting problems. The whole mess is giving legitimate erotic fiction writers a bad reputation.”

LN Bey notes, “The influence of 50 Shades of Grey, combined with the self-publishing revolution, has produced an awful lot of junk to be waded through to find the jewels.” Making suggestions as to how we ‘solve’ this, LN urges writers, and readers, to ‘buy with discernment and promote work you love by leaving reviews on your blog and on various platforms… and promote great blogs!’

Catherine Mazur urges that we write sex so that it is integral to the unfolding story, rather than dropped into narrative ‘like cookie-cutter homogenized porn cheese chunks’. She asserts, “I’d like sex writing to be taken seriously, as part of culture and as an art. Writing an erotic story to what most would consider to be a high literary standard is very difficult, and this pervasive cultural idea that just anyone can do it, without years of practice and hard work, is insulting.”

Dee Maselle voices a common view that authors need to investsiri ousdahl author quote erotic fiction 21st century Emmanuelle de Maupassant sex in their craft, including through editing “I‘d like to see better editing, with consumer dollars following the well-groomed and thoughtful written word.”

Meanwhile, Molly Synthia urges writers of fiction using erotic elements to avoid creating internal hierarchies of one style or sub-genre being superior to another. She explains that authors have a tendency ‘to celebrate all of the freedom in the genre while subtly (and sometimes not subtly at all) looking down on those who choose to write differently’. She’d like to see authors more readily ‘admit that they write some things just to help housewives get off… and not be ashamed of it’. She continues, “Sometimes we want a candlelight dinner, roses, wine, an incredible bath, and hours of sensual lovemaking. Sometimes we just want to be bent over a chair and fucked quickly. We need writers to accept that either is valid. In any other genre we’d accept a richly detailed world in one story and sparse writing in another.”

Meanwhile, Patrick Califia adds,Writing erotica for the sake of getting off quickly becomes predictable. I hope erotica can continue to develop as literature, with multiple layers of significance and drive.”

Kathleen Bradean states, “I’d like to see literary erotica get it’s due. Writers talk about some mythical golden age. Maybe it was when Anaïs Nin was writing, or George Bataille, but it seems to me that really good literary erotica is a rare thing. Commercially viable literary erotica even less so.”

 

Very Different Beasts

Erotic romance is enjoyed by millions of readers worldwide, providing inspiration and catharsis. Its authors weave emotional journeys and it is for this that fans return over and again.

For those who pursue the writing of ‘pure’ erotica, in which love is not the main focus, the rise in popularity of erotic romance is often perceived as a serious challenge, since readers are thought to now widely associate the entire erotic genre with love themes. They can be KD Grace author erotic fiction literature quote 21st centurydisappointed on coming across a book labelled as ‘erotica’, which does not meet their expectations for romantic elements. Meanwhile, erotic fiction authors may be ‘judged’ (and reviewed critically) against criteria they have never attempted to meet.

A significant share of authors surveyed recognize that traditional erotica, in its exploration of our humanity through the sexual lens, is a very different beast to ‘steamy romance’, in which sex scenes support the development of a love story.

IG Frederick voices a common view in stating, “I’d very much like to see a differentiation between erotic romance and erotica and see literary erotica come into its own as a separate genre. I don’t have any objections to writing, reading, and/or enjoying erotic romance. But, when people acquire one of my works (especially from Korin Dushayl) and expect a romance purely because it’s listed in the erotica genre, it does a disservice to the reader and to me as the author.”

Writers regularly express their desire to see greater recognition of the division between traditional, pure forms of erotic fiction, and erotic romance.

Jane Gilbert comments, Erotic romance, as a genre, seems to have taken over the erotica label post Fifty Shades of Grey. Erotica and erotic romance are two very distinct categories. That is not a value judgement of either but more an observation that the two categories are trying to achieve, in the main, quite different things. They need to be distinguished.”

How cruel it is for a writer of erotic fiction to be flayed for failing to meet ‘romance’ criteria they have never claimed as their own.

Kristina Lloyd asserts a desire ‘to see the erotic liberated from the shackles of romance conventions’. She believes it has a far more diverse role to play in literature, saying, “I’d like to see erotic elements appear more widely in mainstream fiction. The erotic disrupts, destabilizes and threatens order, both personal and social, and its power is widespread and pervasive.

Jacqui Greaves adds, “When I tell people that I write erotica they either think I write bodice rippers or Shades of Grey. There doesn’t seem to be an appreciation of the full spectrum of the erotic sub-genres.” Raziel Moore also asserts the need tobreak free of the current constraints of romance’, stating his belief that the post 50-Shades era has popularized erotica, but ‘within particular confines only’. He stresses, “Unfettered explorations of desire have taken a hit. I’d like to see that change.”

Elizabeth Black states thatRemittance Girl author quote erotic fiction men’s writing on the topics of relationships and sex is more often respected, being lauded for insight into human nature and named as literary fiction, while women’s work on the same topics is more generally dismissed. She states, “Romance has a bad reputation as being sub-par… as if what women choose to read isn’t as respectable or reputable as what men choose. The aggravating thing is that when women write about relationships and sex (romance novels), their books are viewed by some with disdain or disinterest. But when a man writes about the same topics, his books are viewed with great respect. He’s said to have great insight into human nature. His books are often lifted out of the romance genre and placed in literary fiction, which some view as having more clout. Women’s voices and insights matter.”

There is no doubt that erotic fiction is dominated by women writers, as well as by women readers. As to its lack of literary recognition, we cannot help but muse on whether the genre would gain greater respect were men to write more prominently within it…

Sue MacNichol tells us, “So many books in this genre transcend merely the romance aspect and actually have other important messages to give around the social aspects of life, being part of a community and promoting equality and diversity across colour, sexuality, gender, disabilities and ethnicity.”

 

Trapped in a Maze of Repeating Tropes

A great many authors note frustration at publishers and, seemingly, readers desiring a repetitive meal of the same ingredients, rather than seeking out innovative works. Of course, authors must also bear some responsibility for this, where they Nya Rawlyns author quote erotic fiction literature 21st century Emmanuelle de Maupassantare commercially risk-averse, serving up what they believe audiences wish to consume. The situation has become, largely, a self-perpetuating loop, of authors creating works within a ‘safe’ and market-proven zone.

Adrea Kore notes her desire ‘to see more unique voices in contemporary erotica’. Nya Rawlyns declares, “I’d love for erotica to become acceptable as part of our creative lexicon. I think there is room for the careful and circumspect, which is where we are now, but I’d love to see the genre expand to accept the truly transgressive, the type of story that redefines how we see ourselves and our society.”

Justine Elyot voices her frustration that the erotic genre appears so ‘trend-driven’. Zak Jane Keir emphasizes, “I’d like to see a moratorium on vacant virgins and bastard billionaires. We also need more diversity of theme and plot. I dislike stories detailing abuse of women. To me, it’s not daring or innovative to write a story about a woman learning to love her rapist, or to write an even-more-graphic-than-the-last-one story of erotically dismembering women.” CA Bell declares, “I’d like to see sexy, real, and honest writing: no billionaires who can shag for hours and come five times a night.”

Many writers would like to see a broader range of people represented, of all ages, sizes, abilities and sexual orientations. Krissy Kneen expresses a desire for more ‘gender fluidity’. She comments, “The masculine/feminine divide is boring and needs to be retired. Manly men and femme women is a cliché that really must go.”

Cecilia Tan asserts, I’d like to see the genre embrace greater diversity, both in types of character and of types of sexuality and sexual expression.” Lee Savino also states a desire for ‘more diversity’, and access to ‘fans for your niche’. She muses on being able to ‘write dragon dinosaur menage ageplay and find a market for it’.

Adrea Kore reminds us that erotica ‘permits the exploration of alternative sexualities, such as polyamory, kink, gay, queer and open relationships’. She emphasizes, “What I love about the erotica genre is that there is so much scope. Human sexuality is vast, varied, and complex. The spectrum of people’s turn-ons and kinks is almost verging on infinite. And so is writing about it. As authors, we don’t all have to be covering the same ground… there is room for diversity.” (more here) 

Kristina Lloyd notes, “My current focus is on writing outside of the genre by placing more emphasis on the psychological suspense elements in my work and less on the erotic elements. I always want to grow as a writer and to not write on repeat. Right now, I feel as if I’ve exhausted erotica – or it has exhausted me! Saying that, I continue to believe that erotic desire is a key driver for many people, and therefore for characters in fiction too.”

 

Delving the Psyche

Susan St. Aubin voices a common yearning for stories exploring ‘unfulfilling’ sexual encounters, and others delving into darker corners of the sexual psyche, including loss (an area she finds relevant especially when writing older protagonists). IG Frederick notes similar frustration at the fact that ‘it’s perfectly acceptable to use sex to sell anything from cars to beer, but we are discouraged from examining the impact of sex on relationships in works of fiction’.

Sessha Batto notes that she’d love to see ‘more realistic, nuanced, portrayals of the place sex holds in our lives and how erotic fiction author quote Shanna Germaiit shapes our thoughts’. Siri Ousdahl states, “I’d like there to be a larger place for high-quality, graphic sex writing: fiction that is not coy, does not romanticize or trivialize, and is psychologically realistic.

Patrick Califia tells us,My intent is to understand events from my own lifetime. The spiral of life takes you around a few bends, and you find that you are a different person and you have new questions to ask about the past. The past and the future are the same, really, it’s all my life, it comes from me, but I know a lot more about the past than I do about the future. By standing on the edge of the well of memories and throwing a pebble into the darkness, then counting to see how long it takes to fall, I can create an oracle for myself, for my own death, and for the unknown years I have between this breath and the last.”

 

Smut to be Tittered Over

Writers believe that there is still some way to go for erotic fiction to become socially accepted (more here – on Hidden Identities) and yearn to see it recognized by the wider literary community, by retailers, and by the media, for its merit.

Terrance Aldon Shaw notes, “I’d like to see erotica inspire serious discussion and thoughtful critique, with the best of the genre being recognized for the great literature it is, and the authors who write it to receive the recognition and financial reward they so clearly deserve.”

KD Grace underlines that she’d like to see erotic fiction ‘stop being treated like the bastard stepchild of the literary world’. Lucy Felthouse notes that much stigma remains attached to the genre, saying, “Local newspapers are reluctant to cover stories about erotica authors, and local bookshops soon lose interest when you mention the genre. It can be disheartening.” RV Raiment adds, “I’d like to see erotic fiction gain a place in the broader media. There is still too much guilt, too much prudery and too much persecution.”

As Remittance Girl asserts, “I hope that I can play some small role in the evolution of erotic writing and help, if only in a tiny way, to push it into the light and towards being recognized as a fertile and unconstrained form of critically recognized literature.”

Ina Morata comments that she has been on the receiving end of disapproval from authors who write outside of the erotic genre. She states, There is still such an ‘under the counter’ mentality about buying and reading erotica.” Meg Amor tells us, I’m irritated by the ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ attitude and puerile labels like ‘pervy’ and ‘dirty’. It reminds me of pimply schoolboys giggling behind the school bike sheds with a couple of girly magazine and some pilfered cigarettes. Sex is part of life. Why shouldn’t it be written about?”

Brantwijn Serrah is saddened that erotica isdismissed as dirty, smutty, or cheap’. Donna George Storey adds, “There seems to be a need to demean it as pathetic fantasy fodder for bored housewives or horny bachelors.” Victoria Blisse is tired of the ‘tee hee, have you read this saucy book?’ attitude, wishing to see the genre accepted, as any other.

JD Lexx states, “I’d like to see it framed as less guilty pleasure and more the mark of a mature and adventurous mind.” Cate Ellnik comments, “It beats me why crime fiction is something people discuss so readily, yet erotic fiction is sniggered over or hidden.” Vinnie Tesla adds, “So long as the rhetoric around erotic writing embraces the notion that the sexual has to be ‘redeemed’ by other elements, it will be mired in shame and double-think.”

Meanwhile, Sylvia Storm notes, “I would love a closer connection between adult film-makers and the writers of erotica.”

 

Eroding Sexual Stigma

Many authors believe that writing the erotic has a valuable role to play in eroding sexual stigma. Felicity Brandon comments, “If my writing can help to contribute to this evolution, then that would be amazing!” 

Rose Caraway tells us, “I want to bring a wide range of stories to listeners, so that they feel not only inspired but comfortable, and so that they feel encouraged to communicate and be fulfilled. Foremost I want to break down notions of sex being ‘bad’. We mustn’t be afraid or ashamed.” Brantwijn Serrah adds that erotica can ‘communicate new ideas, draw people closer and improve intimacies, and inspire readers to discover new aspects of themselves’.

Terrance Aldon Shaw notes,Sex is neither dirty nor shameful. There must be a way of describing this universal, beautiful, multifaceted, complex activity in language that is neither overtly vulgar nor detached from feeling altogether. I believe that an unexamined life is no life at all. Ignorance and innocence are not the same thing, and society needs desperately to grow up.”

Tilly Andrews adds, “I’d like to see less judgement about the genre. It bothers me that books about murder can be promoted freely, yet books that contain sex cannot.”

Meanwhile, the popularity of BDSM themes inspires Alexis Alvarez to say, “I’d like to see a move towards female-centric views of BDSM and sexuality. Most stories, for all of their modern settings and vocabulary, remain stuck in a patriarchal mind-set. I’d like to see a new wave, showing how feminism can coexist with BDSM and D/s and erotica.”

Madeleine Moore adds, “I fear, post FSOG, that a heterosexual girl who doesn’t like a good spanking is ‘no fun’. If she’s pressured to succumb to a beating to appear ‘cool’, what the fuck has been accomplished? It might be better all-around if we focus on zero tolerance for sexual abuse and allow the BDSM crowd to find each other, rather than pushing to make BDSM some sort of cultural norm. Nothing is ever going to be acceptable to everyone.”

 

Greater Recognition and Visibility

Thanks to social media, writers in the erotic genre are showing more unity than ever; through collaboration, they are forming their own brand of literary collective. In working together, and offering mutual support, we may more easily make our voices heard, across so many platforms.

The UK’s ‘Eroticon’ convention, for writers in the genre (being next held in London in 2017), is a great example of authors and bloggers coming together to network and to share their professional expertise.

Authors are eager to see the genre gain greater visibility, not only via media recognition, but through prominence on sales platforms, online and ‘on the high street’. Visibility of e-books is particularly problematic, due to the proliferation of titles (in the erotic genre above all others). That the genre is capable of so much more remains unrecognised largely because even the ‘best’ examples lack sufficient visibility.

Authors feel frustration at being unable to advertise their titles through the Amazon programme, and books being hidden behind walls within the search engine. Cecilia Tan laments that Amazon and the other major retailers ‘treat their biggest money-maker like a dirty secret’. Laura Antoniou echoes this, saying that she’d like to see Amazon ‘get over the weird way they have Remittance Girl erotic fiction author quoteof hiding and downplaying erotica’. As Elizabeth Safleur puts it, “It’d be nice if Amazon didn’t bury our titles.”

Ashe Barker adds, “I’d like to see a lot more of our books on sale in major outlets – supermarkets, high street booksellers, airports. Amazon’s stranglehold over our distribution worries me, especially as Amazon is not exactly author-friendly. Their near-monopoly gives them too much power and influence and, ultimately, they are not on our side. Similarly the dominance of Facebook over our promo and communications leaves us very vulnerable. I’ve taken care to build a newsletter list over the last year or so and I continue to invest in my website, just to make sure I have alternatives. I don’t trust either Facebook or Amazon, not really.”

Rose Caraway tells us, “I want to put erotica on the map much more boldly, and make it easier to find. You have to jump through hoops to find it on retail platforms. The more writers out there using erotic elements effectively, the more visible it should become.”

Noting that readers have the choice to exercise discernment, Ria Restrepo asserts, “Let the market decide.”

 

Our Battle Cry

Erotic fiction has the ability to hold a mirror to society, and to speak where other genres do not. Shanna Germain underlines, “Out of all the genres, I think erotica (and horror) are ones that reflect a lot of the mores of our current culture. Sci-fi looks ahead, fantasy looks back, literary fiction looks askance. But erotica looks right at the now and says, ‘This is happening, in the streets, in the bedrooms, in the bars.’ Where will erotica, as a genre go? It will go where the culture goes. I hope it goes somewhere open-minded, joyous, and hot as fuck.”

Remittance Girl, in her article, On Writing Erotica, tells us, “To articulate the conflict within ourselves, to make sense of it, and then to reach out to others via the page: this is the path of the writer. As we look to what comes next, our only true desire can be to write freely and honestly, to write what refuses to lie quietly, to write what thrills us, emotionally, intellectually and viscerally. If we achieve this, then our stories will be worth telling, and worth reading. We are adventurers. We are explorers. Be brave. Dare to write what frightens and unsettles us, as well as what delights us. In doing so, we may write words worth remembrance.” 

 

Further Reading

Coming Soon

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

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

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

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Lines in the Sand: transgression and censorship

This article looks at the nature of transgressive fiction, and tackles issues of censorship, including the paradox of themes being permitted for exploration in other genres (such as young fiction and horror) but not in fiction classed as ‘erotic’. It is a transgression and censorship taboo erotic fiction Emmanuelle de Maupassant authors writers readersstarting point for discussion rather than offering any definitive answers.

To learn more about the 130 participants who contributed to debate on these subjects, visit here.

The Nature of Transgression

Erotic literature has traditionally worn a face of transgression, of the defiant questioning of cultural norms, based on the premise that knowledge is to be found by pushing to the edge of experience.

Adrea Kore notes her authorship of erotic fiction as a political act, as well as a creative one. She asserts that finding words for women writing and speaking about their own desire is still seen as taboo in corners of Western culture, let alone in cultures where women are more repressed ideologically, and socially. She stresses, “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.”

Erotic fiction offers not just a dissection of pleasure but of the painful consequences of our actions. We can argue that an exploration of the erotic is best served by striking at what discomforts us, by questioning our assumptions.

Remittance Girl states that, according to Bataille, ‘landscapes of transgression are places of discontinuity’, where our sense of self Jonathan Kemp fiction quote author Emmanuelle de Maupassant transgression taboobecomes disrupted’, through ‘extreme pleasure, pain or mental anguish’.  (more here)

Jonathan Kemp adds, “For Georges Bataille (and Foucault), transgression was a limit-experience.” [an experience on the edge of limits, where divine horror and divine ecstasy meet, where rules are broken until a place beyond all rules is reached]. He continues, “For Genet it was a slap in the face of the Bourgeoisie; and dependent upon the status quo remaining intact. Arguably, transgression was easier for Bataille and Genet, for they (amongst others) have paved the way for serious, literary attention being paid to the erotic.” Kemp adds that  ‘contemporary erotica isn’t necessarily transgressive (for example, Fifty Shades of Grey)’.

Malin James underlines, “While a great deal of erotica falls Remittance Girl erotic fiction quote Bataille transgression Emmanuelle de Maupassantinto a realistic vein, much of what people actually want is that which they can’t (or don’t feel they can) have in real life. This is why rape fantasies, incest and other transgressive sexual acts continue to sell erotica and generate clicks. The appeal of the forbidden is as old as the Bible, when Eve and the apple laid the foundation for centuries of sexual taboo. The fact is that we get pleasure from doing that which we’re not ‘supposed’ to do… While some taboos have been neutralized by an expanded notion of sex positivity (for the most part, gay couplings, anal and oral sex and extramarital situations don’t pack the transgressive punch they historically have), the amount of incest porn, tentacle porn, bestiality, non-con and various forms of edge play being consumed has risen…” Malin notes that, as such acts are ‘still taboo’, they ‘retain the power to arouse in ways that non-transgressive acts don’t tend to’. 

Janine Ashbless adds, “I’m turned on intellectually and erotically by stepping outside my comfort zone for a little while. A cozy tale of sex between two familiar lovers simply does not do it for me – there has to be tension. So I use my discomforts and my many fears to bring power to my erotic fiction. I challenge myself, and if that means challenging my readers then so much the better.”

Raziel Moore tells us that, when he writes to challenge his reader (or himself), he focuses on either challenging ‘preconceptions’ in how people behave or ‘to expose some raw thing, some ugliness living under my (or your) half buried log, and expose – and wallow in – its fundamental eroticism’. He notes, “I like writing characters at once repulsed and drawn in to some carnal transgression. The various wars between intellect and sensation, mind and body, and the subversion of one by the other in the short or long term is one of my favorite Raziel Moore author quote erotic fiction transgression Emmanuelle de Maupassantthemes. Not only am I turned on by this objectionable thing – I want to think about why I am.”

Zander Vyne asserts that ‘overturning assumptions’ is far more interesting than writing stories just for ‘fun’. She likes to explore ‘what we think we know’, challenging expectations, with the hope that the reader will ‘emerge with new feelings and understanding… [of] who we, and others, really are’. As she underlines, ‘why write a boring story when you can do all that?

LN Bey notes, “Great art challenges—our intellect, our beliefs, and most of all our perceptions. With erotica, we have unusual opportunities to look into the human psyche, the human condition, that other genres do not possess.”

Sorcha Black asserts her goal of challenging assumptions about gender roles and sexual attraction by avoiding ‘stereotypes’. She explains, “A lot of my characters are sexually fluid and are also into kink, so I don’t have to limit myself to what’s expected. It’s far too easy to paint caricatures.” Sorcha notes also her portrayal of  ‘the subjectivity of good and evil’, and emphasizes how point of view influences our interpretation.

Shanna Germain states, “I’m all about subversion and ninja-sneak-attacks. I want the reader to be so engaged with the story and care so strongly about the characters that they don’t even notice that I’m challenging their assumptions or attempting to stretch their boundaries until it’s all over. I think that it’s very easy for some people to be on the defense if they feel like you’re going to preach at them or try to change their mind about something, and I want them to walk into a story with all their shields down and their hearts exposed.”  

Remittance Girl asserts that it is possible to find something morally repugnant and still be fascinated by its psychological ramifications. She refers to Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, set during the Stalinist Purges of the Soviet Union, which explores the developing relationship between the main character and his interrogator. She notes, “The sustained mental intimacy of one person prying violently into the mind of another produces interesting behaviour patterns. I was interested in exploring the fracturing of the self. Psychological extremes are intimate places.” (more here)

Malin adds, “There is always going to be a difference between what people fantasize about and what they actually do. Transgression and sexual taboo by-pass what many consider to be ‘realistic’ sex and appeal to that portion of sexuality that is driven by fantasy.” She believes transgression to be a driving force in erotica for two reasons: appealing to ‘our attraction to the morally and socially forbidden’; and allowing us, as readers, to ‘dance on the line between fantasy and reality’ in a safe way. She acknowledges the value in creating a ‘grey area’, in which we can examine ‘the tension between social conditioning, morality, transgression and taboo’, exploring ‘what would otherwise bring only repression and shame’.

Inner Limits

In our Western world, fiction including sex scenes is widely available, accepted readily as adult reading material (albeit read discreetly at home, or via Kindle on public transport). Accordingly, very little may be genuinely considered ‘transgressive’, pushing us into zones of discomfort (and therebyRemittance Girl erotic fiction reader author Emmanuelle de Maupassant inspiring deeper levels of reflection). This may be why historical erotic fiction is so popular, since the setting more immediately confers a transgressive stance: a feeling of ‘taboo’.

Since our modern society is accepting of most expressions of sexual behaviour, the transgressive perhaps has more significance as an exploration of inner limits (those we place upon ourselves: our own, self-imposed lines in the sand).

Jonathan Kemp tells us, “Homosexuality, which is the form of erotic behaviour my own writing mostly explores, is hardly taboo these days in most circles, so the question becomes how to make it feel transgressive? How to make it work against the norm? In ‘London Triptych’ I chose to write about male prostitutes from different points of view – two from the perspective of rent boys themselves, and one from the perspective of an older man whose sexual repression prevents him from paying for the services of the rent boy he is falling in love with. In the context of the world and characters I was describing, love became transgressive.”

Cari Silverwood highlights the importance of reader point of view, noting that interpretation can vary greatly. Our individual lines in the sand cannot but affect our response to what we read.

Our interest may lie in watching characters struggle and push through their inner-sanctions, and in watching them deal with the consequences: ‘guilt, mistrust, fear and emotional wounding’ as Remittance Girl writes. We see the character obliged to ‘reconstruct their identity in the light of what they’ve done’. (more from RG here)

The fingers of the erotic not only stroke us to pleasure but rend us, exposing our uncertainty and our inconsistencies.

Cari Silverwood tells us, “I try to take readers somewhere they may not have gone before. The unexpected is always in my sights.” She asserts that her stories aim to make us question our ‘relationship with the world and humanity’, to the point where we are ‘uncomfortable and, even, disturbed’. In writing ‘dark fiction’, she believes that ‘there is an inherent moral challenge’. Acknowledging storytelling’s intent to entertain us, she emphasizes her desire to engage readers viscerally, by immersing characters in conflict.

Remittance Girl adds that some of the most moving and thought-provoking writing involves ‘characters presented in extremis’, inviting the reader to consider morally ambiguous questions.  She believes, “It is my very discomfort as a reader Emmanuelle de Maupassant author quote erotic fictionthat has triggered deep and serious introspection on many topics. These are the books that will stay with me for life.”

In her review of Siri Ousdahl’s Constraint, Remittance Girl states: ‘In order to transgress a law or a taboo, one must recognize the moral authority, the intrinsic value to society, of the law or taboo being broken. Conversely, concepts like consent would have little importance or sacredness for us if they weren’t fragile and vulnerable to profanation. If we had no fear of the taboo of rape, gave no moral authority to the supremacy of consent, this story wouldn’t be truly transgressive.’

We can assert that transgression has no fixed ‘location’. Cecilia Tan, having been writing for many years, notes that the nature of ‘taboo’ has changed greatly. She explains, “Consensual BDSM and bisexuality used to be exotic but they’re now becoming more commonplace.”

Remittance Girl reminds us that DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was transgressive because ‘it was socially unacceptable for people of such different classes to have a sexual relationship (especially where the woman was upper class and the man from the working class).’ (more here)

Jonathan Kemp notes that, in ‘Twentysix’, he ‘wanted to explore the romance of promiscuity, the almost-spiritual (for want of a better word) dimension of anonymous encounters’. Kemp explains, “The sexual acts I describe may seem transgressive to some (fisting, watersports, group sex, rimming), but within the context of the sexual subcultures I am representing they are a norm, so the transgression, for me has to come from elsewhere… from how the erotic is represented.“ He explains that he chose to create a ‘narrative transgression’ by using amulti-voiced and multi-valenced prose styleappropriating other registers, other voices’.

Transgression exists only in relation to our sense of ‘norm’, which is shaped by the ideologies we grow up with, by the social expectations placed upon us, by the lines we draw in the sand, for each other and for ourselves.

As Remittance Girl puts it, ‘The hand you push into your pants or under your skirt is stained with the everyday world you live in’. (more here)

Censorship

Jonathan Kemp comments of the ‘twins’ of transgression and taboo, “I might reconfigure them in one body, as two conflicting impulses: action, or restraint.” He imagines censorship, then, as ‘the nanny or governess of this child struggling with a desire to do something and a moral sense or fear that prevents the desire from transgressing into action’. He adds, “Censorship, in a sense, is like the Freudian superego: punitive, disciplinarian, body-hating. Censorship tries to control the transgression of taboos, to hide the body’s excess, its radical jouissance.” [a paradoxical pleasure, reaching an almost intolerable level of excitement].

We might imagine that publishers specialising in erotic fiction would be most open minded, most daring, most willing to ‘push the limits’, offering readers a feast of the surprising. Of course, some are attempting to do so, as far as they believe themselves LN Bey author erotic fiction quote human psyche Emmanuelle de Maupassantable within the limits set by major retailers (we cannot escape the fact that publishers are in business to make money).

However, in many instances, submission guidelines fail to encourage innovation. Rather the reverse. Larger publishers, whom we might imagine are best placed to take the occasional commercial risk, are often most guilty of playing safe, seeking out the same romance tropes and happy-ever-afters.

Siri Ousdahl notes the position of mainstream publishers and retailers, stating that they have a bottom line to consider, so it’s no surprise if they balance potential earnings against risk. As she notes, “The erotic books they’ve embraced in recent years had proven track records online, so the risk hasn’t been significant. When Random House or Penguin ‘take a chance’ on erotica, the works are far from transgressive.”

Publishers and retailers have, largely, taken an extreme stand on the portrayal of sex in fiction, creating their own, arbitrary, list of what is deemed appropriate for readers to encounter, as if the reader were incapable of exercising discernment, or were incapable of processing the words as fiction.

Where does this leave us as authors? Writing repeatedly down the same avenues, afraid to offend, or challenge?

Even independent erotica publishers are prone to request ‘light and fun’ stories, ignoring the huge potential of the genre to take us into the deeper, darker (arguably far more compelling and fulfilling) spaces within the human psyche.

Patrick Califia notes, “I think the difference between commercial, bland ‘erotica’ and radical sex writing is the author’s willingness to challenge limits… Most editors and publishers will refuse to touch the subject of young people and sex, and there is a whole list of other things they won’t put into print as well.”

In fact, publishers regularly reject plots involving extra-marital affairs, or those featuring characters displaying disabilities or who fail to meet general ‘standards’ of attractiveness, or who are older in age. Also ‘unpalatable’ are references to sexual thoughts/acts by or involving characters below the age of 18, Remittance Girl quote fiction reality author erotic fictiondespite the majority of countries worldwide (and the majority of American states) setting the age of consent below 18 years.

Coming of Age

Opinions on the appropriateness of telling characters’ sexual stories before they reach the age of 18 are perhaps even more divided than those revolving around non-consent.

‘Coming of Age’ stories are seen as a minefield, since there is no consensus of opinion on the age at which it becomes ‘morally’ acceptable to acknowledge sexual awareness. Is it permissible to describe the sexual thoughts of a 17, 16, 15, 14 or 13 year old? In Young Adult fiction, the answer is yes. Reference may even be made to sexual acts. In any work of literature classified as erotica, the answer is no.

For predominantly commercial reasons, few authors of erotic fiction attempt to write into this sphere. There is no graduating scale of permissibility. Rather, there is an umbrella ban on the mention of anyone under the age of 18 in relation to sexual thoughts or acts (within fiction categorized as ‘erotic’). Within the categorization of erotic fiction, it is a publishing no-no for anyone over the age of 18 to be shown to have sexual thoughts about a character under the age 18, regardless of whether such thoughts are acted upon. In fiction, it appears, thought is as damnable as deed.

This article makes no attempt to provide definitive rules for application. However, as many authors point out, if we may not explore concepts through the inventions of fiction, what avenues remain?

Wade Esley believes, “To ignore this important developmental period is ridiculous and, frankly, dishonest. How can you tell a more honest and heartfelt story than to describe the magic and wonder of experiencing something for the first time? The fear and excitement of venturing into the unknown is fertile ground for developing rich characters and compelling stories.”

Laura Antoniou is among those who express a desire to explore the sexual histories of characters before they reach the age of 18, while Krissy Kneen takes this further, in being keen to delve the psychology behind some people’s compulsion towards sexual acts with those not yet of legal age. She mentions that her latest book (not yet published) ‘takes some small steps towards exploring this area’. She asserts her concern about public reaction. “It is as if we can’t even speak of it,” she comments.

Patrick Califia underlines, In America, we eroticize youth to an insane extent and yet have draconian punishments for anyone who dares react to all that idealization.” Moreover, he adds, “We’ve become less and less realistic about the sexuality of young people. The penalties for raising these issues are huge and hideous.” As an aside, he notes, “I’ve written only a couple of articles attacking age of consent laws. To all intents and purposes they do not protect young people from abuse. Most molesters of children are family members, not strangers, and the current law enforcement focus ignores this completely. I will keep on talking about this as much as I can because I was abused as a child, and I’m very angry about the way my family’s dysfunction was rationalized or ignored by everyone around us. It took all the strength I had to escape from that world, but I was ill-prepared to leave home, and barely survived the transition from adolescence into adulthood. I think it is a crime that queer children have no mentors, so little help.”

In such cases, where publishers deem particular elements to be ‘non-commercial’, authors have often turned to self-publishing, to allow them to reach readers more freely. However, as is well-known, retailers also impose rules, making their own judgements as to what is ‘appropriate’ reading matter.

Most authors agree that censorship of fiction, in the name of ‘protecting’ readers, is nonsensical. While reading of murder or torture may disturb us (and, we would imagine, rightly and intentionally so) thinking, writing or reading about such acts is not the same as committing them. Rather, reflection on matters of moral dilemma is encouraged as emotionally and intellectually enriching.

The same logic can be applied to the writing of sexual behaviour (even, or especially, where it contravenes the law of whichever country the reader resides in).

Ironically, fiction is the very place in which we are ‘safe’ to explore deeds we would never indulge in real life; it is the realm in which we may muse on all the ‘what ifs’.

Nya Rawlyns states, “My writing is and isn’t me. I channel characters within my imagination. They constantly surprise, shock and delight. Some cause fear, others dismay, a few I Emmanuelle de Maupassant erotic fiction censorship author quotedespise. They all answer one question, without hesitation… what if?”

Defending a non-censorship position, Janine Ashbless asserts, “Fiction is a sacred space, where the rules of real life do not apply. It’s a safe area in which to let our darker selves, our fears and our desires, out for a little exercise…”

Of Amazon’s banning of certain subject matter, LN Bey states, “I’m entitled to fantasize whatever the hell I want. No one gets to dictate the ‘propriety’ of my fantasies.” Stressing anger not only as a writer but as a reader, LN declares, “They’re keeping me from reading what I might enjoy. That is simply not their right to do, and I take offense at that… I will read and write what I damn well please.”

Zander Vyne notes that writers are prone to self-censorship through fear of penalty, and laments that, once a book is labelled as ‘banned’ readers’ perceptions become tainted. She stresses, “The censor’s falsehood replaces the writer’s truth.” Zander adds, “At its best, writing is ground-breaking. Revolutionary. Writers should have no barriers to creativity, and no subject should be off-limits.” She urges publishers (and retailers) to be braver, taking more risks, under the knowledge that readers are capable of making their own choices. However, she makes note that, as a mother, she does believe in ‘controlled accessibility for minors, and in the necessity for clear labeling to inform’.

Noting that we should be free to exercise our reading preferences and that it’s important to allow readers to make choices for themselves, LN Bey continues, “Avoiding a work of fiction is different than trying to stop it from existing. We’re in a bizarre age in which sexually explicit material is more available than ever before… but we are also in the age of Taking Offense. And when one Takes Offense, nowadays, one takes full, righteous action—this thing that Offends me cannot exist. “

Double-standards and Lack of Consistency

Regardless of which themes, we, as authors, choose to explore, and which sub-genres of erotica we tend to gravitate towards, we desire to be free to write as we choose, just as we desire to read ‘as we choose’.

Christina Mandara highlights double standards between genres, saying, “You can read all sorts in [the] horror [genre] with rape, incest, axes buried in skulls etc – but non-consensual erotica is frowned upon. I can’t understand why eBook stores are being so censorious in the erotica genre, but not horror.

Tilly Andrews echoes this, saying, “I could write a very graphic scene of torture and murder for a horror novel and this would not be censored. However, if I add a sexual element and include in an erotic book I am sure that this would be slammed.”

Delores Swallows voices frustration, noting a desire to write a story incorporating plot devices of abduction, torture and murder, and lamenting, “I’m not allowed to include themes like that in erotica – only in the mainstream!” KD Grace raises the same issue, declaring, “I always find it frustrating that those taboos are only in place for erotica writers and don’t apply to any other genre.”

Meanwhile, Remittance Girl notes, “I am free to eroticize staggeringly violent acts, but there’s no publisher that will touch a story about a man who wakes up one morning to find his wife dead, and in a moment of intense grief, has sex with her body one last time.” (more here)

Siri Ousdahl mentions the obvious paradox of our willingness to watch films and television programmes, and read fiction, depicting serial killers, yet our apparent unwillingness to engage with non-consensual sexual acts in fiction. She muses that this may be ‘because many more people are affected by real-life rapists than by real-life serial-killers’. 

Ashe Barker tells us, “I wrote a non-con scene in one of my earlier books, and my publisher insisted it be toned down to dub-con. I have never really warmed to the altered version, my first approach was the one I felt was right for those characters. Now, as a more experienced writer and working with a wider range of publishers I might well stick to my guns and either self-pub or find a publisher who shared my vision. I find non-con fascinating and harbour a desire to write something darker than my usual stuff.”

A significant number of readers appear to condemn the writing of such themes (not only non-consent but stories looking at the compulsion towards incest, or sexual themes for under-18s) in the same manner in which they would condemn them as ‘real-life’ acts, rather than recognizing them as themes being explored within fiction.

As Anne Rice notably stated in The Guardian newspaper (2012), we need much more freedom for erotica writers. With particular reference to women, Ms. Rice writes: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.’ 

In the same vein, Christina Mandara notes, “It seems that women, particularly, must have consensual, hearts and flowers stories.”

 While accepting that publishers have the right to avoid investing in work they don’t think will sell well, Sorcha Black notes that many of the books named as ‘too graphic or taboo’ are those aimed at women. She believes, “The policing of women’s sexuality still includes censoring what we read.”

Cari Silverwood voices an opinion shared by many authors regarding the lack of consistency in Amazon’s approach to censorship, making particular note of how this is manifested in the seemingly random acceptability of covers.

Shanna Germain asserts the position of publishers and retailers, stating, “I believe that in a free market, publishers and retailers are a business, and they can choose what they do and don’t want to provide as part of that business. To me that’s a business decision, not censorship. They’re not blocking something from being read, they’re just not offering it as part of their business model. As an author, I choose publishers that publish the things that matter to me. As a publisher, I don’t publish material that is racist or homophobic or misogynist. I’m not censoring those books by not publishing them. Someone can buy them elsewhere if that’s their thing, but I am saying, ‘those LN Bey author erotic fiction censorship Emmanuelle de Maupassantbooks don’t fit my personal beliefs, my business model, or my audience, so I’m not going to publish them’ and that has to be okay.” 

However, she adds that, where the market is dominated by a single retailer, the position takes a different slant, since ‘they are potentially blocking all kinds of things from being available’.

Raziel Moore notes the arbitrary and capricious rules of the major retailer(s) but, more significantly, the not-long-past crisis of payment companies refusing to process transactions, effectively blocking independent authors’ sales.

In the genre of ‘Literary Fiction’, it appears that almost anything goes. In the hallowed high-brow halls, are any subjects taboo? There, may even the most transgressive of themes be explored, and their authors applauded for innovation and daring? May incest and non-consent be explored in ‘Women’s Fiction’, necrophilia and extreme violence in ‘Horror’, and coming of age themes in ‘Young Adult’? All are off limits within erotic fiction.

We may debate the propriety of how themes are handled, and the way in which they may be ‘appropriately’ eroticized, but the fact remains that fiction is the realm of imagination. Fiction is not reality: it is a place of reflection and exploration. To write, and read, of what we find unsettling, uncomfortable or disturbing can provide us with valuable opportunities to better know ourselves, and our world.

Further Reading

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

Coming Soon

  • Authors’ Recommended Reads

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

Special thanks are due to Remittance Girl, whose numerous articles have been my starting point not only for this article, but for the entirety of this survey. Her website is a dazzling treasure chest of insight and challenge.

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

Hidden Identities: writers of erotic fiction

Interviewing just over 130 authors of erotic fiction, I asked how openly we discuss our workHidden Identities pennames  writers of erotic fiction emmanuelle de maupassant with friends and family and how far we keep separate our ‘writing identity’, to avoid social stigmatization.

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

 

Slipping into a Pseudonym

While a number of authors do write under their legally recognized name, more than in any other genre, we pen our words from behind a pseudonym.

Some do this for commercial reasons, separating writing identities across genre categories, to avoid confusing readers. Cherry Wild comments, “There are benefits to compartmentalizing writing identities. I believe readers should understand what they’re going to read from an author, instead of having a shocking surprise that what they thought would be a standard murder mystery is actually a sexed-up erotic thriller.”

Male writers, on occasion, write under a female pen name, believing it will result in better sales (the market being thought to largely comprise women readers). Women authors, in turn, may choose a gender-neutral pen name, wishing to avoid being automatically categorized or labelled by gender. 

Laura Antoniou, famous for her ‘Marketplace’ series, notes that she used to pose under a masculine pen name, believing this would appeal to gay male readers. However, with changing trends, this has become irrelevant. She notes, “The number of gay male readers who would care who wrote their erotica is FAR overshadowed by the number of female readers who read MM, so there is no benefit in me writing as a guy.” 

 

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

There’s no doubt that the relationship between the author and their reader is never closer than in the genre of erotic fiction. What other sphere of writing taps so closely into the emotional and sexual psyche?

It’s perhaps unsurprising that readers do tend to initiate contact with writers, seeking to further their connection beyond the page. While such interaction can be flattering, and welcome, it’s not uncommon for authors to report readers stepping over the usual boundaries of propriety, assuming that the writer, by nature of their subject matter, is inviting ‘real life’ sexual intimacy.

Female authors of erotic fiction, particularly, are unlikely to have avoided invitations to engage in ‘sex chat’, or overt photographic overtures. As Will Crimson jokes, wryly, having written at times under a female pen name, “I knew I’d arrived as a female erotic writer when I received my first ‘dick pic’.”

In cases where an author uses their legal name, and/or an identifiable profile picture, other risks may arise, relating to unwanted attention.

 

Avoiding Judgement

The main reason cited by authors of erotic fiction in choosing a pseudonym is the wish to Cherry Wild erotic fiction authoravoid ‘judgement’, not just from co-workers or neighbours, but from family and friends, or to avoid negative consequences for those they love.

As Will Crimson notes, “I write under a pseudonym to protect my family’s friendships and associations.”

Whilst we, as authors, are proud of our writing achievements, the explicit nature of our work does not always allow us to openly share our success. Many admit to confiding in only the closest of friends. Some tell only their partners; some avoid confiding even in their lovers, fearing disapproval.

For those with school-age children, and those living in small communities, anticipation of marginalization is very real. Anxiety over losing employment is a palpable fear.

Patient Lee asserts, “As I’m a high school teacher in a conservative community, I guard my identity with my life. I believe I’d be fired if people knew what I wrote.”

patrick califia author quote erotic fictionAlthough the journey continues, we’ve come a long way in embracing equality of rights across sexual orientation, race and gender. And yet, whatever their ‘secret’ reading habits, some members of the public draw the line at rubbing shoulders with writers of what many term ‘filth’.

Certain assumptions seem to apply to authors of erotic fiction that apply nowhere else. Write a story in which your protagonists embed axes in zombie skulls and no one will blink an eye. Write a threesome fellatio scene and you’re assumed to be of dubious morals. Whether we’re believed to be writing from experience, or from the rich meadows of our imagination is irrelevant. In line with the prevailing trend of ‘sexual shaming’, our work makes us a target for judgement.

In writing of sexual desire, in all its variations, we are, piece by piece, dismantling social stigma. We are encouraging our readers to embrace their sexual nature, and to lay claim to the pleasure of their body. Sadly, in so doing, we may lay ourselves open to others overstepping the usual social boundaries of courteous behaviour.

While Patrick Califia has drawn from his own history as inspiration in writing fiction, he comments that people ‘believe I’ve done everything I’ve written about’. “They think that if I write about sex, that must mean that anything goes, and they can do anything they want around me—or to me—or with me.”

There is no doubt that first hand experience does provide some degree of inspiration for fiction; 40% of writers taking part in this survey name past experience as a stimulus for their work, but often only as a starting point. Whether writing from experience or pure fantasy, storytelling takes over; few erotic tales are unadulterated memoirs brought to life.

Unsurprisingly, where writers have used their own sexual history within their storytelling, there can be particular reason for wishing to remain discreet. As Patient Lee says,“My mother wants to read my books but I won’t let her. There’s too much of my own journey of sexual discovery in there for comfort.”

A far greater share of authors, 58%, mention fantasy as a main source of inspiration. Just as a crime or thriller writer might combine invention with human empathy and theoretical research to create their work of fiction, entering the mindset of a murderer, writers of erotic themed works apply the same techniques.

In taking on an ‘alter-ego’, we are freed from fear of causing offence or placing our social position in jeopardy; we can write as our imagination dictates. The ‘mask’ is liberating on many levels.

Ina Morata author erotic fictionAs Spencer Dryden notes: “If my friends, family and associates learned of my interest in erotica, they would drop dead in horror, so I use a pen name.

Tabitha Rayne tells us, “The strangest reaction I’ve had was from one of my sisters who will never read my work because she feels that to do so would be incestuous!”

Patrick Califia (originally Pat Califia), who has written under his legal name, relates, “I stopped writing for a long time because I was trying to be married to someone who, it turns out, hated my work and was ashamed of it. I’m slowly reclaiming my voice, but it’s like healing from a deep wound. I’ve been repeatedly shamed and treated with disgust and repulsion because I write erotica.”

Patrick continues, “Social exclusion and outcast status is imposed at every level. People are frightened of me, titillated, and judgmental. I’ve been declared an enemy of lesbian feminism and received threats. I’ve had people assume that I must be mentally ill for writing about sex. I’ve been attacked online by other trans people, who assert that someone as disreputable as me can only bring discredit upon the trans-community. It has been extremely difficult to keep a stable sense of myself through all of this brouhaha but I’m a very stubborn person.”

Siri Ousdahl recalls, “I sent my book, ‘Constraint’, to a number of agents, and, while they praised the writing, some expressed hostility or disgust towards the content. I treasure one letter from an Patrick Califia quote author erotic fictionagent who essentially said, ‘Yuck, don’t contact me again’.”

One writer, who prefers to remain anonymous, tells us that her daughter hates discussing her books, being embarrassed, and has asked that her two teenage daughters be spared from knowing about their grandmother’s writing. The author notes that they have discovered, and ‘have told me they are proud, despite their mom’s attitude’.

Cherry Wild writes both what she terms as ‘smut’ and more literary erotica. She asserts that most people show tolerance for the latter (and even enthusiasm) but that she is more circumspect in sharing that she writes the former. She admits, “I’ve encountered a few people who splutter and make it crystal clear they do *not* approve.” With my smutty erotica, I’ve told far fewer people, as I push more boundaries. I’ve written some things that I know people would be much quicker to object to, and have no desire to listen to those criticisms.”

Justine Elyot laments, “I’d like to be able to tell people about my writing. Very few people in my life know I do this, and it sometimes saddens me that my father died without ever knowing I had published a book – something he always told me I could do. But in our very traditional and strait-laced family, I couldn’t mention it.”

Sylvia Storm tells us, “I prefer to write under pen names and keep my anonymity, just because of the social stigma of what we do. I wanted to finally set my words free. I have grown through this, became a little braver, a little more confident, and a lot more intelligent in the ways of feelings and passions. This began as a bravery test, and it turned into self-discovery.”

Alexis Alvarez comments, “I cringe sometimes, because I know there can be some level of disapproval when I reveal to friends or acquaintances what I write. However, I try to push through, as I’m proud of what I write. The details aren’t appropriate for everyone and every situation, so I don’t announce the fact randomly but nor do I actively hide it.”

However, while some people are disapproving, others are more tolerant. Alexis continues, “Most people I choose to tell are initially surprised, but are then accepting, and often don’t show further interest. Like anything, life goes on and people move with it. I’m pretty much out in my real life as an erotica writer, and everyone knows my pen name.”

Meanwhile, it’s also the lot of authors in our genre to, on occasion, receive words of admonishment: for lack of decency, or morality.

Ina Morata notes that she has been on the receiving end of disapproval from authors who write outside of the erotic genre. She states, Those non-erotica writer readers who have discussed my work with me have either challenged what I have written, or have tried to persuade me to write in a genre more ‘befitting’. Indeed, the best line I think someone came out with was: ‘if she’s writing that, there must be something missing in her life’. To me, this said more about the reader than the author!”

Ina tells us, “I’ve encountered discouragement in my career choice generally from older members emmanuelle de maupassant erotic fiction author quoteof my family, but this has been exacerbated by my choice to write erotica. Indeed, I was told I should concentrate my energies ‘on something much better’ after I published my last book. The person involved hadn’t even read the book, and had no idea that, aside from the power play through the sex, it broached some serious subjects that have been prevalent in my family for decades, and that there was more to consider than which pages to bookmark and show their friends in secret! My children never cease to amaze me, though: they have just accepted what I write and are interested in me as a writer, regardless of genre. In fact, my daughter seems to find it pretty cool that I write erotica.”

 

Undervalued and Obscured

At the heart of negative interactions, there’s not only misunderstanding of the distinction between ‘real life’ behaviour and the exploration of possibilities through fiction but a sad lack of comprehension of what can be achieved through writing in this genre.

As Adrea Kore emphasises,Erotica seeks to arouse, but it may also confront, provoke, and subvert…Sexuality is such a vital part of the map of the human psyche. Sexuality reveals so much of ourselves.” Remittance Girl also comments on the potential of erotic fiction, declaring its ability to explore ‘us at our most naked, our most vulnerable’. She stresses, “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.” 

Those who write erotic fiction know that, at its best, it can claim a worthy place in the literary constellation. To convince others that this is true, and to begin breaking down the prevailing stigma, we must continue, as authors, to set the highest standards in our writing. Whether we’re exploring the darker corners of the sexual psyche or its joyous heights, we should respect writing craft. As any author, writing in any genre, we should aim to move readers not only viscerally but emotionally and intellectually. We need to demonstrate the incredible potential of writing ‘the erotic’.

 

Support One Another

Seek out the work of fellow authors. Find outstanding examples. Review, recommend and applaud them. Let the whispers travel from ear to ear, from platform to platform. Let readers know that there IS talent in our midst, and that erotic fiction gives voice where many dare not speak.

 

Further Reading

Malin James: On Pseudonymns

More in this series:

Coming Soon

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

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

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

Dancing the Line: Fantasy and Realism in Erotic Fiction

Having invited writers to ‘share their secrets’ (more about the 130+ participants here) this article explores authors’ views on the use of fantasy and realism in erotic fiction. As ever, it is intended as a starting point for discussion. All comments welcome. Emmanuelle de Maupassant Fantasy and Realism in Erotic Fiction

For many of us, as authors and readers, erotic fiction operates within the realm of fantasy. It conjures into words thoughts we may hardly dare admit. It offers us the chance to explore our ‘what ifs’, within the safety of the page.

Nicolette Hugo muses, “All books are part fantasy or fear, we write to taste or exorcise them.”

KD Grace states a position voiced by many authors. “I can go places, do things sexually, in fiction that I would never consider in real life, allowing me to explore. I can have the thrill without the risk.”

Just over 40% of the writers surveyed stress that they draw significantly on their own real life sexual experiences to inspire their writing. The majority mention doing so in addition to, rather than instead of, exploring imagined fantasies. Only a handful write primarily from a position of recalling their own sexual history, or drawing heavily on events witnessed/related to them.

Saying this, all authors strive for a sense of authenticity in their work, to elicit reader empathy. However otherworldly the setting or outlandish the characters, behaviour and motivation must remain recognizable, or the reader cannot suspend disbelief, and join the author on their journey. Few would deny that small details of our own experience (emotional and sexual) will, even without conscious intention, find their way onto the page. It is these elements that ensure fiction its necessary gloss of realism.

As Dennis Cooper notes in his interview for Paris Review, his novels aren’t ‘transcriptions of the real world’. He states: ‘They’re highly organized missives from my imagination. When there’s a real-world resemblance, it’s there to create an atmosphere of familiarity that’s helpful as a comfort zone in which I can introduce things that are difficult and unsuspected. The characters are the main entrance into the work because they’re shaped like humans and they’re lit more brightly than their surroundings. But they’re not real… Everything in the books is half mine and half the reader’s, and the characters are just enunciations of my ideas.’

 

Plundering Our Fantasies

As Tamsin Flowers notes, “Our experiences are the lens through which we view the world and we can’t help but be influenced by them. However, you needn’t have experienced something to write about it (thriller writers aren’t killers and sci-fi writers aren’t spacemen). I’ve written about plenty of things I’ve read about or simply just imagined.”

Among the author respondents to this survey, 58% state firmly that their own fantasies are, at the very least, a starting point for writing.

Rose Caraway comments,I’m mostly inspired by fantasies, Nya Rawlyns erotic fiction author quote emmanuelle de maupassantparticularly through dreams.” Jay Willowbay adds his belief thatany erotic author that doesn’t mine their own fantasies is ignoring their most bountiful source of vivid and exciting material, and letting it go to waste’. Cari Silverwood continues this train of thought, saying that, if we neglect to use our fantasies we’re unlikely to write scenes which ‘resonate’. Tamsin Flowers comments that fantasies feed into her work ‘either explicitly or less directly, lending shade and nuance’.

Adrea Kore tells us that writing erotica has increased her ability to pay attention to her sexual imagination, the place from which her sexual fantasies emerge. “Expressing from this place, and seeing the ways I’ve grown and changed has strengthened my belief that this aspect of ourselves has a vital connection to increased self-awareness, creativity, sexual fulfilment – and healing.”

It’s no surprise that authors commonly endeavor to write with their own sexual and emotional response to the fore, believing that this will bear most authenticity (and, thereby, have most impact on readers).

Adrea adds, ‘The slippery world of advertising is constantly trying to sell us things through tapping into common elements of sexual fantasies, but these ‘packaged dreams’ will never be as unique as your own.’

Spencer Dryden recalls, “At 63, I felt my sexual energy sailing away but I was also shedding inhibitions like dead skin. I gave myself permission to explore my sexual fantasies through erotic fiction as a way of keeping myself engaged.”

Adrea Kore erotic fiction author quote emmanuelle de maupassantTabitha Rayne also asserts that personal fantasies are the engine behind her writing, saying, “No matter what I write, in that moment, it is my desire. It is absolutely my fantasy.” She notes that what stirs her one day can be very different the next.

In this way, each act of writing is a captured moment in time, a fantasy caught in the net of words.

Delores Swallows notes, “In my quiet moments (waiting to fall asleep, or doing some brainless task like mowing the lawn or painting walls) my mind wanders, creating short stories that facilitate a ‘fantasy’.

Ashe Barker recalls having spent hours commuting, allowing fantasies to run through her mind as she sat in motorway traffic jams. She tells us, “I had favourites I’d ‘replay’ again and again, and of course new ones would pop up. Over the years, I plotted lots and lots of snippets and scenes. I had quite a vivid collection by the time I started to write any of them down. In the last three years or so, many of my motorway fantasies have been developed and placed in my stories.”

Conversely, Donna George Storey voices the view, shared by several authors, that a fantasy initially conceived purely to serve a plot, having been dwelt upon, and mined for its detail, can ‘become my fantasy by the time the writing is done’.

The majority of authors note that, although their fantasies do, to some degree, inform their writing, storytelling tends to take over, adding embellishment and new direction. Siri Ousdahl mentions, “My writing began somewhat autobiographically, and featured my own fantasies, but as I progressed, I found that the characters and craft decisions took me away from my own personal fantasies and into storytelling.”

Will Crimson comments, “Agatha Christie reportedly wrote that she could turn anything into a murder weapon─ and me? I can turn anything into a sex toy/ erotic story. I use anything and everything.” Speaking of his ability to combine real life experience with his ability to fantasize, he states, ‘I’m an erotic sponge’!

Meanwhile, Laura Antoniou tells us,My books don’t even touch on some of my most twisted fantasies… they’d be illegal! Also, hard to sell in today’s market.”

 

‘Permission to Imagine’

The thrill of writing, and reading, about potentially terrifying sexual acts (such as knife play or non-consent) may be viewed as the thrill of taking control of these potential terrors. As is well-documented, a significant percentage of women enjoy some form of non-consent/forced seduction sexual fantasy.

To write about a non-consensual act is not to endorse it as a ‘real life’ behavior, any more than writing about murder is to endorse this heinous crime. To suggest otherwise is to misunderstand the purpose of literature (and art, and film, and theatre). We read, and write, to make sense of what haunts us.

Patrick Califia erotic fiction writing author quote sexualityThe key word here is ‘fantasy’. The very act of fantasizing allows us to control the details; we are pulling all the strings. Those fantasies are of our choosing, and we inwardly narrate them just the way we decide upon. This is not to say that writers, or readers, who enjoy the fantasy of ‘forced seduction’ are complacent regarding the brutal crime of rape. The fictional-fantasy world of ravishment is a different beast to real-life sexual assault.

As Remittance Girl states, such fantasies are about ‘permission to imagine’.

Entitlement to exercise discernment remains a key argument in any debate on censorship. Readers of erotic fiction adamantly assert their right to choose their reading material, just as writers assert theirs to explore any theme. More on censorship here.

Christina Mandara laments the double standards applied across various genres, saying, “I love non-consensual elements in erotica but the world at large has decided that this isn’t acceptable. I’m getting such a hard time in this respect, that I’ve stopped writing it for the time being. You can read all sorts of horror with rape, incest, axes buried in skulls etc – but non-consensual erotica is frowned upon. It seems that women, particularly, Adrea Kore erotic fiction fantasy quote emmanuelle de maupassantmust have consensual, hearts and flowers stories. I can’t understand why eBook stores are being so censorious in the erotica genre, but not horror.”

As Anne Rice notably stated in The Guardian newspaper (2012), we need much more freedom for erotica writers. With particular reference to women, Ms. Rice stated: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.’ 

In the same way, those who fantasize age-play sex (e.g. between stern older professor and misbehaving student) are not condoning real-life paedophilia.

Will Crimson discusses further here as does Remittance Girl here

Naturally, there are abhorrent acts writers are uncomfortable with eroticising. Just over 20% emphasise that they avoid depicting any form of non-consent in their work.

Kristina Lloyd states: “Fiction occupies an uneasy place in the context of ‘consent culture’ because writing (as per other arts) has cultural impact, affecting thinking and behaviour. I want to be socially responsible in my Emmanuelle de Maupassant quote erotic fiction visceral intellectual emotionalwriting but I also want fiction to be an uninhibited, imaginative space where we can follow characters who are dangerous, or who are in jeopardy, or suffering, or who have unsanctioned desires. These wishes often pull in contrary directions. In erotica, non-con acts are often set within a framework of consent (as in BDSM practice or fantasy role-play) to indicate that the scenario is not real. However, this usually reduces the blood-pumping thrill for me as a reader.” 

Meanwhile, Remittance Girl asserts, “My day-to-day go-to sexual fantasies don’t prompt good writing for me because I know them too well. I’m too comfortable with them. There is nothing to explore and no questions left for me to ask of them. My best writing comes from the eroticism of things that frighten and challenge me, the ones I feel might devour me. The uncomfortable ones. I need that internal conflict to drive my desire to write about it and explore it in fiction.”

 

Fictionalized Reality

There are few scenarios under the sun yet to be covered by erotic fiction. Remittance Girl author quote erotic fiction emmanuelle de maupassantWe can safely assume that those featuring aliens, dinosaurs, yetis, vampires, werewolves and other monstrous and supernatural beasts are likely to spring from the imagination rather than from real life encounters, with the same logic applied to stories of pirates and Vikings and all manner of historical or ‘fantasy’ settings.

While we recognize that fiction is not bound to ‘reality’, having the power to transport us into any situation or mind, a significant number of authors assert not only their intention to write with authenticity and realism but to create fiction which is believable: stories in which the reader could readily imagine themselves.

Sessha Batto, stressing that her primary purpose is ‘unpicking the character, not plugging into the libido of the reader’, explains, “…it isn’t about the reader’s fantasies…with luck, it may be about the character’s fantasies…but even that isn’t guaranteed. I don’t put much stock in fantasy, I prefer reality, whether my own or my character’s.”

Following on from this, authors often emphasize the inspiration of their own sexual history. Just over 40% of the writers I surveyed write, to some degree, from a starting point of their own real life experiences (sexual and otherwise).

Nya Rawlyns tells us, “Generally, I write what I know and, after seven decades on this planet, that’s a large bucket of opportunities. My writing doesn’t dwell on fantasies, rather what interests me are harsh realities and the interconnections we make via random, uncontrolled encounters. I look at that which tears down the building blocks of what we believe and trust, rearranging them into new, sometimes frightening forms.”

Molly Moore adds, “My own life and experiences and my sexuality is absolutely my main influence. I am also greatly inspired by my self-photography. Most of my writing is semi-autobiographical.”

Elizabeth Safleur tells us, I’ve witnessed BDSM scenes in both private and public settings. This has helped with the physical aspects of writing a scene but seeing and experiencing are two different things. No one really knows what’s going on other than the parties involved. To gain an emotionally-laden experience, you need to participate.”

It would be a leap to assume that the majority of authors are frequent visitors to sex clubs and BDSM dungeons, or that they regularly engage in anonymous liaisons in public parks or in darkened alleyways. However, without doubt, there are writers who can relate first hand experiences.

Of his own writing, Patrick Califia underlines, I could not do this work without an extensive sexual history of my own. If you rely on fantasy, you make mistakes, as in Anne Rice’s works and that poor girl who wrote ‘50 Shades of Gray’; it’s so full of nonsense. Saying that, some of my favourite stories are based entirely on my own fantasies. I can go back to them like old friends and receive comfort and arousal. Sometimes, it’s about gratifying the reader. I want cis-gender people [those who identity with their biological gender] to be aroused by trans-people, and I want trans-people to be aroused by how hot and fantastic WE are, just the way we are, right now. This kind of erotica is more like a form of sex education, I suppose. I continue to feel that writing erotica is a wonderful way to Kristina Lloyd erotic fiction author quote emmanuelle de maupassantencourage people to examine their assumptions about sexuality and live closer to the edge.”

 KL Shandwick has drawn from her own experience of having worked with rock bands, when girls were often ‘chosen’ to entertain musicians. She shares, “Although the sex appeared consensual, the girls were treated with little regard. It was a pretty raw experience for me, being young, and I spoke up on a few occasions when they laughed about a groupie and discussed her after she’d left.”

There can be few writers who fail to use, at the very least, remembrance of emotions accompanying past encounters, and their knowledge of how it feels to enjoy sexual pleasure.

As Tabitha Rayne explains, her writing tends to reflect her ‘emotional sexual life’ rather than her ‘physical sexual life’.

Will Crimson states, “My writing expresses my erotic imagination, my emotional experiences and certainly my sexual history. Every writer is creating fiction from a life of experience. Given that all erotic experiences happen in the mind, the line between real and the imagined isn’t always so clear. Was Shakespeare writing from experience when he wrote Richard III? Was he a scheming sociopath? No, but a whole lot of us have betrayed friends, used others for their bodies (not their minds; God, no), plotted our advancement at the expense of others, and have taken indecent glee in the downfall of competitors.” He adds that though he’s never ‘enjoyed the pleasure of a slave girl, he has ‘immensely enjoyed treating various lovers like sex slaves─-as have they’. “Everything I write has a component of emotional, experiential and sexual history.” He adds that he uses ‘everything and anything I read, hear or am told ─ comments, personal stories, eavesdropping’.

Adrea Kore notes, “Even though my characters may be fictional, I aim to infuse the sensations and emotions my characters are experiencing with a visceral reality; thus, often, I am drawing (at least in part), on my own experiences. Anais Nin said that, as writers, we ‘write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect’… at this stage in my work, there is often (not always) a personal element to my erotica writing. The ‘line’ analogy between fact and fiction isn’t relevant here – think more an intricate collage of these elements on the page.” (more here)

 

Dancing the Line

Malin James emphasizes the ‘difference between what people fantasize about and what they actually do’ and the appeal of ‘the morally and socially forbidden’. She notes fiction’s role in allowing us, as readers, to safely ‘dance on the line between fantasy and reality’ and acknowledges the value in creating a ‘grey area’, in which we can examine ‘the tension between social conditioning, morality, transgression and taboo’, exploringEmmanuelle de Maupassant erotic author quote dark erotica ‘what would otherwise bring only repression and shame’.

Within fiction, we can unpeel our motivations, examine that which unsettles us, probe our emotional responses, and, in so doing, learn more about ourselves.

Our sexual fantasies and our ‘realities’ offer rich fodder for reflection. Which memories and dreams tug at us?

Turn the pages, enter our stories, find the mirrors to your own preoccupations. Look deep and look again.

 

Further Reading

 Adrea Kore‘s article on Honouring our Sexual Imagination 

Will Crimson‘s artcle on The Erotic Writer’s Dilemma

Remittance Girl‘s article The Problem of Careless Language & the Deconstruction of Rape Fantasies

Interview with Dennis Cooper for The Paris Review

 Exhibit A‘s collated fantasies, raw and beautiful

Coming Soon

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

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

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

First Inspirations

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

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

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

 

First Inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Early Awakenings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

‘Truthful’ Perspective

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

Adrea Kore author quote erotic literature writing craftAdrea tells us, “What I most felt drawn to reading was the feminine experience of the world, and stories of growth, transformation or dislocation, felt through and mediated by the body. These were the things that I began to write about: Love and longing. Loss. Translating the physical arts I most loved into words: my experiences of dancing and life-modelling. Then, more arduously, carving out narratives of sexual trauma. Death. Then, the sensual pleasures. Sex. Light, dark, light, dark. Always this dance, and writing has helped me embrace the totality in the supposed contradictions.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Revelations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Seeking the Echo of our Desire

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

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

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

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

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

 

Further Reading

Coming soon…

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

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

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

Men Reading the Erotic

Almost fifty male readers of erotic fiction (some wishing to remain anonymous) have shared their views on how this genre compels them, and how it has shaped their thinking. A significant number of these readers have been so stirred by what they have read that it has inspired their own writing.

You may like to visit the first article in this series, which looks at the motivations of men ‘writing the erotic’.

Erotic fiction explores human experience through the lens of sexual desire. It has the power to move us, to disturb, to confront, to inspire, and to warm us. It goes far beyond titillation. It has the power to examine the psyche in unexpected ways, allowing us to access a realm of paradoxes.

As ever, your comments are welcome.

  

Why Read?

Need a quick ‘sexy fix’? There are plenty of magazines and films to help you on your way. Seeking both a visceral and cerebral experience, of bringing your own imagination to the erotic? It’s time to explore what fiction has to offer. Words on the page urge us to bring our own interpretation.

Erotic fiction invites intimacy and, in so doing, builds a far deeper relationship than porn. Your response to the words is unique to you.

 

Owning Your Sexuality

Dayv Caraway, of the hugely popular Kiss Me Quick’s Erotica Podcast, notes that erotic fiction encourages us to feel that we have ‘permission’ to be sexual. He explains, “It’s more socially acceptable for men to have casual sex but it’s not so usual for men to be encouraged to explore the emotional aspects of sex. The reverse tends to be true for women.  Erotica gives men ‘permission’ to have an inner dialogue with themselves, and with their partner. This is something that porn does not; it doesn’t offer sexual language for dialogue. It doesn’t aid communication with a partner. If anything, porn can create barriers, as women especially sometimes feel ‘betrayed’ by their partner watching (and masturbating to) pornography.” 

Terrance Aldon Shaw emphasizes, I try to uncouple sex from shame, to demystify what has too long been unspeakable (and thus, frightening).” He adds,Porn does not teach you how to be a man. It does not even teach you how to have sex. Erotica, on the other hand, can enlighten. Anything that gets men to THINK positively about sex beyond the clinical aspects of the act ought to be welcome, especially in a time when far too many are getting their information about sex and relationships from pornography.”

 

The Echo of Self

There’s no doubt that readers seek out works with a very particular agenda, wishing to findScreen Shot 2016-06-05 at 15.23.10 copy a mirror to their own preoccupations, to find a recognisable reflection of their sexual thoughts via fiction. They seek not only self-knowledge but validation of shared ‘sexual humanity’. There is an urgent need to find a resonating truth, to read what already plays out in our imagination.

Thomas Roche mentions the work of Patrick Califia, saying, “His early writing (particularly during the time he publicly identified as female) was audaciously rough and hardcore, and I liked that.” Another reader notes, “Hardcore lesbian and gay BDSM was about as far as I could get from my upbringing, but finding those subjects within fiction profoundly affected me.”

Readers taking part in this survey cited their most common fantasies as those involving domination, submission and bondage, with just as many men seeking out fiction in which women are dominant, as tales where the male protagonist dominates.

 

Paradox and Transgression

The paradox of the illogical underlies much of the frisson in erotic literature: the desire to transgress, to overstep social norms, to act (via the safe realm of fiction) as we wouldn’t in real life.

As one reader puts it: “I’m attracted to the inherent illogicality of BDSM. The desire to be beaten, controlled, humiliated, or to do the beating for that matter, makes no logical sense—and yet it’s what has driven some of us since early childhood, before we even understood what sex was.”

Some readers mention interest in incest-themed fantasies (including the ultra-taboo mother-son scenario), or the seeking out of fiction exploring abduction, rape and torture. More than half mention interest in reading non-consent stories, and those incorporating ‘rough sex’: a statistic which echoes women’s own fantasies of being sexually overwhelmed or taken ‘against their will’ (naturally, within the confines of fantasy, where they are, ultimately, in control). Readers make a firm distinction between their ‘real life’ actions and what they pursue in fiction.

We each draw our own lines in the sand, creating our own definition of the transgressive, as it applies to our own inner limits. It is the thought of crossing those very lines that excites us; the illicit thrill of our moral repugnance.

Naturally, transgression is a moveable feast, since what appears transgressive to one person will be ‘everyday bread and butter’ to another: among such themes, we can class desire between protagonists of widely differing ages and inter-racial sex. The latter, particularly, seems a bizarre ‘taboo’ in our 21st century world and yet, for some readers, it remains so.

 

Shaping Perceptions

Anyone who has been moved emotionally by a film, or by fiction, knows the power of storytelling. Beyond entertainment, it has the power to shape our perception of our own self, to improve our self-knowledge and to extend our empathy with others.

emmanuelle de maupassant quote porn versus erotic fictionOne reader asserts, “I’ve been able to positively enhance my pleasure by knowing myself better, through reading fiction. I’m convinced that reading erotica can bring benefits beyond the bedroom too, making us more self-aware. I still have some way to go to express my desires, being afraid of receiving an adverse response from my partner, but I’ve learnt that women possess a tremendous well of sexual desire, needs, interests and fetishes. They share the same sexual drive as men.

Thomas Roche adds,Much of the erotic fiction I enjoy is about female pleasure. I honestly believe it has made me somewhat more sympathetic to women’s concerns, especially with regard to sexism and misogyny.”

Dayv Caraway underlines, “ I’ve become more aware of women as sexual beings through reading erotica. There’s a common perception that women don’t have the same sexual drive as men. Historically, men have been freer to express their desire. Erotica shows that women do think about sex outside of monogamous relationships and ‘romance scenarios’. Reading erotic fiction has also made me more comfortable with myself sexually and it’s brought even more dialogue to my relationship with Rose. We were good before, but we’re even better now. We talk to each other more openly about everything now, not just sex.” 

 

 Male Versus Female Focus

Most male readers interested in erotic fiction mention having read variations of ‘steamy romance’ (it being most readily available). However, the vast majority express their disappointment and disinterest, finding stories repetitive and predictable. As one respondent put it, there seem to be endless variation of ‘a billionaire initiates me into the ways of the lash’.  

Even setting aside the well-worn tropes of the genre, it seems hardly surprising that romantic fiction, being largely female-oriented (and female voiced), might fail to address male sexual preoccupation.

However, there are exceptions to this ‘rule’, with some male readers noting their interest in reading ‘female focused’ fiction, written by women, with an eye to ‘learning more about female desire’.

Dennis Cardiff tells us, “I generally prefer to read erotic books written by women, even lesbian erotica, as I want to see inside a woman’s mind. It’s a path to learning how to please a woman. I find women often hard to understand and generally mysterious. 

Another reader mentions, “I prefer fiction by women, mostly because I’m curious as to what a woman chooses to write about.”

One states, “Female POV is what works for me, regardless of whether it is a male or female author. First-person, preferably, but that’s not an absolute.”

Another comments, “I’ve been reading erotica off and on for about 22 years. I was an English major in college, but I didn’t try taking stories apart and seeing how they worked until recently. I find that male writers tend to use more physical description, without much happening internally for characters.”

Dennis Cardiff adds, “Although I have enjoyed erotica written by men, I generally find it more crude, more dominant, less sensual.”

One male reader praises Kristina Lloyd for her characters’ self-examination, and lack of naivety. They also praise Tiffany Reisz, saying, “She uses wish-fulfilment tropes (mostly wealth, power, and outrageous situations) but writes with realism. Her unrepentant rebels have a lot of fun, and all the good lines.”

Will Crimson states,“What currently appeals to me is the writer’s ability to describe sex indirectly or in novel ways. Also, for me, what makes sex erotic isn’t the sex but the emotional context: Why are characters having sex? Why do they want it? What do they want from it? How do their desires compliment each other or conflict? How are they affected by it? Our bodies are our means of expression, but our minds make us erotic. Sex is always an expression of who we are and writers who capture that meeting of human desire and erotic imagination, its conflict and resolutions, are the writers I admire.”

Thinking beyond ‘romantic fiction’, most male readers note no significant preference for male or female authorship, being more interested in individual style. Dayv Caraway notes, “Raziel Moore and Allen Dusk are edgy, but so are many female writers I know, such as Malin James. Knowing that they’re men may influence my perception of a story. It’s in the back of my mind.  However, I think fiction reflects the writer’s personality more than their gender. In the fiction we broadcast, which tends not to have a ‘romantic’ focus, there isn’t a great deal of difference in theme or approach between men and women writers. Good storytelling is good storytelling.” 

 

Encouraging Male Readers

Dayv Caraway comments, “Men aren’t generally reading erotica because it’s hidden in the romance section. They aren’t usually cruising that aisle, or sharing those recommendations with their friends.”

Will Crimson comments that, as far as he can gauge from readers visiting his online site, perhaps only 20% are men, but that he finds them more ‘interactive’ than his female readers. He muses,That may simply be because women feel less safe. The online experience for women can be entirely different (and more threatening).”

Dayv adds,” I enjoy so many themes and angles in this genre, but I do know that I’d like to see more Terrance Aldon Shaw quote erotic fiction pornsci-fi with erotic elements. I think there’s still some way to go before erotic elements become more visible in ‘mainstream’ fiction, and this would be great to see.” 

One reader points out that ‘though the execution may be lacking, people will crawl across the broken glass of bad prose to find that which tweaks their kinks’.

Saying this, there is an almost unanimous cry for eloquent, powerful prose, and for fiction that has the ability to engage us more deeply, through character development, so that we’re invested in the outcome of each story. Readers want to see the psychology of characters laid bare; they want to examine motivation and see protagonists dealing with the consequences of their choices. Writers take note!

What can we do to encourage men to more readily explore erotic fiction? Perhaps, foremost, we should stop making assumptions about what women or men ‘should’ be reading.

Our desire to fulfill our sexual nature shapes us as much as our need for intellectual and emotional fulfillment. Embrace it as an element of your mental and physical health. Embrace it through art, and film, through poetry and fiction.

Acquire an anthology of short stories, and read them aloud nightly, in the style of Scheherazade; seduce your partner with words. Tune in to audio readings of erotic fiction. Spread the word little by little; share recommendations, share positivity.

Above all, don’t feel shame at indulging fantasy through reading fiction. The likelihood is that you’ll gain far more than a ‘quick thrill’; be prepared to have your eyes, and your perceptions, blown wide open.

Dayv Caraway comments, “I’d like to see people become more accepting of erotic content in books. We’ve come a long way in accepting ‘nudity’ in mainstream culture, no longer equating it only with sexual intention. We need the same degree of maturity about erotic fiction.

In exploring sexual themes, our barriers are eroded. We come to recognise the breadth of sexual possibility, and how our sexual-self feeds into other facets of our psyche; in knowing ourselves, we gain better understanding of others.

Our journey continues in achieving tolerance of individual choices, including those relating to how we express our gender and sexuality. In setting aside shame, refraining from judging others, and opening ourselves to the myriad shades of the human palette, we may take real steps towards living in harmony.

 

 

Further Reading

The Male / Female Hand

The Erotic Vein: men writing erotica

Remittance Girl: on writing the taboo in erotic fiction: here and here

The Kiss Me Quick’s Erotica Podcast: for fiction and audio recordings (my thanks to Dayv and Rose Caraway, who also feature in an interview here).

 

My thanks to all readers who took part in this survey, many of whom asked to be quoted anonymously. For a full list of writers who contributed their thoughts as readers, see the foot of the page here, within the Male Writers article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adrea Kore: Hand of a Stranger

Within the rich, dark sea of tales, there are midnight words whispered betwen lovers. There are secrets, concealed and revealed. There are a thousand versions of yourself, and a thousand versions of desire.Adrea Kore - hand of a stranger flash fiction

In that fantasy realm, we may relinquish control, or we may enfold and possess. We may flee, while wishing to be found.

There, lush and sensual, raw and red, teasing and taunting and tantalizing, are the words of Adrea Kore.

Hand of a Stranger is a flash-fiction piece: a fantasy about desirability, explored through the themes of pursuit and capture. Its melodies are haunting, and its rhythms those of anticipation.

 

‘Let the shimmer of my stockings under streetlights be your lure. I hear and don’t hear your stealth-clad footsteps, trailing me. Block after block, past sordid bars and shut-eyed houses. I want not to know the dark lust you harbour at the glimpse of suspenders through my skirt-slit. Swishing so close to my sex, where you want your cock to be.’

 

Adrea Kore - Hand of a StrangerTo hear the full (6 minute) audio recording of this velvet fantasy, inspired by Film Noire, and to learn more about intent in erotic fiction, visit Adrea’s website.

 

 

Adrea’s poetry and short fiction appears in the following editions:

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In the words of Adrea Kore:

 

‘Erotica writes into those areas of the human sexual psyche and behaviour that some other genres gloss over or shy away from.

Erotica reveals the links between our inner psychological desires, our motivations and our sexual actions.

Erotica asks complex questions about consent, personal limits and relationships. And it doesn’t just ask these questions of the characters. It asks them of the reader, also.

This is why I am drawn to writing in the erotic genre. It’s why I feel proud of my craft. Sexuality is such a vital part of the map of the human psyche. Sexuality reveals so much of ourselves.’

 read more in Adrea’s Earthing Eros: The Makings of Erotica ii

Adrea Kore