Author Influences : Donna George Storey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roofs, Summer Night (1906) – John Sloan

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

Turning Out the Light (1905) – John Sloan

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

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

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

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

Find her at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com

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Author Influences : Malin James

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edward Hopper Summer Evening
Edward Hopper’s Summer Evening

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

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

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

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

About Malin James

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

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

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

Find Malin at www.malinjames.com

Twitter: @MalinMJames

Facebook: Malin James

and on Go Deeper Press: www.godeeperpress.com

Author Influences : Leslie McAdam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maynard Dixon 1931 October Gold
Maynard Dixon 1931 October Gold

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Leslie McAdam

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

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

 

Find Leslie at18318223_448344175517796_1463840938_o

www.lesliemcadamauthor.com

www.facebook.com/lesliemcadamauthor

www.instagram.com/mcadam_leslie

www.twitter.com/lesliemcadam

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Roadhouse Blues, by Malin James: a review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malin James Roadhouse Blues erotic fiction short stories

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

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

Purchase your copy here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Come Let Us Sing Anyway from Peepal Tree Press

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

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About Leone Ross

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

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

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

Follow Leone on Twitter

Drop in to her website: www.leoneross.com

Or find her on Facebook 

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Author Influences : Tabitha Rayne

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game On by Jack Vettriano

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

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

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

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

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

An extract from Tabitha’s The Gamesman

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

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

“Like what you see eh, lassie?”

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

Purchase here

About Tabitha Rayne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow her:

on TwitterGoogle + or Facebook

To find out more about the Ruby Glow, click here

Patricia Dixon : author interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase link : Amazon

Follow Patricia Dixon on Facebook  here  and here

 

About Patricia Dixon

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

 

Author Influences : Leone Ross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They sigh, together.

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

Purchase Come Let Us Sing Anyway from Peepal Tree Press

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

You may like to read my review, here.

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About Leone Ross

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

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

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

She still mourns Prince.

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Follow Leone on Twitter

Drop in to her website: www.leoneross.com

Or find her on Facebook 

imagesLeone’s Novelsimages-1

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

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Author Influences : Kay Jaybee

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Bondage Ballet by John Tisbury

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

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

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

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

It’s totally harmless…

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

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

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

A stunning redhead by the name of Thursday…

Find Wednesday on Thursday on Amazon UK or Amazon US

About Kay Jaybee

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

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

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

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

Kay on sofa

 

Author Influences : Janine Ashbless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“I will free them all.”

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

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

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

Read more about Janine’s Watchers trilogy here

About Janine Ashbless

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

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

IBotE coverYou may like to visit Janine’s website

Her blog

Find her on Facebook

Or locate her on Sinful Press

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

From the Apple store or Kobo

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

Author Influences: KD Grace

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

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

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

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Bernini’s Hades and Persephone

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

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

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

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Eros and Psyche

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

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Waterhouse’s Apollo and Daphne

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

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stone carving of Medusa

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Tutor – by KD Grace

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

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

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

Reviews and Buy Links for The Tutor

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

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

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

Print:  Totally Bound Publishing     Amazon UK     Amazon US

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About K D Grace/Grace Marshall

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

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

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

or follow her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest

Author Influences : Sonni de Soto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show Me Sir

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

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

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

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

Buy Show Me, Sir here

About the Author

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

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

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

Author Influences : Tamara Lush

 

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

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

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

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

Pathless Woods photo by Adam Larsen
Image by Adam Larsen

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

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

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

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

71Uf8bOiB+L._UX250_About the author

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

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

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

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Find Tamara on GoodreadsTwitter and Facebook 

Or visit her website www.tamaralush.com

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Author Influences : Krissy Kneen

krissy kneen author uncertain grace  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Later…

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

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

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

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

 

Purchase from

Amazon UK

Amazon Australia

Text Publishing

 

About Krissy Kneen

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

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

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Find Krissy at 

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

www.krissykneen.com

www.furiousvaginas.com 

 

Chatting with Janine Ashbless : Angels and Dragons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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More about the story

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

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

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

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

About Janine Ashbless

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

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

Her work has been described as:

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

Janine-Ashbless-photo credit David WoolfallLinks:

You may like to visit Janine’s website

Her blog 

Find her on Facebook

Or locate her on Sinful Press

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

From the Apple store or Kobo

Print copies from Sinful PressWaterstonesBarnes and Noble, and Amazon UK

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Siri Ousdahl: contradiction, paradox and CONSTRAINT – a review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also find Siri at Visconti Press

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

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

 

Women Writing The Erotic: Part Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Inspirations and Influences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more on first inspiration here)

The Compulsion To Write

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telling Women’s Stories

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

nya-rawlyns-women-writers

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

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

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

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

Within and Beyond Gender

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing Our Own Truths jeanette-winterson-author-quote

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

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

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

We are liberating our voices.

As the reader, you can liberate yours too.

Further Reading 

Coming Soon…

Writing Craft

Authors’ Recommended Reads

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

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

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

Women Writing The Erotic: Part Two

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

Here, we look at recurring themes within erotic fiction. 

What do we find to challenge and empower us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

At its best, there are no parameters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fiction Mirrors and Identifying the ‘Self’

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

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

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

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

Fantasy v. Realism

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Themes: Identity

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

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

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

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

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

Themes: Truth and Deceit

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

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

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

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

Themes: Freedom and Constraint

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

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

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

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

Themes: Connection, Yearning, Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cultural Relevance

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

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

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

We can be whoever we wish to be.

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

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

Further Reading 

Coming Soon…

Writing Craft

Authors’ Recommended Reads

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

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

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

Under the Skin: with Tobsha Learner

Erotica.

Too formulaic? Clichéd? Predictable?

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

She is a risk-taker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which themes tug at you?

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

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

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

As a former sculptor, tell us your artistic influences.

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

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

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

1710567Tell us a little about your writing processes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.tobshaserotica.com

www.tslearner.co.uk

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

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

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

An interview with Joey W Hill

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

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

Joey, do tell us how you began writing fiction… 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

What do you hope to accomplish through your writing?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

What advice would you share with ‘new’ writers? 

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

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

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

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

NOD-WTW-Cover-lrg
The latest in the ‘Nature of Desire’ series, from Joey W Hill

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

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

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

Thank you so much!

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

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

Empress of the Erotic: an Interview with Rachel Kramer Bussel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which authors inspire you and in what ways?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find Out More

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

Or her private erotica writing consulting, via eroticawriting101.com

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

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

Like Water For Chocolate: a review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gertrudis is so filled with amour that one man cannot satisfy her, and we hear that she seeks out employment at a brothel, before joining the rebel troops, Like Water for Chocolate a review Esquivel and rising to the position of general. There, she meets Juan once more, and they become married, fulfilling the destiny denied Tita and Pedro. In many ways, Gertrudis’ path throws that of Tita into sharp relief, she being confined to the kitchen and to watching over other family members, while Gertrudis, literally helps lead a revolution. She so firmly throws off all conventions, fully embracing her sexual nature, that we might argue that she, rather than Tita, would have made a more fascinating heroine.

Once Mama Elena dies, we hear that Tita and Pedro conduct a fragmented, illicit love affair, coupling discreetly, to avoid upsetting Rosaura. Theirs is a life half-lived. When, at last, Rosaura’s passing allows Tita and Pedro to enjoy one another without guilt, so joyful are they that they are, magically, consumed by flames, fulfilling the prophesy that: ‘If a strong emotion suddenly lights all the matches we carry inside ourselves, it creates a brightness that shines far beyond our normal vision and then a splendid Like Water for Chocolate a review Esquivel tunnel appears… and calls us to recover our lost divine origin.’

Laura Esquivel explores the tragic consequences of denying love: for Tita, who is forbidden from marriage by her mother; and, as we discover, for her mother, Elena, whose thwarted love resulted in an affair which brought on her husband’s death and sowed the seed for her own discontent and bullying of Tita.

‘Like Water for Chocolate’ is a tale, beautifully, enchantingly told, of our struggle against what is Laura Esquivel forbidden, of denial and of fulfillment, and of our helplessness in the face of desire.

 

I read in translation, by Carol and Thomas Christensen. The book was released in the USA in 1993, and simultaneously at cinemas (still shots featured here are from the film).

Laura Esquivel lives in Mexico.  In an interview with Salon Magazine, she notes: ‘I’m interested in that relationship between outer reality and inner desire. It’s important to pay attention to the inner voice, because it’s the only way to discover your mission in life, and the only way to develop the strength to break with whatever familial or cultural norms are preventing you from fulfilling your destiny.’

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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