When I first started writing, I had visions of book tours and talk shows. I know I’m not at that level yet, and it might never actually happen for me as an erotica author. Sure, there’s that small possibility I could put together a novel and hit the big time–but I know the chances of that are remote. The days of authors traversing the country and stopping at book stories is coming to an end. Not only are brick and mortar stores disappearing, the expense of doing such travel is so high it’s practically impossible to embark on them. Today, I’m pleased to promote Cheeky Spanking Stories, edited b Rachel Kramer Bussell as part of the official blog tour. (Oh, just so you know…the link on the picture to the left is an affiliate link, and I do earn about .04 on each purchase.)
While there is a lot of excitement around being published–officially going from “writer” to “author” is alot of fun, it’s not why I write. I hate the fact that my answer to the question “why do you write?” is like almost anyone else’s answer. I write because...I have to. It sounds trite because it’s pretty much what everyone who does write says about why they write. It’s a compulsion. If I don’t find time for writing, I get cranky and moody. I snarl at my family members, and I begin to throw or slam things around. It’s like my body begins to need some sort of dramatic release if I can’t do it through writing.
When people ask me “why do you write erotica?” the answer is a bit more specific than “I have to.” I am in a writing class where there is a huge variety of genres represented. I don’t think any of us are working on an ertotic fiction (even me). Three of us are working on various forms of mysteries (my other love and what I am working on under my legal name), two are writing supernatural romance, one is writing literary fiction, another is working on a memoir, another three are working on sci-fi, another is writing fantasy, and there’s another that defies classification. The first night in class I mentioned I was published in anthologies in erotic fiction and would like to work on the novel form. I struggle with longer works, and I decided to take this class to help with plotting, structure and pacing. One woman was obviously bristling at the term, and I asked her if she would be offended if I were to work on sexually explicit writing while in this class. To her credit, she said she would rather not be exposed to it or have to critique “such things.” She is also the woman writing literary fiction. The nose in the air was particularly pointed in my direction. I said that I had another work in process I would be happy to work on and decided to focus on that mystery I started during last year’s NaNoWriMo project. No problem for me, but I get a secret bit of glee knowing that even in that mystery there are some pretty hot sexual topics and imagery likely to pop up. I can’t help myself.
And there’s the answer to why I write erotica. I can’t help it. I…love…sex…I am interested in sex, and I love writing about it. I love to explore the relationships between people and what they do together with their bodies. I’d like to think most of my stories go beyond two (or more) people meeting and ending up in bed together. I try to find genuine circumstances where a character can grow and change in some way through the course of the story. I find that, if the sex doesn’t have a reason for being there, it’s just…sex. And that, in and of itself, is boring. There’s nothing more tiring than writing a sex scene when a relationship and pattern for a couple is wholly established and there is nothing ‘new’ happenging for either character. So, I am continually looking for new and interesting ways for people to need, have, and experience sex.
I also get asked, how much of your real life is part of your writing? I have learned that there is a delicate balance between writing what you know and have experienced and what you don’t know and have only researched. When I look at my colleagues, like Jade, who regularly writes from direct experience, I usually think…”wow…My life and my writing are…not the same.” Most of my erotica takes form fully in my little fantasizing mind. I take bits and pieces of real experiences and weave them in. For example, in my story in this collection, Birthday Boy, the only things that are part of my real life experiences are that I am in a long term monogomous relationship, and that we did actually go to the Alexis hotel once–to celebrate our anniversay. Oh, okay, I do own a pair of black boots, and maybe might own a black leather skirt…but that’s pretty much where the comparisons end. My last blog post links to an excerpt of my story in this collection, so you might take a look at that and then click the link above to buy the collection.
This is one of the last few stops on the month-long blog tour for “Best Sex Writing 2012.” I picked the date late in the month because…and here I’m being completely honest…I was worried I wouldn’t be able to slog through it. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m not big on reading non-fiction. I read two or three non-fiction books in a year, and, even then, those are usually part of a class list or for my book group. The last time I picked up a similar anthology, I was so disturbed by the first article I read, I had to put it down. I decided to join the blog tour for this particular book as a curative measure for that experience as much as any other reason. Well, that and the fact that I have this impulsive need to raise my virtual hand whenever I see something of interest go by on my twitter feed. Given my history with non-fiction, I wanted to have as much time as possible to get through the book and meet the obligation of posting for the tour in a timely matter. I got my free PDF via the editor, Rachel Kramer Bussel, in the beginning of February and started to read it right away.
I don’t know what I was worried about. From the moment I picked up the book, I was engaged. Sure, there’s a warning that this is “not a one-handed read,” but I find there are hardly any non-fiction books that would be. I took a couple of weeks to read it so that I could let each piece have some private space in my head rather than plow through it in a couple of evenings–which would be entirely possible as it is that engaging. The articles and essays cover a wide range of topics, and there’s something in the book for everyone. Even if you look at the table of contents and think, “Wow, I’m not sure I really want to read about that,” you might be surprised that you’re not only reading it, but nodding along in agreement. The fact I “had” to read the book meant I read things like “Adrian’s Penis: Care and Handling” by Adrian Colesberry in spite of the fact that I’m pretty sure I don’t want to have much to do with Adrian’s penis. If I had skipped that little piece based solely on the title, I would have missed out on one of the most delightful reads in the book. I still don’t want much to do with his high-maintenance member, but his style and wit are fun and shouldn’t be missed.
While some stories wanted me to jump up and write an angry letter to my senators and congresspeople, others had me chortling with subversive delight. (I read a lot when sitting with my children as they do their homework. E-readers are handy that way.) There is a nice balance of the serious and the humorous without anything being trite or hyped up. Bussel also did a fine job selecting stories that didn’t get much focus or attention but should have.
Just a couple of highlights that I find particularly meaningful to me….
In her essay Why Lying about Monogamy Matters, Susie Bright says, “When young adults, past puberty, remain sexually inexperienced with their peers, it is because of dysfunction, not virtue.” As the mother of a teen-aged girl, I am always happy to see sex-positive messages geared toward youth. I am weary of the finger wagging, anti-sex messages that populate the mainstream media outlets, and would like to see Bright’s message that sex is normal on the front page of every newspaper in the country. It’s not likely to happen any time soon, but a girl can dream.
In the midst of the recent PayPal scandal (there’s some fodder for next year’s compilation), a lot of people have come down hard on transgressive erotica–even other erotica writers. I’m not sure if this stems from the fear is that by condoning transgressive erotica, their own work will come under scrutiny, or just from a generalized sense of ‘eeuw.‘ However, in spite of all that has been written about the why’s and why not’s of reading, writing, or enjoying erotica that involves rape, bestiality, or incest–or whatever it is that seems to send a lot of people squiggling away–I haven’t been able to mold my thoughts into an ‘elevator summary’ of the argument. Not until, that is, I read Rachel Kramer Bussel’s essay, Penis Gagging, BDSM, and Rape Fantasy:The Truth About Kinky Sexting. In it she says, “The point of fantasies is that they come from somewhere that isn’t always logical or rational.” It’s sort of a “well, duh!” moment, but I’ve spent too much time trying to rationalize or put some sort of logic to fantasy. I’ve struggled in explaining to my daughter why it’s okay for her to be confused about the fact she is a strong, confident young woman who harbors tendencies toward male ravishment in her fantasy life. The cognitive dissonance is resolved when no longer being forced into a rationality. It’s time to just give in and let the fantasies be what they are and stop over thinking them.
You can buy the book at Amazon here. Or, you can find links to other formats including Nook, and other smaller, less Amazon-like sites can be found here.
I’m fairly open about the fact I write erotica under a pen name. I don’t generally share what it is because I feel some of the subjects I write about are on the edge of societal norms, and I have children who don’t want to be associated with a mom who writes ‘that kind of stuff.’ One day I was at church—yes, church—and I said something oblique about my pen name. A friend of mine gave me this look and said she had a pen name, too. Hers is ‘Brandy Fox,’ and her first foray into erotica is published in Women In Lust, the latest anthology edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel.
When I raised my internet hand to host the blog tour for the new book, it seemed that interviewing my friend was the obvious thing to do.
CC:Brandy, you told me this is your first ever attempt at writing erotica. I’d like to offer my congratulations at making it into an anthology of this quality the first time out the gate. Why did you decide to try your hand at erotica?
BF: Thanks! I am delighted to be included in RKB’s anthology. I’ve written and published for many years under my real name—mainly essays, poetry and young adult fiction. The idea of writing erotica, however, was the last genre on my mind. I hardly ever read erotica and I’m pretty shy when it comes to sex. But there are certain similarities between myself and Brooke in Unbidden, one of them being that when I hit forty, my libido went a little wacko. Okay, that’s putting it mildly. Around ovulation time every month, I would think about sex 24-7. Being a busy mom of two young boys and married to a man whose libido was not accelerating the way mine was, I found this a bit distracting. I confided in a friend and she suggested I write some erotica to channel the energy. At the website for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, I found a long list of calls for submissions. It was great to have a specific theme to write to, as well as a deadline. The writing was clunky at first, but after reading a lot of erotica—for research, of course—I got in the groove and found myself enjoying erotica more than any other writing!
CC:Brooke, the main character in your story, is almost out of control with her sexual desire. What made you have her stop the scene in the bathroom? Was it to send a message? If so, what is it?
BF: I set out to write a complex story about a middle-aged woman’s lust that would turn me on, not to write a story that would send a message. Brooke’s fantasies about being with another man turned me on. Ending up in a bathroom at a party with a man she’d always found hot turned me on. But ultimately, the advances of a stranger turned me—and Brooke—off, and the thought of her husband’s trust and utter devotion turned both of us on. For me, love and lust and trust are inseparable. My favorite stories in Women in Lust are the ones where the partners have developed trust, such as Guess by Charlotte Stein and Queen of Sheba by Jen Cross. The stranger-connections are hot, but just don’t turn me on personally. I know that for many, this isn’t the case.
Emerald put it well in her review of Women in Lust. She explains that while in some of the stories, lust was an overwhelming motivator, sometimes it wasn’t. “…and there was nothing less hot about those times. On the contrary, these were complex characters, so the story was often not just about unconsidered obedience to a sexual drive—Women in Lust included discerning, aware choosing where lust was concerned. To me this was epitomized in Brandy Fox’s Unbidden.”
CC:In another stop along this blog tour, Flightless says, “There’s even one story (“Unbidden” by Brandy Fox; do we think that’s her real name?) that ventures wonderfully into seldom-charted territory — this reader can remember only one other story, by Michael Chabon, that dared to do this: it describes hot, intimate, passionate sex between two people who are married — to each other.” Did you know you were being daring by having hot sex between married people? What’s your take on that?
BF: My first reaction to this quote is, Uncharted territory?! Are you serious?! But here’s what’s scary: “Flightless” is absolutely correct. Now that I’ve read a lot of erotica, I see the gaping hole where sex between married partners should be. My goal is to fill that hole, no pun intended. As a matter of fact, I have written a story where a married couple not only has hot sex, but has it in the same room as their two young kids who are so hypnotized by a movie they have no idea it’s going on. Their sex is playful, and very much influenced by their immersion in the world of raising kids, but that doesn’t make it any less erotic. I would not call myself daring. Again, I’m just trying to write unique stories that turn me on, and that includes long-term, committed partners making sex a priority.
By the way, I’m completely flattered to be compared to Michael Chabon. From what I’ve read, he and his wife Ayelet Waldman have made sex a high priority in their relationship. Hot hot hot!
CC: One of the things I found interesting is that Brooke has gone through some effort to tighten and firm her body and to become more ‘attractive’ physically. What effect do you think this has on her vs. her husband and then her sex life? Do you think the story would have changed significantly if she hadn’t gone through the transformation? And, how does her mental transformation parallel that of her physical?
BF: Research—and my own experience—shows that there is a connection between weight loss, physical activity and increased libido. In Unbidden, the attention Brooke gives to her appearance and her sex drive excites her husband. I think anyone whose spouse feels more confident and sexy would be attracted to that. For Brooke, her transformation at age 40 lifted her out of the post-baby-raising slump many new parents fall into. Once out of that slump, feeling sexier than she had ever felt before and therefore acting sexier, she was more likely to attract people to her and end up with a near-stranger’s knee pressed seductively into her groin. So yes, I think her story would have been different if she hadn’t had that transformation. Different in what way? I’m not sure.
CC:Now for the image that had me laughing in conspiratorial glee…The carrot. I know I have grown a few Italian Zucchinis that had me wanting to pop a condom on them. The notion that anything remotely phallic shaped would send a woman into lustful overdrive is not likely new to women, but the fact you actually wrote about it the way you did is something I haven’t seen before. I think many women aren’t going to mention stuff like that over coffee at Starbuck’s or while out to dinner with friends. Why did you include it in the story?
BF: One of the things I love about writing erotica is that so many of the stories are about just that—stuff you don’t mention over coffee at Starbucks. (Although writing erotica has definitely made me more comfortable talking about sex, even in Starbucks). I included the carrot “scene” in the story for two reasons: 1) Precisely as you said above, it is hardly a new thought to women, yet it’s somehow shocking to say it out loud; 2) To illustrate Brooke’s “unbidden” libido. She’s so horny she can’t even stay away from phallic-looking vegetables as she cooks for her family.
CC: My husband is very selective in what he will read when it comes to my erotic writing. I know his taste well enough to not show him the things that will squigg him out. Does your husband read your erotica work? What’s his reaction to it?
BF: Just to illustrate how shy I used to be about sex—and in many ways I still am—I’ll tell you that it was a HUGE deal to show my husband my first erotica story, which was Unbidden. I waited to show him when we’d have some private time together, assuming it would turn him on so much he’d attack me right then and there. Well, it turns out a story about a woman getting hit on by a man who is not her husband doesn’t turn him on. Since then, I’ve shown him other stories that are easier for him to read, but they never get him immediately horny or anything. I write erotica for women, so the stories just don’t do it for him. One huge benefit to writing erotica, though, has been an increased comfort in communication about sex with my husband. As expected, it’s improved our sex life immensely.
Women In Lust is easily available in print or on Kindle at Amazon.
More about the editor, Rachel Kramer Bussell, can be found here.