Jill Prewett interviews a writer with many hats
Images by Libby O’Loghlin
You write novels, short stories, plays and – as your alter ego – erotica. Which is the real you?
Good question. And one I’ve been trying to answer all my life. Who am I? After thinking about this for a while, I’ve come to realise there isn’t much of a distinction between the different versions of me. When I sit down at my laptop it’s the writer in me that comes out and that writer can take many forms. I enjoy tackling things in a variety of ways—often within the same novel—so whether it’s a serious short story, a crime novel, or a bit of erotic fun, it’s still me who’s writing it.
Let’s talk about erotica. It’s a hot topic since E.L. James became such a runaway success with 50 Shades of Grey. Have you read it?
I haven’t read 50 Shades but I have picked it up in bookshops and flicked through and I’ve looked at it online. It may be an odd thing to admit but I don’t actually read much erotica. I look at other writers’ work to see how I measure up (no double entendre intended!) and to get ideas but I don’t read it for pleasure. I think I probably will have to read 50 Shades though as it’s such a hot property at the moment.
It’s caused a ruckus in the sexual politics arena. Do you see this story of a submissive woman as a backwards step or as a feminist success?
I think it’s important to distinguish between fantasy and reality. I believe many women have fantasies of submissiveness but I’m sure few would want to be that way in real life. Like it or not, punishment, humiliation and even rape are potent fantasies for a lot of women (and men). Being able to admit that is a progressive step: it means women (in the West at least) have reached a stage where they can make their own decisions about their lives, including sexual orientation and preferences. When women themselves can choose to be involved in sado-masochistic fantasies without having that carry over into their everyday lives, that is surely a good thing. In societies where women are punished, humiliated and raped in reality, the fantasy sours. We are fortunate we have made progress to the extent that these things are no longer considered acceptable in our own society (even if they do still occur). To be able to be honest about sexual preferences is a major step forward. Only when women have some power of their own can they admit to weaknesses. I think we’ve reached a stage where we can say, “Yes, I do enjoy a bit of spanking,” or, “Hmm, I’d quite like to have a penis for a day to see how it feels,” without losing that female power.
When approaching an erotic story, how does your approach differ from when you write crime or literary fiction?
I write erotica much faster than I write other things. I probably shouldn’t admit it but I am less fussy about my erotic pieces. I don’t spend forever worrying over a word here or a comma there. I still like to produce a well-written, readable story though, and I certainly don’t ignore spelling and grammar. But erotica, for me anyway, is a light-hearted bit of fun to write and, hopefully, to read. I find the same themes cropping up both in my erotica and my more serious writing, however. Sex or a sexual agenda seems always to be present in my straight novels and short stories. It’s a fundamental urge for human beings and has infinite variety, so I expect to go on mining that seam for some time. My other theme is spirituality and that has cropped up in my erotica as well. For me, spirituality and sexuality are two aspect of the same urge – the lifeforce.
Any advice on what not to do, when writing erotica?
Avoid being too dark and gloomy and always remember the purpose is to excite and titillate. Under-age sex, bestiality and extreme sadistic imagery have no place in erotica. Make it clear that all acts are ultimately consensual and between adults. The object is to inspire erotic fantasy and maybe a little roleplay, not to demean women—or men for that matter.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have two projects on the go at the moment. One is a novel about a missing manuscript, working title Poetic Justice or The Spiritual Hunt. It’s about a long prose poem written by French poet Arthur Rimbaud which went missing in the 1870s. Well, that’s the MacGuffin, if you like. It’s really about sex and spirituality, like all my other novels. I’m writing it through a series of different voices, so I hope it will ultimately all hang together and not be too much of a patchwork. The other is my second collection of short erotica. I’ve got three new erotic pieces written and a couple of ideas for other ones, so that will keep me occupied for a little while.
Pentalpha website: http://pentalphapublishing.weebly.com
The Stiletto Heel on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004RJ3KT8