Sunday, March 02, 2008


I've done my share of 'em. The single most common question asked of me (and, I believe, all authors of erotic fiction) is some variant of: Do you write from experience?

My somewhat evasive response is typically: I've never had a reader accuse me of not knowing what I'm talking about.

The question itself (and its prevalence) tells me that folks reading erotic fiction (be it erotica or erotic romance or whatever label is applied this week) want to know they're getting accurate information. My experiences--sexual or otherwise--are my business. If I choose to share them, that's also my business.

Now, however, some are saying, "Whoa! TMI!" in regard to that very same information and are casting aspersions on those who choose to share. It has me scratching my head. These people seek--SEEK--information about authors from blogs, chats, workshops, etc. but recoil when they get it. Some even go digging for it in the places authors socialize online so they can point to it and hold it up as a dripping example of depravity. WTF? Further, they paint an entire community with whatever color offends them the most.

It's like a cavalcade of repressed church ladies with their steamy novels tucked into their handbags. They find all those menage scenes titillating, but when they learn that the author has admitted to experience with menage, they're aghast: "OMG, what a total slut! I'll never read her work again!" or "I'll never submit to her publisher."

Smacks of hypocrisy, dunnit? When it comes to other authors, in some cases, it also smacks of desperation. The genre has undoubtedly grown more explicit. Those accustomed to writing "traditional" romance feel increasingly pressured to include sex scenes that fall outside the realm of their experiences just to stay in the game. So, they research. They seek information--just as one researches weaponry or historical fact. It seems the first place they look is to other authors. Personally, if I want information about a sexual (or any other) practice with which I've no experience, I'm not gonna ask a fiction writer.

However, in that vein, I recently presented a Passionate Ink workshop along with Eden Bradley and Lillian Feisty entitled Everything You Always Wanted to Know about (Writing) Sex but Were Afraid to Ask. We covered a lot of subjects and openly answered questions about a wide variety of experiences with the intent of helping authors achieve authenticity. Alas, no good deed goes unpunished.

No author can force someone to read their words--be they on a blog or in a book or on a website. No one can force another to attend a workshop. So I question the integrity of those who react negatively to such things.

Anyway, speaking of interviews. Here's a lesson from the 2006 La Jolla Writers' Conference by Sara Lewis. I attended two of her sessions that year. She provided one exercise to jumpstart your writing that I found interesting, and I've used it for stalled works in addition to launching new ones.

It's kind of a "trick your muse into cooperating" approach. The rules are thus:

a. Write longhand. (No typing.)
b. Write continuously for 20 minutes. (No stopping to "think.")
c. Write script-style as if you are interviewing a character.

Author: Who are you?
Character: My name is ____.
We did this as an in-class exercise, and at the end of 20 minutes I had 6 hand-written pages of character development for a pre-teen girl who'd been abandoned by her mother & was now living in a broken down VW van with her older sister whose pimp beat her. Surprised the hell out of me. I had no idea that little girl was milling around in my subconscious waiting to be written. (Okay, yes, she's STILL waiting ... but I've got her on paper now. I won't forget her.)

One thing I noticed as each of the attendees read their scripts aloud was that there was a distinct point where the character kind of "took over." The author's questions became fewer & further between ... and the character emerged. Way cool.

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