Archives for posts with tag: literature

I like to think of my time between my two marriages as like the inter-war years in Germany. It was a time of debauchery and hedonism. A time of freedom and liberation. That is not to say I went on to marry Hitler, no, no, my second husband hates vegetarians, but that I had a ‘happy time’.

Just call me “The Weimar Republic”

I am not a particularly attractive woman. I’m ok, but I’m no beauty queen. At school and college I was the pretty girl’s best friend. I don’t know why the pretty girl always want to be my best friend but hey.
Yet, during the inter-war years, I WAS as popular as the pretty girl not because I started plucking my eyebrows and straightened my hair, (although I concede that may have been a factor) but because I had a fabulous man-pulling tool in my arsenal. (Oo-er.)

It was my job. There are some jobs that just do it for the opposite sex. Ask any male nurse or any fireman and they will tell you, “yes, the ladies love my work.” (Said in a really low voice, while taking off top)
So it is for a female erotic writer. The men love my work. I would simply have to announce “Oh yes, I’ve been writing sex scenes all day long,” in the pub and the fella would have abandoned my pretty best friend and would have been putty in my hands (which was not the desired effect but hey…)

Put it away, beauty queen! There are other ways to skin a cat.

The reason I am writing this is to say while erotica is massive at the moment and one or two authors are busily renovating their fourth or fifth homes in Provence on the proceeds of their book sales, for many more of us, the best sellers lists are a wet dream, and we have to take our job satisfaction elsewhere. And if that’s simply a sudden ‘irresistible’ aura then that’ll have to do.

There are other wonderful things about being an erotic writer – the shock on other parents’ face at the school gate when you tell them your book titles, the afternoons spent idly imagining plots, the first and final paragraphs, the editing process “How does he do that? He must have five hands?” the thrill of the first copy and the smell of the cover, the sight of the book on the shelves at Waterstones, or better still, in someone’s hands on the train.

There are many, many wonderful things indeed, but unless I have been particularly unlucky, then massive financial rewards aren’t one of them.

At the beginning of October and the beginning of March, I get my royalty checks. Last night, before setting off to invade Poland, my husband and I placed our bets. How much would I get this time? He said, “£800” which is uncharacteristically optimistic of him. I’m going for…£150. A cautious guess. I don’t know if my book sales will have gone up as part of the fifty shades effect or not. My last royalty cheque in March would not have bought a door knob on my imaginary house in Provence (£15) but I have, honest guv’, had pay outs of around £2000 mostly when rights had been sold to different countries (mostly Germany, oddly enough).

End of September, ‘salways an exciting time of year. I promise to let you know when the letter arrives.

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You’ve done creative writing classes with a teacher who’s been published in ‘Woman’s weekly’. You’ve let off a stinking poem or two. You have a half finished screenplay under your bed that Spielberg would send over a private jet for, (Oh! if only he knew about it!) and now you are wondering: have I got what it takes to write erotica?

Its not an entirely stupid question.

The success of Harry Potter meant children’s publishing got a massive shot in the arm as publishers and public alike realised what how brilliant (and lucrative) children’s books could be. So, it is with Mr Grey and Anastasia. The publishing and reading world await the next shagging sensation. Erotica is ‘in’. You can bet your ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, that right now, thousands of hopeful people across the world, are banging out something. And some of them might be writing a bit too.

So what are the essential qualities of the erotic writer and how do they differ from writers of other genres?

I was going to say simply the ability to write interesting sentences but in the light of recent best-sellers, I’ve decided to scrub that. Ha ha. It is clearly more important to create interesting, possibly sympathetic, characters and, if its your thing, a good, page-turning plot. So far, same as in other kinds of writing but where it differs, naturally, is an interest in “the sex thing”. Obviously, the erotic writer must be, as they say on dating websites, “open-minded”. If the erotic writer feels that what they are doing is wrong then this will shine through their work (in a bad way). I don’t know the religious make-up of the top erotic writers but I’m willing to bet my copy of ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ that they are not practicing Catholics. I’m not saying practicing Catholics can’t write brilliantly, (God forbid) I’m simply suggesting extreme romance writing isn’t for you.

The erotic writer clearly needs to do the sex thing as much as possible: we call this ‘research’. However, I’m not a believer in write what you know. You don’t have to know about orgies and dragon butter to write about it – you do however have to find all that interesting. Write what you care about, and you can’t go wrong.

The next essential quality of the erotic writer is to be well-read. You should have some sense of the history of rude-writing from Anais Nin and Henry Miller to Black Lace favourites Portia de Costa and (shameless plug) Tabitha Flyte! And here, allow me to make a small digressive joke: the erotic writer must know his Dickens from his dick and his Hardy from his Hard-on.
Ho hum.
The erotic writer doesn’t leave anything to the imagination. He or she knows that the devil is in the details. He or she should also be able to swear like a navvy and he or she should be prepared to sign a contract promising never ever to use coy phrases like ‘inner goddess’ or ‘sex’ where other, better, words would do.

It also helps to be an orphan. Not really – one dead parent will do. Honestly, my mum would have done her nut about my career choice. She would have been sat at my shoulder. “O-kayyy, so Sally, is the one who’s shagging the big fellow but she prefers his wife and…ooh darling, you know Mrs Johnson’s daughter is training to be a doctor.”

Does Annie have what it takes to be the next EL James, or is she more of a PD James kind of girl?

A subversive streak is another job requirement. You don’t have to be a steam-punk trustafarian living in a squat in South London but I’ve never met an erotic writer yet who doesn’t, in her own, sweet way, stick one finger (the middle) up at the system. I suppose its the same with most writers, whatever the subject matter. You have to be interested in revealing the hidden, in exploring and busting taboos. All writers are outsiders, looking in and exploring what they see. Erotic writers are outsiders too, although they are looking in the bedroom window in particular.

It’s imperative to have thick skin. You need the hide of the rhino if you are to read some of the reviews on Amazon. Especially the ones your “friends” insist on writing. The response is even worse if you make the mistake of writing in the first person, the “I” because everyone will think it’s actually you. Sigh.
They say if you left a monkey at a computer for 1000s of years, eventually it would produce the works of Shakespeare. I believe if you did the same with a rhino then he would eventually produce ‘The story of O’. (If he didn’t squash the computer first.)

Could he be the next publishing sensation?

Finally, in this day and age, it’s important to have a USP. For those who aren’t expert in marketing-squeak, USP is your unique selling point. Just as Delia is associated with pre-mashed food, and Heston Blumenthal, rats arse ice cream, every chef needs a signature dish and so too does the erotic writer.
So if your thing is a toe in the hoo-haa or perhaps “water-sports” (not in the dating site sense of the word), then don’t be afraid to explore this in your d’oevre. What you may find, to everyone’s amazement, is that niche is no longer niche and before long Marks and Spencers will be stocking your bestselling book alongside waterproof sheets and nail clippers.

Ok, maybe not M and S, maybe Morrisons.

samlierens

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