The following questions and answers are from a survey of writers of erotic fiction, the results of which will shortly appear on emmanuelledemaupassant.com
, highlighting trends and featuring prominent replies. I highly recommend this blog, and author.
Do you write under a pen name of opposite gender?
If so, what were your reasons for choosing to do so?
No; I do use pen names, but they’re the same gender.
When did you first begin writing fiction containing erotic elements?
I wrote a very candid memoir in the late 90’s, in which I held back nothing of my own (infrequent and belated) sexual experiences, and this might be published one day.
I first began writing fiction with a serious view to getting published in the mid-noughties, and my first novel contained a few sex scenes, albeit mostly in the imagination of the male teenage co-protagonist.
After that was published in 2011 I wrote my debut erotic novella Shagnasty, still under my real name at that time. But after I decided that series, and my erotic writing in general, should go in a more femdom direction, I took this name. The novella remains unpublished, however.
In which year did your work first:
Receive a print/e-book audience?
Receive an online readership (via a website)?
Under this name, it was for poetry, in Ashley R Lister’s Coming Together: In Verse anthology, in November last year. Not much online impact yet, in fact this will go into my very first Jay Willowbay blog post
Have you self-published?
been published by a small press?
if so, which ?
been published by a larger publishing house?
if so, which?
What has been your experience of self-publishing/traditional publishing?
Have your experiences matched your expectations? Do you have advice you would share?
My only full length publication to date was a horror novel under my real name through a small press. It was a disaster. There was so little editorial work done that it went on sale within a week of me submitting it. I should have smelled a rat, but I just felt pleased with myself for self-editing it so well. They did no promo, and it didn’t even go on Amazon; you could only buy it through their site. It sold about 50 copies, of which 20 were to me for reviews, relatives and libraries, before the company went bust. My only royalty payment was for £45, which was a fraction of what I’d spent on my copies and promotional items.
I still wouldn’t say avoid the small presses, but I’d advise anyone to look closely at who they’re submitting to. I think self-publishers were less respected back then than nowadays, and self-pubbing is definitely an avenue I intend to explore.
Where do you experience most sales? Via e-book or print?
Hardly any sales anywhere, so far. Once I’ve self-pubbed I would expect e-book sales to be prevalent, but I’m keen to make physical books available too.
How would you describe your writing style and your choice of sub-genres?
Have you written fiction or non-fiction without erotic elements?
Please give details…
In the erotica world, as my name may suggest, I’m a femdom specialist, and I love to look at that psychologically as well as physically. There are only a few glimpses of the protagonist’s submissiveness in Shagnasty though; it’s the first in a series, and he hasn’t admitted it to himself yet. Instead what we see is someone trying too hard to overcompensate: he veers from relatively harmless Jack-the-lad to dangerous sociopath, until submission becomes his only hope of redemption.
Erotica is just one of many genres I write in: under other names I also do Horror, Speculative Fiction, Crime, Children’s Fiction and Sports Writing. People assume I should take very different approaches to each, but I disagree: the subject matters may vary, but the same fundamentals of loving the language and engaging the reader still apply.
In which format(s) do you write? short stories / novellas / novels
All of the above, from a 150 word flash fiction Crime story, which was a runner-up in a prestigious competition, to the 85,000 word zombie novel which can hopefully come back from the dead. The novella is my favourite length to write to, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to pay the bills.
Do you have any major cultural influences
(eg. in theatre/ film/art/music/theatre)?
Not in the sense of there consciously being a person I must emulate or a style I must imitate, but I think I pick up something from everything I see, hear or read, even if it gestates within me for many years before coming to fruition. Take the old Judge Dredd comics I read in 2000AD during my childhood and early adolescence: obviously I was into it as a sci-fi fan, but what stays with me today is a hypno femdom mind control scene as a prelude to a Judge Death story. Not only has that become a theme in my erotic writing; it also went a long way to defining the whole Jay Willowbay persona.
Do you tend to read works by other authors within the erotic genre?
If not, why not?
If you do, whom have you enjoyed – and what appealed to you about their work?
What benefit do you think there may be in reading work by fellow writers of erotic fiction?
I do read other erotic authors, and would think that anyone who wants to write in this genre without doing so is making a mistake.
In reading erotic fiction that hits my niche preference squarely on the nose, I have to mention Esther Harshom. Excellently written, and again connecting with the emotional and cerebral workings of hypno femdom, as well as the resulting action. She definitely nurtured the seed that had been planted in Mega-City One all those years ago.
For someone who strikes my weak spot with more of a glancing blow, but in breathtakingly arresting and audacious prose, I would have to bring up the author who is collating these questions. The Gentleman’s Club is an erotic tour de force, delivered in a luxuriant prose which stays just the right side of overwritten, and is well in keeping with the Victorian setting. Additionally, it punctures the hubris and hypocrisy of the patriarchy of the time, the remnants of which endure today.
Also Leigh Stone’s Domme books are a stunning example of perfectly written femdom; describing the physical details in a way that puts you right there feeling it, while accurately and sensitively depicting the feelings of domme and sub alike. It gets right into your head and leaves a lasting impression which endures long after you put the book down.
How far does your writing reflect:
your own emotional/sexual history/experience?
Not at all – my Shagnasty protagonist is the very antithesis of myself: he’s undoubtedly more conventionally attractive than I am, and has had at least a hundred times more sexual partners than me, but I have a loving relationship that he’s never known, and am far more comfortable in my own skin.
Your own fantasies?
Yeah, that’s a big part, and I’m not ashamed of it. Any erotic author that doesn’t mine their own fantasies is ignoring their most bountiful source of vivid and exciting material, and letting it go to waste. I won’t hold anything back.
Experiences you have read/witnessed/been told about second-hand?
Not so much really, but I think if anything makes a big impression, it will naturally assimilate itself into your fantasies, and the creative goldmine therein.
What inspired you to begin writing fiction with erotic content?
Eg. commercial reasons/desire to push boundaries/creative impulse…
I never said to myself, “I’m going to write erotica”, I just happened to have the specific idea for Shagnasty, and in writing that I saw enough scope for expansion in the series to justify launching this persona.
Have your motivations changed since first writing? If so, how? What do you primarily wish to accomplish through your writing?
My dream was and still is to write for a living, but I have become much more aware of how difficult that is, and more realistic about how, and to what extent, to achieve that. I now hope that the combination of all the genres of fiction and non-fiction that I write in, along with any Creative Writing tuition that I may be qualified for (I am just finishing an MA, and looking into PhD possibilities) will be enough to provide a handy second income at least.
Are there ‘taboo’ areas you are interested in exploring but feel constrained by current regulations / commercial viability / social conventions?
No; if I want to write something, I will. The great freedom of being so unsuccessful commercially, is that you really have nothing to lose.
Are there any ‘taboos’ you avoid through personal preference?
Is there a difference between avoiding something, and simply not writing it? While there’s nothing I wouldn’t write, whether such ideas present themselves to me is a different matter.
What are your future plans in terms of accomplishment? Is there an area of the genre (or another genre) you’d like to explore?
Or a new style? And with what intent?
I have 30 books plotted out over a variety of genres, including a three part zombie series, a twelve part crime series, a five part children’s series and a six part erotica series, along with a few standalones. My ambition is to write these as well as possible; I hope that they also find a readership, but that’s a secondary concern. I came across a nice line from playwright Steve Gooch the other day: “If you’ve lived with an idea for some time, and it keeps getting stronger, there’s a good chance that it will end up demanding to be written – in which case you won’t have much choice in the matter.”
Do you plan to cease writing in this genre? If so, for what reason?
I have no intention of jumping ship, but at some point the journey will have run its course. At the very least I will finish the six part Shagnasty series, and whatever short stories pop into my head in the interim. After that I will take stock and decide whether to continue writing erotica, or whether to continue writing at all.
Looking at the notion of the ‘erotic genre’ broadly, how would you like to see it develop over the coming decade?
I’d like to see it being more respected as a literary endeavour, and that goes for the writers as well as the readers, critics and the wider public. I’ll sometimes see authors saying things like: “Just writing the final chapter – it’ll be on sale tomorrow!” Now the result might even be quite good, but it certainly won’t be anywhere near as good as it could have been.
Are there any questions you would have liked to see included in this survey?
If so, please write them below, with your answers….
I’ve answered a lot of questions about writing, but as a femdom specialist who doesn’t mind opening up, it would have been nice to be asked to share a real-life inciting incident anecdote about male submissiveness.
I have to answer it now? Okay, here goes. In my teens I was a pretty good football (soccer) player, and I made Southampton’s Under-16 team. During a tournament that featured both boys’ and girls’ competitions, we played against our fierce local rivals Portsmouth in the semi-finals. I didn’t have a great game, I was a little out of my depth at that level, and I was substituted with the score at 0-0. I just sat down by the side of the pitch, not realising I’d left myself in amongst the players from the Portsmouth girls team. We went on to lose the match 2-0, and after the goals I became painfully aware of the Pompey girls celebrating and cavorting all around me. They gloated and teased and taunted, and of course I had no idea what a humiliation fetish was back then, but I did realise that, unhappy as I was at losing, I really liked it. Bearing in mind this was 1990, and footballers wore very small shorts in those days, I had no way of hiding my excitement if I stood up, so I had to sit cross-legged and hunched over, and take the shame. When the game finished I still had to wait quite a while for it to subside so I could re-join my team-mates. They thought it was because I was distraught at the defeat, or angry about being substituted, but it wasn’t that at all. It was because losing to our hated rivals had given me the raging horn.