That’s an ambitious descriptor! If anything, I suppose I like to think of myself as setting a good example and, as an anthology editor, opening doors to new writers. I think people who don’t read erotica have a misconception of what erotica is– as well as who reads it and writes it. Then they meet me– a very average middle-class suburban Navy wife and mother with a couple of college degrees who writes and talks about sex– and maybe a lightbulb goes off and they realize that the world of erotica is something they can enjoy reading– or writing.
Who or what was a catalyst for you?
There have been a number of catalysts for my life and work, but my erotica writing career came about when I was discovering personal blogs and ezines with a very sex-positive message at a time when I was at a crossroads in my writing. Reading the blogs of Jane Duvall (founder of Jane’s ‘Net Sex Guide); Mary Anne Mohanraj (founder of Clean Sheets and one of the first internet bloggers); Heather Corinna (founder of the now-defunct Scarlet Letters and the well-known Scarleteen), to name a few, was the lightbulb over my head. I had been writing about sex since my senior year of high school when I wrote a paper for my AP Psychology class titled Behind Closed Doors: Women’s Sexual Fantasies. I think the only reason it took me so long to realize that I could, in fact, write about sex professionally was because I didn’t know where to start. It took that incredible door opener– the internet– and a few inspiring voices to show me a new direction for my writing with a subject I was already very interested in and passionate about– women’s sexuality. Then I discovered Adrienne Benedick’s fantastic resource, the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, and the rest is history.
What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?
I live in the southern most part of Virginia– a fairly conservative area in the very conservative south. Virginia is known for things like trying to pass legislation requiring transvaginal ultrasounds prior to allowing a woman to obtain an abortion. I was told by a publicist trying to schedule book events for me that Virginia isn’t sex-friendly. While my experience on a one-on-one level is that people are generally open minded and of the live-and-let-live mindset (which I’m sure has something to do with my non-threatening maternal friendliness!), I know there is a larger force at work, a group mentality that sex, and all it encompasses from birth control to polyamory to homosexuality, is bad. That anything that strays from the socially accepted norm is wrong. Changing that mindset isn’t just about preventing restrictive legislation (though that’s certainly part of it), it’s about closing the gap between “us” and “them.” I straddle a line between two worlds– one, a very traditional view of a military family; the other, the community of erotica writers and other sexuality professionals. To be honest, I never feel completely comfortable in either world, but here I am, using the same name, face and identity in both. This is my attempt to close the gap. I am one of us– and I am one of them.
What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable positive changes that have been made in the world of sexuality in the past year?
I think E.L. James and the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has created a public dialogue about sex– specifically women’s sexuality and BDSM– that has done more for the topic of sex-positivity than a lot of people want to admit. Regardless of how the books are perceived (and there aren’t nearly as many detractors as there are fans), this crazy unpredictable phenomenon has created a ripple effect not just in the writing community but in our culture. I’ve personally seen the Fifty Shades Effect. My public library– which I worked for five years– has never carried my erotica anthologies until now. They have not only ordered copies of not only my new release, but several of my backlist, they’ve also asked me to moderate a book discussion of Fifty Shades of Grey. While that might not be a big deal in some of the bigger cities or more liberal/progressive areas of the country, for this particular area it is a phenomenal change in attitude and policy. All because of one author and one book. Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t representative of all erotica, but it is the book that made erotica mainstream. The dialogue has been started and it needs to continue and I hope we will all put aside the disparaging comments and the “real” vs. “fictional” concepts of BDSM and embrace the possiblities.
Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer, to CatalystCon East?
Rachel Kramer Bussel was one of my first erotica editors (and the one I’ve probably sold the most stories to), so when she asked me to be a part of the How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer panel I unhesitatingly said yes. My earliest role models in this field were a handful of outspoken, creative women– and Rachel is one of those who inspired me to do more than dip my toes in this area of writing– which is how I ended up adding anthology editor to my list of titles. I have discovered that the joy of accepting an author’s story for an anthology is (almost) as incredible a feeling as selling a story myself and I want to give back to this community that has given me so much by inspiring and encouraging others to explore their own interests in writing about sex.
Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself.
I’m an introvert, so I’m very shy in public situations. So if you see me being a wallflower at CatalystCon, please come up and say hello!