Sunday, April 29, 2007

On Being an Erotica Writer

Even though it's almost two weeks away, mentally, I'm already in New
Orleans for the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. The anticipation
is terrible and wonderful at the same time. A lot of writers I know are
heading there for the first time, so I'm fielding a lot of questions
about it. I've been to a lot of writer's conferences, but Saints and
Sinners stands out as the must-attend conference for me because it's the only one I've ever been to where I feel comfortable. There's no awkward pause before I talk about what I write.

I'm not ashamed that I write erotica. It's just that it seems to make other
people feel uncomfortable. It was drummed into my head from an early
age that I was responsible for the emotions of people around me (not a healthy POV, but hard to overcome) so I'm always hyper-sensitive to body language.
When I see a negative shift, the peacemaker in me comes out. That isn't
really fair though. I should trust people to face their own prejudices.
Besides, some people need that jolt of reality. (I've often said that
at writer's conferences, admitting to writing science fiction gets the same horrified look that erotica gets. The difference is that when I say science fiction, those people don't move to another table.)

Despite the horrified glances I get at writer's conferences, I'm frequently pulled aside to listen to hastily whispered confessions or to answer breathless
questions. At the heart of both is the query, "Am I normal?" and "Is
this okay?" I might not be a sex educator, but I want to offer
reassurance. People shouldn't have to fret so much about sex.

The stigma of being an erotica writer isn't what it used to be. Few agents
will touch it, but as the bigger publishing houses move into the niche
they will. Where there's money, there's someone with his/her hand out
for a cut of the action. Time is running out though, because most of us
have done without agents, or been rudely dismissed ("I don't handle that sort of thing," said with a distinct sniff of disdain.), for so long that we've learned to do without. It's up to the agents to prove their worth to us at this point. However, the first one to wake up and smell the $$ is going to have his/her pick of clients.

On her blog, Remittance Girl wrote a wonderful piece about the questions erotica writers are asked that no other genre seems to face. No one seems to ask romance writers just how many Counts and Dukes they've fallen in love with and married. No one asks a mystery writer how many murders they've committed. And yet, asking an erotica writer if she/he has ever committed that sexual act doesn't seem beyond the pale. Maybe it's because we write about the forbidden that people assume we're game for anything.

I guess I'm lucky that I've never been asked the, "Did you actually do that?"
question. Maybe my stories are too firmly footed in the world of the
fantastic to strike people as a true confession. I have, however, been
mailed a few cock pictures under both my male pen name and my female
pen name. (P.S. Note to would-be suitors - neither Jay nor Kathleen is
currently auditioning new lovers. So save those cock pix for your
Manhunt profile.) (P.P.S. your couch is hideous.)

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