Category Archives: Woman of the Mountain

“Katie” in Underworlds!

Contrast is everything.

I just sold another story to Mischief, for their anthology Underworlds.  The story is called “Katie” and is set in the late 1800s.  It is loosely based on the real-life case of Dr. William Crookes, a renowned British chemist and physicist, who conducted experiments in spiritualism with a pretty young “physical medium” named Florence Cook. Of course, the manifestations in my story are considerably sexier than anything Dr. Crookes recorded in his notebooks!

I enjoy writing stories set in past eras, not only because I love history, especially its darker and weirder corners, but also because such eras provide an opportunity to emphasize the power of sexuality by setting it against a background less sexualized than today’s world. Much of the dramatic appeal I find in erotica comes from the contrast of a story’s sexual content against these more inhibited time frames.  I’ve used eras like the 1950s as a backdrop for stories such as “Calendar Girl,” and I drew on the 1840s for my story of Millerite shenanigans, “Rapture,” because those eras make a sharper contrast that allows relatively mild sexuality to appear daring, even forbidden. It’s not an easy thing for an erotica writer to be shocking in the age of Kink.com, but I like the challenge.  If I’m successful, I hope I can craft a story that helps the reader adjust their attitude to see things through other eyes.

The general notion of the Victorian era as a completely repressed epoch is not exactly accurate. Although there was certainly a puritanical streak that dominated polite consciousness, there was also a tremendous amount of barely repressed eroticism that broke out in interesting ways. The erotic elements of spiritualism were certainly not emphasized in contemporary accounts, but more than one female medium conducted her séances lightly clad or sometimes entirely nude, ostensibly to prevent fraud. The effect cannot have been lost on the gentlemen sitting around the table. Also, most séances were conducted in the dark and, although all hands were supposed to be on the tipping table, who knows what might have happened beneath it? Add in the intriguing possibilities of ectoplasmic extrusions and wonderful things are possible!

Writing a story in a historical period, of course, presents different challenges from a contemporary tale or one set in an entirely fantastic world, like my novel Woman of the Mountain, but the advantages are significant. The internet offers limitless research resources and direct access to period detail and texts that have never been easily available to writers before. I love taking advantage of modern technology to embellish my little windows into the past. When you look into that gas-lit chamber, there’s no telling what naughty things you might see – at the tipping table or under it…

Underworlds will be published by Mischief later this year.

Too Much Sex?

Here’s a question I’ve been pondering. Can there be too much sex in an erotic story? I almost feel silly talking about gratuitous content in a work of erotica, but there it is.

Woman of the Mountain, was criticized by one reviewer as having too much sex. I saw the reviewer’s point. Since the novel takes place in a world where sex is literally a connection to divinity, the rampant coupling potentially cheapened the sacrament. Woman went on to win an Eppie for best erotica in 2008, but if I were to rewrite it today, I might well remove a steamy page or two.

The easy answer to my question is “an erotic story should have at least as much sex as the story requires.” Many of my tales are, one way or another, about sex. The erotic scenes are central to the story so it’s easy enough to tie the heat and the plot together. In a short story, it’s easier to find the right level of sex, but novels are harder. I’m in the process right now of weaving the 52+ chapters of my blog serial, Woman of His Dreams, into a  novel, so the question has been circling around my brain as I restructure the story. On the blog, I felt like there should be at least a little sex in each chapter, but in a 57,000 word novel, the frequent fucking becomes choppy. Of course. I’m also finding other challenges turning a serial into a novel—pacing, balancing two viewpoints, and such. The process has been educational, though it’s taking longer than I had intended. I’m hoping to have it to a publisher this summer. If you want to read the raw material, with sex in every sequence, it’s all still here.

One unique facet of my chosen genre makes my question even harder to answer. Many readers of erotica read for at least two purposes. Some erotica readers read more for the stories than for prurient interest, but some readers are primarily looking for the kicks that hot, explicit scenes provide. Too little sex in a story definitely risks turning off the reader seeking wank material, while too much may annoy one who reads more for story. Of course, most readers appreciate both elements so, as long as the story justifies the sex, the balance is not too difficult to maintain. For me the ideal approach is to make the sex fit the tale but don’t hold back.

Finally, in erotica, much like horror fiction, I think the best effects are those that are created in a reader’s mind by leaving things unsaid in the prose, which makes the balance between explicitness and ellipsis even more important. Over the five years I’ve been writing, I’ve tried to strike a balance between too much and too little, but I’m sure I sometimes still get the mix wrong. I suppose if I had to condense my experience down into simple advice for a beginning erotica author, I would say, “write just as much sex into the story as you need and then add just a little more.”