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'08 Authors Insider Tips

Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Epublishing: A Different Way
Choosing an Epublisher
Your Milage May Vary
Understand Your Contract!
Reasonable Expectations

by Louisa Burton
The Publishing Biz
Critiquing: To Give and ...
Commerical vs. Literary...
Antiformalism for Fun &...
So You Want to Write a Novel
The Story Idea
Planning Your Novel...

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
5 Steps to Success
Opening Passages
Let's Get Critical
Writer's Block
Learning Lessons

Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Be a Finisher ...
Listen to Your Characters
Conferences: Act Now ...
Starting an Erotic Story
Exercises & Writing Prompts
Revising & Rewriting
Copy Editing
The Manuscript Critique
How to Submit Your Work
Reading as Craft

Guest Appearances

Adventures in e-Publishing
by Lisabet Sarai

For the Love of Man
by Laura Baumbach

How to...Influence Editors
by Alison Tyler

Marketing your e-Book
by Brenna Lyons

2008 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
Role Play
Busy Doing Nothing
Picture of a Fish & Chip...
What I Did With My Summer

Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
Naughty Cookies...
Tie Me Up, Please …
The Smut-Writer’s Holiday
Never Trust the Narrator ...
Compare and Contrast
Following the Pen
Naked at the Farmers Market
I’m Easy, But I’m No Slut
Good Girl Gone Bad
Pleasures of the Dark Side
Slow, Spare and Sexy

Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Raising Daughters
Jamie Lynn
The Good Old Days
Election '08
Traditional Marriage
Campaign 2008
Free Will

Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Masturbating on SSRIs
Sex and Disability
Besides Ourselves
Adjusting our Contrast

Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Sex Is All Metaphors
Turn-ons and Squicks
Sexual Truth
Fickle Muse
Porn, Erotica & Romance

Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Alison Tyler
Ashley Lister
Debra Hyde
Donna George Storey
Jeremy Edwards
Kristina Wright
Rachel Kramer Bussel

Erotic Hot Spots
by William S. Dean
Interview with Tilly Greene
Interview with Devyn Quinn

Getting Graphic
with William S. Dean
New Times for Readers...
The Future in Words ...
Interview with Fantagraphics

On Writing Erotica

The Accidental Pornographer
by Lisabet Sarai

The End of Innocence
by Lisabet Sarai

Get Them Off in High Style
Helena Settimana

So, You Want To Write Erotica?
by Hanne Blank

Web Gems
Hot Movies For Her

Between the Lines

Ashley Lister talks to Donna George Storey


Donna George StoreyMy intention when I began this series of interviews was to speak with writers about their short stories.  However, my intention when I got married was to remember all important dates and anniversaries, and I’ve only managed to do that once.  And that was only accomplished because I remembered my own birthday so I’m not sure if it properly counts.  All of which is my way of explaining that this month’s interview deals with a full length novel rather than a short story.
Amorous Woman is Donna George Storey’s first full length novel.  The story relates the adventures and recollections of Lydia Yoshikawa.  Lydia is living in San Francisco at the beginning of the novel, teaching Japanese cultural and business practices.  She has spent her student years growing up in Japan and experiencing the pleasures of its culture.  The novel keeps returning to key events from this past as it progresses in a stunning bildungsroman narrative of maturation.

I think, as readers and writers, we tend to view our approaching life as though it was a novel—yet we look back on our personal histories as though events were short stories in an anthology.  Amorous Woman can be read as a series of short stories all interlinked by Lydia's character development.

The story is gloriously sexy, as is to be expected from such a highly respected author of erotica, but I wanted to ask Donna about the construction of this brilliant story.

Ashley: Amorous Woman is rich on many levels, from the details of Japanese culture, through to the constant eroticism.  How long did it take to write? And how long have you been wanting to write this novel?

Donna:  Counting from the day I sat trembling before my first blank Word file marked “Amorous Woman draft” to the day I sent the completed 75,000-word manuscript to the publisher, the whole project took about six months.  Of course, with Amorous Woman, there’s always another layer of story within the story.  In a way, the writing took twenty-four years, because I’ve been wanting to write a novel based on my experiences in Japan since my early days as an English conversation teacher in Kyoto.  It seems almost every foreigner who lives in Japan for even a few months writes a book about it.  Evidence suggests we were all sent there by publishers!  But seriously, I did attempt to write a literary—by which I mean depressing and soporific—version of the novel about seven years ago.  Like a date’s groping hands in a dark movie theatre, the prose kept creeping into sexual territory and I kept slapping it back to dull respectability.  Not surprisingly, the project never got to first base.  But once I allowed myself to embrace the erotic elements fully, I started having a lot more fun and the writing progressed very quickly indeed.

Ashley: On an intertextual level, Amorous Woman seems to be aimed at a highly literate audience.  The title is derived from Ihara Saikaku’s seventeenth century fantasies of a Japanese courtesan-turned-nun.  Lydia’s surname is the same as Japan’s famous historical novelist, Eiji Yoshikawa.  Yet, despite this rich detail of literariness, the story is immensely accessible.  How did you manage this?

Donna:  As a first-time novelist, I was pretty intimidated by the idea of developing a sustained plot all on my own, so I decided to make it easier on myself by stealing one from a writer who had a proven record, even if he hasn’t been on the New York Times bestseller list for three-hundred-and-fifty years.  It was very helpful to have a structure to rely on—in this case, an old(er) woman tells the tale of her sexual exploits to two curious young men, attaining some insights into her life in the process.  In fact, in all of my writing I find it’s easier to let my imagination go to work when I have a structure in place.  In Amorous Woman, I have my character ponder the phrase “constriction as art” a few times, usually with regard to sex.  But I think I’m also talking about writing, too.

The original The Life of an Amorous Woman is fairly inaccessible even to Japanese readers, and Western readers have to rely on copious footnotes to understand it.  But when the novel was first published, it was considered popular literature.  While I did incorporate plenty of details and plot elements that a Saikaku scholar would recognize, my first priority was that the story be consistent with a contemporary American’s experience in Japan.  For example, when Saikaku’s heroine is employed as a lady-in-waiting, her mistress likes to hold “Jealousy Meetings” where all the ladies vent their frustrations by beating up on a beautiful, life-sized doll—which turns out to be a replica of the master’s beloved concubine.  In my novel, Lydia’s suspicions and frustration about her own marriage find expression in a gripe session with her bisexual friend and masturbatory fantasies about threesomes and orgies.  A different kind of jealousy meeting, but a tip of the hat to Saikaku all the same.

Another similar challenge was trying to portray aspects of Japanese culture that might be unfamiliar to my readers.  Of course, I didn’t want to use footnotes or lots of awkward explanatory asides either, so I tried to remember what it was like when I encountered these things for the first time to give an in-the-moment experience.  I also drew from funny explanations that I and my fellow gaijin came up with to make sense of our culture shock.  One quick example—Lydia observes that foreigners who live in Tokyo are only interested in money, and foreigners who settle in Kyoto are culture geeks, determined to read The Tale of Genji in the original or die trying.  As you see from my pale, scholarly complexion and my empty purse, I’m one of the Kyoto types.

Ashley: It goes without saying (although I’m going to say it anyway) that Japanese culture has clearly been a strong influence on this novel.  You’ve studied and taught in Japan.  Are there any autobiographical elements in this story? 

Donna: I know I’m supposed to be coy and deny it, especially given Lydia’s colourful adventures, but the novel is jam-packed with autobiographical material lifted from the three years I lived in Japan.  I really did have an “arranged marriage meeting” with a cute salaryman, and we really were interrupted by a delivery man from a department store bearing year-end bribes.  There was also an attraction developing between me and his colleague which I used in the novel.  I visited all the places Lydia does, ate the delicious food she enjoys.  Rich dentists played a surprisingly important role in my Japan experience.  Of course, Lydia is more impulsive and adventurous than I ever was, so she took everything farther and got in a lot more trouble.   There’s also a lot of sexual fantasy in the novel and I suppose as the author, any fantasy has to be my fantasy by definition!

Amorous WomanAshley: I was using this book to illustrate to a friend Shklovsky’s formalist distinction between plot and story.  When you were writing Amorous Woman did you put the story down as it’s now written, or did the varying timeline allow you to concentrate on writing disparate chapters to then find a place for them afterwards?

Donna:  The framing device of Lydia in America in the present telling an audience about what happened to her in Japan in the past allows for a certain self-consciousness about the act of storytelling itself.  I did establish the frame first, writing the prologue and first chapter and a draft of the last chapter that I revised somewhat in my second edit.  Since the various roles Lydia takes on are so very different, and she purposely severs ties with people from her previous lives, it certainly would have been possible to write the sections independently, but I tried to work through her story chronologically in my first draft so that I could get to know Lydia and her motivations more intimately.  Still some parts did come more easily than others.  Part Seven where she meets the professor at the hot spring was particularly difficult to write even though it’s one of my favorite sections now.  So I just roughed out what I wanted to happen and moved on.  That’s the wonder of working on a deadline, you have to keep moving into areas of the story that flow more easily or you’re in big trouble.  Then later I was able to go back and give the scenes the attention they needed.  Part Three with the rich dentists was another area I couldn’t quite get the first time through, but eventually I managed to break through my own blocks and bring it to life.

Ashley: Most people reading this will be familiar with your short fiction, even if they’ve not encountered your Amorous Woman yet.  In many ways Amorous Woman could almost be viewed as a series of short stories tied together by the common theme of Lydia’s developing character and adventures.  What would you identify as the principle differences between writing short fiction and writing a novel?  And which do you prefer?

Donna:  They both have their charms and frustrations.  A short story is like a steamy get-away with a lover at a country inn.  I can throw myself into it and enjoy the nice change of pace of a little vacation, but it doesn’t impact my life beyond those few weeks.  Yes, there are some surprises—if you look at my notes files for my stories, you’ll see they never play out just as I’d planned.  But the basic shape of the story, the characters’ motivations and the sex scenes are generally recognizable.  You know:  go to charming country inn with attractive lover, have hot sex several times a day, say goodbye regretfully and possibly keep in touch with a fond email or two—but no guarantees and that’s fine.

Now Amorous Woman is about an American woman’s love affair with Japan, but it’s also about my very intense love affair with the novel-writing process.  During those six months, I ate, slept (though not much) and breathed Lydia and her erotic dalliances.  I think a novel has to be more consuming because you are creating another world, another life.  Afterwards I definitely went through a period of what I’d have to call postpartum adjustment, when I was back in my ordinary life, but rather dazed and disoriented.  Another interesting aspect of writing a longer work is that my characters really did take on wills of their own.  Several of them simply refused to go along with my plot outline and insisted on doing something else.  Invariably, their decisions made for a richer story.  So writing a novel is definitely like a long-term and very passionate affair, which eventually leads to a birth.  You lose part of yourself in the intense effort, but you gain a nice little bundle of a book you can hold in your hands and coo at.

I also have to mention that sending my novel out into the world made me feel much more connected with my readers.  My short stories have been published in anthologies or journals, which offer a variety of authors and flavours, especially satisfying when it comes to erotica.  However, I’m just one of many, hopefully a memorable favorite, but if not, I’m only asking for a few minutes of a reader’s time.  But with a novel, I’m demanding hours from someone’s busy life.  Reading is a very intimate act. You invite this stranger’s voice inside your head and surrender to the author’s sensibility, the rhythm of the words, not to mention with erotica you climb right into bed with the characters.  It’s a lot to ask and I’m grateful for that gift of time and attention.  If readers enjoy the novel, say they couldn’t put it down, mention scenes that resonate or surprise or turned them on, I’m touched and thrilled beyond words--really.  Not that I’m not delighted when someone likes my stories, too, of course.

Ashley: Do you feel that Lydia’s further adventures would be worthy material for a sequel? 

Donna:  A lot of people ask me this question and I don’t want to rule it out, but to be honest, Lydia told me she wanted to pursue her affairs with the software engineers of Silicon Valley without me nosing around in her business.  Eventually she might find she misses the limelight and I’ll write my version of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.  But a few other sexually adventurous heroines have expressed a keen interest in having me tell their stories, so they’re next in line.

Ashley: What’s your next project going to be?

Donna: I’m currently ready to embark on a second novel that takes a peek through the bedroom keyhole of American history in the 20th century. I’ll pay homage to Sally Rand, the famous 1930s burlesque dancer, Bettie Page and camera clubs in the 1950s, John Updike’s spouse-swapping suburbia and lots more.  I’m enjoying the research immensely.  Amorous Woman involved geographic travel.  My new book involves time travel of a sort—clearly I like to take trips to mysterious, faraway places in my writing.  Another guarantee is that there will be lots of sex.  I tend to write what I want to read and a book without good sex is like…a life without good sex!

Ashley Lister
August 2008

"Between the Lines" © 2008 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

About the Author:  Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, Swingers: True Confessions from Today's Modern Swinging Scene (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753511355), a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his first title published under his own name.
Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica.  Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto.  He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.
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'08 Movie Reviews

Almost Perfect
Review by Oranje

The Fold
Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Spooky

Review by Spooky

'08 Book Reviews


Best Bisexual Women's Erotica
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Best Fantastic Erotica
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Best Women's Erotica '08
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Bound Brits (ebook)
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Deep Inside: Extreme ...
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Dirty Girls
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Hide and Seek
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Hurts So Good
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J is for Jealousy
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K is for Kink
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Lust Bites
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Open for Business
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Review by Lisabet Sarai

Rubber Sex
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Rubber Sex
Review by Victoria Blisse

Seriously Sexy
Review by Ashley Lister

Sex & Candy
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The Shadow of a... (poetry)
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Review by Victoria Blisse

Tasting Her
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Tasting Him
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Tasting Him
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White Flames
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Yes, Ma'am: Male Submission
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Yes, Sir: Female Submission
Review by Angelika Devlyn


The Art of Melinoe
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Demon by Day
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Gemini Heat
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Gothic Heat
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The Hidden Grotto Series
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The House of Blood
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In Too Deep
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In Too Deep
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Review by Donna George Storey

Review by Victoria Blisse

One Breath at a Time
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Out of the Shadows (ebook)
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Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Rose B. Thorny

Seduce Me
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Seduced by the Storm
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Serve the People!
Review by Donna G. Storey

Signed, Sealed and Delivered
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Sunfire (eBook)
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Templar Prize
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The Wicked Sex
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Wild Kingdom
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Gay Erotica

Review by Vincent Diamond

Best Gay Romance '08
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Hard Hats
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Review by Kathleen Bradean

Lesbian Erotica

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Best Lesbian Erotica '08
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The Night Watch
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America Unzipped
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Best Sex Writing '08
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Bonk: The Curious Coupling
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The Book of Love
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Casanova: Actor Lover ...
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Dishonorable Passions
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Flagrante Delicto (photos)
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The Flesh Press
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Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star
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The Not So Invisible Woman
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Swingers: Female...
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Who's Been Sleeping in...
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