So, Now What?

by | August 24, 2015 | General | 12 comments

by Kathleen Bradean

While I agree with Remittance Girl’s assessment of the state of erotica, I also wonder at times if there ever existed such a genre as literary erotica. There were exceptional works: The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Little Birds, Story of the Eye. But was it really a genre? Have we been forever looking back to a golden age that never existed, and did we do that while we were in our own golden age for erotica?

Must over those questions if you wish, but what I’m more interested in is the future. If erotica – literary erotica – is forever changed and not in ways that we like as writers, what the hell are we supposed to do? The publishing world is in a constant state of upheaval. Most of the publishers who put out literary erotica aren’t supporting it anymore. So many annual anthologies are falling by the wayside.

Under a different pen name, I write a series of science fiction thrillers. I’ve kept it rather clean since my father, kids, nieces and nephews read them, but I feel constrained. There are scenes I imagine going much further. It feels dishonest to fade to black when I could so easily scorch the pages instead. I’ve even thought about doing fanfic of my own work and writing those scenes to purge them from my imagination. I’m sure some of my fans wouldn’t mind reading those scenes.

But what about other writers who don’t have an alternate outlet? Or what if writing fanfic of my own work isn’t in the cards for me? Things look bleak.

I’m tired of bleak. It isn’t a good look on me. So here’s what I plan to do:

Many of you know that I’ve long wondered if erotica is really a genre. Sometimes it fits into other genres, but generally it’s literary fiction. Meaning that it’s written in the genre style of literary fiction. (As opposed to the genre style of romance, which is the style erotic romance is written in). So I’m going to (after I write the next two books in my scifi series) write a story. A literary novel. It is not going to be a series of sex scenes loosely tied together by a story. But unlike my scifi novels, it will not fade to black when and if my characters have a sexual moment. It will probably use sex and sexuality to explore my characters. Most of all, it will be decadent with desire and sensuality. It will be lush. It may never be published. I’m fine with that. Really, at this point, I’m only writing erotica for myself.  

Kathleen Bradean

Kathleen Bradean’s stories can be found in The Best Women’s Erotica 2007, Haunted Hearths, Garden of the Perverse, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 6, and She’s On Top in print. Clean Sheets and The Erotica Readers and Writer’s Association websites have also featured her stories. Writing as Jay Lygon, her stories can be found in Inside Him, Blue Collar Taste Tests, Toy Box: Floggers, and the novels Chaos Magic, Love Runes, and Personal Demons. Read more about Kathleen Bradean at:


  1. Amanda Earl

    good luck with the novel, Jill. sounds great. i've been heartened by some contemporary literary fiction & its inclusion of sex, albeit not graphic, but often taboo. check out Tamara Faith Berger's Maidenhead, for example.

    • Kathleen Bradean

      Thanks for the recommendation! I'm also heartened by the more mature approach to sex in books that aren't considered erotica. (which is one reason why I wonder if erotic should be considered a genre)

  2. Maggie Worth

    If nothing else, please indie this book when you're finished. I have the devil's own time finding good women's erotica these days and, frankly, I'm not much of a romance reader. Which makes me wonder why I started writing erotic romance instead of going straight to erotic fiction. Alas, I finally understand my own voice/style and accepted that they don't always mesh well with romance genre conventions. I'm in the process of regaining my rights so I can pull all my published ER down, re-edit the way I want it, and rerelease, along with a few new ones, next fall. As far as erotic fiction being "dead," I don't see it. I think it's a lot like the station wagon. Sure, once minivans and then SUVs came out, many people ran that direction and stayed there. And yes, there are far more minivans and SUVs on the roads than wagons. But the market still supports nearly a dozen models of wagon and I anticipate a surge in popularity again, one of these days. And when wagon lovers see each other on the roads, there's a distinct sense of "ah, one of my people!" So, yeah, I've now essentially analogized Anais Nin into a classic Volvo wagon, but I say it's as right as it is wrong.

    • Kathleen Bradean

      Maggie – you made me laugh with the station wagon part. I wonder if you're going to find it fun or annoying to rewrite your books. On the rare occasions I do readings, I edit my work as I'm reading it to the audience. Getting to rehab an entire book (especially earlier ones) sounds like a big task, but also tempting. I hope you end up with your rights and get a chance to recreate your work in a way that makes you happy.

    • Maggie Worth

      Thanks Kathleen! So far I'm actually enjoying it. I'm getting to undo a lot of things I didn't especially want to do in the first place 🙂 Very glad to have found this blog.

  3. Donna

    While officially on record as suffering from nostalgia for the old days of Clean Sheets and BAE, I'm also in the process of writing a novel that will have a lot of sex, but not at the predictable rate of a scene every chapter, will focus on a love relationship, but will have some (perhaps to some) uncomfortable elements that make it questionably romantic. I have a feeling no publisher will want it because it doesn't fit a formula and wasn't written by Madonna or E.L. James. The future for me is definitely to write what I want. Frankly, I was getting a little tired of writing for themed anthologies anyway ;-). Yep, let's look toward the future….

    • Kathleen Bradean

      I look forward to seeing what you come up with. Amorous Woman wasn't a 'typical' erotic novel. It's a good example of what I'm working toward.

  4. Jean Roberta

    Kathleen and Donna, I look forward to whatever both of you come up with. And I somewhat agree that there was never really a Golden Age of Erotica. (In the time of Anais Nin, no one was encouraged to write sexually-explicit fiction, especially women.) I think what fuels the nostalgia for a Golden Age is the series of publishing deaths since 2000: Masquerade Press, the site Ruthie's Club, Harrington Park Press & its various imprints, Black Lace, various print journals, etc. Every time an outlet for erotica disappears, it seems as if a Golden Age has ended.

    • Kathleen Bradean

      Jean – publishing looks grim, but if we step back and look at the industry as a whole, it's not just erotica. Things are shifting industry wide. And yet, books are still published, and people still read, so there is a way through all this mess.

  5. Susan St. Aubin

    I agree! I'm also working on a "mainstream" literary novel that has explicit sex in it, but not enough to be considered "erotic' and probably too much to ever be published. I'm writing this for myself because it's the sort of book I'd want to read. I'm so tired of doing "assignments for themed anthologies! I don't even like to read those.

    • Kathleen Bradean

      We should all make a pact that from now on, we won't be the first person to say "No" to our novels. So write for yourself, but give publishers a chance to surprise you once you're finished writing it.

  6. Lisabet Sarai

    The problem with genres is that they are boxes. And great fiction is amoebic – it won't stay in the box.

    I look forward to your novel, Kathleen. I'd love to be a beta reader.

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