Raw Silk


Twenty years ago this month, I published my first novel.


I’ve shared the story dozens of times, in my long bio and on various blogs—how in November 1998 I picked up a Black Lace novel from the book swap shelf at my Istanbul hotel, was hooked by the intense emotion and free-wheeling sexual variety I found within, then got the urge to write something in the same genre. I dashed off three chapters of Raw Silk and sent them (by postal mail, of course) to England, pretty much on a lark. I had no expectations. The form letter I received in response, thanking me for my submission but warning me that due to the size of the backlog I might not hear anything for several months, didn’t surprise me in the least.


On the other hand, when I got email from the Black Lace editor three days later, offering me a contract, I was stunned. Now I had to actually write the novel, a minimum of 80,000 words. The publisher wanted to know when it would be finished. Honestly, I didn’t have a clue.


In the two decades that have followed, Raw Silk has seen four different editions. Meanwhile, I’ve published ten other novels (if you define a novel as a work of 50K words or more). Not that impressive a history, I guess, especially compared to many of my colleagues. Of course, I’ve also produced dozens of shorter works, ranging from flashers to novellas. In addition, I’ve edited both multi-author and single-author erotica anthologies, including several focused on ERWA authors.


Although pretty much all my work falls into the general category of erotic fiction, I’m otherwise eclectic. I’ve played with a wide range of genres, including BDSM (my first love), erotic romance, paranormal, science fiction, suspense, steam punk, historical, gay and lesbian. My tales range from literary erotica to pure smut, with everything in-between. For many years I worked mostly with a romance publisher, and chafed against the constraints of that genre. The rise of self-publishing has freed me to write whatever inspires mewhich usually means stories that would make some romance readers squirm.


Not long after the release of Raw Silk, I found the Erotica Readers & Writers Association. I was looking for a way to promote the book (a very different enterprise in 2000, before the rise of social media). ERWA wasn’t what I was seeking, but it turned out to be what I needed. Though I’d been writing for self-expression all my life, I’d never imagined a career, or even an avocation, as a published author. I knew next to nothing about either the erotica genre or the nuts and bolts of the publishing world. The community I found here, the acceptance, support, knowledge and creativity, have helped me to develop my skills, to nurture my erotic imagination, and to market and sell its products.


Many people have remarked that being an author is a lonely business. I think that’s even more true if you write a denigrated, socially sanctioned genre like erotica. ERWA offered a delightful antidote to that loneliness. Some of the people I care most about in this world are folks I’ve come to know in the online world of ERWA. A few of these dear friends I’ve met in meat-space, but I know many of them only through the warmth of their emails, the generosity of their critiques and the arousing and challenging fiction they share.


I was in my forties when I published my first erotica, reliving and embroidering on the sexual adventures of my twenties. My early tales were fueled by cherished recollections and personal fantasies. I penned that first novel in just a few months. Passion poured out of me, onto the page. I wrote whatever pushed my own buttons, with no censorship and little focus on craft.


Now that I’m in my sixties, my motivations have shifted, but not as much as you might think. I still write to turn myself on. If I’m not aroused, how can I expect that of my readers? These days, though, I have a bit more distance from my work. I feel far more in control. Like a sculptor, I start with the raw material of ideas and mold them into the shape I envision.


As I mentioned earlier, the decision to self-publish has given me new energy and self-confidence. Perhaps as a result, in the past few years, I’ve found myself conquering what I’d always thought were intrinsic limitations to my writing skill.


For instance, I used to complain that I suffered from “narrative inertia”. What I meant was that once I’d written a story, I found it very difficult to make significant changes. I felt as though the story had chosen its own form, had set itself in stone, permitting me no more than cosmetic modifications. Attempts to alter the structure, the plot or the ending left me dissatisfied and deeply uncomfortable.


Those feelings have mostly disappeared. I’ve taken old tales with ambiguous, even tragic, conclusions, and revised them to end happily. (The market far prefers happy conclusions.) I’ve taken short stories and expanded them into novellas. My words and ideas now seem far more malleable than they did in the past.


When I first joined ERWA, I tried to create flashers and failed miserably. My method involved writing the whole piece, then trying to cut things out to get down to the word limit. The process felt painful and unnatural, and the results were rarely worth sharing.


At some point during the past few years, that changed. Probably this had something to do with editing Daddy X’s flash fiction collection. In any case, my flasher composition approach has become quite different. Rather than writing the full story, then pulling out the editing scalpel, I compose and check the word limits as I go along. I’ll always need to cut a few words, but my first draft is usually within 10-15% of the target. I won’t say it’s easyflashers are a challenge for any author—but I enjoy the activity more and I’m far more pleased with the outcomes.


Finally, I always swore I couldn’t write a series. By the time I’d written “The End” on a novel, I really was done. I had little inclination to revisit the characters or their worlds. In a couple of cases, I had thoughts about follow-on books, and deliberately left threads to be followed, but somehow I couldn’t motivate myself to start on Book Two.


Then I wrote a book purely for fun, which turned out to be pretty popular (Hot Brides in Vegas). Almost as soon as it was published, I had more outrageous ideas about the characters, so I started a sequel. The Vegas Babes series is now up to four books, and I plan at least one more.


Nobody is more surprised by this than me.


Twenty years is a long time—nearly a third of my life on this planet. I’ve never made much money as an author. Given my other responsibilities, I’ve never been able to devote the sort of time necessary to publish regularly. Still, I do congratulate myself on my staying power. Through the ups and downs, I’ve continued to write and publish—and continued to participate in the erotica community.


I sometimes wonder whether I’ll still be here when I am in my eighties.


Stay tuned!

Summoning the Muse


Hesiod et la Muse by Gustave Moreau (1891)

By Lisabet Sarai

When I was younger, I was bound to Erato, the muse of erotic poetry —and occasionally Polyhymnia, who governs sacred verse. Producing poetry was as natural as breathing. Any powerful emotion could trigger the urge to set pen to paper and capture the moment, but most of my poems dealt with love and sex.

I didn’t think about them. I would simply sit down, and they happened. Here’s an example, from 1979:

Is is tides, stars?
This wordless urge
timed to the night,
cyclic surge
like circadian clocks?
Ages old,
pure and irrational—
whiskers twitch,
eyes widen,
skin quivers,
shadow caress
out of telephone wires
and strange desires
over two thousand miles.
ancient, amoral,
crazy chemicals
burning and blind,
making me wild.
My mind
The wires whisper
“no choice”
and reasons whither,
helpless, limp
as I hurl myself
from the Santa Cruz cliffs.

In general, these poems didn’t follow any rules. They had no formal structure, though they chime with alliteration and internal rhyme. They were pure expressions of the need, lust, confusion and joy that swirled inside me.

After I married, the flood of poems mostly dried up. I think this was largely due to a deficit of erotic angst. I was fulfilled, happy, busy with real world adventures. I had neither the leisure nor the motivation for poetic introspection.

In the last few years, though, I’ve started creating new poems, in response to Ashley Lister’s monthly writing exercise on this blog. In case you’re not aware of this feature, on the 6th of each month, Ash explains and gives examples of a different poetic form, then challenges readers to produce their own instances. Curious to see if I still had Erato’s attention, I’ve tried my hand.

Here’s a piece from 2013, a form called a quatern.

The Line

The line between delight and pain
you’re teaching me to tread. Again
your leather licks along my spine,
your fingers in my hair entwine,

your blades their bloody trails incise;
the line between delight and pain
grows blurry as you kiss my eyes
and dive for pearls between my thighs,

splayed and shackled. Now your cane
paints ruddy stripes across my flesh,
the line between delight and pain:
ecstatic, luminous, insane.

With blood and tears, with spunk and sweat
you baptize me. Appalled and wet
I teeter on the edge again,
the line between delight and pain.

Very different, indeed, though I’m still dealing with the same themes. The experience of writing these new poems is radically different as well. This verse doesn’t well up naturally. It must be coaxed, massaged, manipulated. Craft dominates inspiration. And yet, the final results still surprise me with their ability to evoke emotion.

A similar transition has occurred in my prose. I’ve written in the past about losing my innocence as I gained experience as an author. Like many first erotic novels, my Raw Silk represented an outpouring of very personal fantasies. My characters’ passions closely mirrored my own. Blissfully unaware of genre constraints, I let my imagination flow uncensored onto the page. I wrote to arouse myself, first and foremost, not for an audience. Yet that novel remains my most popular, largely, I believe, because of its authenticity.

Certainly it’s not the writing that’s responsible for its five star reviews. I cringe a bit when I reread the book, noticing the excess adverbs, the overly long sentences, the repetition and the stilted dialogue. Nevertheless, readers respond (I believe) to the erotic energy in the tale, the confessional tone and the realistic emotions (realistic because they were my own).

Over the years (sixteen now!), my work has become less naive, more conscious, and more polished. Though it’s abundantly clear that most readers couldn’t care less about style and craft, I get personal satisfaction knowing that my recent books are far better written than my early ones. I’m still wistful, though, remembering the days when I wrote without thinking about markets, reader expectations and word count—when I wrote whatever turned me on, regardless of how raw or transgressive or over-the-top it might be. These days it’s nearly impossible for me muster that electric thrill that propelled me through 80K+ words in six months.

Perhaps in compensation for lost spontaneity, however, I’ve gained a measure of control. At this point in my career, I can decide when I start how I want a story to unfold, and much of the time, the results will closely match my intentions. I’m not waiting for the muse to tap me on the shoulder. Lately, I find I can often summon her at will. I can place my order with her—a story of roughly N words, with such-and-such a tone, aimed at a specific theme, with a desired level of sexual intensity—then let her take over.

Some of my favorite stories in recent years—“Fleshpot”, “The First Stone”, and “The Last Amanuensis” in particular come to mind—so perfectly fit the images I had for them before I began that it feels like magic. They are exactly the stories I wanted to write. And despite my comments above about writing being a more conscious and deliberate process now, I’m really not sure how that happened. Of course, that’s the nature of expertise; you internalize the skills until they are more or less automatic. You set yourself a goal, then let your inner knowledge move you in that direction.

With poetry or prose, I am no longer the mad, magic-inspired oracle I used to be. Perhaps, though, I am more of an artist.

Now I’m facing a fascinating dilemma. I’ve agreed to edit and expand Raw Silk for re-release. At last I’ll be able to fix all the awkwardness in the prose, all the overwriting. But in the process of editing, will I lose the spark? I’m not the same person I was when I wrote the novel. For better or worse, I’ve changed. Can I preserve the heat and authenticity, especially in the new chapters?

I’ll summon the muse to work with me. I expect to need all the help I can get.

The First Time

By Lisabet Sarai

Revealed wisdom – or perhaps unsupported mythology – states that it takes time to become an accomplished author. I wish I had a dollar for every blog I’ve read where the writer claims his or her first efforts were pure unadulterated crap. Not having been privileged to read these early tales, I can’t judge whether this is the truth or merely misplaced humility. However, I’ve been noticing recently that in erotica, at least, an author’s first novel often possesses a special quality that’s hard to recreate in subsequent work.

From a craft perspective, that first book might be flawed. Somehow that doesn’t matter. First erotic novels have a life, an intensity, that’s unique. They offer a riotous explosion of lascivious fantasy, unchecked and uncensored. The scope of imagination compensates for less than perfect execution. Passion carries these books, overwhelming other considerations.

I realized this anew when I read K.D. Grace’s post last month here at the ERWA blog. She was celebrating the four year anniversary of her first novel, The Initiation of Ms Holly. I’m a huge admirer of K.D.’s writing – check out her steamy contribution to the current ERWA Gallery to see why – but I found Ms. Holly particularly arousing. It’s full of offbeat characters involved in creative and kinky carnal activities. A delicious sense of sexual license pervades the novel. Reading it, I knew the author had not held back, that she’d poured all her personal desires and fantasies into her lovely fable.

In some ways, it’s hard to believe this was K.D.’s first novel. Certainly, I didn’t realize this when I read it. At the same time, the heady mix of prurience and innocence in the book is typical of first timers.

The book that inspired me to publish erotica has some of the same characteristics. Portia da Costa’s Gemini Heat aroused and delighted me with its diversity and sexual creativity. I became an instant fan, and I’ve read many of her other books, all good, some brilliant. Still, none of them, except perhaps Entertaining Mr. Stone, can compare with Gemini Heat, in terms of its effect on me.

Despite having a happy ending for everyone involved, the book totally shatters romance conventions. (Of course, it wasn’t written as romance, though it’s marketed that way now.) Everyone has sex with everyone else. Both gender identification and power exchange are fluid. The hero is half-Asian, slightly androgynous, a total sybarite who’s nevertheless ferociously intelligent – almost the opposite of a typical alpha male.

Just recently, Portia mentioned to me that Gemini Heat was her first attempt at erotica. If I’d known that when I first read the book, back in 1999, I would have been astonished. Now I think I recognize the hallmarks of one’s first time, the erotic charge released when an author bares her sexual soul and dares to write what pushes her own buttons.

My own debut novel has some of the same characteristics. Like many new erotic authors, I didn’t really have a clue about the publishing business, about writing for a market, about genre conventions. I’d read some erotica, mostly classics, but nothing (other than Portia’s book) that could really serve as a model. Mostly, I was burning up with self-generated arousal. I wanted to share my fantasies, to vicariously explore what would happen if I extrapolated on my (not insignificant) real life sexual experiments. In the previous decade, I’d had life-changing experiences with dominance and submission. I wrote the book to capture that intensity, and amplify it with what-ifs.

The creative process was intuitive and close to effortless (especially compared to writing now). I’d sit down at the computer and the words would flow unobstructed from my dirty mind onto the page. I penned 72,000 words in my spare time, over the course of about six months. I wrote an additional 10,000 words in a single weekend, after the publisher complained that I hadn’t honored my contract, which called for a minimum of 80K. (Newbie that I was, I thought that clause was just advisory!)

The result, Raw Silk, has been released by three different publishers and is still in print. I can’t say it’s a best seller, but it’s the only one of my books that ever earned out its advance. And apparently, people are still reading it. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting erotic romance legend Desiree Holt. The first thing she told me was that she had loved Raw Silk. (Needless to say, that was one of the high points of my so-called career as an author!)

Depending on how you count, I’ve written seven or eight novels since Raw Silk. From a craft perspective, all greatly improve on my first effort, which suffers from wooden dialogue, an overabundance of adverbs, excessively long sentences and word repetition that makes me cringe. Still, I have the uncomfortable feeling none of my later novels can compete, in terms of genuine passion.

The more I write, it seems, the harder it becomes to tap that well-spring of pure sexual excitement that fueled my first attempt. At this point, I’ve read and written so much erotica that I’ve become jaded, I know. I’m sure the ebb in hormones as I’ve grown older has an impact, too.

As I continue to write, I hope that other factors compensate: original premises, surprising plots, engaging characters, polished and evocative language. Still, I look back wistfully on that first novel – so fully of naive sexual energy.

I wonder how many other erotica authors feel the same.

Writing Commando

By Lisabet Sarai

When I was in my mid-twenties –
during my sex goddess period – I sometimes went out without
panties. Walking around bare beneath my skirt, every current of air
caressing my naked flesh, was thrilling to the point of addiction.
It’s not that I’m an exhibitionist (although perhaps we erotic
authors all share a desire to expose ourselves). I wasn’t interested
in treating strangers to a flash of my pussy. Indeed, I would have
been mortified if I’d accidentally revealed my bottomless state.

The appeal had more to do with a sense
of freedom and a consciousness of risk, a heady appreciation of my
own delightful recklessness. Most of my life I’d hewed close to the
rules, an overachiever always trying to please others. I’d been shy
and timid, dutiful and diligent, the quintessential good girl. When
my hormones took over the helm, that changed. I found that I was far
braver and more brazen than I (or anyone else who knew me) would have
believed. And I loved that feeling, the notion that I was treading
the edge rather than keeping to the straight and narrow.

My panty-less state focused my
attention on the sensual. I became acutely aware of temperature and
texture. Arousal simmered through me, ready to be sparked into flame
by a chance encounter with a kindred spirit. Erotic possibilities
waited around every corner, and, bare-bottomed and moist with
anticipatory desire, I was ready to take advantage of them.

Writing my first novel felt very
similar to “going commando”, though it came more than a decade
later. I didn’t worry about markets or reader sensibilities. I wrote
what turned me on: wild, kinky, transgressive scenes, every
assortment of genders, twosomes, threesomes and foursomes, floggers
and spankings, nipple clamps and butt plugs, public sex, pony sex,
anal sex, even golden showers. I pushed the limits of acceptability
to the point that my editor actually made me tone down a couple of
scenes (and this was back when Black Lace was billed as “erotica”,
not “erotic romance”). My personal fantasies provided the energy
to move the book forward. Craft issues were secondary. The book had
already been accepted on spec, and I wasn’t really thinking about
what happened after it was published. The writing process itself was

I didn’t know anything about genres
back then., though reading Raw Silk now, I realize that it
follows many of the conventions of modern erotic romance – except,
of course, for its omnisexuality. The inclusion of F/F and M/M in a
book that is mostly M/F will evoke criticism from many romance
readers, who seem to want a sort of genre purity. They’d probably
judge my heroine as promiscuous too, for having simultaneous sexual
relationships with three different men, although in the end, in
typical romance fashion, she chooses to commit to just one.

None of this concerned me back then. I
wasn’t so swept away that I lost sight of the story. Indeed, even now
the novel’s plot strikes me as quite tight and well-paced. I guess
that was instinct, though, because my focus was squarely on the sex.
Like those days when I eschewed undergarments and opened myself to
adventure, I wasn’t concerned with what others thought. I was free,
writing for the pure joy of vicarious experience. I was in my
heroine’s mind and body, living my dreams through her. If others
disapproved, so be it.

If you think catch a hint of
wistfulness in my description of those times, you’re not wrong. I
don’t go commando anymore. The notion embarrasses me – a
sexagenarian exposing her graying pubic hair to the world? But I
remember that intoxicating feeling of lightness and power. I miss it.

And my writing? I’ve had fourteen years
of education on the tyranny of genres, what sells and what doesn’t,
what you can and cannot include in a book aimed at a particular
market niche. I’m constantly tempted, for instance, to let my
straight heroines indulge their occasional Sapphic inclinations, but
I know that will be the kiss of death for any book aimed at the
erotic romance market. Meanwhile, I have a difficult time keeping my
erotica from becoming to “mushy”. Although I’ve had my share of
zipless fucks, I’ve never found sex without some emotional connection
– love, tenderness, loneliness, shared kink, whatever – to be at
all arousing.

I yearn for the freedom – the
innocence – of my first years writing erotica. I’ve started to
realize I’ll never be a best seller (and I’m not even sure I want to
be). So why should I care about pleasing a mass of readers? I know
there are some people who’ll appreciate my particular approach, my
personal blend of romanticism and filth. I should strip off my
official author’s uniform and just write to please myself, and them.

I can already feel the breeze.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

By Lisabet SaraiSally and Harry live on opposite coasts. Although they work in the same field, they’ve never met. At the conclusion of a professional conference both have attended, Sally discovers her plane home has been canceled, so she decides to stay another night in the luxurious conference hotel. Harry resides only an hour’s drive away, but after the intensive socializing of the conference, he’s disinclined to go back to his lonely bachelor apartment.Nursing a beer in the hotel bar, Harry can’t help but notice the unusual woman sitting by herself at a corner table. He introduces himself and offers to buy her a drink. Before long they’re chatting as if they’d been friends for years. Sally is charmed by Harry’s chocolate-brown eyes and infectious laugh. Harry finds his companion’s outspoken intelligence as much a turn-on as her voluptuous figure. Conversation gradually morphs into flirtation and then into outright groping. They adjourn to Sally’s room and have the most incredibly pleasurable, mind-blowing sex in either’s experience. Waking the next morning, entwined in each other’s arms, they make slow, sensuous love. Sally gives Harry her business card before rushing off to catch her plane.Ending A: Harry returns to work, but he can’t get Sally out of his mind. He calls and she tells him that he’s been in her thoughts, too. Harry doesn’t believe in love at first sight, but he can’t argue with his heart, which tells him that Sally is as close to a soul mate as he’s ever going to find. He takes a leave of absence from his job, books a flight to her city, and shows up at her door at 2 AM, begging her to let him into her life. Sally’s joy at seeing him overwhelms her irritation at being rudely awakened. She drags him into her bedroom, where they have loud, passionate sex. As Harry is coming, he blurts out a proposal of marriage.Ending B: Harry returns to work. His whole world seems brighter whenever he remembers his time with Sally. He thinks about calling her, but is leery of invading her privacy. As time goes on, his memory of her face fades, but he masturbates to the recollection of her uninhibited screams as she climaxed around his cock. A year later he attends the same conference and notices a note with his name on the message board. It turns out to be an invitation to Sally’s room.Either of these synopses might describe a story I’d written. I believe that I could make either outcome plausible, sexy, and emotionally satisfying. In my view, A and B describe parallel universes. You never know how a chance encounter will play out.In the eyes of many publishers, though – not to mention readers – A and B are far from equivalent. In the first resolution, Harry loves Sally and we presume that his feelings are reciprocated. No matter how often, how enthusiastically, and how explicitly the characters shag, the fact that there’s love involved somehow raises the tale to a higher plane. Story A is not a story about sex – it’s about love.Story B, some might argue, focuses more on appetite. Clearly Harry-B feels affection and concern for Sally-B – more, perhaps, than Harry-A, who barges into her life and drags her out of bed in order to declare his love. Both Harry-B and Sally-B appear to be content allowing their encounter to stand on its own, as one of those incandescent, magical connections that sex sometimes creates – although Sally-B seems inclined to try for a repeat performance. In story B, though, Love doesn’t enter into the equation, at least not overtly. Story B is erotica – or in the eyes of some, just plain smut.The two versions of the tale might feature an equal number of moans, shudders, licks, sucks, cocks and climaxes. Nevertheless, Story A will be viewed as more worthy and more socially acceptable than Story B – just because of the L-word.If you go to All Romance Ebooks/Omni Lit (http://www.allromanceebooks.com), you find a list of categories in the left sidebar. One category is “Erotica”. Click on that link. You’ll find yourself at a page that tells explains you must log in before you can see any books in that category.On the other hand, you’ll also see categories like “GBLT”, “Multiple Partners” and “BDSM”. Out of curiosity, I chose the latter. This time there were lots of books listed, some of which appear to include fairly intense kink. But that’s okay, apparently, because the individuals involved love each other and are in a committed relationship.I’m sorry, but this just doesn’t make sense to me. Does love in some miraculous way sanctify and sanitize the sex? Don’t get me wrong. Love is a wonderful thing. I’ll agree that sexual experiences are frequently both more intense and more satisfying with a partner (or partners) whom you love. However, the division between erotic romance (where sexual partners declare their love) and erotica (where they don’t necessarily mention the L-word) strikes me as artificial. And the difference in status is just plain unfair.My first novel, Raw Silk, was written and originally marketed as erotica, by the late lamented Black Lace. It features a woman exploring her sexuality with three different men – plus a woman or two – trying to understand just what she really wants. The conclusion happens to fit romance conventions – sort of – in that Kate chooses the Master who has recognized and cultivated her desire for submission over her long-time lover from America or the charming, sexually-omnivorous Thai prince who’s been wooing her. However, the sexual variety in the book, not to mention the transgressive nature of many of its scenes, qualifies it as erotica, at least in my perspective.When the book went out of print, I resold it Total-E-Bound, where it has been reborn as erotic romance. Aside from some edits of vocabulary and punctuation, the book didn’t change. (Of course, by that time, Black Lace had re-branded its books as romance as well.)I had the same experience with my second novel Incognito, which presents an even wider range of sexual scenarios. Yes, there’s a burgeoning romance in Incognito, but it’s set against a backdrop of sex with strangers, ménage and swinging, BDSM, age play and pseudo-incest, lesbianism, homosexuality, cross dressing, exhibitionism… well, you get the picture. Yet by some strange quirk, Love makes it all okay.These days I deliberately choose to write erotic romance stories – at least sometimes – and I’ve had reasonable success publishing them (though not necessarily selling them!) I’m something of a romantic at heart anyway. I have to be honest, though, and admit that I prefer the greater freedom that comes with writing stories that will be labeled as erotica. Even though they don’t sell as well. Even though admitting that my characters don’t always fall in love will result in my books being hidden away behind the digital equivalent of a brown paper wrapper.Ironically, my erotica tends to be less physical and more emotionally nuanced that much of the explicit erotic romance I encounter. Even when writing romance, I sometimes find myself struggling to deliver the detailed, explicit sex scenes that seem to be popular with today’s romance readers. Go figure.I entered my user name and password at ARe, just to see what showed up in their erotica category. It’s an incredibly mixed bag. Porn-like titles such as Open Your Legs for My Family and Caught in a Werewolf Gangbang mingle with romancey titles like Keep Me Safe and Trust in Me. I noticed books by erotica authors I know and respect, as well as books where the blurb made it clear that the authors could use some serious editing help.Oh, and there were over 9000 entries. This made it pretty difficult to see whether my books showed up there. Somebody must be reading all these books, though. Certainly there are a good number of people writing them.Erotic romance readers have some pretty weird notions about erotica. They seem to believe that sexually explicit fiction, without love, is basically trash – without plot, character development, style or suspense. I’ve read dismissive, somewhat insulting blog comments evincing the opinion that, if there’s no love involved, it’s “just porn”.Sigh. As if writing porn were something anyone could do – with skill, at least.Sometimes I feel like shaking them. “What’s love got to do with it?” I’d say. “Not every sexual experience ends happily. Not every happy sexual experience results in an ever-after. Don’t you get bored knowing ahead of time how your stories end?”They don’t seem to get bored, any more than the folks who purchased Open Your Legs for My Family will be bored when they get hold of Bend Over for My Family.Maybe, as usual, I’m just asking for too much.

Heat and Craft

By Lisabet Sarai

I’m starting to wonder whether craft is the enemy of heat.

My first novel poured from my imagination onto the page in a breathless rush of passion. Looking back, I remember the process as almost effortless. Nothing seemed to block the flood of fantasy. My heroine Kate was my personal proxy, indulging in ever more transgressive erotic scenarios as she explored her sexual identity. As she surrendered to her master Gregory, I was reliving and perfecting my own odyssey of submission and then moving beyond recollection to conjure the imagined scenes I never had the opportunity to try. I wrote the whole book in a peculiar state of arousal – not exactly on the edge of orgasm, but with an exaggerated appreciation of every sexual stimulus, both internal and external.

Readers of Raw Silk tend to get turned on. The book has been called “scorching”, “outrageous”, “intensely erotic”, and “explosive”. And when I reread my favorite bits now, they still make me wet.

At the same time, I cringe when I notice the many flaws in the book. My sentences seem too long and complex, overly influenced by my academic training. The dialog strikes me as unrealistic and wooden. (This was before I learned to allow my characters to use contractions when they speak!) Repeated words, phrases and sentence structures jump out at me. And I realize, with a sinking heart, that some of the interactions that have the most visceral effect on me are overworked BDSM clichés.

In the dozen years since that first publication, I’ve matured as a writer. My prose is far more polished, less flowery and more direct. My characters can converse without sounding as though they’ve been filtered through Google Translate. I have conscious control over issues I used to manage by instinct – foreshadowing, flashbacks, suspense, sexual tension, narrative flow. Originality in premise and execution have become critical concerns. When I address a theme or a subgenre, I deliberately try to find a treatment or a twist to distinguish my work from the thousands of other authors writing erotica and erotic romance.

I was an amateur back then. Now I’m a professional. All my self-conscious craft, though, seems to have smothered the spark that used to kindle my readers (and me) into vicarious flames.

It’s much more difficult now to write a truly sexy scene. There’s too much going on in my head. Instead of simply reveling in my personal perversions, I worry. Is this too stereotyped? Is this too raw for romance? Is this too tame for erotica? Haven’t I written this same thing a million times before? Sure, it pushes my buttons, but didn’t I just read more or less the same thing in someone else’s story? And what about that sentence? I used “cock” twice already – should I change it to “prick”? Have I already used a storm metaphor for orgasm in this tale?

As a result, all too often these days I seem to find myself in a state of literary paralysis. The horny flow of erotic ideas has dwindled to a trickle. Sure, occasionally inspiration will seize me and a whole story will pour out of me in a few hours. I treasure those experiences – especially since they’ve become so rare.

I know that part of the problem is hormones – or lack thereof – as I age. And how could I not have become a bit jaded? I’ve probably read a thousand erotic short stories since I turned “pro”. I admit I’m almost as critical about other authors’ work as I’ve become of my own. It’s inevitable, I suppose, that one’s first story about anal sex is going to be a good deal more exciting than the fiftieth. You’re only a virgin once.

Still, I sometimes wonder whether I should stop being concerned about craft and just write “Sucking Daddy’s Big One” or “Slave to the Cruel Professor” or “The Pirate’s Whore” – the type of books that Amazon tells me people decide to purchase after viewing my recent BDSM story collection. It’s true – the stories in that collection are more subtle, surprising and literary than Raw Silk, but they’re not as hot. I don’t know if I COULD silence the analytical voice in my head, or ignore my concerns for originality and freshness, but if it were possible, would I be able to recapture the glorious searing intensity of my early work?

I’m a snob – I know it. A while ago I read a BDSM novel for purposes of a review and was appalled by the poor quality of the writing. Glaring grammar mistakes, incorrect punctuation, inappropriate word choice, confusing and inconsistent point of view – the book broke practically every rule of craft. Meanwhile, the story trotted out all sorts of stock BDSM elements: the stern but voluptuous employer in her tailored suits and spike heels, the innocent “natural” submissive with an inexhaustible appetite for abuse, the male “assistant” called into service to train the new slave. It had bondage, spanking, flogging, suspension, butt-fucking, medical play, pseudo-Victorian costumes… I wrote a pretty scathing review, but at the same time I have to admit (as I did in the review) that some parts of the book turned me on. The awful writing ultimately did not prevent me from being aroused.

So maybe, just maybe, the craft doesn’t matter. Could that be true? I know it’s possible to produce a supremely well-written erotic story that also has the power to arouse me – some of my favorite erotic authors do it all the time. And yes, elitist that I am, I find wonderful writing exciting in its own right. Perhaps, though, that aesthetic thrill could be teased apart from my baser (and more basic) sexual reactions.

Then again, perhaps not. The aspects of BDSM that arouse me most have to do with the emotional and psychological currents flowing between the dominant and the submissive. It takes a certain skill to bring those dynamics to life. Whips, handcuffs and gags by themselves won’t do the trick, at least not for me.

Does too much craft interfere with heat? Are the two independent, addressing totally different levels in the reader’s psyche? Should I switch to writing pure porn? Could I?

I really want to know what you think.

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


Babysitting the Baumgartners - The Movie
From Adam & Eve - Based on the Book by New York Times Bestselling Authors Selena Kitt



Pin It on Pinterest