Here we get a little more personal, and I get even more fucking blabby.
If you missed Part I, it's here.
OK, this is the part where we DON’T talk about hamsters in folks’ bottoms, etc.
Excellent, because I’ve never had a hamster up my bottom. I’d be talking out my ass.
If we’ve learned anything from the rise of the Inkranetsk (aside from how crap schools seem to be at teaching people to use their own language) (oh, and the vast Marianas Trench-esque gulf that exists between wanting to BE a writer and BEING one), it’s the stupefyingly shallow and uninformed perception that amateurs and tourists hold regarding BSDM and other paraphilia. Granted, Hollywood and TV and other shitheel media can be held largely responsible for this kind of nonsense, you know, where the complex personal motivations for these kinds of preference are ignored in favour of cheap clichés, like the tried and true chestnut of the MP or captain of industry who likes to get his bottom spanked by naughty ladies
or the always comedy-rich portrayal of Furries
or what have you. As someone with a personally informed insight into the reality of these types of scenaria, when you do decide to write about such matters, do you feel a certain responsibility to present in a more responsible perspective?
Well, first I have to say that my knowledge of the subject is limited to my own experiences. And I’m not tremendously experienced because I haven’t belonged to any clubs or groups where I might have experienced a lot of it. And although I have done a lot of exploring with the partners I have had, I just haven’t had that many partners. Probably enough to scandalize my grandmother,
but compared to other women of my age who I know, I’m pretty pathetic at putting it about.
I feel a responsibility to present most things from a responsible perspective. Obviously, fiction is fiction, but within the boundaries of that fictitious world, I try not to exaggerate or simplify complex issues. Mostly, I just try to stay away from labels and the trappings of kink because I believe that, although they can act as arousal triggers for people who are already ‘into it’, they also inhibit the deeper examination of what is going on beneath the baubles.
For instance, I don’t think I’ve ever written a story where anyone was ‘collared’. Because to write that is to not only assume your reader understands the semiotics underlying the thing or the act, but it really says nothing about the emotional experience of wanting to voluntarily sublimate one’s ego for someone else, or how that affects the sexuality that it involves. Similarly, I don’t write about ‘flogging’
or ‘needleplay’, etc. I might very well write characters who participate in either of those things. But I just describe what is going on instead of using the term. I think it also invites people who are familiar with those things to see them from a different angle.
In your personal opinion, is it even remotely possible for me to make these fucking questions any longer?
You haven’t had the pleasure of reading a lot of critical theory writing, have you? Yes.
I’m kind of hoping that, for at least some of them, you do the Pete Townshend thing of, after a question that takes like five fucking minutes to ask, you go “Uhhhh…yeah.”
Okay. Uhhh. Yeah.
Now, you are, obviously, a very active member of the community of writers working in this genre with which you are most frequently associated. As mentioned previously, there are, to put it plainly, buttloads of people providing output in this area who couldn’t string together a cogent properly constructed sentence if you held their mother over a pit. How do you address these kids, do you ever find yourself exercising conscious restraint from saying something like “Learn to fucking spell, Jethro
and then we’ll talk.”, or, you know, what?
There is one tremendous shortcoming with my genre. In sci-fi, wannabes are cowed by the prospect of 300 pages of worldbuilding.
In detective fiction, well, most people have never seen a murder or have ever met a detective inspector.
One problem with erotica is that pretty much everyone has had sex.
(At this point one resists the impulse to point out that we are, in fact, discussing the Internet)
Most people have genitals and hearts.
Everyone has had sexual fantasies and experienced a mad, unquenchable desire of someone else. Most people have at least tried tying up their partner.
So everyone thinks they can write about it. It’s not that they might not want to have a go at sci-fi or thrillers. It’s that they don’t feel they know those worlds. Sex is terra cognita.
Another is that people think erotica is about sex. It’s really not. It’s about desire and how people are changed under its influence. But because there’s fucking in the book, they figure they might be able to at least write that.
Also, when people do start writing about sex, they inevitably use either their own fantasies or their own experiences (usually embellished) as fodder. So when they are criticised, they take it very hard. They believe that it is their sexuality, their fantasies, their experiences that are being criticised. Even when you make it very clear that it’s their grammar that offends you. It also means they won’t take much risk with their character, or put them in any physical or mental peril, because they are their character and instinctively feel the need to protect themselves.
In any genre, good writing shines through. And extreme sex acts are never an excuse for poor writing. But my sense is that most people are just lazy. It takes a lot of time for most of us to become even competent writers. And there are no short cuts. You have to read a lot, write a lot, and revise a lot.
But most of all, you have to care more for the work and the reader’s experience of the work than you care about yourself.
Relatedly, if you don't mind, I did want to ask you about gender-jumping. Working, one sincerely hopes accurately, on the assumption that you are, in fact, a female lady-girl womanly girl girl type human, what happens in your process when the protagonist ends up being, like, a dude? There are loads of fiction writers, not to name names (GOLLUM!AnneRiceGOLLUM!), who just fucking STINK when they try to write from the point of view of a gender not their own, with often execrable results, like, say, as a random example, a pan-cultural convention resulting where it's accepted that all male vampires are mincing fucking Jessies
just as a random example. You seem to have no trouble with this, the guy protes in your work, well, you know, act like guys. Are you conscious of this at all? Did you ever have trouble with it? (Oh, and the girls (seem to) always act like girls, too.)
For the record, I am biologically female. And thank you for the compliment because it is a huge one.
Yes, I am very conscious of trying to represent the men in my story as men and not the fictional characters that purport to be men in romance novels. And I'm even more conscious on the occasions I've chosen to make the narrator of my story male. I do have trouble with it. I have insecurities about it. I worry that I won't get it right. But that is not a good reason not to do it.
I've sometimes found that I start off writing a story and it stalls. It doesn't work. And I realize I'm writing the story from the wrong character's POV. I'm not allowing the reader to see the more complex, more critical, more conflict heavy perspective. When that happens, I know I either have to write in the voice of that character or just throw the story away. So there have been times, for instance, in Click, or even my latest short story, Amanda, Agnus Dei, where showing the story from the male perspective was critical.
If I wrote Amanda from the POV of the woman, it would just be another 'get rid of my christian guilt' story. But from his POV, it's a story about how far a person can or should go to 'heal' someone they love. It's a story about responsibility, and the limits of empathy.
I flatter myself that I actually understand the male mind pretty well. I spent a while working on a telephone sex line and that gave me a lot of insight to the male sexual psyche. But for a story like Click, I actually asked three different men to read early drafts of the story and begged them to be unstintingly honest about the character. In the case of Carl with a C, one of my readers challenged me to make him much more mentally violent than I had written him. And I saw how for men, the toxicity of a sense of anger and powerlessness at the world can turn into a sort of grim brutality. Especially in their dealings with women. It was one of those haunting occasions when, once I'd written him, I recognized him very well. I'd met Carls with a C. I could see him as both dangerous to any woman he felt needled at his understanding of how the world was constructed and yet a victim himself: trapped in that awful quicksand of turning everything you touch to shit because it makes your own internal landscape seem like less of a dung heap.
If I come to Saigon, can we do some Park Drinking?
Only if you promise not to order the dried squid as a snack.
The smell of it heating up on those irons is truly revolting.
Listen, I really can’t thank you enough for your patience and generosity. One wishes you all fucking manner of continued success and is shit-proud to know you.
Many many thanks.
Hey, don't be fucking looking at me, go read something fucking good.
Hey, don't be fucking looking at me, go read something fucking good.