Writers discuss their favorite erotic novels, films, or whatever they feel like discussing.
Hello, all. This is my second installation of Kinked Ink, in which I invite my favorite writers of erotica to tell us about what kinky books, films, or art has influenced their own work, their life, or that they simply love for the joy of it and want to talk about it.
I asked British writer Janine Ashbless to discuss her early or current favorites after I encountered her wonderfully kinky story “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” in Rose Caraway’s Libidinous Zombie: An Erotic Horror Collection published late last year. Quite a story, that one. When a writer as experienced as Janine tells you she’s a bit nervous about publishing a story, you know it’s something interesting.
Janine has been seeing her books in print since 2000, when her first collection of short stories, Cruel Enchantment, was published by Black Lace (Virgin Books). Her novels, single-author collections and many short stories have been published by Black Lace, Nexus, Cleis Press, Ravenous Romance, Harlequin Spice, Storm Moon, Xcite, Mischief Books, Samhain and Ellora’s Cave amongst others. She is a writer of fantasy and paranormal erotica and occasionally scorching romantic adventure. She writes about magic and myth and mystery, dangerous power dynamics, borderline terror, and the not-quite-human. And hot filthy sex, obviously.
I absolutely loved her responses to my invitation:
I’m sure I shouldn’t have been quite so dismayed when LN asked me to write about my favorite erotic novel, but the fact is that my response was “EEEEEEEEEEK!” It’s shameful to admit it, but I don’t read many erotic novels at all. Whisper it softly: I don’t actually think the novel is the best medium for erotica. It’s such a difficult balancing act, trying to create a gripping and engaging plot that is sex-driven – since if it is hot enough to satisfy, you should be too exhausted to read the book cover to cover!
… And yes, obviously I write erotic novels. I do my damnedest to make them exciting on all sorts of levels. But to my taste the best medium for pure erotica is the short story.
So I’ve opted to talk here about the two erotic books that aren’t novels, but that I go back to again and again.
The first is the most influential work on my own career, since it was practically the first full-on erotica I read (not counting the smutty bits in Jaws and other thrillers). I was given a copy of Pat Califia’s Macho Sluts by a somewhat challenging gay friend who did not want me to fall into the mire of soppy het romance. It’s a collection of hardcore Lesbian BDSM stories and to say that it was eye-opening would be an understatement. To be honest I didn’t understand a lot of the American references in those primitive days before the Internet (“What is Crisco?”), and the San Francisco leather scene seemed more alien to me, a sheltered nerdy English girl, than anything in any Sci-Fi novel (“WTF is fisting – and O.M.G. WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO TRY IT?”). But I learnt sooooo much. And it set very high standards for my own writing before I could get sucked into lowest-common-denominator genre tropes and expectations, for which I will be forever grateful.
1) It’s really well-written – not in an artsy literary way but in a punchy, visceral, intelligent manner. This isn’t Readers’ Wives stroke-fiction, nor is it delicate romance. It’s brilliant storytelling.
2) It’s really hot, and there are absolutely no holds barred in the pursuit of this epic hotness, including activities that seem dangerous and non-consensual and flat-out immoral. The characters were often not nice.
3) Califia is completely prepared to cross genres. Most of the eight stories are contemporary and realistic, but one is Victoriana, one is dystopian SF, and one is a vampire tale. Despite writing for a lesbian audience Califia also includes M/M and M/F action.
So this is the book that taught me that erotica should be intelligent, hard-hitting, boundary-breaking and frighteningly hot – standards I have tried to live up to ever since.
The second book I love is City of Dreams, a BDSM graphic novel by Brian Tarsis. I’m primarily a visual thinker; when I write I ‘see’ the action played out in my head. I’ve been a comic-book reader all my life, and from age 16 onwards I’ve been a devoted fan of spec-fic anthology weekly 2000AD. Its multitudinous fantasy and SF stories have inspired my imagination and my fantasies. When you’ve spent your formative years in the company of characters like Slaine and Durham Red… Well, are you surprised I turned out like this? ☺
So yes, I’ve a fondness for erotica in graphic-novel form, and City of Dreams is a very very kinky version of the Sleeping Beauty story, nicely drawn in B&W. Whilst visually quite pretty, its content is again edgy and transgressive, even shocking.
You’ve probably got the impression from these choices that I’m wildly into BDSM in my own life, but that’s not actually the case. I’ve just got a kinky imagination, I’m afraid – and I like erotica that pushes the boundaries of my comfort zone.
Now I’m going to get back to writing a romance novel. It’s going to be ever so nice and sweet. Trust me … bwhahahah!