The next naked interview is a really special treat: Not just for those of you who love reading a bit of erotica (who doesn’t?) but for those of you who are blogging, writing and making your way in the literary side of the swinging and sex scene. Beautiful Louisa Berry of Vanilla Extract fame shares her thoughts in the first of two naked interviews with erotica writers. Tomorrow, we have the wonderful Diane Somerset, a USA based erotica writer. How do I get all these exciting, sexy people for naked interviews? What can I say? #skillz
-How would you define yourself?
Mother, full-time employee, part-time writer, lover of life and of meeting fascinating people.
–How did you first get started as a writer?
I always knew I would write a book. My original idea was around the goings on in a small cul-de-sac and how the families living there interacted, focussing on one house at a time. That idea never really took off and it certainly was never going to be in the erotica genre I now find myself writing in. A few years on from that initial idea, I now find myself writing my third book in a series and it’s a lot more intimate than I ever would have imagined writing about.
-How much personal research did you need to do to write your Vanilla Extract books?
It was all personal research, whether it was me embarking on my own adventures and writing about them (good and bad) or listening to other like-minded people who recalled some of their adventures and misadventures in the swinging scene. It was certainly enlightening and not always glamour and lights. That’s why I’ve described the good times and the less than awesome times. What I did find was that there were lessons to be learned and other women embarking on their own similar journeys would benefit from the pitfalls I overcame along the way.
–Do you feel like it has been a tough journey to get started writing, or did it all fall into place quite easily?
What sparked me to start writing was my childminder encouraging me to read a certain book that had just come out and was taking every woman by storm. It was 50 Shades. She then retracted that and said “Oh forget that. You don’t need to read that. You’re living it. You could write a book with the stories you’ve told me.” And there it was; the seed was planted. Two years later and Vanilla Extract was launched!
-What have been your main challenges starting out as an author?
Well first things first, I had nothing to write on. I’d just split up from my husband and had no laptop! Once I was in my own place, I bought my own kit and then I was well away. I began writing but didn’t really know what I was going to do with it. A few chapters in and the project was paused as I found a new man and he took up all of my spare time. I was new into the swinging scene and with him as my partner in crime, this new adventure took precedence. Once I realized he wasn’t ‘the one’ the writing was picked up again, now with more research under my belt.
-Do you self-publish or do you have a traditional publishing house? What made you go this route?
I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with the words already captured. A lady who worked for me told me of a friend of hers who had self-published and I was keen to pick his brains. As it transpired, he had not only published his own book but had set up a company helping others to do the same.
This felt like the natural route for a novice like me to take and it worked out well. I’ve used 3P Publishing for both of my books and the plan is to continue with them for my third book.
–How have you found it trying to promote adult material? What are the issues specific to this genre?
I’ve found that social media can be your friend or your foe. You need to build a following if you want to sell books and this will naturally be made up of all that the online world has to offer. The front covers of both Vanilla Extract and Cinnamon Twist are a little suggestive and depict the confidence of the lead lady. She is throwing caution (and her knickers) to the wind and this has attracted a number of men who think the author is there to attract sexual attention. I’ve been offered love, sex, inappropriate photos, dates, marriage, and money based on this misconception. I remind those who approach me that I am there to promote my books and am not looking to hook up. The response is usually polite and positive, however, some recipients have been offensive and verbally abusive as a result. This really baffles me but what I’ve found is that the likes of some Facebook folk use the online presence as a bravery shield to hide behind. They would never speak to a woman like that if they met them in a bar but online it is allegedly acceptable. I must add that this is a minority. Fortunately, I’ve met an increasingly respectful, amusing and funny set of people online, who are very supportive and encouraging. I haven’t lost faith in humanity – far from it in fact: Some new friends I’ve partied with, shared business opportunities and exchanged advice with. I’ve loved the new community I find myself a part of.
Because I have children who are too young to be exposed to this genre, I have tried to keep them shielded from my writing. I wouldn’t want to cause them any embarrassment at school or put them in awkward situations. Fortunately, we are a very open household and when it comes to sex education I am totally supportive and transparent. However, what I don’t want is to have my books become the reason they learn about sex before they would naturally come to me with their inquisitive questions.
-If someone wants to start writing erotica, what tips would you give them?
I think it’s partially the same for any genre in that if it’s in your head, then get it out on screen or paper. If you’re basing it on your own experiences, then you have to remember that you know what you like and that could become repetitive to someone reading about it. Describe everything – every last little drop, as it will resonate with someone.
-What is it you wish people knew about being an erotic writer?
I am a normal person. I’m pretty down to earth. My life consists, at times, of being on Mum duties, being in the office, washing clothes, cooking dinners and ironing blouses. I am not always out there partying and having sex – well sometimes, but not all the time!
-What is the annoying thing you always get told/asked?
“Are you single?” Why? What difference does it make to my story-telling? Without wanting to sound like a diva, I want people to be attracted to my writing more than me personally. And if they can learn something from my tales or they laugh as a result, then that is very satisfying for me.
-How much do you separate your day to day and author identity?
I’ve recently started a new job and as part of the new team, I did get asked to write a “Tell us all about you” feature. The dilemma I had was about whether I should reveal I am a published author, knowing full well it would prompt lots of questions. I decided, for now, to leave that part of my private life to myself. Instead, in the “What would surprise us to know about you?” section, I gave this secret away and told them about my pole fitness classes instead. It meant just a little curiosity would be sparked, but I’d save the juicy stuff until I got to know them better; if I chose to tell them at all.
-What can people (friends, family) do, that you find most supportive?
Where social media is such a big part of the promotion process, it’s fantastic when they share my posts, make comments and contribute to any decision-making process too. Facebook really helped when making the decision on which photograph to use on the cover of Cinnamon Twist. Ultimately you hope this will promote sales and increase the reach of your works.
–What would you go back and tell yourself when starting out that you wish you’d known?
I’d focus on just how much you do need to do yourself to promote your books. I was told that drizzle is the best rain and that means that it’s continuous and saturating albeit, light and unsuspecting. That’s how you have to treat social media, with the need to constantly remind people of your existence and your writing. I tend to supply Kindle screenshot ‘extracts’ to give online friends a flavour of what’s in the books. It can be frustrating when new ‘friends’ haven’t looked at your profile and therefore are blissfully unaware that you are an author. The quotes tend to focus the mind and are then a good conversation starter.
-How do you find ebooks vs. paperback sell?
This is quite evenly split. I’ve found younger readers tend to prefer ebooks and more mature readers like to have something in their hand (as such) and enjoy the feel of the paper pages. This may be a huge generalization, but is pretty much what I’ve found to be true too.
-How different is being an erotic author to what you’d originally imagined?
I hadn’t really imagined it to be honest and I’m not sure I’ve come to grips with it still. It’s hard to imagine I’ve published two books. That hasn’t really sunk in.
-What do you think are the components that go into making up good erotic writing?
I have been criticized about my works not being in the form of a story as such. They form more of a diary or series of encounters. They have been compared to a number of short stories and therefore they need to be individual. The description has to be different to avoid repetition and this can take some thinking. I’ve been told by men and women that they have been able to connect with the words.
One middle-aged man told me, “You’ve got it spot-on with the pre-cum.”
For more than 30 years he thought he had a medical problem with having so much of this liquid before and during sex. When he read my descriptive words, he felt reassured that in fact there was nothing wrong with him at all. So not only was it brilliant to connect to the reader, but he gained some relief (pun intended)!
-Name 3 books people should read instead of 50 shades of Grey?
Well, I’m going to have to be totally biased here. I’d start with Vanilla Extract. It’s the start of Lou’s journey of self and sexual discovery. It’s where she gains confidence in exploring her newly found lifestyle and begins to feed her insatiable, lustful appetite. Cinnamon Twist comes next and, in this sequel, Lou embarks on some more kinky scenarios, further from the vanilla sex she previously enjoyed. Third would be Chilli Dip, which is a work-in-progress at the moment and will be published by the end of 2019.
-How do you think erotic writing compares to video pornography? Is the audience the same?
I think reading erotic writing takes a little more effort than watching video pornography. Porn is so readily available and you can choose which category you fancy there and then. With the reading, it may take a few chapters for something to hit the spot and give you the satisfaction you are seeking. With literature, the reader can at least take their fill rather more discreetly when need be. It’s far easier to read on a train or plane, whereas the porn could be a little trickier!
–What are the financial challenges an erotic author faces?
I guess it depends on which route you take to becoming published. With the assistance of 3P Publishing in editing, proof-reading and listing my books, it takes a lot of sales to recover that initial outlay. You would really need a full-time person on marketing to help or have contacts in great places to help your promotion. Now if we could find someone famous to be photographed reading either of my books on social media, the potential for that to go viral would be amazing!
-If you were teaching a workshop on erotic writing, what are the main areas you’d cover?
It’s all about the description, using all of the senses. I constantly remind myself to question what she can hear, taste, see, smell and touch. Every snippet helps to set the scene, particularly when your reader can share that experience with you. They need to connect with what you are saying, otherwise they will lose interest and erotica with a lack of interest just isn’t going to turn anyone on, is it? Also, build on your characters.
Let the reader get to know them better as the pages are turning. What are they thinking? How would they react/behave?
-Do you think people reading erotica affects them in any fundamental way? And if so how?
I am absolutely thrilled to bits to have affected a few people in different ways and that they have had the courage to tell me about it. Carla Hadley in America messaged me on Facebook saying, “I was recently introduced to your book by a new friend and I wanted to tell you I love it!! I am almost half-way through and I had to let you know how much I associate with Lou. I am recently divorced after over 20 years of marriage and am starting this journey older and wiser I hope! Your book shows me that it is all okay and about the power of being a woman! Also, some of the pitfalls I need to look out for. Thank you for so boldly stepping out and sharing this – it should be required reading for all women!” I found this humbling and rewarding at the same time. To empower women with my words blows my mind!
I had a rather sheepish male Facebook friend tell me that, if I didn’t mind him saying, Vanilla Extract had caused fireworks in the bedroom for his wife and him for the first time in years. That was brilliant to hear!
Another woman who came to the book launch and listened to one of the readings had a real light bulb moment. Since dating post her long term relationship breakdown, she was under the self-inflicted perception that if a man bought her dinner, she had to sleep with him. After hearing a snippet from “Chicken Dinner” she realized that she could say “no” if it didn’t feel right. You could see the penny drop there and then.
-Of all you’ve written, what is your favourite story arc? Who is your favourite character?
Well, it has to be Lou, the main character. When we first meet her, she is excited, nervous, unsure and when she embarks on her experimenting she comes into her own From Vanilla Extract, Latex Man: “He sat down opposite her once more and continued talking, but the contract had just been sealed tight. There was now an inner buzzing running through her and she was finding it hard to control. Her foot kept tapping under the table, like it was caught on a nerve. There was now a knowing between them that they definitely had a sexual chemistry and they were about to embark on something totally tantalising.”
Lou is like a child in a sweet shop and is presented with every kind of choice she could possibly imagine. There are adventures. There are misadventures, but all the while Lou is learning and has to maintain a sense of humour. In the second book, there are a few twists along the way, which take her further out of her comfort zone and provide more amusement to the reader.
From Cinnamon Twist, Ben Travis: “Well that was a first. Never had Lou’s armpits been licked in the middle of a steamy sex session before. Her initial response was shock and disbelief, but when you’ve been massaging a wand into a man’s arse while wanking him off at the same time, it seems a little contradictory to think that some harmless armpit licking action is off the menu. It’s hardly time to get squeamish when he’s just gulped down your gush as he continuously triggered it.”
-Have you ever faced any problems due to being an erotic writer?
It can get a bit tiresome how some people assume because you write about sex, that you want to receive random dick photos. That does seem to have eased off recently, with a bit of naming and shaming.
-What is your next project like?
Whilst Cinnamon Twist did push Lou’s boundaries, there are still many experiences Lou hasn’t explored and they will be documented in Chilli Dip. There is more to be told about BDSM from both viewpoints; submissive and dominant. This needs to be told from a position of authority and therefore more research is required.
-Any words of wisdom for someone looking to start reading erotica?
Get those words down, and that goes for any genre really. You can always edit it after (and no doubt add, amend, delete as you revisit). I use the Notes folder on my phone to jot down ideas as I think of them and my trusty iPad mini works a treat for capturing words whilst on a train or plane! Make sure what you write is realistic and believable. You want your readers to think, “Yes, that’s exactly how it was for me,” or something similar. If your writing prompts consensual exploring and pleasure then it’s a win-win if you ask me!
Want to know more about Vanilla Extract?
Connect with the delicious Louisa Berry and follow her adventures here:
Buy the books here:
Chilli Dip (awaiting release)
Buy the ebook versions here:
Did you enjoy this interview? You may also like The Naked Interviews: Interview with a Published USA Erotica Writer