The contributor I immediately wanted to interview was author and editor Kristina Wright, whose story "In the Early Morning Light" is an erotic exploration of what it means to re-connect with your body and sexuality after a difficult pregnancy. I was impressed and moved by the way "Morning Light" made an emotionally-fraught and physically difficult experience incredibly porny (anyone else enjoy a little hurt/comfort and body affirmation with their tea? yes? that's what I thought).
So I asked her to share a little bit about her process for this story particularly, and erotica writing more generally. Without further ado, here's Kristina!
|Kristina Wright (via)|
I have always written what I love to read. I read a lot of Harlequin romances when I was a preteen, then I fell in love with horror. My writing interests followed my reading interests. I was a book reviewer in the mid-90s for a magazine called The Literary Times. I was reading 4 to 5 romance novels a week (everything from historical to paranormal, but nothing really erotic) and after a couple of years I decided to try to write one. I wrote one, then another-- and sold the second one (Dangerous Curves, a romantic suspense). In the process of trying to sell my next romance novel, I started writing erotica. I had read a few Black Lace novels (my first introduction to erotica, other than online) and discovered erotica anthologies. The rest is history. I've gone from romance to erotica to a blend of both. And I love it.
2. What arrested my attention specifically about “In the Early Morning Light” (your story in Curvy Girls) is the way you incorporated painful issues of sexuality and embodiment following a difficult pregnancy into an erotic short story. Some people might think this would be a death knell to arousal, but instead the result is really hot. Can you talk a little about what inspired you to write this particular piece?
I had a baby. Ha! Actually, I had two, in December 2009 and September 2011. The story is purely fictional-- my husband was deployed prior to the birth of our first baby in 2009 and was only home for two weeks before returning on deployment for another five months-- but the emotions about body image, the rediscovery of sexual desire, the need for connection (and sleep!)-- all of that is from experience. We live in a culture obsessed with youth and hot sex with someone new, whether it's a hookup or a new relationship. I wanted to write a story that was not only about a committed couple, but the growth of a family and how sex-- good sex!-- does not end just because you have a baby.
3. In “Morning Light,” the character Carolyn initially resists her husband’s initiation of sex, but he persists and she ultimately experiences a moment of renewal and self re-discovery of her body and her sexuality post-cesarean. While I found the interaction tender and believable, it would be possible to read her husband’s persistence as pressure and emotional/physical coercion. How did you navigate the issue of enthusiastic consent in this story?
Again, I think we are culturally aware when it comes to issues of consent when it comes to being young, single and in casual sexual situations but context is everything in a scene like this. I would never write the scene this way if it were about a couple who had just met in a bar and knew nothing about each other's needs, emotionally or sexually. But in the context of a marriage between people who have experienced all of the ups and downs that go along with a committed relationship, including childbirth, trust and faith are the foundation. Trusting that a partner has your best interests at heart, having faith that the connection that has sustained you until this point is still there even if it is dormant-- that's what this story is about. The husband's persistence in initiating sex isn't about his needs, it's about her needs. And her reluctance followed by her acquiescence is about her putting her trust in him and letting go, if only for a little while. It's this kind of connection that I crave to create when I write erotica.
4. When I write about erotica and pornography as a blogger, I often get comments asking me for reading/viewing recommendations. If you had to pick five favorite erotic stories to recommend, what would they be?
Honestly, I don't think I could name just five stories. I probably couldn't even name just five books! For readers who are new to erotica and maybe want some romance with their sex, I'd recommend my anthology Best Erotic Romance or Rachel Kramer Bussel's anthology Obsessed. If you're looking for spanking, bondage and other kinks, I love Rachel's anthologies Yes, Ma'am and Yes, Sir and Please, Ma'am and Please, Sir or Shanna Germain's forthcoming Bound by Lust. Alison Tyler's Harlequin anthology With This Ring, I Thee Bed is a delicious (and big!) collection of erotic romance centered around weddings and committed, sexy couples abound! And if readers are looking for erotic fantasy, I have a new collection out called Lustfully Ever After with erotic takes on classic fairy tales.
5. Are there any particular tropes in modern erotica that you wish would just go away?
I'd be happy to never read another virgin heroine again.
6. What are some of the things you wish we would see more of in erotic writing?
I'd love to see more diverse characters. Characters that aren't model-perfect, who are over 25 (or over 45), who are complex, who are having amazing sex in committed relationships. Stories that reflect the complex, complicated lives of characters who could be my friend or neighbor-- or even me.
7. I’ve been thinking lately about the presumed audience of certain types of erotica (for example, the fact that Curvy Girls is erotica “for women”), as well as assumptions about what who would or should be interested in certain combinations of bodies (for example, people wonder whether m/m erotica written and read by women, of any orientation, constitutes appropriation). While I appreciate the appeal of themed anthologies, as a queer woman I’m often frustrated by the fact that I usually have to make a choice between an anthology of mostly heterosexual stories OR lesbian erotica OR m/m erotica, rather than enjoying the best of all three (and combinations besides!). As a writer, reader, and editor of erotic romance, do you have any thoughts about whether the market is really as segmented as the publishing industry assumes? To what extent would you say peoples’ reading taste actually mirrors their own identities, desires, and sexual activities?
I think marketing a book-- any book-- is important in terms of getting it in front of readers. You could slap a plain white cover on a book and put it on a bookstore shelf or the front page of Amazon, and if you don't give readers a clue as to what it contains, the book won't sell. So I understand the necessary evil that is the genre label. Reading tastes do seem to skew along the lines of how a particular reader identifies, though I know from experience that isn't always true. I understand your frustration. I wish there were a better way. I think the increasing popularity of ebooks and the flexibility of the digital format may eventually alleviate some of our frustration. Now that authors and publishers are starting to offer individual stories for sale like you buy individual songs, I imagine a time in the not-so-distant future where we'll be compiling our own personal anthologies, picking and choosing which stories we want to include from a wide variety of authors and even naming our own collections based on our current mood or interest, much like we make music playlists for parties or working out or meditation. (Remember, you heard it here first!)
CURVY GIRLS: You can read more about the Curvy Girls anthology, and find links to all the stops on this virtual book tour, at the anthology website as well as purchasing copies from a variety of online booksellers including Amazon, Powells, or Seal Press.
KRISTINA WRIGHT: Can be found online at Kristina Wright: Musings of an Insomniac Writer.
Cross-posted to The Pursuit of Harpyness.