Love? Money? Profit? Here’s a deeper look at the author Eden Sly and how she found herself in the world of erotica.
So, let’s start at the beginning. How did you find yourself writing about sex professionally? Was this an earlier passion of yours or did you stumble upon it?
A little bit of both. I was already a writer and in the performing arts (theatre and music). When the recession hit in 2008, I wound up working as a phone sex operator for a couple of years. It was among the most creative, intellectually demanding jobs I’d ever had–contrary to what people think. My favorite part, though, was writing blogs and stories for my job. And at the same time, since it was my job, I found myself reading a lot of erotic writing for the first time in my life. I always have been–and I guess always will be–a huge art nerd. Erotica is where sex meets art in an explicit way. So writing erotica books was a way to have artistic freedom, hone artistry, and celebrate sex at the same time.
I think a lot of people think of erotica as a get-rich-quick scheme. They think that writing erotica is easy. What are your thoughts?
Look, doing anything poorly is easy. Doing anything well is difficult. It depends on what you put into it. Any job is easy if you don’t show up for it or don’t take it seriously. There are great erotica writers and poor ones. There are erotica writers who can sell themselves well, and some who can’t. There are erotica writers who can take advantage of a trend, and those who don’t pay attention to things like that. I wish, honestly, that I had a bit more interest in the money side of things-because I’d have more of it. But as far as the integrity of the work? Erotica is every bit as challenging as any other genre, and I’m looking for how to tell a story that has a visceral effect, and how to make people re-examine themselves and sexuality. You don’t hit the bar every time you put pen to paper, but I do believe in setting a high bar. Erotica is art–that’s the top priority for me. Erotica also makes you cum, and that’s a close second. Both make the world a more fulfilling place.
Who are your favorite erotica writers?
It may be a bit obvious, but I have to go with Anais Nin and D.H. Lawrence. They read very contemporary, and their sexiness comes from unexpected places. It’s one thing to write about scenarios your readers are likely to get off on and succeed at it. But they manage to make me aroused by things I never even considered before. And, of course, their writing is incredibly smart. I also have to go with the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud–he was a fourteen year old kid, and he had more humor and insight into sexuality than most adults. He also was able to talk about sex in the most debased way–I remember a particular poem about his secret desire to have sex with everyone in his family– and then turn right around and write about it in the most loving way–with awe and reverence, like in Clever Girl, about a girl who teases him with her body language and sets up a circumstance where he has to feel her cheek–and how tickled he is that she knows exactly what she’s doing. Eroticism isn’t always about creating jerk off material. Sometimes it’s just exploring the erotic. I don’t think many people touch themselves to Rimbaud, but his coming-of-age perspective, which we all went through and he articulates so well, is very relatable. And for something truly contemporary, I enjoy Nicholas Baker, who wrote a hilarious erotic novel called House of Holes. I love it because most erotica is fantastical in nature, but his novel has no constraints. It begins with a woman who finds a severed arm that pleasures her, which she falls in love with. It shouldn’t be sexy, but somehow it is. It takes a pretty good writer to make you laugh and cum at the same time.
Do you ever get tired of (writing about) sex?
I feel like even when writers aren’t writing about sex, ultimately we’re writing about sex. And strangely, the converse is true. Even when you’re writing about sex, more often than not, you’re actually writing about something else. We all get burned out on what we do from time to time–you just take a break, and then you try to look at your work with fresh eyes, and you get back to it.
Do you get turned on by your own writing?
Yes–If I’m not turned on, it’s not sexy. But that’s not to say I’m turned on 100 percent of the time that I’m writing. There’s also a lot of hovering over a sentence, trying to make it flow better, trying to come up with the right words to paint an accurate picture. But in the first draft, when I’m just simply trying to get what’s in my head down on paper before I lose it? Yeah…it’s got kind of the same effect as ripping someone’s clothes off because you have to have them right this second. There’s some adrenaline there. I tend to write in public places. I think if I wrote at home, I wouldn’t get much writing done–I’d take too many masturbation breaks.