by Loren Kleinman
At the age of eleven, Eden Baylee, bestselling indie author of Fall into Winter, purchased a copy of the Story of O by Pauline Réage. “It’s amazing what they sold to kids back then in Montreal,” she says.
A former banker, Eden left the corporate world to become a full-time writer. Her books include everything from travel and romance to culture and, of course, sex (sometimes lots of it). Unlike some erotica, peopled with two dimensional characters having three-dimensional sex, Eden’s books feature individuals who grow and change as the stories progress. Sex is the backdrop, but its also an important element in their evolution. IndieReader got a front row seat with Eden and asked her 20 questions about writing sex, love and doing it indie-style.
IR: What is erotica all about? What is indie erotica all about?
EB: Erotica is a genre of writing like horror, romance, or mystery. It refers to a style that incorporates sensuality and sexuality into telling a story. “Indie” is a term applied to the publishing aspect of any genre, defined by a book that is independently published by the author for the purpose of distribution. Because indie writers don’t have the support and services of a publishing house, they do a lot of the work themselves—editing, cover art, promotion, just to name a few.
IR: Why did you start writing erotic fiction?
EB: At the age of eleven, I read Story of O by Pauline Réage, a novel about BDSM that introduced me to a whole new vocabulary. That book left an indelible mark on my psyche, but I was too young to know it at the time. Only later, as I was studying Freud did I realize that being exposed to sex at such a young age was probably not the best thing, but the deed was done. I love to write because I love to read. Writing in the genre that affected me profoundly only seemed natural.
IR: Talk about the first erotic story you ever wrote.
EB: Ha! It was a dark tale back in high school about a disturbed young boy who didn’t have a date for the prom. He ended up killing his mother and masturbating over her body. The main point of the story had to do with the boy’s inability to cope with alienation. Masturbation was just his way of releasing his pent-up frustration. As for why he killed his mother, I can’t seem to remember that detail—she was probably on his case about something.
IR: Why do you think sex sells? Can you name some of your favorite indie erotica writers and tell me why you love them so much?
EB: I’m no expert on why sex sells, though my suspicion is because it’s a basic human desire, and human beings crave physical contact as a means of knowing we matter. It doesn’t have to be sex as much as a hug, kiss, or just simple touch. If we can’t have this, then reading about others who do probably helps satisfy that need in the interim.
I love writers who can tell a story and write well, regardless of genre. As for indie erotica writers—I read many, and I’m connected to them via my blog or social media networks. If you want to know who they are, read my year-end post where I gave props to all the authors I’ve interviewed. You will also find authors of other genres I’ve read HERE
IR: Do you think anyone can write erotic fiction?
EB: I’d say anyone who can write fiction could write erotic fiction. The ‘erotic’ component is merely an element of the story and something that can be learned. My experience has been if it’s not good erotic fiction, it’s usually not good fiction. Period.
IR: Why do you think people read erotica? What do you think erotic fiction does for them?
EB: I don’t know what motivates others to read it, but for me, it has to do with stimulating that same part of my brain that loves to smell burning firewood, watch the beauty of a sunset over the ocean, or get completely lost in a great piece of music. It’s visceral and moves me.
IR: What’s the difference between erotic fiction and porn? Do you think readers get it mixed up? What about romance and erotica?
EB: Yes, I think there is confusion between erotic fiction and porn, and I’ve written on this subject many times to try and narrow the gap of misunderstanding.
First of all, erotica is not sex scenes strung together by commas and semi-colons. Like any genre of writing, erotic fiction incorporates plot, characterization, and all the elements required to tell a good story. The sexual act is an important part of it, but even more so are the words leading up to it. I’m a fan of long foreplay scenes as they are the key to arousal. By the time readers get to the sex, they should be orgasmic if I’ve done my job properly, which is to stimulate the part that turns them on, and it’s NOT what’s in between their legs.
Porn, on the other hand, strips out the story, leaving the reader with isolated sex scenes.
Romance does not usually contain an explicit description of sex, though the lines are fuzzy on this. That’s why there are erotic/romance authors who write with varying degrees of both.
All three genres are viable, but there is a distinction, and it’s important for consumers to know what they are buying.
IR: How much does your own sexuality come into play when you are writing a book?
EB: Ha! Let’s just say I’m not a virgin and leave it at that. Seriously though, I write fiction. I don’t profess to have credentials that make me more qualified to write about sex than anyone else. The only advantage I may have is a willingness to string my thoughts into words and do it with a modicum of skill and imagination.
IR: Tell me about your writing process. How do you come up with the characters? What about plot?
EB: I don’t deconstruct my writing, so it’s always difficult for me to answer this question. The most important thing I do to steep myself in the discipline of writing is to write everyday. In doing that, characters, plot, and all the essentials for a story develop from ideas inspired by day-to-day life. To be inspired to write, you need to do things other than write.
IR: How do you use description to write good sex? How did you learn how to write good sex?
EB: Writing sex is tedious and actually the most uninteresting part of erotic fiction for me. There are only so many body parts and positions one can use, which only supports my rationale of earlier that foreplay is the most important part of the story. The descriptive writing leading up to the sex is what needs to be good.
To write good sex, read the classics—Vladimir Nabokov, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, and others. There is a reason they have a place in history. As well, do not just read erotica. I read poetry, autobiographies, and I’m a news junkie. It’s important to be inspired by good writing of all types.
IR: Why go indie? Why did you choose to self-publish? What are the pros and cons of self publishing?
EB: I’m self-published after being rejected by traditional publishers. I originally wanted to sell my novellas individually, but when that didn’t work out, I packaged four of them into one book and published them as an anthology called Fall into Winter. I am very happy I went this route as I think it gives readers a taste for my style, the variety of my writing, and most importantly, I hope it seduces them to want more.
The biggest pro of being an indie writer is the control over every aspect of the book. At the end of the day, I had no one to blame but myself if I failed. Conversely, there was great satisfaction when I succeeded knowing I had done it on my own terms.
The con, of course, is doing it all means less time to write, but so far, I’ve enjoyed this model and will use it again for my next book.
IR: What’s the best part about indie erotica?
EB: The best part has been meeting fantastic writers of every genre and learning about indie publishing from them. Indie authors are some of the most supportive people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.
IR: How did you go about marketing your erotica?
EB: I didn’t have a clear-cut marketing plan in place when Fall into Winter was released, but I was able to arrange a book signing for my official launch back in February 2010, along with another book signing later that year. Most of the marketing has been done virtually via my blog, social media, and interviews such as this.
IR: What does indie allow you to do that traditional mainstream publishing does not?
EB: Two things—write my stories the way I want to and design my own book cover. The reason for the first is obvious. As for book covers, I love clean and spare design. In erotica, many of the covers make me cringe because they are cliché bodice ripper images. They may sell, but they don’t represent my stories or me.
IR: How do you go about writing a good sex scene?
EB: I don’t worry about writing good sex; I just worry about writing well. As I said earlier, I’ve read the classics to learn what good writing is, and it’s helped me to easily identify bad sex scenes. They’ll usually include excessive adjectives, and adverb-ridden dialogue filled with onomatopoeia and exclamation marks. If you hear the 70s guitar porn-riff “Bom chicka wah wah” playing in your head as you read—that’s the unmistakable sign of a bad sex scene.
IR: What is the most erotic scene you’ve ever written?
EB: I think that’s a question only my readers can answer. For me, the story always dictates how erotic a scene needs to be. As there are natural ebbs and flows during sex in real life, so should there be in erotic fiction. Good pacing is an essential part of what’s needed to engage the reader.
IR: What are the most important components to writing good erotica?
EB: Good writing skills, imagination, and the ability to captivate the reader. I’d say this is a formula for all writing, not just erotica.
IR: What feedback do you get from your fans about your erotica?
EB: It’s been good, and it’s encouraging that many readers have asked me when my next book will be available. That’s the best response I can hope for.
IR: What else are you working on?
EB: I have several projects on the go, but my next book is coming out soon, and it’s the companion novel to Fall into Winter aptly titled Spring into Summer. It has the same formula—4 unrelated erotic stories, two take place in the spring and two in the summer. These are my favorite seasons of the year, so they are going to be hot! I’ve also matured as a writer since my first book, so the stories are much more sensual.
IR: Give novice indie erotica writers some advice on getting started in the erotic genre.
EB: I’ve covered this in many of my responses already, but if I had to add one more thing to the mix, I’d just say that because erotica can be distributed independently does not always mean it should be. I make no moral judgment on the types of stories out there, but the reputation of indie erotica will not get better if the work is sub-par. Take the time to have your manuscript properly edited and put care into doing a good cover. If you take your work seriously, then others will too.
It’s true that you only get one chance to make a good first impression, so think long and hard about how you want your work to be perceived.