Being a full-time, professional writer can be a lonely pursuit. I speak from experience in that realm. You don’t even have to be full-time or professional to find that the art of penmanship is a tough one. When done right – or if you become a (relative) success – there are myriad rewards… that is, if money isn’t a concern!
It’s easy to do the ‘romantic’ thing and shut yourself away, agonizing over your art, not daring to compromise your vision in any way. Some refuse to co-operate, share or even assist their contemporaries. Like any industry and sector, it can be a long and tiring war. What do you want to do? End up like John Keats, dying of tuberculosis in your attic? Come on now, you’re better than that.
It’s vital that writers who are cut from the same cloth share experiences, fears, hopes, ambitions, tips and tricks and pretty much the whole gamut of the writing spectrum. Especially when it comes to erotic writing; sometimes misconstrued as the forgotten cousin of the literary world. In a time when most any urge can be satisfied by the wild visuals of online porn, when attention spans are shortening quicker than a tree in a rainforest and when the great art of reading seems like its fading rapidly, you’d be forgiven for thinking that erotic literature is a terminal patient.
Hark! ’tis not so, oh ye of little faith! The fifth annual Eroticon extravaganza is doing its utmost to ward off the impending doom that some may fear erotic literature is heading towards. Indeed, to paraphrase Mark Twain: reports of the death of erotic lit have been greatly exaggerated.
Taking place on August 1st and 2nd in Bristol, south west England, Eroticon is an attempt to reach out to like-minded types the world over. Created and maintained by Ruby Kiddell – who also runs the excellent site and blog Erotic Notebook – it’s one of the best opportunities going for erotic writers to congregate, attend seminars and listen to speeches and lectures from the crème de la crème of the scene. Maybe you’re new to the whole thing and fancy turning over a few new leaves instead? Eroticon is the perfect place to get started. It’s not just a footnote in the erotic literature calendar, you know.
BaDoink caught up with Ruby in the midst of busy times planning and prepping this year’s festivities. The discussion index included references to the strength of the erotic and sex writer community, what Eroticon can offer newcomers and… inevitably… 50 Shades of Grey.
Tell us a little about how Eroticon came to be. What was the catalyst for its creation?
Eroticon was conceived in 2011 when I realised that there was a need for a space for sex writers to meet and learn together without the subject matter getting in the way.
I’d been at a parent blogging conference and realised that there were a couple of other sex bloggers attending too, but even four years ago sex blogging and erotica was much less out in the open than now and so I was never confident of the reaction I’d get from telling people about my blog.
The answer was to create a safe space where writers could meet their peers – discuss the issues specific to their subject matter as well as talk about writing craft, marketing, tech and all the things relevant to our work without fear of being judged.
How strong is the community of erotic writers? Does Eroticon serve a well-bound group or does it seek to bring a disparate community closer together?
In the beginning I had no idea if it would work; if the people who had paid over their hard earned cash to me would get my vision. But they so did and it has become a focus for both erotica writers and sex bloggers each year.
The conference is the community – while we spend most of the year tucked away behind our computers Eroticon is a chance for people to meet their online friends, peers and literary-crushes in person. There are delegates who have been to every conference and people travel from as far away as the US and New Zealand to attend.
The event strengthens existing relationships as well as creating new ones. The Brit Babes are a great example – eight writers who met at Eroticon 2011 and then formed a plan to support each others writing and marketing by working together to publish and market their writing.
What kind of events/seminars/talks can those attending expect? Which guests do you have lined up for this year’s spectacle?
Eroticon 2015 has a fantastic line up of speakers. There are sessions to help people develop their writing skills, workshops on marketing as well as introducing writers to new opportunities such as audio books and working with sound artists. There is a chance for writers to get expert critiques of the work and for bloggers to get one-to-one tech support.
With hands on sessions on creating bondage kit as well as kink demonstrations and erotic readings there is plenty to inspire the imagination too.
How has erotic writing fared in the digital age? Has ease of access made it more popular/well-known or has there been a difficult transition period?
Erotic writing is as popular as ever, however erotic publishing seems to be in a very strange place right now. Many of the smaller digital publishers have closed and several larger ones that work in print have been bought out by more mainstream publishers.
I know there is a feeling of uncertainty for many writers and even those that are self-publishing are fighting a constant battle with the distribution platforms to get their books in front of their readers.
Ultimately I think that any writer, whether with a traditional publisher or self-publishing, needs to build their own readership and following and to be able to talk directly with their readers so that no-matter what is thrown their way they can always get their words in front of the people that love them.
How did/does the community look upon something like 50 Shades of Grey? Was it a blessing or a curse?
I think 50 Shades of Grey can be most generously described as a mixed blessing. While it shone the light on erotica as a genre and kick started lots of print publishers to resurrect old erotica imprints such as Black Lace or to to develop imprints for erotica, these seem to have been a flash in the pan.
The existing erotic press who were agile enough to revamp book covers and capitalise on marketing opportunities did well too. However, several years down the line and the publishers are closing erotica imprints and shying away from the genre again. It seemed they were content to ride the wave of increased awareness but it was more of a one night stand than long term relationship.
There is a frustration for writers because lots of them were writing erotica before 50 Shades came along and will continue to do so, no matter what EL James does to try to squeeze all sensuality out of writing sex scenes. There is still a lot of snobbery around erotica which hasn’t been helped by E.L. James – so while it is great that so many people picked up a book that promised to contain lots of kinky sex, its a shame for all the writers of amazingly hot kinky sex that the books were the 50 Shades trilogy.
Which writers do you believe are the future for erotic writing?
I’ve seen some great writers take a break from erotica recently, so I guess the future lies with the writers that keep on writing and the editors that keep on putting together anthologies; writers like KD Grace and Kay Jaybee and editors such as Rachel Kramer Bussel and Violet Blue.
Commercially speaking – erotic romance will always be popular as this sits most neatly with reader expectations of fantasy and escape. However I would love to see more writers writing about sex that isn’t a part of a romance. Sex that reflects on a more realistic experience with narratives that help us understand more about who we are as people, rather than as an escape into a fantasy.
What can Eroticon offer the burgeoning/inexperienced erotic writer?
Eroticon gives new writers a unique opportunity to meet with people who know exactly what they are going through. It gives them two days of amazing learning opportunities to help them improve their writing skills as well as giving them tips on getting published and marketing their work once they are. Not to mention the networking and social events to get them building their support network. What is incredibly exciting for 2015 is that I’m launching our on-line version of the event so that writers who can’t come to the conference can access the same amazing content via our learning platform and learn from the expert presenters.
What Eroticon really gives writers who write about sex is a place to call home.