1. An exclusive interview with erotic author Lisette Ashton

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    Lisette Ashton is one of the most popular Nexus authors, with readers thrilling to the adventures of private investigator Jo Valentine in early titles The Black Room, The Black Masque and The Black Widow, and enjoying more exotic locations in novels like Fairground Attractions, Amazon Slave, Forbidden Reading and Hot Pursuit. Lisette got her first break writing for Forum magazine, and is one of the few British erotic authors to make a living from her highly charged erotic fiction, dirty enough to satisfy the most jaded mind, exciting enough to ensure that once you've read the first page you have to know how the book ends, and convincing enough to let you both care about the characters and believe in every step of their filthy adventures.

    Lisette's kindly agreed to an interview with Lovehoney, full of tips for aspiring authors and reasons for you to read her books. If you'd like to know more, buy one of Lisette's books or check out her website.

    How did you first come to start writing erotic fiction?

    I've always loved reading and, since I've been old enough to hold a pencil, I've always enjoyed making up stories and writing them down. My first publishing success (aside from school magazines and poetry) came with a short story in the UK magazine Forum. It was an erotic short about two girls and a guy and what the three of them got up to together. Forum paid a decent amount for the story and I was instantly addicted to the idea of writing for money. I've often said: getting paid for writing is just like real work – but without the boring part.

    Could you tell us a little about your influences?

    I grew up reading Enid Blyton. From her I matured onto Stephen King. Those are probably the two authors that have had the biggest influence on my writing because they've produced the most consistently readable and exciting stories. When I started writing I wanted to follow in their footsteps and produce fiction that was enjoyable and entertaining. Literariness and artfulness are fine in their place but, in my opinion, the most important reason for reading any book is to enjoy a satisfying, compelling story. Those writers did that for me and, I hope, my stories do the same for those who read the books I've written.

    Do you practice what you preach, or do you prefer to work purely from the imagination?

    I guess you're asking if I've done all the things that I write about? The truth is I've written from the male and female perspective, so it would be impossible to honestly answer yes. However, I've gone to great lengths to make sure that everything described in my stories is physically possible. And, for those acts and situations that I haven't been able to personally "road test" I've asked friends (male and female) who have done those things to describe them in detail and then to proof my MS before it was submitted.

    One of the things I personally despise when I'm reading erotica is to come across a passage that describes something impossible or implausible or doesn't have that feeling of "this could genuinely happen." It's one of the things that I always try to keep from appearing in my own writing.

    Why should people read erotica?

    There are three reasons why people should read erotica:

    • To increase my royalty payments.

    • To discover previously unexplored sexual fantasies.

    • To enjoy something more mentally stimulating than graphic pornography.

    Obviously, the first of those reasons is the most important.

    The second one is illuminating because, particularly in this country, people seldom talk about their sex lives. No one ever discusses any variations from the norm and the pleasures that can be involved from being a little bit deviant. Reading about a character's enjoyment with S&M play (or watersports or spanking or anything else that's fun, consensual and legal) can engender an interest that might otherwise have gone unexplored.

    The third reason probably sounds elitist but I'm not trying to diminish pornography. I enjoy adult movies and I do think they can be arousing. But I also think erotica can give more enjoyment than pornography. The majority of people who read mainstream books (and then watch the films that are made from them) will usually say, "The book was much better than the movie." The same rule applies to erotica but in many more ways. Books give the audience a clearer insight into the character's motives and reactions. Books allow everyone the chance to get much closer to the central character than a film could ever manage. Books provide an intimacy and involvement that the best pornographic movies could never hope to attain.

    Can you make a living from writing erotica?

    I don't have many other options. I'm not the most employable person in the world. I told my last employer to stick his job where the sun doesn't shine. It wasn't the first time I'd done something so rash. In truth, it wasn't the twenty-first time. Those impromptu "Monday morning resignations" seem to have been a trend throughout my working history and, if they continue much longer, I might be able to detect a pattern.

    I don't know if this means I've been very unfortunate in the people I've worked for, or if it suggests I put the "mental" in "temperamental." Whatever it implies, the end result is that I have to make a living from writing erotica because I can't make a living working for anyone else. It is both a burden and a blessing.

    Is there any other contemporary erotica you rate highly?

    There are lots of very good erotica authors writing at the moment. The list is too long to mention them all but I'll name a few and apologise later to the friends and colleagues that I've overlooked.

    I rate the Nexus stable very highly. They're a daring bunch, articulate and innovative and very readable. Angel Blake, Lindsay Gordon, Cat Scarlett and Penny Birch are all well worth looking at.

    Similarly the Black Lace books are all beautifully put together and combine a light touch of romance with a heavy dose of sexual sensuality. Portia Da Costa is one of my favourite Black Lace authors but I also adore the work of the marvellous Madelynne Ellis and the lovely Lisabet Sarai.

    Outside the UK I do enjoy the anthologies put together by Rachel Kramer Bussel and Alison Tyler. Those ladies can write and they produce some marvellous volumes of distinctive erotica. In short, there's a lot of good erotica out there. Anyone who enjoys an arousing read should introduce themselves to as many of those authors as possible.

    Do you have any tips for aspiring authors on how to write erotic fiction?

    There are three things to remember when writing an erotic story:

    Make sure the writing is smooth and flawless. Your reader is going to be intimately involved with the story. Anything that reminds him or her that they're reading a story is going to spoil the mood. Spelling, grammar and sentence structure/cohesion are of paramount importance. Erotica is all about building a mood – more so than any other genre. Make sure that mood isn't interrupted by clumsy writing.

    Keep the characters believable and consistent. People read erotica to enjoy the credible sexual exploits of fictional creations. Make sure your fictional creations are plausible from page one through to the words THE END.

    Ensure the sex is innovative, exciting and meticulously described. Don't be a prude. Make sure the reader knows exactly what's going where and who's doing what. And always try to push the personal boundaries of your characters that little bit further.

    Have you used sex toys in your stories, and if so which ones?

    Funny you should ask that question. I've used a few toys in my stories, mainly dildos and vibrators although a couple of pieces of S&M paraphernalia (whips, chains, costumes, crops, clamps, electrical boxes etc) have invariably found their way into the narrative. In one of my novels (I can't remember if it was Dance of Submission, Slave Auction or Slave Sentence) I had one of my female characters insert a threaded wooden egg in her anus while the dominant male in the scene played the tautly-pulled thread like a violin.

    But it's funny you should ask the question because sex toys are at the forefront of my mind while I'm writing the story and thinking of whoever will eventually read the finished book.

    Just like most men need a tin of beer while they're watching the match (sorry to stereotype you guys); and just like most women need a box of chocolates to watch a romantic movie (sorry to stereotype you girls); I believe that all readers of erotica need some sort of adult toy close to hand while they're reading an arousing story. Arousal is part physical and part mental. A good erotic story can take care of the mental: a good sex toy will take care of the physical.

    Are there any sex toys you've enjoyed using in real life?

    Lots (smiles).

    Finally, do you have any message for Lovehoney customers?

    Hello Lovehoney customers. Thanks for staying with me this far down the page. If you're reading this then it's a pleasure to be addressing open-minded adults who are comfortable with their sexuality and currently contemplating purchases that can enhance their sex lives. As I said before: sexual arousal is part physical and part mental. Lovehoney's wide selection of toys will help enhance the physical aspect – the literature in the books section will almost certainly take care of the mental. I hope you'll continue to enjoy doing what you're doing and I hope, in the future, you can enjoy it more while reading one of my books.

    Best wishes to you all,

    Lisette Ashton