Book of the Month - Fredrica Alleyn interview
As if writing April's Erotic Book Club book of the month, Cassandra's Conflict, wasn't enough, Fredrica Alleyn wrote the very first Black Lace novel, guaranteeing her a prime place in the Erotic Hall of Fame. But she's still found time, very kindly, to answer a few questions for us about this landmark erotic novel.
Who or what are your influences as a writer?
I've read vociferously ever since I learned to read, and had worked my way through Dickens and Shakespeare before I left school, but the only way in which I think they affected my own writing was that they were both excellent storytellers and I do like all my books to have a strong storyline, which makes people want to keep reading. I think that this is as important in erotica as it is in any other genre. My favourite erotic novel is The Story of O.
It's been fifteen years since Black Lace was launched. How do you think the sexual climate's changed in the UK since then?
I think that people are generally more broad-minded, and far less easy to shock. If Black Lace were to be launched now, I don't believe that there would be the outcry of protesting voices that we had fifteen years ago. The fact that women enjoy genuine erotica, that is more than 'souped-up' romance, is a fact of life now. When Black Lace was launched, people seemed to think that, despite what was being said, only men would really enjoy the books. I remember one reviewer claiming that I had to be a man using a woman's name as no real woman would write such a book!
Did you expect Black Lace to last this long?
To be honest, no, not when I was writing Cassandra's Conflict. Once I saw how well the books were doing, I did think that it would last for quite a long time, but even then I wouldn't have guessed at 15 years. It's a tremendous achievement.
Could you tell us a little about how you came to write Cassandra's Conflict?
My agent received a letter about the launch of Black Lace from Virgin Publishing. They were looking for launch authors. I'd just had a mainstream novel published which had quite a lot of explicit sex in it, and she asked me if I'd be interested in trying to write an erotic novel for women. I thought that the concept of erotic books by women for women was a brilliant one, and was delighted to be given the opportunity.
What's your favourite scene in the novel?
I don't have one favourite scene, but the scene near the end of the book, when the Baron is using sexual arousal followed by frustration on Cassandra, time after time, in order to persuade her to agree to becoming a slave girl at his party is one that I like and which other women have mentioned to me as well. She has to consent of her own free will, and the battle between what her body needs and her brain tells her is wise adds an extra erotic charge to the episode.
Cassandra's drugged several times to get her in the mood for the baron's games, making her consent slightly dubious. Would you change these scenes, or anything else, if you were writing the book today?
I only remember mentioning that once, but I haven't read the book for a long time so it you say it was several times then I have to accept that. I would change that if I were writing the book today, because I don't think it was necessary and neither do I think women should be drugged in order to make them do something that they would otherwise refuse to do. On the other hand, I don't think people should go round murdering other people, but I let them do that in my crime novels.
There are plenty of sex toys in Cassandra's Conflict. Can you see anything on the Lovehoney site you'd like to use in a book?
Could you tell us about your other books?
They tend to concentrate on domination and S&M, but I try to put something for everyone in all of my erotic novels. As time went on, the storylines became stronger. The Gallery in particular has a storyline that could stand on its own without the erotica, although it's still a very erotic book, which has had excellent feedback. All of my books have well rounded characters in them, because I like the books to be character driven. I think that this makes them more erotic.
Can you make a living writing erotica?
That rather depends on how you want to live! You can, but you have to be willing to work very hard, and keep writing because unless you're extremely lucky you won't ever make a living from one or two erotic novels.
Is there any other contemporary erotica you rate highly?
I know I shouldn't say this, but I don't read much contemporary erotica. I read psychological thrillers. I think that reading contemporary erotica would be like taking a busman's holiday!
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers of erotica?
I've probably covered most of it in my other answers. Write about well-rounded, believable characters, have a strong storyline and don't just string a series of sex scenes together without much thought. Also, if you don't like and enjoy sex then don't try and write about it. I've never climbed Mount Everest, so I wouldn't try and write a novel about a woman who did.
Finally, were any animals harmed during the research for Cassandra's Conflict?
My dogs didn't get walked quite as often as usual!
Fredrica, many thanks for your time!