After a diagnosis of early stage breast cancer, novelist Jamie Brenner found some unexpected writing inspiration.
The experience helped her write stories about characters closer to her life, and she wrote her next novel in a single month. She explained over at Shelf Experience:
while it’s fun to write about 20-something women discovering love for the first time, I am a 40-something woman who experiences love and sex from a very different perspective. And I knew I had to write about that. For the first time, I didn’t show my idea to a publisher. I didn’t even bother writing up a proposal. One week after I had surgery, I sat down at my computer and began writing the story that was bursting in my mind.
On this encore edition of the Morning Media Menu, author Brenner shared more advice for writers about writing erotica.
Brenner wrote Miss Chatterley as Logan Belle, creating an erotic and modern update of D.H. Lawrence‘s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Press play below to listen to the complete interview on SoundCloud. We’ve included some excerpts below…
It’s really important to be aware of what is out there and to know where your work fits. I think a lot of people (and believe me, I don’t have all the answers, by any stretch) who read a lot of romance and erotica like what they like. They’re not necessarily looking for someone to come in and reinvent the wheel. If you are writing something you should have an idea: “Readers who like X, Y and Z will also like my stuff. I fit into this circle of books or readers.” You have to at least know that going in. Once you know where you belong, then you can stretch the boundaries within that genre, niche or milieu. It is really important to know what is working and not to try and write in a vacuum.
Brenner also shared advice for writing about sexuality in your work:
I don’t think about other people reading it. People can get really hung up, saying “What if my friend at work reads this?” You just have to say: “I’m serving the story.” As a writer, we describe people’s clothes, we describe where they live. Sexuality is a huge part of characterization. You can say as much about a character in one sex scene as dialogue in an entire chapter. I don’t think writers should look at sex as something like prurient or gratuitous, they have to see it as a tool in telling their story.
My first erotic novel came out two years ago. The landscape feels completely different. There is not just the hope to reach a mainstream audience with erotic novel, but the expectation that success is reaching everyone, not just the genre readers. Fifty Shades of Grey really raised the bar for that. At the same time, working with and against this tide, with the explosion of self-publishing. Suddenly, it’s like the wild, wild West … There are less rules, but there’s much more competition.
What really helped me was looking at short story collections, where you can see a real range of how people approach describing sexuality. You’ll see people who go way beyond something you’re comfortable with … you’ll find people and say “Oh, I’d go even farther than that.” Once you identify the style you like in others, then you have the framework to try to stretch yourself.
(Photo by Trevor Laurence)