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Zombies, Threesomes, and Charlotte Stein’s New Novel, Reawakening

I’m elated to have one of my very favourite erotic novelists as my guest this week. The Mighty Charlotte Stein is here to tell us the story behind the story of her sexy, scary, exciting new novel, Reawakening. Welcome, Charlotte!

 

Reawakening started with 28 Days Later. In fact, every zombie based thing I write, dream or think about started with 28 Days Later.

Yep, I’m that sort of zombie fan. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love the original George Romero movies. I really do. I think there’s room in this world for fast moving zombies and slow moving zombies – though hopefully not literally.

But there’s just something about the speedy, furious, ravenous zombies in 28 Days Later that gets to me. It had a visceral impact on me, that movie, and ever since watching it I’ve spent serious time imagining what the world would be like after a disease of that nature took hold.

Which is how Reawakening came to be.

Of course, there are other contributing factors. Like with most books, I usually start with a scenario and a hero (or heroes), and this book was no exception. At the time of writing I was pretty much obsessed with the new A-Team movie – not because it’s any good, but because Sharlto Copley and Bradley Cooper are so gorgeous and charismatic as Face and Murdock that they kind of warped my brain.

Which is probably a terrible way to describe the writing process, but it’s true. My brain was warped by the A-Team and zombie movies, and then I just had to write Reawakening. Of course, I’m sure there were other contributing factors, here. Important, writerly stuff like:

My muse spoke to me in honeyed tones and I couldn’t not eat nor sleep until I had committed the words to paper.

Or perhaps:

My tortured artist’s soul forced me to eke out each word in a pen filled with my own blood.

But really, if I’m being honest, my urge to write has and always will stem from my love of men, of relationships, of crazy scenarios I can never experience myself. I want to smell and taste and touch the zombie apocalypse. Even though it’s gross and probably flavoured with rotted limb.

And more importantly I want to smell and taste and touch Jamie and Blake, who are not flavoured with rotted limb. They are gorgeous and sexy and they bring my heroine back to life, through the magical wonder of threesomes.

What more could a girl ask, from the men in her life?

Blurb:

June has spent the last two years of her life trying to avoid death at the hands of murderous psychopaths and ravening zombies. So when Jamie turns up on the scene, careless, still whole and promising her safety on a little paradise island, she isn’t quite sure she can trust him. Especially when he tells her that it’s just him, and his equally big, burly, handsome friend Blake.

But Jamie and Blake are even better than her wildest dreams—sweet and funny and charming. And worst of all: sexy as hell. Though they’re trying to be gentlemanly with her, all she can think about is how much she wants to get tangled up in them, and forget the nightmare the world has become. She’s waiting for her reawakening—back to life and happiness and love.

And they seem like just the right sort of men to wake her—body and soul.

Excerpt:

All June could think was—Kelsey is dead, Kelsey is dead, Kelsey is dead—while the image of the ravening hordes feasting on Kelsey’s body played behind her eyes. She tried to shut it off, keep it down, keep running before they got to her, but Kelsey’s blood was still wet and all over her right arm.

And if Jamie hadn’t shot Kelsey—right as she was still screaming, and begging for help—she’d be one of them, now. That’s what happened. Once they bit you or bled on you or hell, spat on you, you had maybe thirty seconds.

Before you turned.

She needed to stop, just stop for a second. Lean against something and catch her breath. But Jamie had somehow led them into this building and he just kept running and running—only up instead of out.

June didn’t even know if Jamie was really his name, or if he was leading them right into a dead end. But he kept going, none-the-less.
She could hear the hordes, busting through the door below. He’d barred it, but they were coming in anyway, to this place that was an almost total deathtrap. The staircase was narrow and blanketed in darkness, one winding section after the next. Even if she dared to pause and look over the railing, she wouldn’t be able to see them until they were almost on her.

“Jamie, wait!” she shouted, but not because things would be easier if he had hold of her hand or was there to comfort her in this dire hour of need. She’d made it this far, on her own.

Or at least, she’d made it this far, with Kelsey.

No, it was just that—if he kept going, eventually they’d be trapped, on the roof. And she couldn’t have that. That was one of her and Kelsey’s rules—don’t run to someplace with only one exit.

Only it was just her rule, now. This guy, this Jamie…he didn’t seem to have any rules. He’d decided to run to the roof of a twenty story building then potentially wait outside until the hordes pushed through a probably very flimsy fire door.

Kelsey had said to her. She had said—wait. He’s as crazy as they are. A safe island? He’s nuts. We can’t go with him. He’s probably an insane apocalypse rapist.

And she’d been right, God help her. Maybe not about the insane apocalypse rapist part, but even so and besides—there was still time for that. He could be anyone, be into anything. He could have planned this all along…Kelsey’s death, the run to the roof…hell, maybe he had a whole party of insane assholes up there, just waiting to do horrible things to her.

Even if that was as nuts as he now seemed. Why would he trap himself on the roof, just to have a little fun with her? Nothing in her head was functioning in quite the way it should. Connections had been lost. Wiring had come loose.

She still called out to him again, when they got to the level before the last one. Her voice came out hoarse and breathless, burning lungs making everything difficult, Kelsey in her mind making everything worse. But somehow the words emerged.

“Jamie, stop. Take the nineteenth floor exit, okay—we can go back down on the other side of the building—answer me, fuck!”
He did, then. She heard him call out over her own shrieking breaths, the pounding of her sneakers on stone, and the sounds of the once-were-people below, slathering and barking like animals.

There were two cracks, like he’d fired her gun into the stairwell. Though she couldn’t see where he was shooting or at what. Then—
“Just keep following me, June-bug—come on!”

Only it sounded more like come own, because of the Texan twang Kelsey had sworn up and down was fake. And he’d called her June-bug again, because he was crazy, he was crazy, oh dear Lord he was probably leading them to their deaths.

This was all just some final mad hurrah. He was suicidal, and this was how he wanted to go out. Death by stairs or death by zombies—because they were zombies, no matter how much she tried to pretend otherwise—or even worse, death by roof.

Was that what he was going to do? Hurl himself off? Plummet to his untimely end? She didn’t know. All she could really think about was how close the first ravening cannibal was getting, and how unfit she really was. She’d started believing all the cardio was really beginning to pay off, but as it turned out, eighteen flights of stairs and she was out for the count. Her heart clawed at her ribcage. Her thigh muscles screamed and screamed.

While her zombie pals kept coming and coming, as though the stairs were nothing, really. Why, leaping up eighteen flights was like a morning stroll to them! They could have climbed these stairs forever and still had the wherewithal to eat her innards, once they got their claw-like hands on her.

She hit the fire door to the roof just as one of said claw-like hands brushed the back of her shirt.

It made everything inside her leap, including the heart she’d thought had escaped. Whenever they got really close—that was when you realized just how terrible they were. How awful the world had become. How much it wasn’t like a movie at all, but like a constant and unbearable pressure against your sanity, always threatening to make you go over.

She felt like going over, when the door wouldn’t close on them. For a second of pushing and heaving with their hands coming through and all over her, her mind tried to fly away. It told her to start screaming uncontrollably, while clawing at herself—that doing so would really be her best bet. No more running constantly. No more pain over Kelsey—and before Kelsey, Joanne and Pat and the old lady whose name she never learned.

Just peace, finally. One moment of agony, then peace.

Only it wouldn’t be, would it? No, it wouldn’t be. If she stopped pushing at the door and jamming it at them and just God, let the door snap their arms, let it crush them, let it kill them all forever, if she stopped…they’d turn her into one of them. And no matter how much she tried to let it hurt her that Jamie had pointed the gun and shot Kelsey between the eyes, it didn’t. It couldn’t.

Being one of them was worse. After all, it could have been that they’d caught a disease. It might have been that they were infected with something—like in 28 Days Later, rather than Night of the Living Dead. But part of her wondered whenever she stared into their hollow, ink-black eyes, if they’d simply lost their souls.

He looked like it. The one who’d managed to squeeze his mottled face into the crack she was struggling to close in the door. He had no pupils, no irises, no whites to his eyes. It was all just blackness, empty and weirdly unseeing, as though they operated on no more than a bloodlust now. Like upright land sharks roaming the land, blindly searching out prey.

She wrenched the door from him for just an instant then smashed it back into his face. It was a risky move, but oh so worth it. Worth it for the satisfaction, worth it for Kelsey, worth it for everything these things had taken from everyone. People’s souls hadn’t left. These things had stolen them.

And when it slithered away and the door quite abruptly shut, the idea didn’t go with it. It stayed, and festered—so much so that she wanted to open the door for one mad moment, just to smash it back in their faces again, and again, and again.

She wanted to, but Jamie was calling to her. And other sounds were starting to flood through her now, too, other big, big sounds that she should have noticed ages ago.

At first she thought it was some kind of weapon. That he’d found a chainsaw or a pneumatic drill or a wood chipper. Something he’d known was up here all along for them to use against the enemy.

But then the wind whipped up and she turned to see something far more incredible than a zombie eating wood chipper. It was so incredible that she forgot the zombies battering on the fire door, for a second. They’d bust through it soon enough because although they couldn’t figure out handles, the sheer pressure of them would figure out the release bar.

Though it didn’t seem to matter. For the first time in these two years of hell, it didn’t matter. She found herself laughing out loud, high and probably hysterical.

Jamie had only gone and gotten himself a helicopter. And not only that, but he apparently knew how to fly a helicopter. The rotors were going. They were kicking up the fine gravel that lined the roof of whatever building this was, and he was yelling to her—
“Come on, June-bug, get your ass in here!”

She thought of him talking about the island. About his buddy who was waiting for them. How they’d just wanted to find survivors, and populate their safe haven, and how crazy that had sounded when he first started yakking about it.

Then she ran to him.

Links:

http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-reawakening-550153-140.html

http://www.resplendencepublishing.com/m8/318-201-107-490-1–reawakening-forever-dead-series-book-one-by-charlotte-stein.html

My Blog:

http://www.themightycharlottestein.blogspot.com/

 

Thanks so much for stopping by, and sharing some of the good stuff, Charlotte! Zombies and threesomes really rock!

 

Phantom of the Opera: Sex and the Trading of Innocence for Knowledge

I saw Phantom of the Opera in London with my sister-in-law and her husband Tuesday. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the musical, but I was enraptured all over again, just like always. I read Gaston Leroux’s novel long before I knew anything about the musical, and I thought it was one of the most romantic, sexy, totally terrifying, psychologically complex books I’d ever read. I still think that. It’s the penultimate romance in which all of our worst nightmares are interwoven so tightly with all of our deepest hopes and wildest dreams that it’s impossible to pick the threads apart. So we can do nothing but bask in it and be haunted by it.

I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve always felt the stories in mythology that are about seduction of mortal women by the gods and the stories of the magical children born of those unions are really the stories of inspiration. What better description of inspiration than divine seduction. I get goose bumps just thinking about it!

As I always do, when I experience Gaton Leroux’s gripping tale again, especially when accompanied by music that so beautifully illustrates the soaring and plummeting of the human heart when touched by love and loss and desire and suffering, I find myself analyzing what it is in the story that moves me so, what it is that moves thousands of people every year.

The elements are all there, a bad boy, a beautiful girl, a hero, a gift offered with a price, and yet Leroux has managed to turn it all on its ear, with perfect story-telling precision. The hero is not the dashing young viscount from Christine’s past. The ‘god’ in the story is not irresistibly beautiful, but disfigured and wounded. His seduction is not physical, but he knows the soul of an artist well enough to know that the real seduction is in offering a deeper understanding, a deeper mastery of her gift. In the lovely Christine, the gift is already there, she just lacks the training, which her ‘Angel of Music’ is only too happy to provide. The Phantom’s dark is the balance to Christine’s light, and his music of the night allows her true gift to shine. Through it all, Raul, the viscount, is clueless. But Christine knows the dark. She’s seen it, embraced it, and a part of her loves it and longs for it. Her ‘loss of innocence’ has a chilling side to it that the whole story revolves around.

Even when I read the book without the enhancement of the amazing music, my heart raced, and the fear I felt at the descriptions of the Phantom’s lair and the dark lake under the opera house and the terrifying scene in the graveyard, still makes me shiver years later. Yet throughout the whole of the book there is an ache for the Phantom that is so much more than pity. It’s a compelling, beautifully woven mix of fear and awe and raw desire for a man who is so much more than human that human rules can barely apply and yet so wounded that the imagination can barely take in the suffering he has born. His actions tell us he is a monster, and yet we want him, we long for a way for him and Christine to be together, for all wounds to be healed and there to be a happy ever after.

But there can’t be. There can never be. And then we realize that happy-ever-after is Raul’s job. He is to have vicariously what the Phantom may never have, but it is Christine who earns him that right. She is the hero of this story. She is the goddess hidden, then revealed only at the end when a choice must be made between the death of Raul and life with the Phantom. She not only chooses, but she chooses unconditionally, unreservedly to love the Phantom, to understand him, in as much as it’s possible to understand such tortured genius. She is the true giver of the gift in this story. She restores the balance. Just as the Phantom’s darkness has infused her gift with the music of the night, her light has healed him, enabling him to let go of that which he knows does not now, nor has it ever belonged to him, the gift and the possessor of that gift.

And what does that have to do with inspiration? In the Greek stories and myths, it takes time for the magical child to be born and trained up to fulfill the task for which he was conceived, and it is usually a he. In Leroux’s story, we aren’t told how long Christine has been studying with her ‘Angel of Music,’ but it is clearly enough to make her singing totally astounding to anyone who listens.

Thomas Edison said that genius is one percent inspiration and ninty-nine percent perspiration. One good tumble with a god is of no more value than having raw talent. What happens next is what really matters, the hard work of training up the magical child, of training up the exquisite voice, of writing and writing and writing some more until what we’ve written works, until every word sings, until we learn what makes words sing, and what makes the chorus of words that sing our story just like we envision it in our moments of deepest inspiration.

I think Phantom of the Opera is the story of the natural process of the creative force. It inspiration and hard work moving through the fear to restore balance, and coming out on the other side to places we never could have imagined in our wildest dreams. Then starting over again.

Is this what Leroux’s story is about? I don’t know, but I do know that the sensuality, the deep hunger and the fear of moving past the point of no return is something every writer encounters every time we write, and I think every artist experiences that as well.

And what does that have to do with sex? Well, everything, actually. What we create, what we bring forth is the result of passion leading us down into the depths of ourselves and seducing ourselves in ways we can scarcely imagine. We are changed by that passion, by that deep connection with what inspires us. Innocence is lost and something totally new is created even out of our fears, and we are inspired to move forward and to face unconditionally what comes next.

 

Nice Girls, Naughty Sex, Fabulous Read!

Nice Girls, Naughty Sex is one fabulous read! There. That sums it all up in a nutshell. Well, actually, it’s twenty fabulous reads. With a table of contents that reads like a who’s who among the goddesses and gods of erotica, I expected this  NGNS to be a great anthology. But with a fair few authors I’d never read before, what I wasn’t sure about was how consistent the anthology would be. How could I ever have doubted, with editors like Oysters and Chocolate’s fabulous Jordan LaRousse and Samantha Sade.

The only real problem I had with Nice Girls, Naughty Sex was remembering that I was supposed to be reading this anthology to review it. Apologies to all the authors, but I have to tell the truth, I read your stories for pleasure. How could I help it, really, when the stories were all so deliciously nasty?

It wasn’t just the nastiness which made me forget the task at hand, though, it was the story factor. Nice Girls, Naughty Sex is chock-a-block with flat-out good stories. Plus they’re nasty! What a fabulous combination.

The anthology is put together in that wonderful Oysters and Chocolate format, with five stories in each of O/C’s yummy categories: Vanilla, Dirty Martini, Licorice Whip, and Oysters.

The Vanilla stories start out with ‘A Technicality,’ the tender and moving, yet very sexy story by Sommer Marsden set, of all places, in a hospice, where two lonely people comfort each other while they wait for their loved-ones to die. The section ends with Trish DeVene’s story, ‘Looking for the Wintergreen.’ Heat and romance aside, ‘Looking for the Wintergreen’ is one of the most beautifully crafted stories I’ve ever read. Ms DeVene’s spare but elegant use of language lets the reader know of a family’s unhealed wounds, while building us up for the healing that begins with hot, sex alfresco on a cold winter day.

There seem to be a lot of stories in NGNS which start in a place of woundedness and end with sexy, healing celebrations of life, and Sienna Conroy’s Dirty Martini story, ‘For His Pleasure,’ does it beautifully as she tells the tale of the deliciously naughty way a wife and husband find their way back to each other after a miscarriage.

I romped my way through the Licorice Whip section of NGNS, which I have to admit, was my over-all favourite, beginning with Janine Ashbless’s wild frolic, ‘Good Doggie,’ progressing to Kay Jaybee’s kinky ‘Corset’ and reaching total melt-down with Kestra Gravier’s fabulous story, ‘A Lesson for Clair,’ in which a post grad student’s former professor gives her a sizzling lesson on taking control.

The anthology finishes off with some delicious girl on girl fun in the Oysters section. Having some experience in martial arts myself, I found Kristina Wright’s story of a woman boxer and the curvy gym bunny who’s got a crush on her. ‘The Dragon Lady’ is hot, sweaty, and fab reading. Jeremy Edwards steamy, and more than a little wet story, ‘Eastern Standard Time,’ is a perfect end to a damn-near perfect anthology.

The variety of stories in NGNS kept me fully engaged with every single offering. The stories were not only consistently sexy, but they were all consistently well-written and cracking good reads aside from the sex. Scorching sex along with a gripping story is always a winning combination, and this anthology has twenty totally different, totally enthralling winners. Reading Nice Girls, Naughty Sex was pure pleasure!


 

Thoughts from the Lakes

10th May

We nearly got blown off the fell today. The winds at the top of Broom Fell were like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I was literally driven to my knees. I had to stop several times, just dig my poles in and hunker over. We didn’t continue on to Lord’s Seat as we intended. It was just too dangerous. Brian says when it’s that windy, the safest thing to do is just to lie down flat. It was an amazing, terrifying, exhilarating experience, and strangely I noticed the wind smelled like line-dried sheets before you put them on the bed, though I suppose in reality line-dried sheets smell like heavy winds on the Lakeland fells.

The wind made me think about what it actually would be like for Marie coming down off High Spy on a steep descent of loose slate in the wind mist and rain. Now I have first-hand experience to confidently say that it’s not a good place to be in bad weather.

We decended out of the wind to Spout Force, a lovely waterfall in the protection of a tight canyon. In the afternoon, we went to the Rannerdale Valley, and I’ve never seen so many bluebells up the sides of the fells and in the valley below. Apparently this valley was The Secret Valley, which writer and publican Nicholas Size wrote about. It is the valley where the native Britons and Norsemen ambushed and defeated the Normans after the Norman invasion. According to legend, for every Norman invader killed, a bluebell grows. More dark grist for the creative mill and my ghosts and witches as I write Lakeland Heatwave.

11th May

We took the long way to Ullswater, over Kirkstone pass to Sheffield Pike and Glenridding Dodd. We had planned to walk Red Screes on top of the Kirkstone Pass, but most of the upper fells were lost in the mist as we began our day. We had a lovely walk anyway. Both fells were rocky with inviting hidey holes and nooks and crannies, just the sort of places strange things, which are not easily explained away, might happen. We finished the day walking along the shores of Ullswater in rain-washed sunshine.

We spent the evening at the Keswick Mountain Rescue Base where Chris Harling gave a presentation about his climb of Mt Everest in 2007. Wow! What an experience! It was good to spend a little time at the base and hear some of Brian’s stories of mountain rescue call-outs he’d been on, all of which helped me get a picture in my mind’s eye of what sort of experiences my farmer, Tim Meriwether, might be dealing with as a volunteer for Keswick Mountain Rescue.

I went to bed thinking about Chris Harling climbing Everest. Chris said for him the hardest challenge was psychological, keeping his mind focused so that no matter how hard it was, no matter how much he wanted to quit, he could keep the goal before him and keep pushing forward to it.

With witches and ghosts and mountain passes being the order of the day, one of my Facebook friends, Thomas Gardener III, put me onto this fabulous song called The Witch of Westmoreland. The song is set in the Kirkstone Pass and at Ullswater. More atmospheric inspiration for my witches and their ghosts. Give it a listen.

12th May

We had more iffy weather, so again we walked the lower fells. We started our day on Raven Crag. Brian told us a story of the Mountain Rescue being called out to remove a decomposing corpse from there, which only added to the deep woodsy, eeriness of the fell. Like every place we walked, there were gorgeous views from the top. There is logging going on along some parts of the trail now. The ever-present smells of sawdust and pine resin brought back childhood memories of going to the woods with my father to where he worked. We made a quick side trip to take in the earthworks that remain of a bronze age fort overlooking the Shoulthwaite Valley.

We finished the day walking High Rigg, and Low Rigg down through St. John’s In the Vail to Tewit Tarn (pronounced Tiffit) taking in a lovely view of Castle Rigg Stone Circle from below Low Rigg. I’d always looked up onto these fells from the circle, but never seen it from above before. I can see why the Neolithic residents chose that particular site for their stone circle – sat on a raised plateau completely surrounded by high fells, no cathedral ever built could offer such a breath-taking experience.

13th May

Unfinished business got finished today. We decided to do the fells we had to give up on Tuesday because of the wind. We started off the day walking Barf in the rain. I know most of you American readers are laughing by now, but don’t let the name fool you, the ascent up Barf was probably the toughest ascent we had. It was steep, rocky, and wet, and we did the majority of it in the worst rain we’d had all week. But wow, what a lovely walk! We were rewarded with exquisite views out over not only Bassenthwaite Lake, but over a large chunk of the Western Fells. By the time we got to the summit, the sun was shining timidly.

We also managed Lord’s Seat, still windy and cold, but at least we could stand up. Then with the unfinished business finished, we walked into some of the most beautiful forest I’ve ever seen, thick with sphagnum moss and heather, up over Seat How where we enjoyed the first dry, wind-free lunch we’ve had all week. We walked roads along forest so thick that the sunlight didn’t penetrate through the canopy, and underneath the trees it literally looked like night. From there we made our final ascent of the day to Whinlatter Top, accompanied, once again, by the howl of the wind, daunting, but not unbearable this time, not exactly an old friend, but no longer the great unknown either.

I always feel a bit bereft after our last walk in the Lakes when we have to head back to the Soft South. Lakeland is so magical, and walking the fells stretches me and challenges me in ways nothing else I’ve done does. There is no denying the inspiration I get from being here. I’ve come away with lots of ideas for the Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy, and lots impressions that can come only from moving through the landscape and feeling the many layers of history, geology, natural science, and legend swirling around me with each step I take. It’s a place so steeped in possibility that I’m not at all surprised the story that comes to me won’t be told in only one novel. Lucky me. It’s not only the place that is amazing in what it offers up to me, but the people as well. And I owe a very special debt of gratitude and appreciation to Brian and Vron Spencer for all of their help and enthusiasm as I tease out the stories of my Lakeland witches and ghosts. Thanks Brian and Vron. You’re the best!

 

Shifting the Balance of Power — ‘Creating’ the Erotic Man

I recently attended a talk and slide-show at the Feminist Library in London led and organized by Suraya Sidhu Singh, Editor of Filament Magazine. Anyone who knows anything about Filament Magazine knows it’s one of the few magazines that feature stunning erotic photography of men photographed by women. The event asked the question: when there are so many great women photographers, why are there so few women photographing men erotically? It featured three women photographers who regularly do erotic photography of men; Migle Backovaite, Alex Brew and Victoria Gugenheim. Each woman gave a slide presentation featuring some of her amazing photography and spoke on her experiences of photographing men erotically.Suraya, who has researched the topic extensively also gave a talk on her findings. The discussion after the presentation was lively and thought-provoking.

 If I could sum up the evening in a phrase, it would be that the event was a study of what happens to the balance of power between the sexes when women are behind the camera photographing men erotically. This was not a factor I would have considered before, and afterward, I found myself wondering why I hadn’t, since it seemed so obvious.

 Naturally whatever I take away from any experience is always filtered through my writer’s brain, and I found myself comparing the experience of a woman photographer photographing men erotically to the experience of a woman writing men erotically. The internal comparison has been helpful to me as a writer, and from the standpoint of a woman who creates erotic art, I find the personal aftermath of the event challenging and exciting.

 I took away that one of the big reasons more women photographers don’t photograph men erotically is because of the power dynamics. A man being photographed erotically is by the very fact that he is the subject of the artist, submissive to her view of what she wishes to create. While lots of men are being photographed by women photographers, the dynamic is considerably different when the photography is erotic. I felt, especially from the powerful, sometimes frightening works of Alex Brew, that when a man is being photographed erotically, a negotiation for power takes place by default, a struggle to balance that power so that both the subject and the photographer understand and participate fully in the work being created in the way the photographer envisions it. Of course I’m not a photographer, and much of my feminism is a gut-felt response to growing up in a very male-dominated family and living in a world where the struggle for a balance of power is on-going. No doubt my view would have been slightly different with the benefit of a more academic and historic view of feminism, but the landscape would still be the same.

 There are few women photographing men erotically. By contrast, the majority of quality erotica is written by women. There are some brilliant men erotica writers, it’s true, but women have, in essence, defined the modern erotica genre. I think this surley must have been, at least partially, in response to the quality that wasn’t there in porn. Perhaps also in response to the general poor quality of porn, more and more men are now reading erotica written by women. This is just my informal view of the landscape. However as erotica writers, we are the creators of that landscape, at least fictionally, and that shifts the balance of power considerably. One would think that by the very nature of fiction, there would be no negotiating for power with our characters, but that isn’t true. Many writers would agree with me that their characters tell them how they want to be written, and their characters are always right. Indeed, it is the characters themselves that are more willing to take risks artistically than their creators. How much of the real world struggle for balance of power between the sexes effects what we create fictionally, however, is the subject for another blog post.

 Many of my woman colleagues find writing erotica one of the most empowering experiences in their life. I would definitely agree with that. While there is a camera separating the photographer from her subject, for good or ill, there is no separation between the writer and the world and the characters she creates. The negotiations are all internal, and the battle, though a quiet, perhaps less obvious one, is always going on.

 I was also struck by the fact that there was a relationship, a certain dynamic, between the photographers and their subjects, and that dynamic affected the end result heavily. In addition to the negotiation of the balance of power, trust was a big issue, for both the photographer and the subject. In the erotic photo spreads I’ve seen in Filament Magazine, there is a certain vulnerability achieved by the photographers in their work which is a part of what makes these spreads so erotic. There is an unselfconsciousness that doesn’t come across on the cover of a bodice ripper or in ordinary beefcake of the male stripper sort. That vulnerability and that level of trust is, for me as a viewer and as a writer, the true erotic element in the work. Take it away, and the work becomes generic, distant, two dimensional.

 I’ve found the same to be true of my writing. The characters only come to life, only feel like someone I’d want to make love to, even fall in love with, when their guard is down and they are most vulnerable, when I catch them in an intimate moment and I’m either someone who they trust or I’m a voyeur, which is another matter altogether. I can write as a voyeur easily, and I almost always do when I write BDSM, but it’s another level of trust and skill for a photographer to capture that voyeuristic feel, and a stolen peek at an intimate moment will always make the pulse race just a little bit faster.

I found myself admiring the bravery of these photographers because they’re entering a space traditionally reserved for men, and a space not without its danger. It’s a space in which there’s often still the assumption that any woman entering in must be ‘gagging for it,’ or why else would she photograph such things? Women erotica writers hear it all the time; that we must be loose slutty women, that surely we must have tried all the things we write about. The very big difference for us is that we don’t experience that from any of our characters. They’ve come from our imagination at our conjuring, and though they may have ideas of their own, they do not exist outside the world we’ve created, even when we let that world take up way too much of our lives in order to get them on the written page. Another level of trust and vulnerability and sharing of power has to take place in order to create powerful photographic images like those shared by Migle Backovaite, Alex Brew and Victoria Gugenheim, and when it happens, the images are erotic, haunting, and stunning snapshots of male beauty at its loveliest, and quite possibly at its purest.

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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