Monday, July 9, 2018

Kyle Phoenix Answers: What is your process for writing erotic fiction?

I learned the hardcore way how to write erotica. I’d been writing manuscripts for years and noted in my steamy soap operas a 1950s esque curtain drawn, fading into the night quality about sex. Lots of demurring from male and female protagonists. I decided I would get free. I began buying the 3 pack of adult magazines at my local store. Which must’ve been expensive—-$6.99/$9.99 a pack. I would legitimately read it for the stories. I had like a hundred or so of them after a few months.

Then Joan Rivers said something on TV about porn debasing people and how non-fiction was so much better because the people were real. I actually took all of the magazines and threw them down the dumpster.

The Escapades 50+ short stories
Then I got to Buffalo and knew that I had to take my writing to another level, to push in racial, language and sexual dimensions that I hadn’t before. Following a Raymond Carver inspired design is how I got to legal pads. I would put pen to paper and not lift it for 10 pages and those would be my new era of short stories. Typed that generally translated into 3–3 1/2 pages which I was able to not only hand in to professors fulfilling assignments but also get published.

My approach was to basically list out every idea from vanilla to extreme I could come up with. Then I started taking a class Slave Narratives in Compassion Study to BDSM. I kid you not. So I had to truddle off to Barnes and Noble to specialty order several of the books. To that date, I spent $300, the most I’d ever spent on books. But buying Mapplethorpe and the Q Letters and the Marquis De Sade, I found several other erotic novels, All hardcore.

I did bi, gay, straight erotic stories. I experimented with first person, third person in getting characters to open up, tell their tales. My mantra was that I wouldn’t hold back, that I wouldn’t fear what it said or did or what people thought about me from the writing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I can take feedback, criticism, rants, raves and even riots. In fact years ago, undergrad, some of my erotic fiction writing was so provocative in a campus magazine that there was a run on all 100,000 issues; the city Archdiocese publicly condemned the university, students would literally plaster and glue excerpts to dormitory walls; there were bomb threats to the magazine. No, really. Really.
  • I Awaken, the first story assigned originally as an exercise by my mentor and professor Carlene Hatcher Polite about writing in the 1st person how we would react waking up as teh opposite sex.
  • Trois, a story of a trois was printed beyond it’s context. It started as an experimental writing project in a class with the masterful professor, Raymond Federman and it disintegrates over 3 pages into question marks of what you, the reader project as the erotic. Well the youthful editorial board of the magazine were afraid to publish it that way, the context they felt confusing without the full language content. So they asked me for the full version. In order to write it, I had written it explicitly and then tore it apart. I gave them the full version. They printed the full version. Buffalo went crazy.
  • Holy Rollers (I discovered the word tribadism) and wrote about two nuns, in love. What is it like to have Jesus as one’s “husband” literally between two women? What is a way to find teh holy in the taboo to one’s religiosity?
  • Fatal Lovesick Journey is a piece that is about a woman’s sexuality as a spiritual weapon even as she tries to discover her own identity
  • Desiderata is a mixed race woman who is constantly having enhancements and diminutions of sexuality projected upon her by male and female lovers and even a stalker.
  • The Dress where a Don, a perhaps retired mobster/cartel leader wants to create a woman’s dress from a dream to be worn by a woman to walk towards him in his childhood neighborhood. Of course there are complications in what sex the model is or was and the stylistic exposure, borderline profanity of the dress itself.
  • And so on.
I had to make a choice then, to become a one trick erotic pony or to become a better writer. I chose to become a better writer in spite of pushing from editors, etc.. I started deeply exploring race, social class and gender and more importantly infusing sex and sexuality into my work. I was reading other answers/thoughts about the erotic, sex in writing. I think most people get nervous about it, seemed to be lots of nervous nellies writing about it. I go full gusto. I want it to be something that is both defining and startling about a character.

The Permutations of Black Female Sexuality
In S, I wanted to explore Black female sexuality obliquely. IN the middle of a horror story, a sci fi story, as a side note to all of the magical warfare and shenanigans going on back and forth. In 7 sisters, a mother an a cult leader, I got to really remove The White Gaze, White people—-I think the’re only one White man ever so briefly who even speaks in the whole book. It’s a book about first Black women and then ultimately women who are dealing in something akin to sorcery.

Some sisters are almost sexless. A few are highly sexualized. One has willingly, gleefully been a prostitute because she wants the mechanics of “love” but doesn’t have the temperament nor patience for men. She’s violent, she’s abusive, even to the point of “making war, not love” sexually with men. I leave that imagery, possibility to the reader to fill in. How does a over 6 foot Black woman who is often up on charges of assaulting men, make war sexually? I like that mystery.

Another sister paints prophetic or schizophrenic eyes in paintings wearing overalls, her breasts nude and often splaying and spilling onto the canvases. I liked the erotic imagery of paint and madness and unrestrained sexuality there. I wanted the reader to have a sexual image in a non-sexual place.
Finally, the part I really enjoyed was designing how Canaan, the spiritual cult leader, time traveling hunter is roping in rival congregations in the future. When I was a child of about 4 my mother took me to a Pentecostal church and their getting the spirit freaked me the heck out. I wanted that unnerving to be right under the blue silk robes the cult makes everyone wear. I wanted to make the Black church horrific in some ways because it’s generally not in it’s symbolism, perhaps in it’s members. Then I wanted to really explore the backbone, Black women and their projections into the leader of a church.

I wanted Canaan to be strikingly handsome, aware of it and powerful in it. I wanted him to play with that raw sexuality because that’s what all the best Prince, Farrakhan, James Brown, Lenny Kravitz, CL Franklin, Daddy Grace are doing at the altar, on the stage. Playing the erotic. The blue silk robes drenched in sweat and how they cling to his biceps, how his slacks are too tight, how when he moves the congregation can see outlines and protrusions, how the women squirm and shiver in their seats, pop up and down, up and down, screeching ecstatic praises, the heat of the tent revival making them sweat profusely as they clutch a loin clothed hard wooden crucified Jesus, rubbing their manicured fingers along his penetrating spikes.

That imagery. The profane. The erotic. The religious. All of it that I’ve seen in church, that we secretly all see in a good church service, that thin line between exaltation and ecclesiastic orgasm.

Trans, the Transgressive Gender and Sexuality
In a book Tranny I dealt a lot with transgenderism, transsexuality and what that looks like, how men treat a person, what the sex is like. It’s often graphic, not as playfully intimate. I wanted to capture the way there’s a questioning of what the male sexual partner to a male to female trans person is within their sexuality context. Which I think is a startling and fascinating question. Bi, gay, straight, pan, omnisexual? While I was struggling on one hand with what my trans person was, was transitioning to and from, I found that I had several male characters who explicitly wanted to have sex with a trans person. What did that make them? And their approach to sex had to be different. One is dating, the other having an affair and another brutal in their approaches.

Now what happens when the female to male person begins using their penis to penetrate a male partner? And likes it? What does that make her? What does that make the partner? Can you do an act, with your body or another person’s body parts and still hold your sexuality as you internally view it? Is sexual expression contingent on a partner?

If your wife suddenly grew a penis, how would you incorporate it into your sex life? What about your husband develops a vagina? What about if you grew both? What would you be? Your sexuality?
Trans characters give this multi-expansive layering of sexuality that I thoroughly enjoyed both exploring and refusing at times to define.

How Does One Become a Sane, Stable Libertine?
In Stay it’s a love triangle that morphs into multiple marriages and polyamory but it had to seem natural. I wanted the male who moves from females to males to trans lovers to be almost oblivious to eroticism as he simply feeds a rapacious need that manifests in sexuality. For his partner, who’s gone through sexual abuse/trauma I had a character who has had vastly accelerated knowledge of sex itself forcibly but now is met with a partner who is using sex to fulfill an emptiness. It became apparent early on that greedy desire wouldn’t help a traumatized person to grow. I wanted to get the traumatized person to become a full fledged libertine—-to healthy explore men and women and groups and eventually poly with a clarity and sex positive way.

In Stay I’m adding in pointedly more sex because I saw that the three and then fourth person in the triangle/poly were my only sexual expressions. I realized that if I had a libertine—-how did he get there? It couldn’t just be expressed/experienced with the three others, where did he get this liberation? Which meant that after my finishing of the final draft I had to go back and find a way to infuse even more sex into his life/character. It has too be erotic, fun, graphic because—-well frankly because I’m an adult. I’ve done a lot so if I write an experienced character, I can’t sugar coat it.

The Erotic and Familial Dimensions in Characters in Stay
The challenge is this character has children. Which was a new wrinkle because having children in a book that is steeped in exploring sexuality was like having kids in the room during a NC 17 movie. It was weird. No, they’re not involved but I wanted to not sacrifice one for the other. I also didn’t want to sacrifice hetero/homo sex for propriety sake. The straight sex couldn’t be hearts and flowers and the gay sex couldn’t be without the inevitable humor as language morphing and attitudes that raciality brings into male to male sex. Like the term “beating the drum”—-penetrative sex where the prostate is purposefully stimulated with certain hip stylistic thrusting or fingers. Or the propensity for men to make man-pussy and boy-cunt references to anal sex, the effeminization of gay sexual acts. Then that lead into the whole emotionality of men feminizing sexual acts like bottoming. What does it mean to bottom as a closeted “straight” married man? It’s two completely differing acts from hetero sex with a woman. And how does his girlfriend and other women perceive him and sex with him, the desire, as a male?

The erotic becomes simply transgressive but identity expressive or deeply identity repressive and the reason for being closeted, some of it, is the sexuality oppressiveness of heterosexuality and homosexuality and it’s demands and reduction of masculinity/manhood.

I know. Deep. Bluntly, if the so called straight guy is fucked—-how is he getting fucked? How is he feeling about the desire to get fucked? How is he feeling about being White and wanting it almost exclusively with Black men?

Erotic Spaces in Stay
To get to those erotic spaces I had to almost solidify the other characters in their sexualities, erotic expressions. The young woman is sexually almost unleashed because of her sexual trauma past but I didn’t want it to be a bad thing. I didn’t want to create a whore for a whore’s sake. Could she too be working through her stuff just using men as sexual conquests? I wanted to make her sexuality non-exploitative of her as a woman. She’s hurt on one level but not out of control. That distinction was important for me in her sex scenes.

Then the libertine’s marriage to a man and their opening their relationship to first include the closeted White guy in a triad and then another woman, who has a vast level of experience with men, women, trans polyamory relationships plus teh Black guy has a past affair with an artist who has graduated into a larger polyamory stable group relationship. I needed progression, maturities of the erotic—-it couldn’t just be willy nilly fucking, for fuckings’ sake.

Erotic writing has to make character sense. You have to read it and agree with me the writer that the character would be in that situation and like or dislike it. You might not agree with the sex, it might strike you as extreme, abnormal or outrageous but it has to strike you as true.

Sexual Abuse and The Liberated Sexuality
To the first Escapades, and now the abused in Stay, I was workshopping a story about a woman, who is living a miserable married life, is sexually attacked and in the trauma experiences pleasure.
My “inspiration” for this was discussions in groups and with friends who’d also been sexually abused about some of the shame and guilt stemming from not every abuse situation is a hardcore, back alley rape—-it’s also seduction, pleasure, that is both captivating and confusing which leads to all kinds of adult confusion. I had a friend who still regards her childhood sexual abuse as the best sexual experience she’s ever had. Her life, relationships reflect that unresolved delusion. That non-consensual, coercive sex can be “good” in the sense of how we describe good sex.

The fictive point was to work from the traumatic incident, to the adult perspective, to the adult healing and redemption, reclaiming and reprocessing of sexuality but to acknowledge that abuse “opens one up/prematurely initiates” one into sex and the serious work required to move from that space.

Teaching People About Sex
I’m lucky to have lead/taught sex and sexuality workshops, to get people to honestly open up about their body feelings and thoughts, to honestly tell me and a small group what they like and don’t, to allow me to probe deeper with questions about why and why not. Maybe that’s what has helped inform it the most, workshopping. I have talked to real people about their real sexualities that aren’t as binary, limited or simplistic as people often write about on the internet. I read theories, questions, and I know it’s not that simple and that most direct answers are in human lived experience, broad gossamer of life. That sexuality is far more fluid than most people know and that change is natural, even if people resist it within themselves.

Bi, homo and hetero or even trans sexuality, are medical definitions of actions. You can perform homosexual acts and not be homosexual. You can be transgender and not transsexual. Gender and sexuality being personality and biological action/innate expression. Sex being the biological definition of a person.

With those 3 distinctions I”m always playing with the myriad combinations within erotic fiction.

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Smile, Kyle

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