Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Talking With My Readers

As an erotic author who is active on Twitter and has some followers who have read my books (as is the case with many erotic writers, the majority of my followers/mutuals are other writers!), I recently reached out to ask, who are the people who are reading my books, what made them choose to read them, what do they like about them – and what do they think they would like to see in the future?

I was interested because I think my two novels occupy a small but distinct niche in the world of erotica. Many erotic authors write erotic romances, many write stories where explicit sex (in all sexualities) is the point, but I don’t consider my books either romance stories or red-hot passion tales (they have romantic and passionate elements, of course). I suppose I’m writing for a fetish audience, where the particular fetish is for nudity (whether public nudity, or clothed-person-naked-person, or other exhibitionist behaviour), but I’m also aware that in doing so I’m a little outside the mainstream and likely to appeal mostly to readers who already know that they like the sort of material I write.

I suppose if this were music the big, successful writers of romance and erotica would be the likes of Guns ‘n’ Roses or Beyonce, whereas I’m the guy playing ambient noise to a basement show of twenty people!

But this made me curious enough about my readership to want to invite them to interact with me.

Obviously not all my readers are going to want to use a forum like Twitter to talk about how they like to read books about naked ladies. Consuming erotica is taboo, and thus a private pastime – most of my readers probably wouldn’t want their friends and families to know they enjoy literature with this particular subject matter. So I was not expecting a deluge of replies.  But I received a few, either publicly or by DM, and I’ll talk about some of the things I have learned about my readership since then.

Firstly, it probably will not surprise anyone to learn that most of the people who interacted with me have some interest in nudism, whether because they admire it as a lifestyle or because they find it good fuel for their own fantasies. I’ve often promoted my books as being “about” nudism (although to be more exact they are about the sex lives and social lives of people who also happen to be nudists) and I think there are certainly people out there looking for sexy stories where young and beautiful characters get naked a lot.

(I’m conscious that with characters like Becky – a gorgeous young woman who can’t keep her clothes on – I’m “sexing up” nudism in a way that runs counter to the reality. Certainly in my experience real nudism/naturism isn’t particularly sexy or really anything to do with sex, and I do understand the point of view of nudists who seek to distance their lifestyle from any sort of porn or erotica.  All I would say in response is that my nudists are no more like real nudists than the plumbers and pizza delivery guys in porn films are like real plumbers and delivery guys.  I’m giving a fantasy version of a real thing, but that isn’t to say that I mean for people to interpret the fantasy as reality.)

That aside, some of my readers would it seems like me to focus more on the nudist side of things and perhaps set scenes in my books at nudist camps or clubs, or on clothing-optional beaches.  I’m not ruling that out 100%, I might one day have a brilliant idea for such a story.  But for the most part those types of settings don’t appeal to me. There are limited stories you can tell with a nudist setting, and while some writers have done good work with them, that in itself is what puts me off; I kind of feel that if I wrote a story about a nudist club, I’d be doing something other people have already done, and I’d rather follow my own path in terms of settings and scenarios.

There is also the fact that one thing that personally appeals to me as the writer of this stuff is conjuring up scenarios where a person is naked in places and situations where nudity would be unexpected or even shocking. A person being nude on a clothing-optional beach or at a nudist camp is not that, they are in a place where nudity is kind of the norm. Even Brave Nude World, which imagines a society in which public nudity is legal, stresses repeatedly that in social terms, being naked in the city is still considered unusual behaviour and people are still processing and adjusting to this social change.

I still intend one day to write a “straight” nudist story; ideally one which can be read by all ages and doesn’t contain any sexual elements  (I want to do this because I feel it hasn’t been done before there have been novels about nudism which don’t contain sexual elements, but these are in the realm of literary fiction and aimed at mature adults, or are fantasy fiction again aimed at mature adults – I would like to write something more universal) but in my erotic work, I prefer nudity to remain to a certain extent taboo or out-of-place in the setting.

Moving away from nudism, it’s clear that my readers are as interested in the exhibitionist side of my writing as much, if not more, than the straightforward nudity aspect, which is good because I make it clear that my characters are exploring exhibitionism and not just innocent nudity.  Becky in Best Friends… states she is an exhibitionist and outlines what she sees as the difference between the comfortable nudity of her nudist lifestyle and the exhibitionist nudity she does for a thrill. Likewise, by the end of Brave Nude World, Rachel has found a way through play with her lover to reconcile her exhibitionist side with the side that simply seeks to embrace the opportunity to be free and nude in her world. So exhibitionism in my characters is what drives my stories.

One comment I particularly liked is that I make exhibitionism seem fun. That’s really great to hear.  A lot of stories about public nudity focus on the humiliation/embarrassment angle, which is fair enough if that is the particular kink you are going for in your writing, but I have always felt like I didn’t want to write stories like that (some of my short stories notwithstanding. For me, the motivations of my characters to do the things the reader wants them to do (i.e. get naked in public) are the positive emotions they experience from such activity, and so in many respects it’s easier for me to write about characters enjoying themselves than it is for them to be having a hard time. I’m also a very sex-positive person and I don’t want to accidentally “punish” my characters for exploring their own sexuality in ways that make sense to them. So I deliberately avoid having them hurt or humiliated because they got naked. Even when they do end up outside their comfort zone (such as when Rachel’s bag gets lost on her flight and she’s left naked at the airport) everything soon turns out alright for the character.

Lastly, I’ve also been told by readers that I write good strong female characters and that they like that they take the lead in my stories.

I’ll admit that this is in part a commercial decision. I choose to have female protagonists because I understand that (gay and bi males aside) men who read erotica prefer female sexuality to take the lead over male sexuality in their choice of stories. Women who read erotica might have a personal preference, but they certainly aren’t put off by books about women the way (many) male readers are from reading books about men.

It also makes sense given my subject matter. If you were to write a story about a male exhibitionist who was constantly getting off from showing his genitals to unsuspecting members of the public, it would be a lot more difficult to make it not sound creepy or predatory – especially in this #MeToo era where the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Louis CK have been accused of just such behaviour. So to make my exhibitionist character female is at least a way to sidestep the concerns about consent and sexual predation which might arise were the protagonist male.

More than either of those, though, I really just like writing women. I’ve said before but one of my biggest influences in becoming a writer has been Terry Moore’s graphic novel series Strangers In Paradise, and one of the main reasons I enjoyed that series so much was the characterisation of the two female leads and I’ve always said that if I could write women half as good as that, I’d be happy.

Thank you to all my readers, both those who have been in touch and those who prefer to just enjoy my books and other writing in their own way.  I promise you I won’t be stopping writing any time soon!

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