Ever since 50 Shades of Grey hit the big time, there has been a renewed interest in erotic fiction and many people have also tried to turn their hand at penning a racy tome that will net them fame and fortune. But what is it really like to be the author of saucy novels?
After reading Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper naughty books, 29-year-old Victoria Fox wanted to write erotic fiction. Having worked in publishing, she decided to give it a shot and her first book Hollywood Sinners was published in May 2011. Since then she hasn’t looked back and now has six bonkbusters under her belt including her latest sexy read Wicked Ambition.
Here she describes what the life of an erotic writer in really like…
Brunch at The Wolseley on London’s Piccadilly – there’s no better way to start the day than with a gossip with friends and an excellent Eggs Benedict. I love it here. The lofty ceilings, gleaming brass fittings and click of heels on a polished floor remind me of Grand Central Station, or a big American bank in the 1920s. It’s next to The Ritz but doesn’t carry the price tag, and is an amazing place for celeb spotting. Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and Nadine Coyle from Girls Aloud are regulars.
Afterwards I’ll wander up to the Royal Academy and see what’s on. Being an author doesn’t mean books are the only ways to research or get inspired. Observing is what it’s about, whether that’s visiting a gallery, watching a film, flicking through Heat or sitting next to someone on the bus. You’ve got to see what draws you; what makes you want to put pen to paper. Today it’s the portraits I’ll spend a long time looking at, because people’s faces interest me. I might get an idea for a character from one of these. Who is this person? What does their expression say about who they are, and what does it hide? Who was compelled to paint them and why? If I’m struggling with a character in one of my books sometimes this helps to pull them free.
Feeling motivated, I’ll find a coffee shop in Soho, order a cappuccino and a big slab of cake, then I’ll get a seat at the window and set about tackling that troublesome chapter. The laptop takes a while to warm up. When I’m at home I write on a Mac but have a smaller, lighter (and slightly temperamental) word processor for when I’m out and about. It’s great because it’s slim enough to toss in my handbag and forget it’s there, and also doesn’t have Internet set up so I can get on with things without checking Twitter/Gmail/Facebook every other minute of the day…
I’ll have a target, and I’ll stay until I get there. If I get stuck I look up and continue people watching, and the fantastic thing about London is that there is always a new face passing by. Changing the place you write in can be enormously helpful. Often I’m wrestling a plot point in my office for a week or more, but then as soon as I go to a friend’s house, or out to a café or bar, taking my computer with me, it all unravels like a great big knot. It’s magic really. Being at the coffee shop makes me ultra-productive and feeling totally on top of things and not at all like this book will end up sending me completely mad or else being thrown on to a bonfire (this is my perfect day, remember), and, feeling satisfied and deserving a treat, I decide to go shopping.
Selfridges on Oxford Street is where I start. I love a department store! All the make-up counters and perfumes and soft leather handbags: it’s heaven. I’ll spritz myself with a fragrance I’d never normally wear, something musky and classic like Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door, the kind of scent I imagine Joan Collins choosing once she’s applied a slick of lipstick and put on something sequinned. Then I’ll drift through the clothes. Whistles is my favourite shop and there’ll be a great selection. Their party dresses are beautifully cut, with gorgeous, unusual designs. I’ll lose track of time trying things on (another thing about department stores, no clocks and no windows) but this will force me into a decision between an animal-print pantsuit or a far more practical pencil skirt, and I’ll choose the pantsuit because life is too short.
Even though I’m in a hurry, I’ll find time to dip into the nearest bookshop, where I’ll do a quick hunt for Hollywood Sinners and Temptation Island because I never get tired of finding them in an actual stores where people can actually buy them – it’s a pinch-myself moment every time. I love seeing what other books have come out that month, and which covers really zing. I’ll grab about ten but whittle it down to five.
Laden with bags, I’ll take the tube down to the Southbank and meet my friends for cocktails. It’s just getting dark and the river is lit up, the bridges twinkling gold, the Eye glowing lilac, and the little red hat of the OXO Tower sitting proud opposite St Paul’s. We’ll drink our Caipirinhas and there is lots of laughter, and I’m still thinking about the book I’m getting lost in, and where it’s going to take me next.
Top 10 Tips for writing a good bonkbuster sex scene!
1. Don’t be shy. I’m always asked if I get embarrassed and my answer is always the same: No. We all have sex! We all think about sex! We all love sex! There’s nothing to blush about. Just don’t think of your parents reading it, because they are, of course, exceptions to those rules
2. Avoid euphemisms. For instance when you’re chatting with friends you never describe his ‘manhood’ or his ‘member’ or, *shudder*, a ‘sheath’ (at least I don’t). Be frank and don’t be afraid to say what you mean
3. Let your imagination run wild! The crazier the better. When I was growing up I read Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper and I felt totally scandalised by some of those sex scenes. Shock your readers! They want to be shocked
4. Break the taboo. All the best sex scenes push boundaries
5. Think about new, exciting settings for your characters to have sex in. If I ever feel like sex is becoming repetitious I decide on a refreshed location and then suddenly they’re getting up to all sorts. An ice cream parlour, a pool table, a sauna, on a private jet, in the back seat of a limo…
6. Try something different. The other day I read a sex scene told entirely from the male point of view (it was written by a woman) and it really jumped out. As a reader I love to be surprised
7. Make us care about your characters. Sex is only gratuitous when it has no bearing or relation to the characters or what happens in the story. If we care about your players then we’ll care what goes on behind their closed doors
8. What can sex tell us about your characters? If he’s the hero he might be adventurous in the bedroom, or super-romantic, and he’ll definitely be generous and won’t be demanding blowjobs all the time. Villains always demand blowjobs. The Alpha ones will get seriously freaky; the stalker weirdos will have a hard time (or not) getting it up, and might have some deep-seated psychological issue to do with their mothers
9. Try to write your sex scenes all in one go. Each time you arrive at one, take a breath and dive right in and don’t surface till it’s done. Writing sex is as much about rhythm (ahem) and momentum as it is anything else. I find it difficult to edit a sex scene, and usually the first, raw draft is the best. Once you start counting how many nipples you’ve put in you’re bound to hit trouble
10. Think about the kind of sex you like to read. Is it Fifty Shades? Is it Jackie Collins? Is it softer, where the emphasis is on romance? Borrow elements you love, because if you’re passionate about it then other people will be too.