As part of publicity for the antholgy Swing!, each writer is posting an interview on their respective blogs, which you can read here at the Swing Blog.
My story is “Movements.”
Why do you write erotica and what do you love best about it?
I’ve never cared for the term “erotica” for my erotic fiction, but the high-brow moniker “literary smut.” I did not start off intentionally writing this literary smut. I wrote regular mainstream fiction with detailed sex scenes. I did not like fading to black or putting in “***” scene breaks to cut the sex out. I mean, sex is a part of every day life, no different than waking up, showering, eating, going to work, going to the movies, going to war. Everyone does it, or did at one point, or is looking forward to doing it, so why hide it in fiction? I admired the way John Updike, Phillip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, to name a few, added descriptive sex scenes in their well-respected literary fiction. Updike’s second Rabbit novel has a wife-swapping swingers scene where Rabbit is flabbergasted that his partner enjoys anal sex and golden showers. In Roth’s The Professor of Desire, there is a stranger and tender anal sex scene in a garage while the characters parents are not far away. And of course there’s Roth’s infamous Portnoy’s Complaint and all the masturbation and skirt-chasing. In Oates’ classic novel Them, a woman is brutally raped by a police office during the Detroit riots and then falls in love with her rapist. Oates writes obsessively about teenage girls seduced by older men, and wrote a story from the POV of a gerbil forced into a woman’s vagina. That one was published in Fiction International, a well-respected journal that I have published half a dozen stories in (both erotic and non). There is Harry Crews, such as his novel A Feast of Snakes, that has lots of kinky sex, and of course Henry Miller and Anaias Nin. William Vollmann. These are the writers I have strived for; unfortunately, having a lot of “literary smut” books out there, those in the literary community have not taken me as serious as I’d wish. My novel The Comfort of Women (Blue Moon, 2001) was reviewed in the American Book Review and the publisher was blown away that a literary review would pay attention to one of their titles. Anyway, around 1996, literary erotica was getting mainstream attention, helped along by the books Richard Kasak was publishing through his Masquerade Books and various imprints. He published Samuel Delany’s The Mad Man and collection by Lucy Taylor. The books Masquerade was putting out were of high quality, writing-wise. They contracted three books from me: Seven Women and Other Stories, The Comfort of Women, and The Avant-Porn Anthology. Although I signed contracts and was paid partial advances, the books never saw print because Masquerade’s parent company, that ran porn websites, was fined $33 million for credit card fraud, so the first thing to go was the book publishing arm, which made the least revenue. I wound up finding other homes for the books – Soft Skull Press published Avant-Porn, Blue Moon Comfort, and the Venus Book Club Seven Women, which was supposed to be reprinted in 2007 by Blue Moon and then its parent company went bankrupt—they had the nerve to ask for the advance back, when they owed me money. Borgo Press recently reprinted it, and some others, and the new Olympia Press has reprinted a lot of my out of print titles with classic green “Traveler’s Companion” covers. (I’ve recently written some original “guides” for them under the name Dr. Garth Mundringer-Klow.) Some have new titles, some are under pen names such as Anonymous and Paul Merchant.
Tell us about your story in Swing! Adventures in Swinging by Today’s Top Erotica Writers.
The story is about a couple having intimacy issues who have a swinging experience with an older, wiser couple who have a successful, profitable amateur internet porn site. It’s only slightly autobiographical. I have met people, and am fascinate with them, who tape their sex acts and place them online, either free to see or selling DVDs, tapes, and web access. I find amateur porn far more sexier than commercial product – the people are real, having real orgasms, getting off being filmed rather than doing a job. There are no “cuts” if things get, uh, messy. It’s like peeping into people’s bedrooms windows; it has a better voyeuristic nature than watching models with silicone and men with artificially enhanced cocks or fake semen flying from off screen. Not that I have anything against commercial porn, everything has its place and time, but I am a fan of amateur players, especially those I know. Back in 1996, my ex-, Karin, and I, being poor starving theater artists, made tapes of ourselves and sold them to companies that did compilations for like $400-500 a scene. They paid the rent. We had to get wilder, or add in other women, to keep selling them. We only did a few.
Name some other books where we can find your work.
Just run my name on Amazon or Bn.com and elsewhere and many of my books will pop up. I am in a lot of Cleis anthologies, from She’s On Top to Playing with Fire and Luscious. I co-edited The Mammoth Book of Short Erotic Novels with Maxim Jakubowksi, which has sold hundreds of thousands of copies since 2000 and still sells steadily. I edited Short and Sweet, a book of novellas, that I was owed money on when Blue Moon went under, so I was never paid and the company that picked up the titles claims they have no liability on that. So I, and the contributors, were screwed. It’s a good book, though. What are you working on now? I have pretty much stopped writing literary smut for now, and am concentrating on screenplays, television, literary criticism, and anthropology/sociology research. Weird combo, I know, but they mix in a weird way. Problem is, I published too many erotic novels under my own name. I should have used a pen name after the fourth or fifth. Why did I keep signing contracts? Money. I needed money. One book, The Classics Professor, I did not even write although it has my name on it. I fucked it up mid-way and they had to bring in someone to doctor it. I cannot write to structured order (so why am I trying for Tv?) I’ve published a book on Raymond Carver and Bukowski, am wrting a bio of Carver, have two books on Vollmann coming out, and critical books on Star Trek and Hemingway and blogging forthcoming. Of course, I have also published an ethnography on Tijuana sex workers and am working on studies of money slaves and money mistresses, and exotic non-nude dancers and their lives. I am also working on The Anthropology of Pornography, life history interviews with people in the adult entertainment market and the subcultures of community they create in Los Angeles. State Univ. of New York Press will publish that one in 2011. I have one unfinished erotic novel that I’d like to complete and sell called Hardboiled Zombie Girls from Jupiter Attack! It’s 3/4s done. But who will publish it? The market is not so viable right now, and most of what’s being published in genre shit, like paranormal romance. I’m not into sex with werewolves and vampires and furry creatures, although that stuff has its place and time too. When erotica started to gain some momentum and praise in the early 2000s, a lot of crap started to glut the market, and mainstream paperback houses were issuing romance novels as soft porn, which is what romance novels are anyway. But sex will always be in my novels and stories, no matter what they’re labeled. And my academic research.
If you could write one piece of advice to a new author, what would it be?
Don’t do it. Sex may sell, but it doesn’t really pay. An author of erotic fiction makes what, say, a hooker on a Tijuana street makes: $20-50 a pop, not what Elliott Spitzer paid for high class call girls, $1000-2000 an hour, $5000-10,000 a night. Not even porn actresses make such, unless they have a contract and do strip cub tours. The amazing thing is, erotic publishers pay the same advances today that Greenleaf and Midwood was paying in the 1950s-60s. But back then, $1000-2000 went a longer way than today. That said, born writers will write no matter what advice they’re handed.