Interview: Tabitha Rayne – 'erotica helps us to get beneath the skin of a character and fall in love with them more deeply'
Award-winning author on how erotic fiction is going mainstream (and it's not all 50 Shades of Grey)
Last month, Edinburgh writer Tabitha Rayne was named the UK’s Best Erotic Author at the ETO Awards (BTW, ETO is Erotic Trade Only, FYI). She is best known for her Clockwork Butterfly trilogy, while her most recent work, Figs, is a short erotic tale from Pride publishing by Totally Bound. We caught up with her to talk about all things erotica, from 50 Shades of Grey, to more unique, contemporary works.
How did you first become interested in erotic writing?
I have been drawn to the erotic side of things from a very young age – from Judy Blume books, to found stashes of gentlemen’s magazines, I’ve been hooked. I used to try and get hold of as much romance as I could though never all out erotica. My mum had some Nancy Friday books and those were more sexual biography and article based. I would always include sex scenes in my writing, or at the very least a sensual connection between characters. I didn’t really know erotic fiction was an actual genre for many years until I read some Anais Nin and Story of O.
Does it require a different kind of discipline from general fiction writing?
I think it follows the same rules for any genre – my number one rule: if you want your reader to feel something, you must feel it too. If you write in the erotic, then that feeling is very much a perk of the job. To turn your readers on, you must first turn yourself on. It’s a wonderful job. I feel that the erotic is like discovering a whole new palette of colours with which to tell a story. For me, the connections and emotions you can reach through sexual energy between characters is amazing. It is a genre that you can explore all other genres – eg, erotic science fiction, erotic historical, erotic adventure, literary erotica, everything can be given a real richness and sensuality if you let yourself delve into and explore the erotic side of things. It can add real complexity to the most mundane of situations.
What is your opinion of erotic writers using pen names?
I think many authors use pen names to afford them more freedom. You can let your imagination go without thinking, ‘oh what if Betty reads this and thinks I like threesomes and a spanking outside the back of the library?’ Of course, nobody thinks that crime writers go out and commit murders, but for some reason, we erotica writers are often believed to carry out all that we write. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t, but that is our private life. When I had my first novel published, it was under my own name – I simply couldn’t handle the attention it brought, so when I took a pen name, I thought it was just to protect my identity. Then I discovered that in fact, it gave me more freedom to write uncensored and without fear of what people might think of me, it was a revelation and freedom indeed.
What do you think of mainstream erotic writing, such as 50 Shades of Grey?
I think it’s wonderful that people will pick up an erotic novel now and not feel intimidated or that reading it is somehow shameful or naughty. Like I said before, erotica helps us to get beneath the skin of a character and fall in love with them more deeply, I think.
What does winning the award mean to you?
My writing is often quirky, sometimes falls into the surreal and tackles issues such as sex and mental health. It can also be sensitive at times and completely filthy at others. To win the award and have so many people including my peers vote for me, lets me know that people do ‘get’ my work. That they connect with it is the most incredible feeling ever. I delve pretty deep to pull out some of these stories and sometimes hesitate to send them off. Knowing that people read and enjoy them makes all the stress, self-doubt and worry worth it!
Who are your writing heroes?
Toni Morrison, first and forever. She writes with such beauty, such sensuality and you never feel truly safe, her work is both comforting and unsettling. She’s my hero. I also love Margaret Atwood. My erotica heroes are many – the first I truly fell in love with was Justine Elyot – she writes the most delicious filth.
Check out Tabitha Rayne's work at her Amazon author page.