Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Writing Exercise - the Rictameter

 by Ashley Lister


 One of the pleasures of the rictameter is that there is no need for rhyme: it relies on a strict adherence to syllable count. (Well, as strict as syllable counts can be given our different regional pronunciations).

I know we looked at this form back in August last year, but it's never too soon to revisit a quality form of poetry.

The Rictameter starts off with a two syllable line, moves up to a four syllable, and then a six and an eight and a ten syllable line, before going on to an eight syllable line, followed by a six, a four and a two syllable closure. The final line is a repeat of the first line, so it helps if it’s something punchy and memorable.

oral
mouth, lips and tongue
ready to devour
yet bestowing so much pleasure
sucking, slurping, spitting or swallowing 
an overwhelm of sensation
that ends in liquid rush
and wanting more
oral


As always, I look forward to seeing your poetry in the comments box below.

Ash


Saturday, January 30, 2016

New Years Resolutions Through the Back Door


I’m still seeing a fair few of the NYR runners intrepidly pounding the pavement, and the gym is still surprisingly full of NYR th, the universal urge to be ‘better’ in the New Year is already losing its sparkle. All those best made plans always sound better that week before New Year when we’re all still feasting, still drinking, still overindulging, still watching crap TV. The question is, how do we fool ourselves into making a new years resolution a habit, how do we make it a positive change for life?
“get-fitters.” I give the die-hards until the first of March. I’m talking New Years resolutioners, of course. Me? Nope! No New Years Resolutions here. It’s way too early. I can’t stand the drama! I can’t take the pressure! Ask me in a month, and I’ll tell you how it’s going, once 2016 is well and truly under way and I’ve got a feel for it. Every January first people stop drinking, stop smoking, begin learning Spanish or French; people promise to take better care of themselves, to eat better, to keep their houses cleaner; people vow to be better organized, spend more time with good friends, waste less time in front of the telly, and the list goes on. But by January 7

It happens every year; that urge to reflect on what’s been and plan ways to make the New Year better. Hope and excitement at new beginnings is so much a part of our human nature that the end of a year and the beginning of another can’t help but be the time when we anticipate, plan change, and dare to dream of what wonderful things we can bring about in the next year. In fact there’s a heady sense of power in the New Year. I think it’s the time when we’re most confident that we can make changes, that we really do have power over our own lives. It’s the time when we’re most proactive toward those changes, those visions of the people we want to be. It’s the time when everything is possible … in theory. 

Before I began to sell my writing, back when I dreamed of that first publication, back when there seemed to be a lot more time for navel gazing, I was a consummate journaler. I filled pages and pages, notebooks and notebooks with my reflections and ruminations. Nothing took more time and energy, however, than the END of the YEAR ENTRY, in which I reflected on and scored myself on last year’s resolutions before busily planning the ones for the next. This was a process that often began in early December with me reading back through journals, taking notes, tracing down some of what I’d read during that year and reflecting on it. Yeah, I know. I needed to get a life! 

By the time New Years Day rolled around, I had an extensive list of resolutions, each with a detailed outline of action as to how I was going to achieve it. Some of those resolutions fell by the wayside almost before the year began -- those things that, if I’m honest with myself, I knew I was never gonna do, no matter how much I wish I would. Others I achieved in varying degrees-ish. But sadly, for the most part, a month or maybe two into the year, that hard core maniacal urge to be a better me no matter what always cooled to tepid indifference as every-day life took the shine off the New Year and I was reminded again that change is hard. 

It was only when there stopped being time for such ginormous navel-gazes and micro-planning that I discovered I actually had achieved a lot of those goals that were my resolutions simply by just getting on with it. As I thought about how different my approach to all things new in the New Year had become the busier I became, I realised that I had, through no planning on my part, perfected the sneak-in-through-the-back-door method of dealing with the New Year. The big, bright New Year changes I used to spend days plotting and planning no longer got written down, no longer got planned out. Instead, they sort of implemented themselves in a totally unorganised way somewhere between the middle of January and the end of February – sometimes even later. They were easy on me, sort of whispering and waving unobtrusively from the corners of my life. They came upon me, not in sneak attacks so much as in passing brushes and furtive glances. 

I’m my own harsh taskmaster. I’m driven, I’m tunnel-visioned, I’m a pit bull when I grab on to what I want to achieve with my writing. No one is harder on me than I am – no one is even close. And yet from somewhere inside me there’s a gentler voice that sneaks in through the back door of the New Year and through the back door of my life reminding me to be kinder to myself, to be easier on myself, to find ways to rest and recreate and feed my creativity. I’ll never stop being driven. The time I’ve been given, the time we’ve all been given, is finite. And that gentler part of ourselves must somehow be a constant reminder of comfort and peace, of self-betterment that comes, not from brow-beating and berating ourselves, not from forced regimentation, but from easing into it, trying it out, making ourselves comfortable with it. We, all of us, live in a time when life is snatched away from us one sound-bite, one reality TV show, one advert at a time. Often
our precious time is bargained away from us by harsher forces, by ideals and scripts that aren’t our own, and the less time we have to dwell on the still small voice, the deeper the loss.

So my resolution, my only resolution every year is to listen more carefully to that gentler, quieter part of me, to forgive myself for not being able to be the super-human I think I should be, to settle into the arms of and be comfortable with the quieter me, the wiser me who knows how far I’ve really come, who knows that the shaping of a human being goes so much deeper than what’s achieved in the outer world, and every heart that beats needs to find its own refuge in the value of just being who we are, of living in the present and coming quietly and gently and hopefully into the New Year, even if it take us a little more time to get there.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Next On The Women Show (Radio) - Internet Crazies

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.


They are coming out of the woodwork. Plenty of people, especially women, have had to deal with Internet crazies. These crazies often show up in your Facebook private messages. Sometimes they aren't even your friends. I've had a slew of them recently, mostly men. Claiming to have military service is popular. Just today, I saw another one who claimed to be military stationed in Iraq. He had only one friend in common with me and I have no idea who that woman is. There was no other information about him available on Facebook. He doesn't update his timeline with anything about himself. Nope, all these guys do the same thing. He posted a picture of himself in civies and another picture of himself in his uniform. That's it.

Why do so many of these guys think that making a fake military listing will attract women? I've heard from numerous high-ranking (yeah, like I'm going to believe that) military personnel, especially doctors, who say they are stationed in the Middle East. They're rank, all right. Then there are the non-American men who immediately ask me if I'm married with children. Unfriend. Block. Or the men who tell me my profile picture is beautiful and they want to be my friend. When I told one I was married and not interested in hooking up with anyone, he said he'd love to pretend I was his sister. Yeah, sure. Unfriend. Block. Or the men who claim to have incurable illnesses (brain cancer is popular) and want to leave their money to me if only I leave them my bank information. Unfriend. Block. I toyed with one of these guys a few years ago only because he wrote in French and I wanted to brush up on my French. He asked me where I lived, if I was married, if I had children, and then launched into his sad story of having brain cancer and he needed me to donate money to him for experimental surgery that just happened to cost thousands of dollars. I noticed all his friends were female, mostly romance writers I knew. I warned a few about him, and they unfriended and blocked him. He did not update his timeline at all. The only updates were from unsuspecting women thanking him for his friend invite. I imagine he contacted them with the same tall tales hoping to get some cold hard cash out of them. I told him I couldn't give him any money, but I was suffering from an illness myself – terminal acne – and I desperately needed him to send me money for experimental surgery. I can't take credit for that one. I first saw that one on the comic strip Bloom County. Bill the Cat died from terminal acne. So I stole from the best. He ignored me and kept trying to get money out of me. He didn't react to anything I wrote no matter how outrageous it was. All he wanted was to part me from my money. I finally got bored and I stopped writing to him. He never wrote back and I see now his account is gone.

Women pull these stunts, too. I heard from one from Japan whom I friended and I should have known better. She immediately signed me up for two groups on Facebook with explicit porn. Unfriend. Block. Or the other woman on Facebook who talked to me for a few days before sending me a private message to say she was in dire need of several thousand dollars and could I lend it to her? Nope. Those "I'm stranded in Europe and I need money" scams from people faking your friend's accounts are common. So are money scams on the web. Unfriend. Block. These Facebook porn groups piss me off. Facebook won't take them down, but you post a book cover with so much as a hint of a nipple and not only is your cover taken down but you're put in Facebook jail for a week or more.

About ten years ago, I stumbled upon The Spam Letters, a website by Jonathan Land, a wiseguy who answered spam he received in the most outrageous and ridiculous manner. Some of the spammers actually wrote back and still tried to sell him stuff he didn't need or tried to part him from his money. He included lots of his responses to classic Nigerian e-mail scam letters. He has since taken down all of the several hundred spam letters except for about two dozen since he has compiled them all in a book, and the book is available for sale on Amazon. I did manage to find my favorite Spam Letter. He responded to an unsolicited email trying to sell him erectile dysfunction herbal supplements. Here's his hilarious reply.

Boy, do I have a bone to pick with you.

You should really pay more attention to who you send your advertising to.

I am a 17-year-old college student, who, as any average 17-year-old male could tell you, is sexually excited more often then not. If a butterfly flaps its wings in China, I guarantee you there isn't an atomic clock that can accurately measure the speed with which I will pitch a tent.

I know you were hoping to get some 45-year-old dentist who has spent the past 20 years of his life with a woman who makes any given NPR personality look like a sex kitten, and yes, that includes the guys from "Car Talk".

My point is this: because of your primitive "marketing strategy, you have screwed me over BIG TIME!

I've been seeing this girl for about three months now, and I've finally figured out the right combination of sensitivity and alcohol to coerce her into relieving me of that mighty, mighty albatross: virginity. So, we're back at my room in the frat house. We start making out a little and I need to go to the bathroom because I'm wicked blitzed, and I haven't taken a leak all night. So she asks, "while you're gone, do you mind if I download some mood music off of Napster"? Since I only have Limp Bizkit CDs, I have no "sensitive, love-making music," so I say, "Sure, get some Smashing Pumpkins or shit like that Baby." Am I good or what?

So I'm in the bathroom thinking: Okay, if I take her clothes off at the rate of one article every 10 minutes (an efficient, yet sensitive pace – I'm a math major), I will be losing my virginity within the hour, but then I realize: Hey, we're in Buffalo, NY. In winter. Who knows how many layers of clothing she's wearing! I might stay a virgin for two more hours! I can't take it! (That's when I remembered that I had thermal underwear on, and that just ain't manly by any yardstick, so I got rid of them.)

I come out of the bathroom, and she's just sitting there wit this completely different expression on her face. She says: "Sweetie, I saw that e-mail about the natural Viagra stuff that your friend sent you. It's okay, we don't need to rush this." I was completely torn. I can't say something like, "Yo, that ain't true, I'll make sweet, sweet love to you senseless right here, right now, over and over and over" without giving up the sensitive front. So I say, "Baby, I'm sorry you had to find out about my erectile dysfunction this way, but I'd like to try this. I'd like to try and make you happy." She was on board. Kid Genius had saved the day!

So we were fooling around for a few hours, and all I'm thinking from the get-go is: "Okay, why am I not hard yet?" This girl is a cheerleader for Christ's sake, and my penis is acting like I'm in bed with Nathan Lane. After a while she gets real frustrated, calls me a fag, goes home, and the next day she's doing one of my fraternity brothers. My one prospect of virginity-loss has slipped through my hands like a grain of sand in an hourglass, a moment of time that cannot be regained, just like that grain of sand that will never pass through the glass chamber in the same way, no matter how many times you flip the thing over. And believe me. I tried flipping her over, and that didn't work either. (I've got a minor in philosophy – can you tell??)

Did you know that some ancient tribes from South America, such as the Yanomamo, punish murderers not only for the people they've killed, but for the deaths of the potential descendants of those people as well? Well I should fucking sue you to the tune of all the girls I could have done by now if I lost my virginity as scheduled. All because of you, I'm still a virgin. Maybe since last week I could have banged 30 chicks a night, but I'll never know now. I'm just sitting around waiting for the mayor of Poonville to award me the medal of pity and give me the key to the city.

Thanks loads, dude,

Jon

If you'd like to buy the book to read more of these delightful letters, just to go Amazon and look for The Spam Letters in either Print or Kindle.  What's really amusing is that Land convinced a spammer to write his forward. Go check out the book.


Now back to more Internet crazies. Before I was a fiction writer and sex/relationships writer, I wrote political and feminist articles for several magazines and web sites. I was quite well known, and with the fame came the misogynistic baggage all feminists have to deal with. These were my first Internet crazies. I regularly heard from men's rights activists who liked to tell me I was wrong about everything while calling me a cunt and worse. In case you don't know what they are, men's rights activists are men – mostly middle aged white men but some are younger and of color – who feel that their sense of entitlement is being threatened by gains made by women, people of color, and GLBT folk. There are also women in the men's rights movement. They are the men's auxiliary, and they support the guys in every way, even down to doing their grunt work for them. These women were most often wives, girlfriends, sisters, and mothers of the men in the movement, and they had a vested interest in seeing the status quo maintained. I estimated that women comprised about 40% of the movement. Some of these guys want to repeal women's right to vote. They claim the vast majority of rape allegations are false. These guys will whine to anyone who will listen to them, and that often consists of an echo chamber of their own kind. Now, they meet on the Internet. Before the Internet, they met in member's homes, church halls, or other public places. They're very politically active and they try to roll back gains made by women, people of color, and GLBT folk over the past 30 odd years. And I heard from plenty of them, the emails ranging from mild insults to death threats.

Due to the influx of nutcases harassing me on Facebook over the past week, I've decided to host a radio show on The Women Show about Internet crazies. Do you have your own tales of strange men harassing you on Facebook? Do you get email from Nigerian princes who want to send you millions of dollars (people still fall for that one?)? Do writers friend you only to immediately spam your timeline and private messages with junk about their books without so much as saying hello? If you've experienced any of this or know someone who has, this is the show for you. Here are details:

The Women Show – Internet Crazies
Date: Thursday February 18, 2016  6:30 – 7 PM EST
Host – Elizabeth Black

Guests – Phoenix Johnson, Christine Morgan, and Jen Winters.

Keep an eye on my Facebook page for more details, including a link to the show with more information.

Elizabeth Black - Facebook



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Nooks and Crannies

by Jean Roberta

On Saturday, January 23, I attended an annual event in the university where I teach: the Creative Writing Open House. In theory, everyone on earth is welcome to show up, free of charge (and sample the free tea, coffee and muffins), to hear half-hour talks on aspects of writing by faculty members who teach this subject at various levels. Questions are not only allowed, they are encouraged. In reality, this event is attended by a sprinkling of undergraduates who are thinking of taking a class in creative writing and want to know what they could expect. So far, no one has discussed grading standards, but I suspect this would be of great interest to most of the audience.

I gave my usual talk about “niche publishing.” As usual, I found this topic so inspiring that, at some point, I ignored my notes and spun off into the various niches that an aspiring writer can find, and I raised the question of whether literary erotica has been completely swallowed by erotic romance because of a constantly-changing, profit-driven publishing biz that tries to ride the crest of every wave, even though trends are hard to predict and dangerous to follow because they start to recede even while they’re peaking.

I had just been introduced by the current head of the Creative Writing Committee as probably the most-published person in the room. OMG! I’m far from being an expert on what works, and in fact, several of my colleagues have won more awards than I have (or probably ever will) for writing relatively “mainstream” fiction and poetry. (Dramatists seem scarce in these parts, although one of them was formerly head of the English Department here.)

One of the niches I discussed was non-fiction, loosely speaking: blog posts and reviews. It’s something we’re all encouraged to write for the purpose of promoting our “real” writing (erotica, romance, spec-fic, whatever), but when/if we write more words of on-line non-fiction than anything else, we’re either letting the cart pull the horse, or we’ve discovered a delightful new niche in which to express ourselves. (I prefer the latter theory.)

Re literary erotica, I said I would not rehash a tired debate about how this differs from “porn,” but I would attempt a definition: literary erotica is simply literature (fiction, poetry, even drama) that includes explicit sex scenes. One of my male colleagues seemed so impressed by this concept that he said he didn’t see why any reader would object to this type of writing, or why any writer would avoid writing it. I explained the project of British publisher Totally Bound to publish new versions of classic novels (Pride and Prejudice, The Picture of Dorian Grey, Wuthering Heights) with sex explicitly included. I also mentioned James Lear’s novels, which come close to being parodies of well-known novels of the past (Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped) as m/m erotic mysteries. My colleague seemed so delighted to hear that sex can appear on the page outside the context of “porn,” strictly speaking (films and magazines marketed as masturbation fantasies) that I could imagine him hard at work on an erotic poem or story.

This colleague is primarily a poet. For the sake of politeness, I avoided suggesting that Canadian poetry is a niche in itself, far from the kind of writing that appears on bestseller lists. (The poet showed the audience his latest royalty cheque, for $4 Canadian.)

The focus of the whole event definitely seemed to be on writing as self-expression and as communication with other writers rather than as a way of making money. Nonetheless, I pointed out that both literary erotica and writers who write about gay men or lesbians (Sarah Waters, Jeannette Winterson) seem to get more mainstream acceptance in Britain than in North America. The reasons for this are subject to speculation. Could the Puritan roots of North American culture still be keeping sex in general, and especially non-heterosexual, non-monogamous sex, in the margins?

A traditional relationship between the literary margins and the mainstream seems to me to be represented by the odd but moving friendship of John Preston and Anne Rice in San Francisco in the 1970s, before she became famous for bringing new life to vampire fiction. Preston was never even close to being mainstream: he proudly identified himself as a writer of gay-male BDSM “porn” before explicit sex, kink of any kind, or male-on-male lust could be mentioned outside of certain ghettoes, and he was a social/political organizer because he needed to help create the kind of community he wanted to live in. Like many pioneers, he died before he could see his efforts bearing much fruit.

Anne Rice has always admitted how much inspiration she got from John Preston’s writing as well as from his more personal conversations with her. However, I’m often reminded that most of the readers who love the gothic lushness of her novels about vaguely homoerotic vampires (who all have a kinky blood fetish by definition) have never heard of John Preston and probably wouldn’t think of him as her Muse even if they knew who he was. The margins nourish the mainstream, but this process usually seems invisible to everyone who hasn’t deliberately researched it.

If I continue to talk about “niche publishing” next year, and the year after that, I suspect my examples of what is “niche” will have to change with the times. I would love to see Canadian poetry outgrow the half-shelf it occupies (at most) in the brick-and-mortar bookstores that still exist. I would also love to see literary erotica marketed simply as “literature.” I'm not holding my breath until a miracle occurs. The one thing I know about “mainstream” culture in general is that the stream is always moving.
------------------



[The cover of an upcoming anthology of steampunk erotica (a niche within a niche?) in which I have a story]


Sunday, January 24, 2016

What Do Readers Want?

by Kathleen Bradean

The first few years I wrote erotica, I didn't think much about the reader, but a conversation with another erotica writer changed that. I casually referred to my writing as Wank Fiction. She giggled and said, "No one would masturbate to your stories. They're interesting, but not porny enough."

I'm still not sure if that was an insult, or if it was a spot on description possibly meant as an insult. Or maybe she thought it was praise. I don't think she meant it maliciously.

Since then, I've wondered what readers want from erotica. It seems obvious, but I'm not sure that it is. So much visual porn is available now that reading a whole story seems like the long way around to self-pleasure, although I've always suspected that women (especially those with kids) have long used romance novels, and now erotic romance, as a way to carve out some much needed personal time in a day crammed full of doing for others. Those long soaks in the bathtub weren't because they needed to scrub away layers of dirt, but rather to get a little dirty.

But I also wonder if here in the US, if people don't use erotica as sexual education. Our society simply can't bring itself to give anyone good information. We don't want to hear it, and we certainly don't want our kids to know. Ignorance, we've decided, is the best defense.

That leaves us in a terrible quandary when we're adults in sexual relationships though. What is normal? What's healthy? What's the difference between enthusiastic consent for a D/s relationship versus lifestyle abuse? When I used to go to writer's conventions, I always got shunned for writing erotica. People would actually get up and go to another table when I told them. But later on, people would corner me and whisper about the most intimate parts of their lives, then look at me with a mixture of hope and worry as they almost always concluded with the question, "Is that okay?"

I never set out to be a sex therapist. I'm no expert in human sexuality. What's more, just because I write about sex does not mean that I consented to hear about their sexual practices. However, if someone can't bear to ask their doctor, or a real expert in human sexuality, or a therapist, if I'm the only person they will ever dare talk to, what does it hurt to comfort them by saying, "So many people ask me that same question, so you're not the only one. As long as everyone involved is an adult, everyone happily consents, and you're all treating each other with respect and practicing good safer sex, then you're probably just a normal person and you're good to go."

Maybe that's what readers want to hear from us. Not as direct of a comment as that, but through our stories.    

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Letting My Characters Lead

By Lisabet Sarai


My ninth novel comes out next week. I am, of course, excited. Publishing a new book is a bit like giving birth, without as much pain. I’m eager to find out what the world thinks about my new baby. My beta readers and my editor have been unabashedly enthusiastic. I can only hope the general reading publicokay, the few hundred of them that I manage to reach via my hit-or-miss marketing!feel the same.

I’m particularly curious to discover whether this book (The Gazillionaire and the Virgin) is more successful than my previous work because this is the first novel I’ve written using the Character-driven Random Walk Method. When I began writing, all I had was a title and the two main characters (reflected in the title), Rachel and Theo. I really had no idea what they’d do, other than having sex and falling in love.

I did know this was going to be an erotic romance. In fact, although the book deliberately shreds romance stereotypes, it preserves the essential core of romance, namely, the characters’ journey toward a loving relationship. So I understood there had to be obstacles or conflicts that would stand in the way of the happy ending. At the start, though, I couldn’t have told you the nature of those obstacles. I didn’t plan. I didn’t outline. That’s not like me at all! I simply sat down at my computer, invoked Rachel and Theo, and let them interact. I can’t say I heard voices in my head, the way some other authors claim, but at each point in the plot, the focus character in some sense decided what would happen next.

I’d expected the book would be 20K at most. As I let Rachel and Theo lead me deeper into their story, I discovered I was wrong. They did not want to be rushed. It took four chapters for them to get to their first erotic encounter. The revelation that they shared kinky interests took another four. By the time I reached the book’s climax, the events that tear them apart, I had more or less figured out how they’d reconcile, but I couldn’t make them follow my script. Theo turned out to be far more stubborn than I would have guessed. Fortunately, Rachel’s imagination came to the rescue. Still, every time I sat down to write what I thought would be the final chapter (as I discussed last month), I’d come to realize there was yet another one needed.

When I finally wrote “The End”, I was seriously relieved. I wasn’t sure Rachel and Theo would ever let me finish their story!

So what were the results of this exercise? (Because I really do want this blog to discuss craft issues.) How does this book compare to those I’ve written using my usual technique, the TV Serial Method?

1. There’s not much plot

Don’t get me wrong. Gazillionaire is not boring (at least I don’t think it is). Things do happen in the external world. However, compared to my other novels, this book is far less “plot heavy”. My eighth novel, for instance, includes mistaken identity, kidnapping by an international crime syndicate, disguises and deception, infiltration into the bad guy’s headquarters, and a rescue involving a bloody shoot-out—as well as the usual intercourse, fellatio, cunnilingus, spanking and so on. My seventh novel includes abduction, secret agents, self-powered bondage devices, mysterious energy sources, exotic Asian ceremonies, a curse and the ritual to reverse it, along with plenty of kinky sex. Even my first novel had a plot trail involving industrial espionage.

In this novel, by contrast, the most significant events are those that change the protagonists’ feelings for one another. Indeed, there are very few secondary characters, compared to my other books. There’s enough movement to keep things interesting (I hope), but far less world building than I usually do.

2. Dialogue propels the book forward

The story is narrated in the first person present, alternating between the two main characters. Thus, we do get some insight into each of the characters’ thoughts. However, a significant part of the “action” is actually dialogue. Conversations between the two protagonists not only reveal their natures, but also cause real world changes.

I recently re-edited my first novel, written sixteen years ago, for a re-release. I improved the dialogue, but I couldn’t help noticing how stilted and wooden it remained, at least in comparison to the interactions I write now. I said earlier I didn’t hear voices when writing this book, but when it comes to conversations, that’s not strictly true. As these characters talked to one another, I wrote down what they said. The results feel much more real than any dialogue I’ve written previously.

3. The characters change

In any novel-length work, the characters have to develop and grow. If they have the same attitudes, beliefs and behaviors at the end of the book as they do at the start, the book will be neither engaging nor plausible.

However, Theo and Rachel change far more than any characters I’ve written previously, as a direct result of their interactions. Naive and socially awkward at the start, Theo matures into a genuine hero. Stubborn, bossy Rachel softens and becomes more flexible as she lets down her guard and opens herself to love. Their relationship involves more than just incredible sexual chemistry and complementary kinks. Each gradually brings out the best in the other.

Would I use this method again?

I didn’t consciously choose to use the Character-driven Random Walk method for this book. It just sort of happened. I do think that the method requires a very clear initial notion of just who your characters are. When I start a book, that’s not always the case. Many of the novel-writing methods I’ve outlined involve character discovery in the process of writing (but not, I think, the Dissertation Method or the Snowflake Method). My understanding of Rachel and Theo deepened while I was writing, but I had a strong sense of their essential characteristics before I began.

I found it was more difficult to make progress using this method. As I’ve mentioned, my plans didn’t always match those dictated by the characters. I’d often come away from a writing session frustrated that I hadn’t moved further along in my quest toward an ending.

At the same time, I’m very pleased with the result. Despite the lack of an outline, the book feels very “tight” to me. I managed to link a lot of the early details into the ending in a rather elegant fashion, I think. (These were suggestions from the characters.) And I feel that I accomplished my objective, writing a book that was both classic romance and anti-romance (in the sense that it breaks a lot of rules).

I do believe that we authors can grow through experimenting with new techniques, as well as new genres. The last thing I want is for all my books to feel and sound the same. People who’ve read my other novels will find The Gazillionaire and the Virgin a significant change. I hope they view that as positive.