As a student, I hated reading. Everything we were mandated to read in school was presented in a cold and clinical fashion and there was only one correct way of interpreting the reading. Our grades were based upon that one line of thought. Imagination and creative thinking were only allowed if the teacher deemed it so.
At home, there was an assortment of reading material but there was not much privacy in a house filled with eight people. I would read non-academic material in private and it became an enjoyable pastime.
In college, my reading material included sex scenes from novels and erotica anthologies. They intrigued me and stimulated my senses in different ways. It was the varied interpretations, however, which sparked my curiosity. College students had no shortage of adult magazines that included confessions of brash conquests. Contrasting these were educational readings such as The Joy of Sex, which made me question the validity of those confessions; whilst sirens such as Anaïs Nin used beautifully written imagery to inspire me.
I used to fear what others may think of me, especially if I wrote erotic stories. That fear waned over time and I was in my 30s when I started writing erotica in story form. Now I have two self-published books under the pseudonym Amelie Frey and five lessons learnt.
Write outside your comfort zone
Though I grew up surrounded by adults, it was still considered lewd to say certain things. I grew up in the time of passing notes in class, writing letters, and having one house phone. I was deathly afraid to write down anything that could be found and misconstrued as deviant.
Technology changed everything. I had been aware that other lifestyles existed but I had lived in a small cultural bubble. The internet and mobile phones allowed me to interact, ask questions, and role play without fear of judgement and reprimand.
I found other authors online and reached out to them. For years, I conversed with a BDSM writer, asking questions about her life and her writing. I learned about the BDSM community and why some hated the Fifty Shades of Grey series. Through my conversations with her, I understood the differences among fantasy, reality, livelihood, and lifestyle. She was one of many who challenged me to first question my indoctrinated notions of sex, sexuality and erotica, and then embrace the curiosity I have always had.
I started to explore my own thoughts and feelings and read erotica with both a critical eye and an open mind. I have learned to embrace my curiosity rather than feel ashamed of it. I have practiced and failed many times, often feeling embarrassed. Fortunately, there have been plenty of people who enjoy explaining their own perspectives – as well as correcting me.
Commit to and own your work
The childhood fear of being considered a “deviant” stayed with me well into adulthood. When I started practicing writing erotica, I had also started taking on leadership roles. At the time, I had expected my life to continue as an advocate, possibly leading to an elected office. The thought of jeopardizing that path by writing “sex stories” scared me.
A pseudonym seemed an obvious choice when I started this journey and I chose “Amelie Frey.” However, pseudonyms can lead readers away from your other writing, as well as confuse them. For instance, I quickly learned how genders are treated differently online. I had started a Tumblr account under my pseudonym to promote my erotica. I hadn’t anticipated the unsolicited photos of male genitalia and the anger that followed after finding out I’m not female.
I let the stigma of erotica force me to hide my passion, my craft, and myself. I have learned that I didn’t need to create a persona and treat it with such disdain. It’s only been within the last couple of years that I have found people who recognize that I can be many things without judgement. It is through this acceptance that I have learned writing erotica helped me grow as a writer. Now I can say “I am a writer” rather than qualifying it with a specific label.
Be an adult
There is an old saying that one should take their work seriously but not themselves. Treat your work seriously and others will do so as well. During the years that I was self-educating online, I was dismissed by some people because I treated erotica as sex scenes rather than a valid form of writing. It was my young-minded approach which prohibited them from taking me seriously.
When I first started, I was simply writing sex scenes intending them solely to provide gratification. But I matured over time by writing erotica, editing, rewriting, and editing again. I learned to approach the work seriously, which led to others taking me seriously as an author of erotica.
I had an idea for Real Erotica from Real People to gather stories from other people. I found stories online and sent hundreds of emails to authors requesting the use of their story. Most of the authors were couples who wanted to share their adventures with the world, but not their identities. To accomplish this, people would create new email addresses but then they would forget they had them and it wasn’t uncommon to receive an email response months after my request. The majority of responses were pleasantly surprised, a few wanted compensation, and one person declined due to the fact that their partner had passed.
As for a cover photo, I reached out to photographer Jenny Hayles of Gingersnap Photography. It was my first time asking for a nude photo in a such a manner and fortunately enough respect was shown to secure the deal.
During this process, I had to learn how to act professionally within this field and earn the trust of others. The toughest part of this lesson was realizing how childishly I had acted with people previously in my journey.
Creative methods are part of a longer process
I thought that as a “creative person” I needed to have a method to my madness. But erotic writing taught me that I need different methods for each form of writing, all of which may change over time.
The method to one’s craft, however, is merely part of the process. I do not have an agent, nor have I worked with a publisher. Though self-publishing may seem to be an isolated process, a writer truly needs an editor. I certainly needed one and it shows. Not only do editors find errors in a draft, they help construct a logical narrative. I’m very proud of several stories I wrote but they would lose significance when sequenced in a disorganized manner.
The need for – yet the lack of – collaboration taught me persistence and patience. The only deadlines I followed were self-imposed but I regret rushing to meet those deadlines. I should have taken more time to edit. I should have given more effort to finding a collaborative partner. For my first book, I mistakenly treated my creative method for writing erotica as the process – a lesson I learned compiling stories to my second book.
Be true to yourself
Responses to someone writing erotica vary widely and can be surprising. I had a friend tell me she wouldn’t read my erotica because then she wouldn’t ever be able to look me in the eyes again. However, my sister purchased a copy of one of my books alongside other friends who supported me doing what I love.
It is empowering to follow your passions and do what you love. Failing is a needed step in the learning process, so you might as well fail while pursuing your dreams. It may hurt having loved ones doubt you, but the world is filled with people who support you. And in the end, you live with yourself and your own choices.
Writing erotica taught me that I love being a storyteller. It taught me that I can still be an advocate within the stories I write. Not only has my time as an author of erotica made me a better writer, it has helped me become a better person.
Words by Jeff Ehren
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