My tenth guest, and my first to bring beautiful original artwork with her – I’m delighted to welcome Ruth Ramsden to the blog today!
I first started writing as soon as I could join words together and make something useful out of sentences. My mother was a prolific, though unpublished science fiction writer and it was just natural to follow her example, learning to type on her old Imperial manual typewriter, making grandiose plans for all sorts of exciting books, most of which never made it passed the 30 page mark before I got bored and moved on to something else. It wasn’t until my stoned and trippy teens that I realised my lifelong love of books and reading had gifted me the tools to really express myself and, believing I didn’t have the patience for a novel, I started writing terrible, terrible poetry. I still remember the title of my first effort: “The Anthropomorphosis of Dr. Livingstone”. I think that gives you a fair idea. Thank God I grew out of that.
Apart from a few short stories and some brilliantly excoriating letters to various local authorities, it wasn’t until I reached my thirties that I started writing seriously. This coincided with my interest in the UK fetish scene and also gelled nicely with my other ‘job’ as an illustrator. I’ve been a figure painter all my life and my guilt free epiphany as a pervert proved a motivating force in both writing and drawing. The first piece of erotica I wrote was for a Submissive of mine. It was a serialized tale of girl on girl domination that I knew she would enjoy, something to keep her thinking of me between our play sessions together. I enjoyed writing it so much that I began writing short stories and articles for magazines – Penthouse Forum; Palmprint; Xcite and I’m still popping up in various compilations of smut, which is very gratifying.
My first novel – Blue Murder At The Pink Parrot took about 6 years to write and wasn’t really conceived as a piece of erotica, although a lot of the characters and situations were based on my more bizarre experiences in the fetish scene. Which is why the book is humorous. It’s a kind of noir-ish murder mystery with a dominatrix, a lot of drugs and a fair amount of kink. It’s basically a thriller because crime has always been my favourite genre. The main character is just a souped up version of me because at the time I wasn’t clever enough to invent a whole new character to explore in the first person. I was also worried that using the fetish scene as the backbone for a ‘mainstream’ novel might prove a little too alternative. Shows what I know. Of course I had no idea that EL James was gestating her piece of fan fiction and that BDSM would suddenly become ‘fashionable’. I suspect it wont remain so for long. BDSM – actual BDSM, 50 shades away from Christian Grey – is still a little too niche for the general market.
I write in the first person because I’m basically a fantasist. When I’m writing erotica I have to get turned on. In some respects, writing for me is just a more elaborate way of day dreaming and I’ve cultivated many very dirty set pieces in the dead of the night. But like any fulfilling sexual experience, the foreplay is the thing that counts and I’ve always found reading about sexual encounters in the context of some other action much more exciting. Porn for its own sake can be rather cheesy – “Madam, I have CUM to fix your boiler, let me just get my TOOL…” The build up is the thing that you remember; an orgasm is an orgasm is an orgasm (especially in porn where it’s always the most amazing, explosive, incredible blah…blah). It’s the journey not the destination that leaves you wanting more. I suppose erotic context may have something to do with my interest in SM. It’s a very open, experimental sort of ethos, as long as all the interactions are consensual and it’s all about the turn on rather than the actual fuck. In fact the longer you can put it off, ramping up the tension, the better. Of course it just the same with writing about it. The more you can linger and finger the hornier it gets.
There is definitely an art to writing a good sex scene. It has its own rhythm and pace and you have to pitch the language just right. Many literary writers are catastrophically bad at this and the annual Bad Sex Award is a self renewing delight. They have my sympathy to a certain extent. It can be difficult finding words to describe the whole milieu don’t sound silly, OTT, repetitive or boring. The sensuality of sex as well as the physicality of it make a perfect written combination of action, reaction and contemplation. From a purely technical point of view, it’s quite a complex dance. But erotica isn’t technical. It’s something you feel when you write and there’s nothing I look forward to more than getting to the good bits. Never mind the plot – just get to the good stuff!
I suppose there might still be a notion that the Brits are more uptight about sex than the rest of the world. That’s not true. We just like complaining about things more. Politics, food, the weather, shopping, anything. But when it comes to sex, we are just as filthy as everyone else. After all (my chest swells with pride), we are the nation that gave the world ‘Dogging’, though I’ve yet to see a best seller about voyeuristic nocturnal encounters at a trucker’s rest stop. But apart from peculiarities like this, I don’t think there’s much difference in writing erotic fiction country to country when it comes right down to bump and grind. The language might occasionally differ but if you’ve written for magazines, you can bet your ‘ass’ that American English will be pretty standard anyway. The world I write about is definitely non standard, though. Especially when you bear in mind that my first novel was inspired by an encounter with a man who offered me £20,000 if he could come and live under my stairs as a pet. The first (and probably only occasion) when I could truthfully say twenty grand wouldn’t cover it.
The more I write, the more I realise I genuinely enjoy writing about sex, its consequences, its motivation, the twists and turns of people’s relationships. Although I’m still writing mysteries, I so look forward to the naughty bits that those books are getting ruder and ruder and now I’ve branched out into full on erotica as well. There are so many different sub-genres of erotic fiction that the main impulse, for me anyway, is to get away from the norm. It quite difficult when your dealing with a subject that’s based, bare bones, on a formula but all popular fiction is formulaic to some extent. The artistry lies in dodging the obvious bullet. I wont pretend I’ve mastered it but I’m trying. Like any sensualist, all I really want to do is turn you on…
Fantastic, funny and insightful stuff – am I the only one who has a secret desire to read The Anthropomorphism of Dr Livingstone? I’m sure I’m not. Thank you, Ruth!