LB: Your name is synonymous with sophisticated, sexy fiction, so it's thrilling to welcome you to Lust Bites, Sage Vivant. We met when you were reading submissions for the anthologies you and M. Christian edited for Thunder's Mouth Press in 2006, but you've been active in erotica for some time. I put it like that because, along with your fiction and your editing, you run Custom Erotica Source, an online writing service. At CES, people order tailor-made erotic tales.
Before we get to that, there's a question I’m dying to ask. When my work was accepted, you communicated with me. When it was rejected, it was by M. Christian. Is he the heavy in the partnership?
SV: Now that’s the most original question I’ve ever been asked in an interview! Chris (M. Christian) isn’t a fan of administrative work or correspondence, so that’s mostly why I dealt with both for those anthologies. Plus, his name is so much better known than mine, I felt it was only right that I do the dirty work to carry my weight! But it’s hysterically funny that anyone would think he would be the heavy. He’s a pussycat.
LB: Isn’t he best known for m/m work? We Lusties are wondering: How did you and he… become partners?
SV: In 2001, a mutual friend – Jamie Joy Gatto – came to San Francisco and tried to cram in as many visits with her cyber-pals as she could. She wanted to see me and M. Christian but didn’t have time for two dinners (Chris and I didn’t know each other), so she invited us to join her for one dinner. But here’s the funny part: I had seen and heard M. Christian’s name but I hadn’t ever read anything by him, so I did some Internet sleuthing and discovered that he wrote a lot of m/m material. “He must be gay,” I assumed, opting not to waste my time on much makeup or particularly sexy clothes for the dinner! Well, lo and behold, he is as straight as they come and we hit it off like gangbusters. We were an item almost instantly and have been together as a romantic couple and a professional team ever since.
LB: Many of us at Lust Bites started writing erotica for our friends and lovers, but who'd have imagined it could become a successful enterprise. How did CES start?
SV: Well, I must clarify that Custom Erotica Source is completely and totally my baby – M. Christian has almost nothing to do with it other than to talk me down from the occasional ledge.
I started the business in 1998 when I wanted to leave my banking career and start writing. I had a fairly high-paying job, so I didn’t relish the prospect of being a penniless scribe. Becoming a novelist, then, was out. I’d always wanted to run a business that provided a real service to people and I had strong feelings about sex-positive approaches to life. Plus, I’d found that when I read erotica I was disappointed. I wanted to provide stories that would be exactly what a given individual wanted to read.
It wasn’t that I thought the erotica on the shelves was bad, it’s just that what turns some people on isn’t what turns other people on.
LB: Do you write a lot of the CES stories yourself? What's the secret to styling the story for readers who also star in the piece?
SV: Up until about six months ago, I wrote 90 percent of the stories myself. I felt (and still feel) that writing to spec expands my repertoire like nothing else. Now, however, I don’t have time to write all the stories (and I was starting to get burned out), so I’m giving more and more of the work to staff writers.
People get an enormous kick out of reading stories that are written about them and/or for them, so my job is made somewhat easier. However, clients can also be tremendously exacting where their sexual fantasies are concerned, so I (and my writers) have to pay incredible attention to every detail the client provides. I often liken the task to being a wedding planner or a psychiatrist – you have to read people very well and you have to put aside your own preferences for those of the client. That’s not easy. It comes down to respecting the clients. If we can manage that, we pretty much always end up pleasing them.
I concentrate on what the requester feels are the positive aspects. A common one, for instance, is larger women. I refer to them as voluptuous and luscious rather than big or oversized – that kind of thing. However, if the client calls such women big or oversized, that’s how I’d characterize them in the story. It’s a matter of how the client sees the characters. How I write them is completely dependent on that.
LB: One of your celebrity writers, Lust Bites' very own Alison Tyler, said her CES experience was a very pleasant one. She's curious to know if CES has taboos? And what fantasies do people request most?
SV: Alison is so kind – and a pleasure to work with. She and staff writer Bryn Colvin turn stories around faster than any other human beings I know. Same day service! I like having a little roster of “known” names because I think it lends credibility to CES.
CES absolutely has taboos. They’re outlined in the site’s FAQs: Bestiality, incest, under-age characters, and nonconsensual sex. I’ve had to decline some requests, but it seems that most folks understand these taboos and tread carefully around them. I am surprised by how many potential clients write me before placing an order to make sure what they want is something CES will write.
By far the most frequently requested storyline is threesomes and foursomes. Usually in a tropical setting. Men order this fantasy quite often, and women who order stories for their men usually request this fantasy, knowing it will have great appeal!
LB: Erotica seems to be moving rapidly into the supernatural - vampires, werewolves, fairies, etc.. Are you seeing more requests for those? I wonder if this is reflected in the tastes of your clients.
SV: I get a fair amount of requests for supernatural erotica, but it’s not nearly as popular at CES as it appears to be in bookstores. I’ve had requests for these types of stories since CES began in 1998 and can’t say that the percentage has gone up. About 15 percent of client requests fall into this category.
LB: We're all fascinated with the 'Your Erotic Personality' book. How did you research it? Which personality are you?
SV: Thank you! My research entailed looking at CES requests and finding trends among the erotic psyches of the requestors. I first categorized the stories then, based on the themes that emerged, I came up with the personality. The book quickly became a kind of self-help book that explains why people gravitate toward certain sexual fantasies, but my primary purpose in writing it was to underscore that differences in erotic triggers are normal, good, and above all, common. In the United States, I feel we are adolescent in our sexual views. Right now, we seem to have downright sophomoric definitions of what’s sexy: you’re either kinky or you’re vanilla. The uber-hip enjoy certain sexual practices, we’re told, and if you don’t like them, then you’re sexually stunted. When I see publishers start erotica lines and all they publish are tales of bondage and discipline, I get angry. Scores of people don’t find s/m remotely sexy, but here are publishing imprints so limited in their sexual views that they can’t think of anything else that might turn people on. The word “fetish” is, in fact, now virtually synonymous with bdsm, and I find that exceptionally narrow-minded. I might take a lot of heat for my views, but I’m getting too old to care, really!
I am a Wanderer and a Show-Off. Come to my website, http://www.sagevivant.com to take the erotic personality mini-quiz or watch the movie. That is, if you don’t want to buy the book!
LB: I know you're excited about your latest venture, Sage's Advice. Lust Bites is all about fiction and so are you, so what the heck is Sage's Advice?
SV: Sage’s Advice will be for Web sites what Custom Erotica Source is for individuals. I’ve had several sites comes to me for content – blog posts, stories, even sexy marketing copy. The time has come to start a separate business targeted to Web sites. M. Christian and I will operate Sage’s Advice together. We plan to launch it sometime in June. We’ve got some writers but are happy to consider more – especially experienced, published writers.
LB: Thanks for zooming into Lust Bites today, Sage. And best of luck to you, and M. Christian, with all your sexy endeavors!
SV: Thanks so much! I’m looking forward to answering questions today. I know they’ll be especially interesting from this group of savvy writers!
LB: We’re giving away one copy of Your Erotic Personality by Sage Vivant. To enter, all you have to do is post a comment. Let the fun begin!