Wednesday, August 15, 2007

An Interview with Jolie du Pré

by Dayle A. Dermatis
Jolie du Pré is a multipublished author of literary erotica, as well as the editor of the recent Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica and founder of GLBT Promo, a promotional group for GLBT erotica and erotic romance. We’re thrilled to have her with us today!

How did you get started writing erotica?

My husband was the culprit. First I wrote young adult fiction, well enough to win a contest sponsored by a Canadian newspaper. But I didn't enjoy reading young adult novels. My husband could sense that YA fiction, coupled with my interest in writing, were not a good match. He was the one who suggested erotica, and I have never looked back.

As a bisexual woman, what was factored into your decision to focus on f/f erotica? Would you consider writing f/m erotica, and if not, is that a decision based on personal preference, branding, political issues…?

Good questions! I started writing erotica about six years ago. I wrote everything from M/F to M/M to F/F. Yet even though I'm a bisexual woman, F/F captured my heart. Women have always been important to me and I've had a number of female lovers in my open and honest marriage. But making money in F/F can be harder than trying to do it with M/F or M/M. I've decided, after careful consideration, that I need to return to a bit of M/F in order to increase what I earn. For me that means that sometimes my characters will be bisexual rather than lesbian.

Every writer has a unique voice. But is there such a thing as a “bisexual” versus “lesbian” versus “straight person stretching her writing copes” sensibility in lesbian fiction?

This is an interesting question. Last May I sat on an erotica panel at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. I like to look at women, and I made a statement that if you are a straight woman who does not like to look at women, please don't write lesbian erotica. What I mean is, you need to have a genuine interest in women in order to pull it off. If you are a straight woman, or even a bisexual woman, who prefers men, you may not be able to hide your preference when writing lesbian erotica.

We had a discussion previously here on Lust Bites about f/f stories not getting the same attention as m/m stories in the world of erotic romance today. Do you think that’s true? Any comments?

Yes, it's true. The majority of people who read erotic romance are heterosexual women. These women are interested in M/F and M/M, not F/F. That's why, from now on, my erotic romance e-books will include M/F sex along with F/F. Those who write M/F and M/M erotic romance e-books are pulling in the most money. I'm ready for some of that money. However, the stories I write for literary erotic print anthologies will continue to be F/F. I've never had a problem there.

The big news in your life right now is that you your new anthology, Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica, came out recently. Tell us about the experience of being an editor, especially compared to being a prolific writer.

The theme of Iridescence, lesbian stories about women of color (Asian, Latina, Indian, African American and more), was born out of my frustration with the lack of characters of color in erotica. I consider Iridescence to be more than just an erotica collection. It's a unique contribution which made my experience as editor very special. Reading the submissions and choosing the stories was a joy. Plus, I enjoyed having the opportunity to treat authors the way that I like to be treated, because as an author I am disgusted with the behavior of some of the editors and publishers out there. It's not that I enjoy editing more than writing, because they both give me pleasure in different ways.

Trying to write a really good erotic story with fresh descriptions and valid plot is harder than most people think. Got any tips?

Fresh descriptions and a valid plot require an open and interesting mind. One of the best ways to get that is to read a variety of literature. That would be my first tip. My second tip is to respect your style, and what makes it unique, and work at strengthening that style. I can't become a better writer if I'm busy trying to write like someone else.

You’re primarily a writer of short stories, although when I poked around the web about you, I saw that you’re working on novels as well. Do you find one medium easier or harder? Any other notable differences you’ve discovered?

Actually, I've started one novel. A novel is difficult for me to write because in order to write a novel you have to be able to plot. If you've only written short stories, it can get tough. My novel is on hold because I keep leaving it for other writing projects, but I'll finish it eventually.

And just for fun: Coffee or tea? Cats or dogs? Werewolves or vampires? Mac or PC?

Coffee! My husband and I are serious coffee drinkers. We prefer to buy the coffee beans and grind them ourselves for our cups. Cats! They're low maintenance. Vampires! I've never been intrigued by werewolves. Mac! I'm a PC user, but if I could afford a good Mac, I'd probably use one.

Here’s an delicious taste of Jolie’s writing, from her story “Monisha” in Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica

Sitting on my sofa I look out the window and watch the snow flakes fall from a white sky. It’s cold outside, yet thanks to my landlord my place stays at one temperature - hot. Sweat beads on my chest as I open a window in search of relief.

It will be Christmas soon. My family stopped speaking to me ever since I came out, so I don’t have a lot of presents to buy. I want to go outside into the cold air, get a latte and read the paper, listen to corny holiday tunes, and get the hell out of my apartment.

I walk into a coffee shop. A jazzy instrumental comes out of the speakers to the tune of Silent Night. She’s behind the counter. Tawny skin and a face full of freckles. Brown dredlocks. Large breasts. Big hips.

She turns around and bends over to get some cups. I stare at her full behind and I imagine us naked: she on her stomach, my dark chocolate hands on her caramel ass.

“Happy Holidays,” she says. She’s standing up now, facing me and smiling.

“Happy Holidays. What’s your name?” Flirting has become my hobby ever since I went on unemployment.

“Monisha. Yours?”


“Do you come in here much, because I’ve never seen you before?”

“No, but I will now.”

She blushes. I’ve taken a lot more chances these days, hitting on pretty girls who work behind counters whether they’re straight or not. If I bomb, I just get what I need and leave.

But when Monisha hands me my latte she looks me in the eyes.

I grab a paper and sit down. Every so often I stop reading and look at her face.

She catches my gaze and smiles. I smile too.

"I'll be back tomorrow," I say to her as I leave.


Everyone is welcome to attend a reading of Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica at Bluestockings
172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington
New York, NY
212 - 777- 6028
Saturday, August 25, 2007
7:00 p.m.
Jolie du Pré, Tawanna Sullivan, Shanel Odum, Sofia Quintero, Rachel Kramer Bussel


Ally said...

Thankyou Dayle and Jolie.
Such great questions with even more interesting and informative answers.

Olivia Knight said...

Super interview & some interesting comments. This one surprised me:
The majority of people who read erotic romance are heterosexual women. These women are interested in M/F and M/M, not F/F.
I always thought, given the number of "vanilla lesbians", women were more relaxed about messing about with their own sex than men. When did you last see two men snog at a party for the amusement and delight of their girlfriends who are then increasingly forgotten as the kiss itself takes over? (On second thoughts, I just remembered who I'm talking to. Okay, none of you answer that. I know you probably go to much more exciting parties than I do and you don't need to rub it in.) But it's still relatively common/accepted for women and taboo for het men, and I don't agree that vanilla lesbianism is "only for the benefit of men". So how does M/M end up taking precedence over F/F in erotica for women? It's odd.

Anonymous said...

I actually totally disagree with you O. I think the reason RL f/f is not taboo when RL m/m is, is precisely that het men enjoy f/f. For example, a lot of het swingers clubs have the rule that f/f is fine but m/m is banned. And that rule (often hidden behind health concerns) is all about giving het men what they want while protecting them from scary m/m.

Meanwhile, I probably should not write f/f for exactly the reason's Jolie outlines. I am a huge fan, actually, of writers sticking broadly to the stuff that they enjoy. I'm not saying everything has to be autobigraphy - but I do think you can tell if the writer is 'faking it'

Olivia Knight said...

But if het women enjoy m/m...? (Okay, I know it's not a symmetrical situation.) protecting men from scary m/m - I find it hilarious that the more determinedly het men are, the more likely they are to eat each other's sperm (on a biscuit) and bash each other's genitals with shoes, all in the name of Manly Games. When perhaps kissing each other might be less scary, all considered...

I agree with your "write what you like" rather than the more narrow "write what you do". Being the official Vanilla Girl, I'll write some vanilla f/f (or f/f/f), vanilla spanking, vanilla etc - but I'd never try my hand at BDSM!

Hmm. I think the States is still asleep. Shall we pop round with a fried breakfast and a pot of tea for them?

Anonymous said...

Uh, what's vanilla spanking?

Madeline Moore said...

Welcome, welcome! It's so great to have you here at Lust Bites, Jolie. Enjoy your day. The interview is interesting and the excerpt from your story makes me want to read the rest. I love the idea of Iridescence, and the cover, and your excerpt, so I betcha I'd enjoy the book. Think I'll find out. Thanks for the interview, Dayle, and thanks for coming by, Jolie.

Deanna Ashford said...

Thanks for the interview Jolie.

I'm the other way around, I can write novels but not short stories. As soon as I put pen to paper the plot takes on a life of its own.

I don't see why erotic cannot be read and enjoyed whether it is m/m, m/f, or f/f. I've included all those scenarios in my books and never gotten any negative feedback from my readers.

Olivia Knight said...

Vanilla spanking: spanking without the ritual, role play, latex or leather. Just good firm smacks on the bottom, like Nanny used to give.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, that's not *very* vanilla, O, is it? I mean the mention of 'nanny' alone...

You're going to lose your 'token vanilla' status if you carry on like this.

Janine Ashbless said...

Mm... Vanilla spanking. Yummy.

Thanks Jolie. This has got us thinking. Dangerous, that.

I'm going to make a confession here. I'm a "bisexual woman who prefers men" I guess. I don't normally worry about labels because I know what I like and I write what I feel like at the time and that suits me fine.

However I do admit to having a slight problem writing straightforward vanilla lesbian smut. It's not because I don't get turned on by women's bodies ('cos I do): it's because I struggle to find the, uh, drama. (*Flinches from brickbats being flung at her head*) For me when I write f/m or m/m smut the obvious climatic dramatic point isn't orgasm: it's penetration.

This isn't the case in real life, where drama isn't what matters, sensation is. But I don't write (or like reading) the sort of erotica which goes on for pages with soupy descriptions of what it feels like. I like action, incident, interplay. That's why, and I'm really sorry to say this, literary descriptions of female masturbation don't really work for me.

And when I'm writing f/f I have to stretch a lot further for inspiration.

Amanda said...

well i'm a straight woman who has written f/f erotica, not romance, but erotica. in fact i'm in iridescence. ;) i don't really buy into the idea that a straight woman can't write f/f stuff. a writer should be able to write about anyone and anything: imagination, empathy and keen observation skills make all the difference. so far the comments on my f/f erotica have been positive. lesbian friends have told me that they are turned on by my stories and that my characters are believable in their world. i've read lots of m/m stories written by straight women too and my male gay friends seem to like those as well.

Madeline Moore said...

I have to agree with Amanda. Writers use their imaginations to create other worlds, paranormal encounters, murderers and the detectives who brilliantly catch them, etc. It seems odd to me, frankly, that erotica writers have trouble writing stuff they don't do. That said, I suppose I've had a lot of experiences I can draw on, expand on, in order to write a scene outside my comfort zone. Or maybe I just have a very wide comfort zone. And I've yet to write any real m/m...altho since it's all the rage I probably will, and soon. I'm like Jolie in that if it's what seems to be selling, I'll at least give it a try. For the $$, you see.

I'm also in agreement with Jolie that, in a perfect world, I'd probably write only short stories. But, as we all know, the pay is low and, it seems to me, getting lower all the time. Of course, short stories may be reprinted from time to time but you'd have to sell fifteen reprints to get the equivalent of an advance on a novel. It isn't that I can't plot a long story or stay interested in my characters for the length of a novel. It's just that the beauty of a short story - the little details that create these characters for this quick expose of who they are and what they're doing and how they feel...I love it.

In terms of writing what the market seems to want, it's taken me a long time to come up with a paranormal idea, but I have and I adore it. In this case, it can only be a novel, in three parts, possibly a long one (as opposed to WILD CARD, which just barely made the minimum required word count.) I made myself look at paranormal up down and sideways, until I was finally able to delve deep enough into the thing to find the story that I really, really want to write. I think in general that's how one can expand one's ouevre - by noodling what's 'in' until the approach that works for the writer finally hits. That's what I'll do with m/m, in fact it's probably what I'm doing with m/m right now...simmering the concept on my back burner until I get it! But I bet it'll be a short story.

Angell said...

Dayle - great interview, but you also had a very interesting subject to talk to.

Loved the questions. Will be looking for Jolie's work.

Kate Pearce said...

Fascinating post.
I tend to agree that I couldn't write f/f because it doesn't interest me. m/m and m/f/m does and I do write it-a lot.

In polls, Ellora's Cave readers are 'very' definite about what they want to read and f/f is very low on the list. I'm not sure why unless its the sense that f/f is discovering the already known and doesn't have the same sexual tension as m/f or m/m. I really don't know.

Thanks for the post, both of you!

kiki said...

that's an interesting thought on the needing to be a lesbian or bisexual leaning toward women in order to write it. i'm fairly certain i've read f/f stuff by women (and men) under pseudonyms and not so much pseudonyms (god i hope i'm spelling that right) and have enjoyed it as much as any other f/f stuff. i'm also fairly certain i've read m/m stuff by women and het men.

does this go back to that question that you all hate more than anything of "do you do everything that is in your book?"

i'm fairly certain that in other genres (as has been noted here) don't actually kill people - or even enjoy killing people, but damn! they can sure write it well!

i hope this made some sort of sense. i'm trying to multitask and i think i'm losing...

kristina lloyd said...

Great interview, some really interesting chat too.

I don't have trouble writing stuff I don't do (or haven't done yet) but I would struggle to write about stuff I don't get off on. There doesn't seem much point. I may as well write some hacky, better paid, non-fiction pieces for lifestyle magazines under a different name (not that I would *ever* do that. No, no.)

I've done some tentative f/f in my writing but never a sustained scene. Some brute invariably turns up halfway through. Basically, I need cock (oh, where's the lady with the tee-shirts when you need her?) and I'm happy to leave f/f to people who truly love it. I don't think that means you have to have experience of it though. As Amanda and Madeline said, observation, empathy, imagination etc are key to being a writer. I've written some m/m but I'm not a gay man (damn, I'm trying though). And there's a world of difference between writing something cynically (ie which you've no experience of or feeling for) and writing something you've no direct experience of (but you have lots of feeling for). I think I just said what Kiki said actually.


Thanks Dayle and Jolie.

I must add, that was a very special kinky link I did up there. Because - well, it was inevitable really and I'm sure you all saw it coming - I am now shamelessly plugging Alison Tyler!

(I think N might be for Nanny Spanking, by the way.)

Jolie said...

There can be a book of lesbian erotica written entirely by heterosexual women. There can be a book of African American erotica written entirely by Caucasians. There can be a book of BDSM erotica written entirely by vanilla authors. And these books could very well contain perfectly crafted/well written stories. But that's all you've got. And for this reader, author and editor, that's not enough. Iridescence includes well written stories by authors who have no experience with lesbian sex, but it also contains well written stories by authors who do. This type of mixture gives Iridescence that extra something that many bisexual and lesbian women look for. Iridescence means a lot to me and I'm proud of all of the authors who contributed.

kristina lloyd said...

I think you hit the nail on the head there, Jolie - well-crafted stories aren't always enough.

I love the phrase you used in the interview - f/f 'captured your heart'. It's that feeling for it, imho, that makes a story shine.

And when an editor knows that and sees that, you're going to get a damn fine collection. Iridescence sounds wonderful. I hope it flies!

TeresaNoelleRoberts said...

If it's true that we write best about what/who turns us on (if not necessarily about what we've actually done), it seems to give an unfair literary advantage to those of us who are bi. Given that we already have a larger potential dating pool, that hardly seems fair. I mean, it's great, speaking as an equal opportunity lecher, but not fair.

Great interview, Jolie. Such a pleasure to learn more about you!

I really respect your openness about your honest and nonmonogamous marriage. It's always hard to determine how self-revelatory to be, isn't it? At least for me. I pretend to a veneer of normalcy (stop laughing, Dayle!), but really, not so much.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Hi, Jolie! That makes two great excerpts of yours I've seen this week--the other being at the Coming Together: For the Cure promotional day. (Goodness gracious, was that a shameless plug?)

Vanilla spanking: spanking without the ritual, role play, latex or leather.

Olivia, I wonder if what you're talking about here is similar to what I was talking about in another blog a few months ago, where I described the attraction (to me) of pain-free, humiliation-free bottom-slapping scenarios. I dubbed it the UNspanking.

Janine Ashbless said...

The Unspanking

Sounds like a film title!
I'd watch it...

Anne Tourney said...

Thank you for your interview, Jolie! I look forward to reading your iridescent erotica (what a beautiful image -- the blended, dazzling colors of female sexuality). The excerpt is delicious . . . I love the thought of that rich, gleaming, caramel skin.

I've always enjoyed writing f/f scenes, though I've always wondered if I was cheapening them by focusing so heavily on the erotic interaction, rather than developing a deep emotional connection between two women. That's one place I've never gone; most of my f/f lovers have been close friends who experimented sexually, or two women involved in a poly relationship with a man, or girls who were simply infatuated with each other's bodies.

Nothing wrong with any of that, but one of these days, I'd like to go deeper.