Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James shone the spotlight on naughty novels – hers is being adapted for the big screen next year. So what’s life really like for women who pen “bonkbusters” for a living? We speak to three for the real deal.
CLAIRE SIEMASZKIEWICZ, 43, and husband Marek, 41, live in Lincoln, the UK and run an e-publisher of erotic romance novels. The couple have a 15-year-old daughter.
People presume my husband and I must be at it like rabbits. The truth is, we’re too busy. While we don’t seem to have many chances to do the deed, it’s totally normal for us to discuss erotic romance over breakfast and make sure our authors don’t go over the top. We have a style guide listing the sexual euphemisms that we allow – we’re not into purple prose.
We’re more graphic; we have at least 20 words for penis in the guide. People have said we’re jumping on the bandwagon of Fifty Shades of Grey, but we’ve been doing this for eight years. I didn’t even finish reading that book – I just didn’t think Anastasia was a very strong character. When I was in school, I didn’t have a clue what I would do when I grew up, but I certainly didn’t expect to be publishing erotic fiction.
I got married at 18 and didn’t start my own career until my ex and I split up when I was in my 20s, and I moved to London and met Marek. I worked in sales and marketing then, and the idea for the business came along when I became sick of working for other people.
I was a fan of romance and was reading books online, but I felt there weren’t enough of them out there. I felt that e-books were the future of publishing and erotic romance was a niche market that wasn’t being explored.
Marek and I risked everything to set up our e-publishing firm. We even worked 16-hour days for the first two years. The banks wouldn’t lend us money – they just thought it was porn and couldn’t see beyond the word erotic. We were absolutely broke, but now we’re an international business.
While our daughter is very proud of us, she’s not very interested in what we do. Like most teenagers, she’d rather be on Facebook or her iPhone than talking to us about work. We just make sure she doesn’t hear us discussing anything too rude.”
SARAH MASTERS, 41, has five children aged between 11 and 23, as well as a seven year-old grandson. She lives in the UK with her husband Paul, 40, a graphic designer.
I’ve always loved writing and for a long time, I did it purely for pleasure. But there was little time to indulge my hobby when my children were young. After I divorced my first husband, I met Paul, who asked: ‘Why don’t you sit down and write properly?’
Later on, a publisher told me that if I wanted to make money, I should try writing erotica. I blushed at the idea, but decided to try my hand at it. Every time I wrote a rude word, I laughed. But slowly, I got used to it. My first book was published in 2006. Since then, I’ve had over 75 short stories and novels published.
During the week, I’m busy with my family, but at the weekend, I sit down and write. The thousands of words I’ve been storing in my head all week pour out fast – I can write 10,000 words a day!
A friend on the school run helps me. We walk and talk, with me narrating the man’s part – in a low voice – and her laughing. We do get some funny looks. I use various words for penis in my work; you’ve got to have variety. I use ‘manhood’ for historical stories, and if there are too many rude words on the page, I’ll stick a ‘rod’ in there sometimes; I don’t like ‘purple sword of delight’ or stuff like that, it just makes everybody laugh. For women, I use the word that rhymes with ‘blunt’.
The only people I tell about my work are the ones I think are broadminded enough. I’m sure people think my husband and I must be at it every five minutes, but we’re usually too knackered from work. It’s more normal to say “Good night, dear” and get on with reading a crime novel. There are times though, when I use Paul to work out different sex positions to write about. We’re usually fully dressed and it’s funny rather than sexy. My children know I write romance novels, but I tell the younger ones they’re about ‘people who love each other’. That makes the older ones giggle.”
VICTORIA FOX, 31, lives in Bristol, the UK, where she dreams of bare-chested men cleaning out her (fantasy) pool in an LA mansion.
My older sister gave me a book by Jackie Collins when I was 12 and I was hooked. I knew immediately that I wanted to write ‘bonkbusters’. After graduating, I worked in publishing and spotted a gap in the market for erotica, so I started writing at weekends. When I submitted my first manuscript, I didn’t even give the agent my real name – I was so afraid people would find out I was writing erotica.
My first book was published in 2011, and I’ve published six other books since. I love my job and I’ve never been embarrassed about sex – it’s something we all do and it’s fun.
My boyfriend reads my work and it’s quite funny to see him tucked in his bed holding a bright-pink book, reading intently.
My mum’s a retired graphic designer and I’m confident she skips the very rude parts of my novels. As for my dad, he’s a retired architect and not a voracious reader. I’m praying he hasn’t got past chapter one of my first book. I have five or six words for men’s bits. I much prefer to use words like ‘c**k’ and ‘d***’ rather than more scientific ones and euphemisms.
I’m sure people must think I write dressed in slinky clothes, but usually I’m in my nightie or just out of the shower in my old dressing gown with a towel on my head.
People have said that some of the sex positions I write about aren’t possible – like when a woman’s legs are wrapped around a guy’s neck – but I’m sure they are; I base my stories on people I know and stories I’ve heard.
While I was writing my debut novel, a friend had embarked on a series of disastrous relationships and each one carried with it a dreadful sexual episode. She would text me and
say “You can use that”. She once had sex with someone who kept his coat – it was a parka with a fur hood – on throughout the deed. Needless to say, she didn’t see him again!”
This story was first published in Her World magazine, December 2014 issue.
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