Mar 132014
 
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By P.M. White

Often, a quick scan on Amazon’s selection of erotica reveals one very hard-to-miss fact: there are a lot of women writing in the genre these days. You’ll also notice dozens of author names which obscure or mask the author’s gender. It’s always refreshing to see a new name—be it male, female or tbd—enter the erotic fray, and many of my favorites write from the female perspective—which they do, mostly, because they’re female writers.

There are, of course, the popular male writers: authors like the incredible Maxim Jakubowski, the awesome M. Christian, Terrance Aldon Shaw and others, not to mention age-old standbys like Vladimir Nabokov and Marquis de Sade, each providing their own unique voice to the genre.

And, few in number though they may appear to be, there are also contemporary and emerging male erotica writers out there. I’m one of them. And whether I want to admit it or not (and I must, since I’m writing this piece), I do occasionally pay attention to gender when it comes to my peers in the field. Having written erotica since 2008, my attention to others in the industry led to a number of conclusions.

For one, the illustrious golden goose is a shy little thing for writers seeking a payday in sexy literature, no matter one’s gender. For another, we male writers might almost be an endangered species when it comes to an apples-to-apples head count. This isn’t to say there isn’t a good sampling of male blood in the field. In fact, there may be more male writers than some might think.

According to author Gregory Allen, some male writers actually pen under a female pseudonym due to their fear that a masculine name might alienate readers.

“I’ve heard people say they prefer the way men write and I’ve heard people say they prefer the way women write,” he said. “I’m surprised when I hear people voice a preference like that. Short of reading every book ever written, a person can’t really say they don’t like the way women write men or the way men write women without making unfair judgments about a lot of authors. I know there are male writers who use female pen names for fear of alienating readers who prefer female authors. I don’t begrudge any writer trying to gain readers. Readers are gold. Writing is a lonely life. I used to hear that and think it was because writers are alone when they write, but now I think it’s because writers communicate intimately with a blank page.”

Allen, who specializes in female domination erotica, wrote in other genres for a number of years before turning to stories that focus on romantic, monogamous, female-led relationships.

Allen said. “When I started, I realized I had already sculpted my ideal mistress from my own fantasies in Kimberly, from Courting Her and Serving Her.”

Allen makes it a point to shut out gender stereotypes when he’s writing.

“I avoid considering my characters as male or female. I think of them as individuals, who obviously are male or female, but that subtle shift in how I think of them enables me, I think, to keep gender stereotypes out of my writing. I’m not obligated to keep my female characters ‘like’ other women, or my male characters ‘like’ other men. That frees me to focus on creating characters who feel authentic and unique, at least to me, and then I can hope readers find them to be, as well,” he said.

Author Willsin Rowe, meanwhile, got his start in erotica after he joined a project designed to mass-produce books and graphic novels. He was brought on board to produce horror stories with an edge of black comedy, but soon learned of another group on board the project tasked with producing erotic romance.

“Then, a matter of months later, I found out about a contest to write an erotic romance story. I submitted mine, and was lucky enough to win. That scored me a contract with a small publisher, and I’ve grown upward and outward from there,” Rowe said.

He describes his own work as “gritty romance.”

“It doesn’t always fit into the capital-R Romance category, but I strive to make the connections intense and rewarding,” he added.

A big difference between male and female writers of erotica, Rowe said, are descriptive terms.

“Being lateral and literal creatures, we males often write erotic scenes from a sequential, and even geographical point of view, I think. So, we’ll often spend time describing what appeals to us, which may not be the same as what appeals to a female writer,” Rowe said. “For example, a male writer may focus on the sweet way that fulsome breasts wiggle when we make a woman laugh, whereas a female writer may take that same moment and describe the twinkle in his eye as he delivered the witticism.”

Rowe said there are likely more female readers than male readers interested in erotic fiction at the moment.

He said, “All the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen tells me there’s a far higher contingent of female readers than male. And where one perspective is chosen, it’s more commonly the female. I believe that, for the most part, men are more interested in reading female POV (point of view) than women are in reading male POV. At least as far as erotica and erotic romance are concerned.”

No matter what, Allen said, writers need that human-to-human contact to grow in their craft.

“So many of us are aching for that, or asking for more of that, because a gap always exists in communication, but especially when the communication is so delayed as it is between writer and reader. But, for me, the opportunity to reach someone who thinks only female authors can be romantic or can create authentic-seeming female characters is too tempting. It’s bigger than me or my books, and if someone whose mind isn’t made up about male authors—which must be the case if they’re giving me a chance—feels differently about them after reading me, then that may be worth sacrificing a wider audience.”

Is it harder these days to be a male author these days? Rowe offered a resounding yes.

“I do think it’s harder, but it’s probably one of the softest kinds of hard you’d ever find,” he said. “We’re basically facing an automatically reticent general buying public by remaining male (as opposed to taking on a female pen name). I’ve had more than one woman tell me (without having read my work) that they don’t enjoy male-penned erotica. But as I say, it’s a pillow-like hardness. We’re not fighting for emancipation or civil rights, here.”

There are benefits as well, he added.

“It’s easier to stand out in people’s minds when you’re part of a subculture,” Rowe said. “First, there’s the physicality. I’m 6’ tall, 200 lbs, shaven-headed; I play in a band and ride a motorbike. I don’t look like most erotica/romance authors. But more than that, there’s the rather low bar that has been set by some members of the male gender. In real life and online, I’m polite, respectful and complimentary. Adding a Y-chromosome to those characteristics seems to make a world of difference.”

 

About Willsin Rowe
Willsin Rowe is the author of Submission Therapy, as well as a number of other titles co-authored with author Katie Salidas, including Occupational Therapy, Immersion Therapy and others. For more information, visit his website at willsinrowe.blogspot.com or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

About Gregory Allen
Author Gregory Allen can be found on Facebook and FetLife, as well as on Twitter @GregoryAllenPF. He’s the author of Courting Her, Protege Mistress, and Serving Her ­– all published by Pink Flamingo. He’s also the author of Bottoms in Love, published by 1001 Nights Press.

 

About P.M. White
Writer P.M. White has toiled on a number of sexy stories over the years, including his newest novella Volksie: A Tale of Sex, Americana and Cars from 1001 Nights Press. His previous publications include the Horror Manor trilogy from Sizzler Editions: Eyeball Man, Desire Under the Eaves, and You are a Woman. White’s short stories have appeared in Sex in San Francisco, The Love That Never Dies, Bound for Love, Pirate Booty and many others.
For more information, visit him on Tumblr at pmwhite.tumblr.com, at his Amazon author page, on Twitter @authorpmwhite and on Facebook.

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Jan 282011
 
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WHEN NOT TO USE A PSEUDONYM AND WHY

When Bjo Trimble (justly famed as the “woman who saved Star Trek”) advised author and editor Ted White that she was thinking of using a pseudonym on a science fiction novel she was writing, told her bluntly, “Don’t. An author’s name is his or her stock in trade. It is what you want readers to be thinking of when they are at a bookstore looking for a book to read. The easier you make it for them to associate the name with a real person, the easier you make it for them to remember the name in the future.”

Ted White, then, was all for a writer using their real name rather than a pen name that would conceal their identity. It seems to work. When I go to the bookstore these days I am looking for Cathy Reichs, James Lee Burke, or the new Peter Robinson. All are real people with real names.

There are notable exceptions to this rule. Mark Twain, for instance. But there is not much confusion. Mark Twain lived so much of his life openly as Twain, that I would not be surprise if you, too, didn’t think of him first as Twain and then as Clements.

Clearly, this is not an absolute rule. None is. There exceptions. But consider carefully before deciding to make exceptions. Nothing less than your future writing career is at stake.

Consider: Suppose you create a pseudonym and then after writing several books change your mind and decide to come out as yourself and start writing books under your own name. Unless you are writing a completely different type of book now and will not be appealing to your former readers, you will lose some large percentage of your original audience, the one you developed for your pseudonym, and never gain it back. Changing horses in midstream like this is counterindicated.

WHEN TO USE A PSEUDONYM

There are three major justifications for using a pseudonym, when it may be and probably is to your advantage to hide your identity behind a made up name.

The first is that using your real name on something tgat could cost your job or customers – in short income. You could be writing a series of thinly disguised books about real people you know or work with, who would fire you or stop patronizing your business if you published it under your own name. Or, it might be works that exposed secrets of, or made fun of, your industry, job, or profession, where the results would be the same. For that matter, if you are in a profession that takes it self seriously, like banking or academe, and you seem to be writing what your bosses and colleagues consider frivolous, like pulpish mystery thrillers, it could be seen as lowering your gravitas, and you might find yourself eased out the door. Or some other variant where putting your name on the book would place you in serious jeopardy of serious financial loss.

The second major justification for employing a pseudonym rather than your actual moniker is that it would cost you friends or loved ones. This is almost always a case where you are writing about friends, family and acquaintances, and presenting things they have said and done that are embarrassing, unattractive, or that even show them in a very bad light. Things that if written under your own name, and read by mutual acquaintances, would very likely lead to the person you were describing being recognized by everyone, causing the subject of the piece humiliation and likely generate furious anger at you as well.

The third is that you are writing something so inflammatory that that it might put you in danger of losing both job/income and your family/friends. These days that often comes down to erotica. Writers living in small towns, or whose friends, families and associates are conservative in bent, are making s sensible choice when they put a pseudonym on their works. Of course, in a sophisticated city like San Francisco or New York, the effect might be the reverse, and being known as someone who writes erotica may enhance the luster of one’s reputation. Whatever the reason, today, unlike the 1960s and 1970s, many authors proudly put their own names on their erotica.

Sometimes writers producing stories and books on more than one genre will use their true names for books in one genre and a pseudonym on books intended for a different genre. At one time it was considered that if a person was going to write mysteries, and say westerns, that mystery readers would avoid books by someone who also wrote westerns because they would think the author was not really serious about mysteries. And that readers of westerns would disdain anyone who wrote contemporary mysteries with urban settings because they would feel that a writer who could do that well could not possibly capture the authentic feel of the old west. Today, however, that seems to be changing. Increasingly, readers seem willing to accept what are called crossgenre writers, who excel at producing stories of more than one type. Elmo Leonard is accepted as both a western writer and a mystery novelist, while a number of major fantasy novelists are also accepted as authors of credible, realistic mysteries.

I will have a few words to say about choosing pseudonyms in my next post.

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