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February 4, 2022

Raging Gracefully: On Erotica

I always like to say I got into it by accident because that's really how it feels.

Rachel Kramer Bussel talks with Nina Collins about her latest publication, Best Women's Erotica of the Year Volume 7!

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About Rachel: 

Rachel Kramer Bussel is a New Jersey-based author, journalist, copywriter, anthology editor, erotica writing teacher, consultant, and event organizer. She writes widely about sex, dating, books, pop culture, feminism and body image. Rachel has written for numerous publications, including, BUST, CNN.com, The Daily Beast, DAME, Elle.com, Forbes.com, Fortune.com, The Frisky, Gothamist, The Hairpin, Harper's Bazaar, Inked, InStyle.com, Jezebel, Marie Claire, Mediabistro, Men’s Health, The Nervous Breakdown, New York Post, New York Observer, New York Press, The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, Penthouse, Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy.com, Playgirl, The Root, Salon, San Francisco Chronicle, SELF, Slate, Time.com, Time Out New York, The Village Voice, and The Washington Post, among other publications. 

She has edited over 70 anthologies, including two volumes of The Big Book of Orgasms, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, and edits the Best Bondage Erotica of the year and Best Women's Erotica of the Year series. Her books have won 8 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book) Awards. As an erotica author, she has contributed to over 100 anthologies, including Susie Bright's Best American Erotica 2004 and 2006 and X: The Erotic Treasury and Zane’s Purple Panties and Chocolate Flava II. She’s the author of the essay collection Sex and Cupcakes and the forthcoming 2023 nonfiction book How to Write Erotica.

Transcript:

This transcript is auto-generated and lightly edited, please excuse any grammatical errors. 

NC: So welcome Rachel. Rachel's our special guest tonight. Rachel is the author of the Best Women's Erotica of the Year Volume Seven. I think she's published all seven of these she's, an erotic specialist erotic writer, um anthology producer she's, always looking for um contributors and we're here to have a conversation with her about her new book and she's also offered a giveaway of the book. Is that right? Rachel? 

RKB: Yes, um, I don't know where everyone is, but I can give away free copies within the united states. 

NC: So welcome Rachel wait. I want to I'm going to view it, so I can see you on speaker, so I can see you better so Rachel. I think I think probably I mean we'll take questions from the audience, but my question for you is: how did you get into this? How did you get into writing erotica? 

RKB: Well, I always like to say I got into it by accident because that's really how it feels um a long time ago, but I don't know if anyone else feels this way, but i'm 46, and when i say oh 20 I guess 25 years ago ish. It seems weird to say that like it feels like it was much shorter ago, but back in 1999, I was at the end of my time at NYU law school, which was not going very well um and I did not graduate, but I somehow stayed for three Years um and I was reading a lot of erotica. I had started reading erotica in college and I saw a call for submissions for a book called star [ __ ], which was about celebrity erotica, and I thought well I've been reading it long enough. I can try to write my own story and I wrote a story called Monica and Me, which was about Monica Lewinsky and a character who has a lot of characteristics like me, like my clothes and my name, and it was kind of this fantastic look, unlike Monica Lewinsky right, there is a little bit of some similarity in your appearance. It was actually inspired by. I can't remember which tabloid, but one of the tabloids had an article that said something like Monica has a crush on women in the white house um, and it was about that and I thought well what, if you know, Monica is bisexual and what, if you know, I don't know so it was about this woman who picks up Monica and they have this fling, and I mean it was. It was very sexy, but it was also had a sweet side. I think I had a line that reminded me of when I was watching Impeachment: American Crime Story it, I think it said something like I could treat her better than the Bill Clintons and the andy Blylers of the world, and that was her. Other married um lover, who was really not good to her um, so you know I published that got published in that star [ __ ] book and it also got published in Best Lesbian Erotica 2001, which is also from the publisher that I work with now and That was super, exciting and yeah. It was like the first story out of the game and it's published and yeah. That's amazing. I was pretty nerdy and I always wrote non-fiction. So this was my first time writing fiction and it was. It was really exciting. I mean I could still remember before I got my copies in the mail. I saw it in a bookstore. It was a bookstore that no longer exists like the Barnes and noble and Chelsea, but I remember standing there and like seeing it and holding it in my hands and I cry it was just so exciting and um I called um Tristan Taramino, who was the editor of that best lesbian erotica. I was like oh my story. I mean it was really exciting to see it in a book. Not just you know, even though I knew it was going to happen. That was really exciting and what's really cool now fast forward, um 1999 to now is like i get to be that person for a lot of writers who are new to erotica are new to getting their stories published like I get to publish their first stories and Sometimes i don't always know that, but sometimes they put it in their bio. This is, you know their first. This is so-and-so's first published story, and that is really that never gets old. That's really exciting for me, because I feel like I'm still that person in some ways who just i remember that excitement, and so I love getting to do that now as an editor. 

NC: So I have to back up for a sec because you spent three years in law school, but you didn't graduate that's a long time to spend - 

RKB: I spent many more years paying off my student loans for that. For that time. Maybe you should not jump right in and I also like graduated college in three years and I just thought I knew everything because I was 20 years old when I started at law school like I just thought, oh, why would I take a gap year? Why would I do this? I'm just gonna? I know what I want to do because I thought I did, and turns out - I did actually like some of the classes like first amendment and constitutional law, but I did not want to do the actual sort of tedious work of being a lawyer. I mean, I guess every job has tedious work, but I felt like you're never done researching. You could always be researching more and ironically, I think the same is true for writing. You could always be tweaking your writing and never sending it in because you can always find things that you want to change, and I mean I find things I want to change and stuff I've already published, but totally too late. You just have to move on. So I mean I still feel that way so yeah,

NC: So that's kind of amazing. So you were like 23 years old, 24 years old and you published your first story. Were you? Are you bisexual? Did you were you at the time? 

RKB: Bisexual? Yes, then, yes - and you know it's interesting - there's a whole other life to that story, because that got published in it was called Best Lesbian Artist in 2001 and Star [ __ ], but they were published in late 2000. I think and um a couple years later. I met a woman who found me through that story like she had read it and she was also a fan of Monica and we wound up dating and yeah. So like that story really did take on a life of its own and um. I mean we're no longer together, but we're still friends and we you know it. It's so funny to me that even happened 

NC: Yeah, that's great, did Monica ever read it. Do you know? 

RKB: Well, i don't think she read it, but she does know it exists. This is I feel funny tell you this. It's not my story to tell, but my ex-girlfriend, like dropped off a note at my at the archive building, where Monica used to live and Monica called her. Now, that's all I know i don't know what the note said. I don't know exactly what they talked about, but so Monica does know. It exists if she remembers this from many many years ago, like 2003.

NC: All right so then yeah so you're, like 23, 24 years old and you've written this story. Does it become clear to you like? I want a career in erotic, writing or whatever?

RKB: I mean that really took much longer. It was sort of a process. I was coming out of law school and I took this very boring admin assistant job and then a typist job like I was doing these jobs that were just you know for money and they were fine, but I was trying to kind of figure out what I wanted to do and um I had gone to some writing event and a woman who was an editor at penthouse variations, which was a subset of Penthouse like saw me there and she reached out. They were looking for someone who was an editor, so I kind of that then became my full-time job was working in erotica and then I also got asked to edit and co-edit um, my own anthologies, a couple of years after publishing more short stories. So it all kind of fell into place, and then that became basically what i did and then also i got asked to write a sex column for the Village Voice. This is all around the that was in like 2004 to 2007. So you know in the 2000s that all just sort of happened and then all of a sudden one day I was like oh, this is what I do.

NC: So was it a surprise to you this this evolution like or did it make sense? Were you always interested in being frank about sex? Were you always open about your sexuality? Where did you grow up now? 

RKB: It makes sense like now when I look back, but I would say if you told me in high school that this is what I was gonna do not at all um. I didn't grow up at all with any like shame around it, but I wasn't super outspoken about it and I didn't, I didn't really think about it. Like I wasn't even having sex in high school and I mean I read some steamy books romance, but I wasn't reading erotica like I didn't discover that until college and even then I thought it was cool. I thought it was interesting, but I never thought I could do this because I was reading also really like political science books, and I wanted to be a lawyer, so I don't know it feels like it. It sort of found me is, I mean I found it, but it also feels like it kind of found me. I sort of have this feeling that if I set out to do it, maybe it wouldn't have come out the way it did, but it was kind of one of these organic things. Yeah like it was each little thing. It was writing one short story and then writing another one and another one and then being asked to co-edit a book and then edit my own and then you know doing this. And I also really like the fact that I write both non-fiction and I write erotic fiction. I don't write any other kind of fiction. I mean I might someday, but um so I've written, very frank personal pieces about my own sex life, which not everyone does or has to do. You know and not every most erotica writers, I know, use pseudonyms um and I use my real name which has pros and cons. That means my entire family knows what I do for a living, and you know if they're at a bookstore or if someone googles their name, they might find me, I mean it's, it definitely is a mixed blessing. I would say.

NC: Where do you publish your nonfiction pieces?

RKB: um mostly online places like salon or a lot of opinion pieces, and those are, I mean I've written about everything from like being in debt to being a hoarder to my sex life, and in some ways, Writing about sex feels easier than writing about other personal things, but I know for a lot of people, it's the opposite. I think some people are just more open to talking and writing about their life, whether that's on social media or in writing, and it's funny because both of my parents who are divorced and who are very different but they're, both very private. They would never write about something personal online or really any they just that's not what they do. But my grandfather wrote a memoir about his time as a pow in world war ii, and i think he and i have more in common because he's a writer not that he writes erotica, but he has no problem with me. Writing about my life. I mean he'll he'll tell me if he disagrees with something I'm doing like. I wrote an essay about loving to play bingo and spending money on it and he told me you know I think, that's irresponsible, which that's fair. You know I feel like if you put yourself out there in that way, it is fair. If people are going to comment, you can't expect them worse not to, but I really do think that some people um feel that urge and find it cathartic to write about their lives, and then some people find it similarly cathartic to write fiction. Whether it's erotic fiction or other things - but i think you know for me those are really different like when i write erotica, i'm more in I'm, not even when I'm writing about myself. I know it's fiction, but when I'm writing an essay it, it really feels more like almost like therapy or therapeutic to make sense of something, especially something difficult or something that that, where, like I don't understand my own behavior or I don't like my own behavior Or I'm grappling with something usually non-fiction. I write about the stuff that I can't stop thinking about, and that's probably the case for my erotica too, like the things that I've written about. Certainly that are from my personal life or the things that I've just thought about. A lot, and actually that reminds me I once dated a guy and then a couple years before I started - writing erotica and then later he he got in touch with me or I ran into him somewhere and he said. Oh, did you ever write erotica about me and it was really a weird like I didn't know what to say, because I didn’t. What do I say like I felt like I was insulting him to say I didn't, but you know you can't just I don't know you need some sort of like inspiration for a story. It's not it can't just be. Oh okay. I was with this person and it was really great and we had great sex in the end. You know you still need the drama of the story. 

NC: Well, but presumably in a relationship with someone there was some drama or something went on.

RKB: Yeah yeah. I just I mean I've, definitely had good sex with people that I didn't write erotica about not, and that's not to insult. You know the experience I had with them um. You know so, and I don't write as much personal erotica now, because I'm in a 10 10-year monogamous relationship and not that I mean I have written some about my partner and some I've used the pseudonym, because it's different when you're single or when you're, not in a serious relationship versus where everyone you know knows your partner and if you're publishing something about them, it is different right.

NC: I was about to say i relate to a lot, I'm not the writer. I haven't written nearly as much as you are, but as you have, but I've written a bit too and I always write personal essays and I used to find when I started writing in my 30s and 40s that it was so therapeutic. I completely related to what you were saying, but now that I've become a little more of a like public, like with Revel and stuff. I don't really want to write anymore, so much personal essay, because i feel like some of the things that would be personal, it just feels too um complicated too messy for them.

RKB: there's, a really good podcast called right-minded w-r-i-t-e and they interview memoir authors, a lot of memoirs, but also fiction anyway, Michelle who's a memoirist and a novel writer. She said that uh she's going through a divorce and she's a parent and her mom is coming to live with her and on the podcast she said you know. I wish I could write more about my mom but she's coming to live with me. So I can't really write about that relationship, but it was so interesting because she was talking about hypergraphia, which is this like the urge to write - and it's there's a lot of scientific stuff about that. But she was, she was comparing it almost to an addiction, not necessarily in a bad way, but that urge like she was talking about to really make sense of things writing mostly for yourself. First, I think that to me that's a big myth that people say oh well, why are you writing about this really personal thing and I think they think it's just exhibitionist exhibitionism or just over sharing, and I find it the total opposite. I mean yes, it is sharing, but I don't think it's so they also make it sound like it's one-sided, like I'm only sharing and I don't want feedback, but when I was 19 I wrote an essay about my dad's alcoholism for parade magazine. You know that comes in the sunday paper and this is, I think, whatever 1999 uh, no 1880, what I don't know 1975. I was born so plus, 19, okay, so um and I got letters from other teenagers and young people like letters family. This email wasn't as widespread, and that was so moving to me. I wish I still had those letters because

NC: I totally understand no, when you write something and it resonates with people and particularly when it's something personal I mean I've learned this so much in the Woolfer community like when you share stuff, that's really real and personal, and It it lands and people receive it and it affects them and it helps them in their own lives. That's super super moving and - 

RKB: I remember people in my family were offended. You know my photo was there,I mean his photo was not in there, but I wrote that at a time when my dad was actively drinking - and I really could not talk to him like our relationship - was very strained and it was really hard and I wrote That really just to to share that feeling because it was um like I couldn't, there was no other way that I really could deal with that and he wasn't mad at me. You know, and and it's funny because sometimes people in my family will say: oh um, you know they'll be telling me something personal and they say don't write about this. I find it a little offensive like I do have judgment about what I write about. I don't usually set out to write about someone without their consent, but I also am almost always writing from my own perspective. So you know, and and now I do ask like - I try to ask as a courtesy, I wrote a piece about like last year wanting to visit family but not feeling safe. Doing so and my stepmother had passed away - and I said to my dad like can I write about that? Can I mention that and he he basically said, write whatever you want like - right, and I think it is hard to understand if you're, not the kind of person who shares things with the world, whether it's -

NC:  Right, which a lot of people aren't, I Mean my last two boyfriends said to me: unequivocally at the beginning of the relationship. Do not ever write about me. 

RKB: What did you say, though?

NC: I said I'll do my best to something to that effect. I mean I think one of the reasons I appreciate my partner, who is much more private. I mean he doesn't even understand why I post things on facebook, like i'm getting a new computer and to me I'm posting it because I want to know if other people have the same computer or do you have any advice? 

RKB: No, I totally get it we're of the same ilk in that way. Yes, but he's really. I think he doesn't understand it. I don't think on that level because he writes plays and he writes fiction, and he doesn't it's not as direct like for him. He makes abstract art and I write very personal essays that are about, like my life, so um, but I think he's kind of come around to the fact that I'm not doing it out of a malicious place. I'm not doing it to like shame him or anything. I mean I often do write about our conflicts because um, you know those are the things. That's a way to understand them. The fact that, like we make dinner every night and watch jeopardy is not really a subject for a personal essay. 

NC: No, no one would care that right! Let's go back to the erotica, so I think my number one question about writing erotica is, doesn't it get boring? 

RKB: Well, I'm lucky because I get to edit. It also so like I'm, not writing it every day, but I think I think you could probably say that about any genre. I mean I think it could get boring if you're writing the same setting or the same people or the same-sex acts, but there's so many I mean there's really an infinite number of things. You could be writing about both people different kinds of people, different people like you could be writing about people like yourself or people different than yourself and also sex, like I think sometimes people feel limited to writing erotica about what they've personally experienced, because they think. Oh, how could I write about something that I've never done? And there's a lot of tools you can have you may have the internet, you have you can look at porn, you can also look at. Like you know, threads on places like could be Reddit could be FetLife, which is a kinky um social networking site and I'm not saying mine someone else's life and lift verbatim their sex life. I'm saying more, you take it as inspiration right more. The mindset I mean, I think, what's really crucial to erotica in addition to the physical parts, is the mindset of okay. This person has a foot fetish, so you would want to describe what they're doing with their feet, but also why they're doing it and not assuming that everyone was a foot fetish or whatever the thing is. I mean i just pulled that out as an example, but you know you could have 10 people with a foot fetish and they could all be very different people with very different reasons. For that and approaches to that, and I think that's what's important to remember. You're not just writing about a foot fetish that person who's a unique character with their foot fetish and why? What is it about it for them? So I think it always comes back to the really personal and emotional and, like the humanity part of it like what makes each person unique right. 

NC: Well, I interviewed and she talks about um. The importance of fantasy right and she talks about the important that people don't rely on fantasy enough, that we don't read enough, that we don't listen to sexual. You know I don't know podcasts like dipsy enough that it's so important, particularly as we get older and as our hormones dip, that we really rely on fantasy, which I don't feel like I'm very good at personally um, and I wish I was better. I mean, as a writer of erotic fiction, you must have a pretty good fantasy life.

RKB: I would guess I mean it's interesting, I go through phases of like having fantasy like more more fantasies or less fantasies. I mean I think in general what's interesting to me about fantasy is both my own and you know other people's, because, through all the various things I've done, I've been privy to a lot of different fantasies is, i think, they're still. Even in 2021, people still have a lot of self-judgment about their fantasies before they even share them with anyone. Just in your their own mind, I think a lot of people feel like well -  what does it mean if I fantasize about this or what does it say about me or what will people think and i think that inhibits them from even just getting to know their own fantasies yeah, writing it down or sharing it with a partner. I think, there's still a lot of shame. I guess about even just the concept of fantasizing, sometimes not for everyone, but for some people I think that's true, probably just articulating we're so hemmed in by. I guess what feels like society expectations, societal expectations around sex. I mean I would say that for myself like I sometimes I feel like, i know all the permutations. I can't really think of what something outside of what I already know. I don't know. Sometimes it's really about almost like for me the times when I've had really vivid sexual fantasies and kind of explored them in my head um, i've really had to go to almost a a different place in my mind like where, where no one is there? No, no! You know, yes, i have shared fantasies with a partner, but i think, like the ones that are meaningful to me personally, in a really you know intimate way, I guess are ones that just feel really like I own them. You know like that they're for me, even if I write about them, I still feel like they're they're, something that exists just for me in that form. I might share some of it with a partner, but I think it changes when you talk about it. In the bedroom at least a little bit, you know, even if you're saying the words of the exact thing, you don't know exactly the image that you're, if you're like, let's say, you're talking dirty about whatever your fantasy is like, they might be picturing one thing and You might be picturing something else and I think that's great like I think that's what makes the world go around and that definitely is what makes writing erotica continuing to be interesting to me um. But you know - and I also think like sometimes we might have fantasies that we don't or I don't even know if the word fantasies is the right thing, because I feel like some people hear fantasy and they think. Okay, that's something I want to try. But maybe it's just an image that turns you on so. For me, writing erotica definitely has helped me tap into some of those things. I've written about things that I wouldn't say are my personal fantasy, but I found it really arousing and sexy to write about for a different kind of character and just to to think about or to contemplate and in the in the context of writing a story about It 

NC: So do things that you read about because you're constantly receiving um submissions for your anthologies right, because you edit these anthologies um. So in do you find things that you read about that you then bring back to your own bedroom like and i'll pick up on The question from the audience is it difficult to continue writing about erotica when you're in a 10-year monogamous relationship? And so I guess I'm asking if your work influences your sex life, 

RKB: I mean, I think it has, but mostly prior to the relationship I'm in now um. I think just in, and that doesn't mean if I was maybe in a relationship with someone else it might be different, but, like our sex life is, I guess I feel like it's separate in a way, but in the past. Yes, it has um, I think the thing is done being exposed to so much erotica is just made me think more broadly about sex and and the world of sex differently. Not as much i mean - and that has I'm sure, influenced my personal life in some ways. But I would say it doesn't necessarily influence my relationship now. I think I think, especially because I've been doing this for over 20 years. At the beginning, I wrote a lot of characters who had a lot of things in common with me. Both my looks and my outlook on life and my sexuality, like they were fantasies, often fantasies that I had or things that I had done. An early story, I wrote was called lap dance lust about a lap dance. I got at a strip club in l.a and I mean it's a true everything in it happened um, so that one um and - and there are other stories where something happened, like maybe 10 happened or 90 happen, but I tweaked the other percentage to make it fiction really to protect people, but partly for the story like because it sounded better To say this you know I had a lap dance once that was one of my most erotic moments. This is over 20 years ago. It was really sexy and you know I write in the story. I can try to find it um. I think i have it on my goodreads somewhere, like that story um, but it like it was really sexy and even though I  know you know she was working and if that's a whole construct and that's a job for her like even within that, and it's such a it was short, it was so short, but it was so like it still felt, intimate and like whether it was for her or not. That'S still how it felt for me, and I think that's someone asked like what do I look for in my anthologies, and I think, like that, does kind of go to something that I'm looking for, which is to feel what the characters are feeling right, along with Them I mean not whether they're getting a lap dance or whether, whatever they're doing just to feel what they're feeling and to feel like I'm right there with them and um you know, and and for not to feel generic like for not to feel like like. Even if it's something I've read about before I've edited a bunch of anthologies about spanking, which is something I'm less personally into now, but I mean I was in the past and i'm still interested in reading about it. But i've edited probably like over 75 stories about spanking, let's say probably more. Who knows so, but like does that still interest me yeah if it's told in a way that doesn't feel the same as all those other ones and I think there's always room for new voices, especially in erotica. That'S something I really appreciate. You don't need like an mfa, you don't need you, don't need writing specific writing credentials. You also don't need to have had certain kinds of sex or any kind of sex like if you have a good imagination and can do justice to the characters. You're. Writing about. Like I don't care, whether you did these things or not, or if it's inspired by your life, I mean if, if it is inspired by your life - and you want to talk about that - that's interesting. Maybe but I don't I'm not going to judge your story based on that, I'm going to judge your story based on your story, but it's interesting to me. 

NC: You say you don't need an MFA. I mean obviously to be a good writer. You don't have to have an MFA, but I think what you're saying you know I used to be a literary agent like what you're saying is true of all writing right. It'S good! If it's good like, if it's taking you along and you're understanding, you're feeling, along with the author and you're um, so I would say the skills of writing good erotic fiction must be the same skills as writing any good fiction. 

RKB: Yeah I mean in many ways I think so, I think you do also need. I don't know if this is a right word, but some degree of like empathy I mean you have to. I think you really have to not have any kind of sexual judgment of your characters. I don't, I think it will come across if I mean maybe you're good enough, that it won't come across. But if you are personally offended by something you're writing about, I feel like it's going to be harder to do justice to that in in erotica to make it feel sexy and sensual on the page right. Let's see, i want an openness, so i think sometimes people ask me, like someone asks, what do you look for in a story? Um, not the sexual topic but the intensity or how it unfolds? What makes a good erotic story like? I can definitely talk about that and I teach classes about that too, but on on some level, it is that I know it when I see it like it is sort of what grabs me and then, when I'm editing anthology, it's not just that. It's also variety. So there was a case a couple of I think, volume, five, where there was a story about a mermaid and it, and I got two stories about mermaids that were really good, but I only have room for about 20 or 23 stories, so I felt like okay, I can't put two mermaid stories in the same book because it's just the reader I want to give them as much variety as possible, so I definitely feel like plot wise, I'm always looking for something a little bit different, a little bit unusual a little unlike what I've read before, and definitely unlike the other stories that are in my inbox, that I'm gonna publish - and there is a story in this book - that there's a couple that really stood out for me. But there's one um that that did especially, I think it's partly because I do not read science fiction. I don't I've tried, I always have trouble with the world building. It's not that I can't appreciate the writing. I just, my mind is very literal and I don't want to work that hard to like - 

NC: I have a very hard time with science fiction so which is your favorite story in this volume? 

RKB: I don't know if it's my favorite, I can't say that, but like Gravity um by Gwendolyn, J Bean, it is it just has so many interesting things going on. It's about a woman who works in a gravity play brothel, so she's a sex worker, and it's in this futuristic society where sometimes gravity is really light, and sometimes it's really heavy, and so the things she does with her clients like have to do with gravity, and so there's a lot just that set up alone was really intriguing to me, and yes, that I did have to do a little mental picturing of this world. But she made it easy and it was only a short story. So it wasn't as hard as like a whole novel set in that world. 

NC: I'm going to read just a teeny section from this. I've not read this story, Yet I let go just as he pushes up inside me. I feel him penetrate me as we fly propelled up by his thrust. The trick with aerial sex is figuring out how to push against air takes a while for two people to discover how to work together, but Nikolai - and I have been practicing for over a year now and have a pretty good rhythm down. Yeah the gravity thing sounds sound kind of cool - I guess I'll, read this. 

RKB: um yeah and, like so yeah I am not normally a sci-fi person, but that's like an example where I will I put in my call for submissions which I'm going to put it in the chat here. Um. The call for submissions for volume, nine, because volume eight comes out next December and volume nine comes out two Decembers from now um. I do want sci-fi stories like I want stories that I would not think of. Think of asking for or that I wouldn't write myself or that I think readers like I want this series, especially to speak to people who've, never read erotica and then people who've, read tons of erotica but are looking for something new and to me that story hit all those buttons because it's sexy and there's this whole interesting aspect to the gravity and then there's a sex worker um, which you know I don't see as much of in erotica and in romance um. So you know, I think the biggest challenge for me as an editor is that I have a limited space, so I can't take every story that I liked reading like their and so in fact there were probably about a dozen that people submitted for volume. Eight that I had to say no to, but that I said to them,  If you don't mind waiting a little while I could either use it, maybe for volume 9 or some other anthologies. I have coming up like I'm doing one on sexy strangers and one of couples erotica, and I got those ideas from stories that people submitted, that there were a lot about those things and I thought okay - well, maybe this is worth doing its own book of.

NC: and do you do all these anthologies for the same publisher for cleese plus now I mean I've worked with various publishers over the years um, but now I all my like books are with them um, and so you know, if i have an idea for something I might say to them: hey, would you be open to this? Like we did one called Cum Again: Sex Toy Erotica, and that was really fun because they're they're, not all sex toys like you, would think of vibrators butt, plugs, there's also ice and like household objects and there's fictional sex toys, and I would love to do another one of those. If they let me.

NC: So, it's called Cum Again? That sounds like a great book: sex toy erotica, okaY. 

RKB: That one was really fun and I think those a lot of them have a little bit more playfulness, not more, but there's a playfulness about them like there's one where people are have - I think they have to go to meetings. I forget what the meetings they might be. Pre-Marriage counseling um one problem with having edited so many books is, I don't always remember every detail of the story, but they have to go to these events and they're they're using sex toys. What like they have nipple clamps, while they're meeting with whatever important person they have to meet with um, so yeah like that was really fun like, and I the other thing I do look for is a mix. I mean this is not helpful necessarily for an individual person looking for advice but for the whole book of 20 stories, some are going to be more serious and some are going to be a little bit, maybe silly or lighthearted. I publish stories about mental health. There was a story about a woman, who's agoraphobic and through the help of a lover, he helps her leave her house and start to work on that issue. Um - and you know, I don't think I would publish necessarily a whole book of mental health erotica because I don't know who would buy that. But I do think that there are ways to write about sex and an erotic eroticism that are not just about the fun aspects of life, because sex still happens. I mean we still feel desire in a different way, but when we're going through a breakup or absolutely we're sick or all sorts of right, we're in war, also, I mean there's - I covered this story a long time ago, um by this author Shanna Jermaine, about a couple where um and I forget how old they are, but the it's a husband and wife and the wife has cancer and um she's had treatment and he is continuing to keep her really gingerly like gentle and she wants him to like use - I think I feel, like i'm just saying the word nipple clamps over and over, but I think she wants him to use nipple clamps like she wants him to be rough with her. The way they were before and he thinks he's taking care of her by being more gentle, and to me I mean yes, that's the specifics of what that's about and sexually, but that's also so much about like human interaction, and you know just because you love someone And are with them for a long time doesn't mean you know exactly what they want or how to treat them. I mean in the bedroom or otherwise, and I think that story really encapsulated that where um you know the author can show the reader um, you know those differing perspectives and how they resolve it, and so I think erotica can just be escapism or masturbation fodder, and that's not I'm not saying it has to be something more than that. I'm saying it could be something more than that. If you want, if you want it to be, you know, I think it can. It has the capacity to say things about other aspects of life in addition to sex yeah. 

NC: No, I'm totally getting that. This is fascinating. Actually, so how many stories do you think you've read in the course of your career and what's your acceptance, rejection ratio? 

RKB: I mean I've read, I'm sure thousands, because I do have a list of all the authors. I've worked with, and I've worked with other over 700 authors and some of them I've worked with multiple times, so I mean I’ve published over a thousand stories, so I mean to yeah um, it's usually about it depends for what book, but like for this series. I'll usually get around 100 to 200 submissions, and I have room for about 20. But, like I said like if I really like a story - and I just can't include it for whatever reason in that book - whether because it's too like something else or it just doesn't quite fit, but if I really like it like, I will reach out to the author and say: hey I really like this like. Could you submit it again or could I hold on to it? And I do use the submissions I get for any given anthology to brainstorm what else could I pitch to my publisher like what might work as a concept. 

NC: Right and is it more common in erotica to get um, unpublished, writers to get first-time writers? 

RKB: I don't really know how to compare it to like you know mystery or something, but I'm definitely open like I don't care if it's your first story or not um, I just really care about - I mean the thing I care about most is my readers like, I want them to enjoy the book and some of them have read all of the series. SoI you know I don't want to, I don't want to repeat right. You want to have new themes you want to and basically that you've done, seven of these or eight you have one coming up over 70 erotica anthologies total. So I mean it's a lot and I don't remember every one, every single one in detail I'll, remember the general gist of it, but I think that you can tell a story even if it's like sort of a general theme or a concept that's been done before. If you tell it in a new way like in a in your own voice and in a way that that feels new yeah, I don't think I mean I always say to myself like if I get bored with it. If I just feel like oh going through the motions doing this again, then I’ll stop and do something and then it's not the right story or you should be doing something else. 

NC: Yeah, of the seven do you have a favorite and are there awards for these? Like has any of these won - 

RKB: Um, I’ve won a couple of awards. There's an international. It's called the National Leather Association International. I'm not really sure why there's national international, but those are for, like BDSM kinky books and some of my books have won awards for those um. It's great. Do I have a favorite? Um out of well. I can't really choose a favorite from the best women's erotica series, because each one has like they're. Just I don't know each one has its own thing that I really like um out of all the books. I've edited there's a one called the Big Book of Orgasms and those are all really short stories. Each are 1200 words or less, and some people just hate that, like some people are like these are so short, they're they're, really not a story, they're just the scene and by the time I got to the ends. It was. You know on to the next one which that's valid. So if you like longer pieces or only like novels, don't read that but um, I wasn't you know trying to write. I think it's very challenging to write a short story, a full story with a beginning middle and end in 1200, words, and not everyone likes that, and not everyone can do that. As an author, like, I think it's great, if your shortest thing is ten thousand words like that's great, don't try to cut it down to whatever my word count is, but I have a word count from my publisher and I would I try to err on the side of using as many stories as possible - so I can get say yes to as many writers as possible, so I'm always balancing okay - I have room for 80,000 words that could be um. You know 16 right or whatever, whatever 5,000 - 80,000 divided by 5,000 is. I could do that many stories or if, if you send me, 2 000 word stories, I could do 4 2,000 word stories, but it usually works out to about 20 to 25. But I'm always trying about, like I used to say up to 5,000 words, but then I didn't have room like I felt like I cut it to 4,000 words, so I could have room for more authors and that's probably just my own people pleasing, because I like to say yes to more authors than then say no, and I also want to give readers - I really want to give them variety like, I consider this series sort of a sampler plate and a lot of the authors do have longer works that you can read. So I love when I hear someone say: oh, O discovered this author through your series and then I went and read their books. Like that makes me so happy yeah, it's wonderful for the authors, that's so great! 

NC: Well! This is so interesting, Rachel um! Ladies, do you have any other questions? I think this is just fascinating. 

RKB: Actually, I think we might have let me scroll back and see if we missed the question, but I am editing volume 9 of best women's erotica of the year and the theme for that is temptation um, and I try to pick a theme that's broad, like the theme for this one is surprise, and that was partly because I was editing it last year during the pandemic, when life was very boring and not I mean it was full of surprises with the news, but my day-to-day life was really not full of surprises - and I just thought I want to be surprised - and I want readers to be surprised, and I just want to see what people come up with like. I don't want someone popping out of a cake, not there's anything wrong with popping out of a cake, but that's like, I think what I think of when I think of okay, surprise party. But where else can you go with that? What else could be a surprise? So when i picked temptation, I thought okay, there's really all kinds of temptation. I mean it could be temptation. You know someone you're not supposed to be involved with and you're involved with, but it also could be temptation of. You have a good. You know a job. You, like a community like this that but like you're tempted to fly off to wherever and live somewhere else and start a whole new life like what about that kind of temptation right? 

NC: Are there women here in the audience who think about writing? Erotica? Is anyone tempted to give this a shot? Okay, at least one person, two okay, good um, three nice uh, someone asked in the audience or any of the erotic stories very sad or are they mostly upbeat lovers, parted sexual issues, etcetera? That's interesting. 

RKB:  I've definitely written. I wrote. I wrote a breakup erotica story that Suzie Bright, who um she's an erotica author, editor and writer, and she was the editor of um, the Best American Erotica Series that no longer exists. But she told me it made her cry and, like that's a very awkward, not awkward, but it's a it's - she meant it as a compliment, but it's still like a weird thing to do to write something that makes someone cry whether it's erotica or not. So I mean, but I would say the majority are, I would say, upbeat overall, but they do also many of them deal with real life. Um things that people struggle with especially women, um there's a story in here called that does have my favorite story title in this book and one of my favorite story, titles, I've published, which is called Hot Pockets by Angelina and Lopez, and it's about a couple who um, who are parents and who struggle with you, know parenting and finding time for each other and just being their sexual selves amid all the non-sexual like draining tiring things that they do um and so they're trying to find pockets of time. And it's funny because she told me she was originally gonna call it pockets of time and her husband said what about calling it hot pockets. Hot pockets is super cute and i think um that i i like stories that speak to that kind of real life element, but then find a way to bring it back to something that's erotic. Sometimes I read stories that are really beautiful and well written as stories, but as erotica they don't always work because they're so deep into the sort of darker side of life that they don't quite bring it around to make it as arousing as it would need to be. But i really want - you want the stories to be sexually stimulating yeah, but not, but like not every sentence and not every aspect of it like you can talk about - you know, I always think about like going to a funeral, and I mean I don't always think about this, but this one example of like I think when you're dealing with the really like awful things of life like sometimes sex, can feel like a a way to feel something different, you know to to escape that feeling or to or to just be in your body or whatever. So I think I think just the idea that we're only um sexual when life is wonderful is is not necessarily true, and I do appreciate erotica that does talk about um, I mean there's a story in volumes: Vessels Erotically Volume, Three about a woman um overcoming not overcoming but um, dealing with the ravages of like childhood sexual abuse and trying to reclaim her sexuality and in doing so through this leather fetish. And that's by a woman called uh, Dr. J, also known as Donna Jennings. She hosts a really cool twitter chat on wednesdays at noon to one eastern I'll put her twitter handle in the um chat. But, like you know, that's really hard to do. I wouldn't suggest like starting out and trying to write erotica about a dark subject unless, like you know, it takes a certain kind of writer to be able to do that um, but I'm definitely open to that. You know, but for the most part, I think the tone of the anthologies is upbeat, because I think that's what readers want and some readers you know they they balk at some of the darker things. These are all either women or um non-binary or you know, gender non-conforming, um character, uh main characters in in these books, but in my other books it's all genders all sexual orientations and that big book of orgasms, sometimes people say reviewers, are like oh well. This was good until I got to the you know, male male stories, and you know that's fine, that that's your opinion.

NC: Here um someone asked how many different words for penis or um vagina. Let's uh, let me scroll up uh. Are there or do you use or let me see, have you come across?

RKB: Um it's funny, because there aren't a ton of words that I like to read in erotica, and sometimes I will change I will suggest edits. You know like uh member, I don't love like I don't know just to me members. Sometimes people use that tip for variety. That's just not like a personal favorite. It just feels I don't - I can't get get into member, but I've also had people say to me: Oh I like your books, but you use like certain words like you know: [ __, ] or [ __ ] or this or that that I can't get past that and so like - I feel like when I advise authors like I would say, if you're, just if you're writing, write the words that that work for you and then you know you can figure out later if if they don't work for an editor, you know that that's relatively easy to to change.

NC: right, um, all right rachel. Our last question is: who is Lady Cheeky? I don't know. 

RKB: I was just about to answer that so um Lady Cheeky is one of the authors in the big book of orgasms and because of how amazon works. It shows up as by her it's supposed to say it's edited by me and she's a contributor, but sometimes they like switch that. So it looks like someone else edited it um and. So yeah. Let me put my website, which is really where um, like I post i'll, put my page for calls for submissions and that's where I will have two new ones that I'm gonna post sometime in January, that one for sexy strangers and the one for couples erotica. Um and those calls should be up from sometime in january through probably may 1st. I would I will say the biggest edit I give like the most common edit I give is. I want to know more about how it felt like not just what they did physically and who moved what where. But how did it feel for them like?


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