May 9, 2010

Please, Sir Virtual Book Tour Day 9

Welcome to day 9 of the Please, Sir virtual book tour! Please, Sir is a collection of stories centered around female submission, and is edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel and published by Cleis Press. Check out the Please, Sir book blog here.

Today, I have an interview with Shanna Germain, who writes and teaches erotica as well as other genres (I highly recommend taking one of her Sexy on the Page online classes). Her story "Anticipation" is about a long-distance BDSM couple who has to express their passion and their power dynamic via instant messenger while the protagonist sits in a public place. Scroll down for Shanna's perspectives on writing "Anticipation," as well as BDSM fiction in general.

I know, based on your blog, that you have the opportunity to travel quite a bit. Did your experiences with travel influence "Anticipation" in any way? How so?

They did, actually. In fact, this is one of my few stories that mirrors my life. I was sitting in a coffee shop as I wrote it, instant messaging back and forth to a long-distance lust at the time. It was actually the inspiration for the story, and it lent an odd and unusual echo between what was happening fiction-wise and what was happening in real life.

What were the particular challenges of writing a BDSM story in which the characters were thousands of miles apart? What was particularly fun about the writing process?

My characters are usually in close proximity to each other. In fact, I typically have a hard time reading stories where the characters are only communicating via text or IM. Text speak is difficult to read on the page, for me, and so that means I don't write it very often. But this felt like a good time to try a challenge, to see if I could pull it off. So many people are sexting these days, that it makes sense for fiction to echo that. The challenge for me became how to use that as an element in the story and still have it be sexy and readable.

Related to that - what were the challenges of writing a story in which a character is at risk of getting caught engaging in sexual behavior in public, even though she is separated from her lover? Other stories in Please, Sir have characters engaged in public sexual power play, but those characters are in the same place. What was it like to risk involving the public when the conversation was one-sided?

Well, that's a risk I feel all the time. As an erotica writer who does most of my work in coffee shops and on airplanes, I'm always nervous that someone is going to start reading stuff over my shoulder. But then I think, serves them right if they do that! So, I know a bit about that kind of risk.

Also, there's something that adds to the element of arousal, I think, when you're getting away with someone. Here's this woman, who from all external appearances, is businessed-up and formal, and yet she has this amazing sexual energy going on. I think everyone has a hidden thing -- sexual or otherwise -- that makes them glow when they tap into it. Everyone else around them senses it, even if it's hidden, and then those energies begin to play off each other. I had this image of her, sitting there, oblivious to most of the effect that she was having, and everyone else in the coffee shop feeling suddenly aroused without really knowing why.

As someone who makes her living as a wordsmith, what was it like to write a protagonist who struggled with creating beautiful, poetic language? When you were writing "Anticipation," did you ever consider linguistic abilities to be a part of the couple's power play? I was fascinated by the fact that Bard42, the dom, has such an elegant command of language, while the narrator does not. It's not that she's silenced, exactly, but it seems that part of her submissiveness comes from the fact that she's not able to seduce with language. Was that a conscious decision on your part?

It was a conscious decision. When I first started writing, they were both eloquent with language, equals if you will. And then I realized that, yes, it would actually heighten her submissiveness to be the one who is out of her element in this type of interaction. In great fiction, you should be able to tell who's talking just by their dialogue being unique. I think that's true of dialogue in text-speak as well. I didn't want them to both sound the same.

One of the hallmarks of "Anticipation" is that Bard42 is only able to describewhat will happen. Unlike many of the other stories in Please, Sir, the reader does not get to see the action first-hand. We only get a promise of what is to come. What was it like to create a story where the most explicit action did not actually take place in the present or past?

For me, a lot of the arousal aspect of erotica comes from that anticipatory desire. So this was right up my alley as far as creating a sense of "what's to come." My goal was to make the non-visible visible by using concrete images of what he's going to do to her. The fact that they're in a long-term relationship helps that as well; they've done these things together before, so she can picture how it's going to go, and what it's going to be like.

What initially drew you to writing BDSM stories? How are they different from writing "vanilla" erotica? Which do you prefer to write?

I like to write anything that's sexual. For BDSM stuff, the power exchange interests me a lot, the way that characters can truly let go of all their inhibitions and be real. That's the moment I love in sexuality and in sex-writing, whether it comes from a heterosexual one-on-one vanilla scene or a BDSM-style orgy with whips and chains.

Do you prefer to write from the perspective of a dom or a sub? What are the particular challenges and highlights of writing each?

Well, I'm very much a dominant in everyday life and a submissive in the bedroom (or other sexual places), so I have elements of both in my nature. I don't find one easier than the other -- I'm very character driven. So sometimes the characters that show up in my brain are submissive, and sometimes they're dominant, sometimes they're neither or both. I just try to be true to that character, wherever their interests may lie.

What is the hallmark of an excellent BDSM story? Other than the obviously kinky subject matter, are there any stylistic elements that are required of BDSM that are nto required in vanilla stories?

Hm. That's a good question. My guess is that it's different for every reader. But for me, there has to be an element of respect and an understanding that the BDSM power dance is just that -- it's a dance of power, of consent, of taking only what's allowed. If I read something that's just degrading to one character, or that's complete power without give and take, I find myself ranting at the words.

Can someone write good BDSM fiction if they do not enjoy participating in BDSM in their own life? Is just reading good BDSM enough, or is there a certain amount of real-life appreciation one needs to feel and experience in order to make these stories convincing?

I think people can write anything if they have a basic understanding of human nature. If I could only write what I know well, I would have to write every story from the perspective of an almost 40-year-old white middle class submissive woman. How boring would that be?

I think that writers get into trouble when they fall back on cliches without taking the time to make them real people. Cliched characters say the same things over and over, they make the same actions, they act the way a million other characters act in BDSM stories.

You can write about the cliche of the dominant aggressive man and the meek submissive woman, but you have to personalize them. It's not just some dominant aggressive man. It's this man, the one with dark hair and bright blue eyes, who's waiting for you with a simple black paddle in his hands, tapping it against his finger tips. The one who plays tennis and you just know how hard his backswing is, and you're unzipping your skirt very very slowly because you can already feel how much that black leather is going to hurt on your bare skin...

And now I've gotten myself carried away! I think I'm going to have to go write that story!

Thanks again for stopping by for this portion of the tour! Be sure to check out Day 10 over at Prurient Interests.

You can order Please, Sir from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Powell's, IndieBound, and Cleis Press. (And Austinites, the book is also available at BookWoman!)

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