How To Write Erotica When You Have A Mild Case of Depression

I feel erotica is a joyous genre. That’s why Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t work for me – I felt no joy on Anastasia’s part, just fear (women in fear doesn’t get me off, unless it’s tempered with some basic consent at the root of it – when I read about someone tracking a woman’s phone, finding out where she works and randomly showing up there and calling socialising a ‘stunt’, I remember far too fucking many conversations with my ladyfriends about Assholes We Have Known And Loved). It’s why Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners series works for me, even when a retired assassin is contemplating suicide staring into a pool. In spite of the characters’ pain and suffering, their sexual experiences are ultimately in pursuit of joy – even with the uber-intense and morally-grey Søren (although I love Søren, personally, I’m a Kingsley girl. Or a Nora girl. I cannot be a Christian girl).

At least, that’s my vision of erotica. So how on earth can a person keep writing erotica when they have an illness that shrouds joy in fog?

My depression is currently unmedicated (I have been medicated before – I didn’t like it, although there are tons of medications out there, so I may try another one at some point) and I’m managing it, after a fashion, with lifestyle modifications and much, much support from Mr. Temple and the aforesaid ladyfriends. I recognise my privilege here – it remains at a point where it is manageable in this way, which is worth remembering throughout what follows.

1. Get out of the house.

I have written before about the sheer joy of writing in places that I do not live, where there are no spouses demanding attention by being so damned attractive, and fridges full of Prosecco. But it’s a bit let sexy to tell you that sometimes I need to get away from the diet plans I’m not following, the dishes I can’t find the motivation to wash (like un-depressed people are motivated to wash dishes, but whatever passes for motivation that gets the damned things clean), the empty take-away cartons from when I couldn’t be bothered cooking when it was my turn, the sexy sweater rendered totally unsexy by the fact I can’t fit into it anymore.

It’s not sexy, but it works sometimes.

Right now I am in my local coffeehouse bashing this out, having left Mr. Temple at home watching TV. Here, I’m just the lady in the corner staring intently at the screen as her cappuccino cools beside her. She doesn’t have to be me, and she can write.

2. Be another person

Having a pen name is so helpful for this. Realname doesn’t want to write erotica because her brain is full of nasties. Amy has no such problems.

I realise this strategy has limits. I find driving with music up loud very inspiring, and thus far I’ve managed to be a good, law-abiding citizen and stay below the speed limit, but if I tip over it in future, I bet the police won’t be happy if I try to get the penalty points put on Amy’s licence instead of mine.

3. Use media, pop culture and anything else you can to create the right headspace.

There is a playlist on my computer called Amy. It contains all of the songs that get me into my Amy headspace – Britney’s If You Seek Amy, Air’s Sexy Boy (Amy is more genderfluid than Real Me – but then so, most likely, is Tipper Gore), and various others.Reading erotica authors or factual books for research helps, as does wearing a particular ring that I won at a party once (don’t ask) that I keep for when I’m writing as Amy. It’s tough, but sometimes if I surround myself with enough things to remind me about my Amy side, she starts wanting to talk.

Essentially that’s what all of these tips amount to – create or find a space where the side of you that depression is trying to silence can finally speak.

And for the love of God, talk to someone. Talk to me if you can’t find anyone else. Y’all know where I am.

Hybrid Authors: What Comes First?

What’s on my plate right now:

  • My day job
  • My self-publishing adventures
  • My attempts to get traditionally published

You will note that the first item on that list is pretty non-negotiable. The nice people at my day job pay me in exchange for my presence, focus and (debatable) talents for a set number of hours and that isn’t up for discussion. I’m there when they need me. This keeps the bills paid and ensures that I can only drink Prosecco during socially acceptable hours (if I didn’t have a day job, there is the risk that lunch time would get a lot more fun and ultimately lead me down the road to ruin).

So when my free time rolls around, when Mr. Temple is happily occupied doing Mr.-Temple-y stuff, when none of my best ladies have dating catastrophes to share with me and when nothing on my Kindle is calling to me (rare), which of the other two priorities should I place first?

At the moment, I’m choosing self-publishing.

  • I have more control over the process
  • The rewards are more immediate
  • I am hoping that releasing an actual proper book will help to silence the nasty voices in my head that tell me I’m shite – they are especially loud when I’m writing something I hope to query to traditional publishers
  • I’m already behind schedule with the release of Lights Out and am determined to make my release date.

But it’s still a choice, every day, about where my time goes. There is also the possibility of seeking to improve my daytime career, which I’ve consciously put on the back-burner in favour of writing for the time being, but every day that passes I grow more aware of what I may be sacrificing – it still feels like the right choice, but again, it is a choice, every day.

I wonder how other writers handle the daily realities of balancing priorities – what are your non-negotiables? How do you decide what to prioritise?

A book, a candle, a spark

My writer-hero, Tiffany Reisz, has posted a lovely letter on her blog to thank her readers for their support, to mark the day she wrote the ending of her epic erotic series, The Original Sinners.

She writes:

These books were my dream. Not the money they’ve made me or the friends they’ve made me or the lifestyle they’ve afforded me or even that they got me out of almost $60,000 in crushing student loan debt. The books themselves were the dream and because of you all, my readers, my Sinners, I got to write them. You see, if a writer wants to eat, he or she has to write books people will buy. If you all hadn’t supported the books with all the love and devotion and money (yay money!) you had, I wouldn’t have been able to write this huge sweeping series I’d dreamed of writing all those years ago when I was making $5.15 an hour working at Books-A-Million in Owensboro, Kentucky and scribbling scenes of THE SIREN on the back of flyers while standing at the registers surrounded by books other people had written and dreaming of the day my own books would be on those shelves.

If you’re a writer, you know about those dreams. You ARE those dreams. Some days I am afraid that all I am is dreams, that my husband will discover one day that he’s married some dreams instead of a real person, and that all he has to show for it are two rings hanging in midair on the couch beside him (although if that does happen, at least he’ll finally be able to put his feet up).

In one of the Original Sinners books, there is a Catholic saint – Saint Monica – who features not quite prominently, but significantly. On my travels in the last few months, I found myself at her tomb. I’m nominally Catholic myself (like most Irish people my age, I don’t practice. Unlike most Irish people my age, I feel a cultural link with the Church. The spiritual side of things I have not quite unravelled yet) but St. Monica had eluded me. We have a lot of saints. I can’t know them all. I have enough trouble remembering how many people St. Patrick was. I discovered St. Monica through Tiffany Reisz.

I stumbled upon St. Monica’s tomb by accident. Walking around Rome on a bruised foot, I went inside the Basilica of Sant’Agostino without the barest clue what it was (or for that matter where it was) because the charming cobbled streets were absolutely killing me and I wanted a break. I was entranced by the Caravaggio. I looked around the rest of the church for its beauty, then I found Saint Monica, and I remembered Original Sinners.

I lit a candle in front of the tomb, and said a prayer for writers everywhere.

Because a woman working in a bookstore, making $5.15 an hour, scribbled on some flyers and stuck with her scribbling, another woman, eleven years later, stood in a church thousands of miles from Kentucky, giving a shit about stuff she might otherwise never have given a shit about, and walked around Europe with a small smile. And then she went for ice-cream and thought about the many strange and magical ways that art can connect us all.

New Lights Out Release Date. . . pending

Due some personal shit, I’m afraid that I have had to delay the release of Lights Out for a short while. I’m sorry to renege on my agreed date, but for the last couple of weeks I’ve been dealing with depression and I didn’t feel I could give the edits of the book, or the launch, the attention that it deserved.

I’m not naming a new release date just yet, until it’s absolutely confirmed, but thanks for your patience. Also, I will be talking about writing erotica with depression on the blog soon, because it’s been an interesting experience. . . Thank you all (all of my lovely readers, all both of you) for your patience!

Crowdfunding and Self-Publishing – Yes, Amy is Talking Ethics Again

. . . but no sex this time. And apart from in this sentence, I won’t be mentioning Iceland!

A YA author called Stacey Jay set up a Kickstarter to fund a new book. She said that she wanted to raise production costs and living costs to enable her to write full-time. People got angry. She has disabled comments on her blog, finished the Kickstarter and is apparently taking some downtime. If I was her, you would find me sitting next to a crate of Prosecco, shaking and trying to pierce the corks with straws to get that shit into me faster.

So is it OK to ask people to meet your living costs while you produce art?

I think sure. You’re only asking. You’re not compelling anyone to give money. If they’d rather not, they can just. . . not.

I am lucky to be able to afford the production of the novel I’m releasing, and I am in a position to spend my free time working on it. In Ireland, our Arts Council issues grants to artists to enable them to work full-time at their art for limited periods (at least they did – I haven’t checked for up-to-date info on this because I’ll bet you my last penny that they wouldn’t fund a sequel to my sex worker erotica. Which I can’t blame them for, because I wrote the thing to be as good as it could be, but the project was never envisioned as high art).

It is not nice to think, though, that if I wasn’t in that fortunate position and if I sought out a service like Kickstarter, that I could face that kind of backlash simply for asking for a thing people could choose to give me, or not.

Nice girls don’t ask, seemingly. Well, fuck that.

Editing Soundtrack: Do Not Mess With This

I’ve spent the morning on the go and editing in transit. I did not prearrange an editing playlist for my iPod, which was an error, because this happened.

And this.

Finally, thankfully, this.

I like Born This Way for working on Lights Out, because its message is – in spite of the problematic language used, which bothers me – inclusive and empowering, which matches the vibe I’m going for in the book, and matches the life choices and outlook of the main characters. I’m also a big fan of Britney’s If You Seek Amy, for its arch tongue-in-cheekness as well as its reference to my pen name.

What do you edit to?