Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome PG Forte, who is a New Jersey native transplanted to the extreme West coast. PG told me that if anyone were going to play her in a movie, she thinks it should be Janeane Garofalo. "She’s short, she’s Italian, she’s from Jersey," PG explained. "Seriously, the girl could sleepwalk through the part and still hit all her marks. Plus she’s got great delivery so she’d make me sound funny as hell. And she makes weird look good—I like that."
PG got a taste for writing stories in high school when she wrote a long, convoluted serialized adventure story to pass the time, giving all the characters names of people she knew. Soon she had people she barely knew stopping her in the halls asking to be written into the story.
When she was in her early twenties, she tried writing a novel. She enrolled in a writing class at NYU, was invited by the professor to join a private advanced writing group and wrote tons of short stories.
"The stories kept getting longer and then they began to want to be books and I wasn’t at a point in my life where I could commit to that kind of writing," she told me. "Novels are a commitment—don’t believe anything to the contrary. By then, also, I had kids, had moved to California, and lost my focus.
"I wrote some documentary scripts, PSAs, commercials, did some copywriting, even a little ghostwriting. But I missed fiction.
"Finally, when my son was about ten, it occurred to me that while I had always considered myself a writer, neither of my kids had any idea that was the case. Also, I think someone might have asked me the classic, 'If your life was over tomorrow, is there anything you’d regret not having done,' question. And I realized, 'Hell, yeah, I never wrote a book!'
"So I did. I thought that first book was going to be a mystery but I got about halfway through it and realized it wanted to be a romance, instead. Or, as I like to put it, I chose sex over violence. "
One thing led to another, and now PG has fourteen books released and another two written. She also has, she said, "A WIP file that should keep me busy for the next several years."
PG never really set out to write erotica and, in fact, wrote her first erotic romance on a dare. She thinks, though, that the writing of it was very therapeutic. "It was a very light, very short, very happily sexy story," she said. "And I needed that because I had just finished writing a very long, very dark book involving a villain who was a sexual sadist."
In PG's books, nobody other than the villain will get sexual pleasure out of inflicting pain. "Mind you," she clarified, "I'm not talking about BDSM. As one of my characters likes to say, 'There's pain, and then there's good pain.' The latter is the only kind he's interested in causing, and it's the only kind I'm interested in portraying in a positive light. Yes, sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes that finds its way into books. But it’s not erotic and it’s definitely not romantic."
Erotic romance, in PG's books, is basically a love story. It's romance—"very hot, very sexy, very explicit romance," she said. "In erotic romance, someone has to fall in love with someone. I know the trend these days, especially in some of the hotter lines, is to allow for a 'happy for now' ending where commitment is optional, multiple partners are standard and the characters might only fall in like with each other, rather than love. But I stand by my definition. It may only be a case of the reader falling in love with one of the characters, but all the same, someone has to love someone—or it’s just a really sexy read and not erotic romance."
Erotica, to distinguish from erotic romance, is "grown up chick lit" and "all about the story." "It usually takes us inside the head of a single character," PG expanded, "because it’s essentially one person’s story. Usually, it’s the story of how the main character changes, or fails to change, as a result of his or her sexual encounters."
On the other hand, in pornography, the sex is just sex, with very little emotion attached to it. "Not that it matters," PG told me. "Since we never get the chance to know the characters, we can’t really identify with what they’re feeling anyway. Other than the purely physical…maybe.
"Everything in pornography is viewed from the outside. Usually there’s not much of a story. When there is, it tends to function as little more than a delivery system, a way to bundle the sex scenes together and present them to the viewer/reader in something approaching coherence. "
She has heard one people distinguish pornography by saying that it is material intended to arouse sexual feeling. And, while that is certainly the literal definition of the word, PG doesn't believe that this fact is where pornography differs from erotica or erotic romance.
"If you’re a writer of fiction—or, for that matter, if you’re a poet or a speechwriter, an actor, a musician or even a politician—you are always attempting to arouse some type of feeling in your audience," PG said, "to influence (some might say manipulate) them, to play on their emotions, to make them think or feel or respond in the way you want them to. That’s the purpose of fiction, no matter what form it takes; it could be a book, a play, a movie…an advertising campaign. It’s also the purpose of most music; and definitely it’s the purpose of any political speech that’s ever been written.
"So, for any writer of erotic romance or erotica to say she is not writing with the intention of arousing her audience, my question is, exactly what do you think you are doing then? And why?"
Writing good erotic romance is not easy, even though PG says that one of the common misconceptions about writing erotica is that it's easy. "Trust me, it’s not. Bad sex is easy to write, " she said. "Just line up the pieces, slip Tab A into Slot B, and repeat ad nauseum—that’s easy. It’s also boring to read and, OMG, soooo boring to write! Another misconception is that it’s all about the sex—again, it isn’t. It’s all about emotion.
"I think the best erotic romance stories are the ones where there’s a reason for the sex; where the sexual relationship between the main characters is such an integral part of their story that you just cannot tell the story without it."
On a personal note, I wondered about PG and piercings.
"I love piercings—and tattoos, as well. My ears are pierced—four in one ear, five in the other—including two gauges. I’ve also pierced my nose, my tongue and my navel. I want to get my wrists pierced next—it looks incredibly cool," she said. "At the moment I only have seven tattoos, but my son is a tattoo artist, so there will be more. I like tattoos because they have meaning (or, at least they could) they speak to where you are in your life at the moment. They say: 'this is who I am right now. This is what I think is important enough to memorialize (in the flesh, so to speak).' Unfortunately, from the artist’s POV, they also speak to their own creativity—what they think is cool. My son and I argue this point—a lot!
"Piercings, on the other hand, are mostly just decorative. They’re accessories. Although, as Clairee says in Steel Magnolias, 'The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.'"
PG feels her strangest habit must be the fact that she absolutely has to have a plot outlined before she begins to write a book. "To me, it seems natural, but I have so many friends who are writers wouldn’t take a plot as a gift! So I’ve begun to think I must be very strange for wanting one. Other than that, my strangest habit would undoubtedly be playing with my tongue piercing—incessantly. Repetitively. Loudly."
"What can you usually be found doing when you're not writing?" I asked.
"When not writing I can usually be found playing with my tongue piercing. Or attempting to plot." She laughed. "Okay, really, if I’m not writing I’m usually complaining loudly about the fact that I’m not writing. Once upon a time, the answer to that question would have been reading. I used to read all the time. All. The. Time. But writing has absolutely ruined my ability to read. So, these days, if I’m not writing I’m either exercising, spending time with my kids or my husband, having coffee with friends, doing anything I can to avoid housework…or thinking about what I’m going to write next. "
Finally, I asked PG, "What is one piece of advice you'd give to authors who want to write erotica?"
"If I were to give one piece of advice to authors wanting to write erotica it would be this: don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. And actually, I think this goes for all writers.
"I think writers should approach their craft the same way method actors approach theirs. Find those places inside yourself where you’d rather not go. Ferret out all those memories of the times you were unhappy, when you felt guilty, embarrassed, vulnerable, unloved. Remember all those things you’d rather not remember. Put words to those feelings. And then give those words to your characters."
You can keep up with PG on her blog, http://www.rhymeswithforeplay.blogspot.com