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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Author Interview: Jenna Allen

Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Jenna Allen. Jenna also writes non-erotic romance under the name Jennifer Bayley-Burke. Jenna said romance is her favorite thing to read or write. "It's my day job, while the erotica is something I do on vacations," she said with a wink. "I think erotic romance is harder for me because I have a high personal standard, plus since I write so little of it, I limit the kind of stories I tell. I only write married and monogamous erotica, and only short stories. Long short stories, but still. I need the inspiration of both a sexy idea and a time in a marriage where the situation will leave the characters better off. It's a hard combo to find, hence why it only happens for my about once a year!"

Jenna was between books when she wrote a story for a contest Phaze was running, and the story was selected and published. "Night of Inspiration" was her first published work. She tries to write a story for Phaze every year, especially when they are having special series like the Urban ("Starting Over") or the Phaze Force ("On Again") collections.

"For me, my erotic stories are an outlet for creativity in between novels," she explained. "Eventually I hope to release all the stories in a print collection."

She admits there's a slippery slope when it comes to categorizing between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography. "It's likely something that can be only defined personally," she admitted. "For me, erotica is a story, erotic romance is a love story, and pornography is a sex scene."

The most important thing is that it's a good STORY. "Sex is fun and necessary in erotic romance," Jenna explained, "but it should be like the setting—something that makes the story better and more vibrant, not the point of the work."

One of the biggest public misconceptions Jenna sees when it comes to erotica is that it's pornography. "Some literary pornography is marketed as erotica," she said, "which perpetuates the problem. And then there’s the common impression that erotica is deviant, dirty and fetish focused. I think it’s easy to pick out a few examples and lump all erotica in that category. It’s too bad, since there are some amazing stories out there that need to have sex in them to be told. I think readers who think erotica would squick them out or trigger a guilt complex would be pleasantly surprised – as long as they chose their stories and authors carefully."

She added, "Too many people assume research from erotic romance is all about having sex and watching porn. You have to have a story to arrange the sex in and around, and that means the same kind of research you'd do for any story. Starting Over is for Phaze's Urban line, featuring stories set in metropolitan areas, in this case, Portland, OR. I'm familiar with the area, but I did research the town and did a walking tour to make sure I had my areas right!"

We talked about embarrassing sex scenes. Night of Inspiration has a scene where Cassie accidentally witnesses her neighbors in a very compromising position, which was definitely uncomfortable for her, but talking about embarrassing to Jenna—that would be the first sex scene in Daisy.

"It's a role play forced seduction that I wrote because too many people in a writing forum I belong to said it couldn't be pulled off," she said. "It was one of the most difficult things I'd written, but in the end the writers in the forum did agree that you can't say 'never' when it comes to writing. Motivation is everything."

I asked, "If you could be anyone you wanted, who would it be?"

"Thanks for the offer, but I'll be me. Me a million or so richer and a few dozen pounds lighter while you have out your magic wand, but still me. I like my kids (even the one that doesn’t sleep through the night), the husband is cute, and the dog adores me. Aside from having a book on the best seller lists, there’s not much I want…except sleep. Think your magic wand can make the baby sleep? If you can, I know a bunch of mommies who would pay big!"

If a movie were made of her life, though, she would like her character to be played by Angelina. "The woman is gorgeous," she said. "And tall, and lithe, and could quite possibly slay dragons."

Other than the aforementioned sex scene, her most embarrassing moment comes from a household accident.

"Have you ever seen that commercial for Woolite Rug Stick where they ask ‘do you suffer from dirty carpet anxiety’?" she asked. "That is my life! We have carpet in the dining room (bought the house before we had kids, so I didn’t know better)…and no matter how much I clean the carpet, it’ll never again be free of juice splatter. People can see it. Ugh. I wonder what they think it is?"

Her favorite food is chocolate. She laments the fact that nobody has come up with good calorie-free brownies. "They can suck the fat out of just about anything, but when they do it to chocolate it's just pathetic."

She cannot, however, eat cooked peaches—the change in the texture of the peaches turns her off. She loves peaches, but bake them in a pie and she'll gag.

"Have you ever known anyone who can tie a cherry stem with their tongue?" I wondered.

"That would be me," she admitted. "Totally worth taking the time to practice. It’s been getting me free drinks since college!"

When she's not writing, she can usually be found reading. "It’s my favorite guilty pleasure. I even download books onto my MP3 so I can listen while walking the kids to the park. Which is likely where you’ll actually find me…"

And, she loves having her toenails painted. "I'm a firm believer in toe color," she told me. "It's amazing how much better feet look with a little polish. Right now I'm metallic purple. I'd never have it on my fingers, but toes demand bold color."

Finally, I asked Jenna, "If you could give a new writer one piece of advice, what would it be?"

"There is no class you can take or book you can read that will teach you more than writing a story from beginning to end will." You can keep up with Jenna on her blog, http://jennaallen.blogspot.com

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