Whipped Cream is pleased to have Laura Tolomei with us this week.
Laura told me differentiating between pornography, erotica, and erotic romance is quite easy for her.
"Erotica is a work of artistic value, a structured novel with a plot, which portrays sex in explicit language, pictures, movies, etc," she explained. "Love is not a prerequisite of these stories, often replaced by a very strong passion or desire.
"Erotic romance specifically describes a love story also in its sexual details.
"Pornography is the mere retelling of a sexual act through words, pictures or movies without artistic value, plot or any other purpose than to arouse sexual desire.
"Erotica is a story of sex without love, erotic romance is a story of sex and love, pornography is just sex."
For Laura, a good book isn't just about the face value of boy loves girl, problems get in their way until the predictable happy-ever-after ending. It depends on the sub-contexts of the story, like the boy loved a man before meeting the girl and having to make a choice between them.
"My subtexts have to be meaningful, they have to challenge the reader to think and…who know? Maybe they’ll find some useful truth to apply to their lives as well. That’s why I write erotica. Human relations, intrigue me in their unpredictability and their complete dependence on sex. Even more important is the conflict between how everyone would want to live their sexuality and the limitations and restrictions imposed by our society. In my novels, I always include individuals struggling to find their own way in a society that wants to standardize everything and everyone. The way the two interact is fascinating to study and the more I write about it, the more I need to learn. In the end, I learn more about myself, too, as I uncover the contradictions and make them evident by describing how a person can relate to them in an alternative way. I guess that’s why I mostly write M/M and ménage, challenging my characters to come up with new solutions to old problems."
It's very important for erotica writers to be open-minded about love and sex, Laura told me. There as so many different forms of both and all equally acceptable in a world of free consenting adults.
"As an author, you can’t afford to limit your imagination or be prejudiced, especially since reality is often far more fantastic than any story we might invent," she said. "But more importantly, readers will perceive both the limitations and the prejudice no matter how well you try to hide them."
She needed to explore her own boundaries and limitations, she told me, because for a long time she didn't have a good 'feel' for sex—she didn't have a good relationship with her own body.
"I used to hate it," she confessed. "I found it too fat, too ugly, completely unappealing to anyone not just men. When I understood it was more a mental attitude than a physical problem, my life changed and I began appreciating sex, too. From there, it was a simple step to transfer on paper what I’d always repressed as fantasies, leaving my mind free to conjure up scenes and characters with strong sexual orientations."
She's always been open about her life with her family, and her writing is no exception. She told me her husband is her greatest admirer.
"Despite my doubts, he believes in my writing, always has," she said. "He helps me make my characters more credible, particularly because, specializing in M/M, they’re mostly men. He even helps me with the sex scenes…and we have a lot of fun with that. Finally, he also reads my works, making helpful suggestions to improve my stories."
"What is the most embarrassing sex scene you've ever written?" I wondered.
"This is like asking if sex is embarrassing. Well, for me it isn’t. It’s a natural, fun, pleasurable act that too often society tries to turn into something embarrassing. I write of what I know or experienced, my imagination often supplying the missing pieces. And if one felt embarrassed to write certain scenes…well, one shouldn’t have become an erotic writer."
She started writing in high school and was very excited when the school's journal published her short story "Nostalgia."
"From there, I thought my life was set straight on the writing path so in college, I worked for the Emory U Journal The Phoenix, a seasonal magazine. Three numbers in all, but they have some of my best writing yet, especially the article “Lesbism” that many on campus found a bit…far-fetched to say the least," she told me. "But life took me in other directions when I returned to Rome and made me live rather than write about it for a long time. I would have probably not returned to it, if it wasn’t for a very personal experience that tormented me until I put it down on paper, structuring a novel out of it, “Piccolo Crocevia a Cinque” (loosely translated “Little Five Points”). This set me back on track. I wrote some other stories, all in Italian, but again, life’s unpredictability had me deal with pressing health problems until 2005. This is a fundamental year for my development both as a person and a writer. That year I finally married, after 20 years of life together, my mate on the date of our 20th anniversary and left for a 2 months trip around the US. My life was changing. I had made some definite choices and found an inner balance I’d never known before. In a way, committing to a man I loved but had refused to marry for 20 odd years, freed me from doubts and insecurities I had nursed for a long time. This new freedom prompted me to write again in order to understand the depth of my changes and I haven’t stopped since."
On a personal note, I asked Laura to share her most embarrassing moment.
"When I was fourteen, some of the students in my high school...I don't remember their age but they were probably older...noticed I didn’t shave my legs and embarrassed me in front of the whole school. I felt terrible, humiliated, crushed, inadequate, filthy, unworthy, unwomanly—but this doesn’t even begin to describe my sensations—and furious because I had no idea I was supposed to shave my legs."
"Have you ever known anyone who can tie a cherry stem with their tongue?" I asked.
"What kind of people do you know?" she countered. "None of mine can do that."
"What is your strangest habit?"
"I wake up several times during the night to pee, then return to bed and fall immediately asleep as if I’d never woken up," she told me. "I never turn on any lights in the process, going around like a sleepwalker with a purpose." She laughed. "My father says that if someone were to take the toilet out of the bathroom in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t even notice it!"
You can keep up with Laura on her website, http://www.lallagatta.com