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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Author Interview: Sierra Dafoe

Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Sierra Dafoe, award winning author.

The first book Sierra remembers writing was in second grade; it was called "Tommy the Turtle" and she drew little illustrations across the top of each page.

"That was when I discovered the joys of creating a whole new story, a story that excited me the same way the books I read did --although I daresay the books were better-written," she said with a laugh. "I’ve written ever since, stories, screenplays, even a couple of attempts at stage plays, poems, newspaper articles… But I always came back to stories. To books. As fun as everything else can be to write, books were and are and always will be my first love."

"How do you personally distinguish between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography?" I wondered.

"Oh, good question! Okay, the word pornography derives from the word pornai (or it might be pornae) which means prostitute in Greek. And not just any kind of prostitute, but the lowest, cheapest, twenty-buck an hour type prostitute. So pornography is, pretty much by definition, degrading, in my opinion. It’s the portrayal of women (and men) as prostitutes, as whores -- which I think a quick glance through Hustler pretty well supports.

"Erotica, on the other hand, is a depiction of human sexuality, in all its splendid variations. It might be celebratory, it might be degrading -- but it’s not by definition degrading, unlike pornography. Erotica has room to explore sexuality on all kinds of levels, which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to codify -- that old 'One woman’s erotica is another woman’s pornography' thing.

"But erotic romance is something else again. The key word here is romance. Erotic romance is a sub-genre of romance, and therefore ideally it has to live up to all the expectations of the romance genre -- the emotional push-and-pull between the protagonists, the happy ending -- plus the erotic content. That’s really what erotic romance is to me -- it’s romance plus. "

For Sierra, one of the main dividing lines between porn and erotic romance focuses on respect.

"Even in a committed dom-sub relationship, if it’s healthy, there is a great deal of mutual love and respect between the partners. In that context, submission becomes an act of love, of service -- as does domination. Both partners are fulfilling the other person’s needs, rather than their own -- and how much more loving can a relationship get than that?" Sierra asks with a smile. "Joey Hill’s Natural Law series is an excellent example of that, and it’s something I explored a lot in my own Devarian series, a futuristic story set in a world where men are slaves and women are the rulers. It was a lot of fun, exploring that power dynamic with reversed sex roles."

Sierra feels the biggest public misconception about erotica is that it's easy to write well.

Some authors who have really stood out for Sierra as writing excellent erotic fiction, and putting the lie to that misconception, include Joey Hill, Lora Leigh, Kate Douglas, Anya Bast, Angela Knight and Nalini Singh.

"Nalini Singh's not really erotic," Sierra told me, "just very, very spicy. I completely devoured her Psy-Changeling series. Red Garnier is another very hot author whose writing I love (full disclosure -- she’s also one of my critique partners, which means I usually get to read her stuff before anybody!)"

"How do you judge what makes a good erotic story when writing your own fiction?" I asked.

"Well, I know there are authors who disagree with this, but to me, you should be able to take the erotic content out and still have a compelling story. I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re relying on the erotic content alone to carry the story, you’re only doing half your job as a writer. In my own writing, I strive to create a plot and characters that I care about, that hold my interest, even without the added heat of the erotic scenes. And I’ve yet to have a complaint that my books aren’t hot enough as a consequence!

"At the same time, in an erotic romance where the emphasis is on erotic, ideally the sexual component should be an integral part of the plot -- part of what drives the motion (as well as the emotion) of the story. And to me, something beyond simply lovemaking should be going on in those scenes no matter what, whether it’s a plot twist, a new revelation, or simply developing the characters further.

"Writing erotica is in many ways exactly like writing any other type of story. To be compelling, it needs to have interesting, well-developed characters who fascinate me, a strong story line, good pacing."

Sierra told me that if an author wants to write erotica, the first thing they need to do is learn to write-- that erotic writing is not some separate subset of writing where none of the rules apply—there are no shortcuts.

Over the past three years, erotic romance stories have seem to been the kinds of stories that have been occurring to Sierra, even though she writes everything.

"I guess you can say I'm writing the horse in the direction it's going," she said.

On more of a personal note, I asked Sierra, "If you could be anyone you wanted, who would it be?"

"Barbie," she said promptly. "Like the bumper sticker says, she has everything! Okay, I'm not serious—I couldn't deal with that much pink. I’d love to have been Katharine Hepburn for a day! What an intelligent, complicated woman. "

Sierra already has her ears pierced and she likes earrings.

"I like sparklies in general," she admitted.

If she had to pierce another body part, she said, "I’d probably pierce my belly button to have another place to wear something sparkly and shiny -- but then I’d have to start doing sit-ups so I’d feel comfortable about showing my belly-sparklies off in public!"

She thinks M&Ms are best for eating off another's tummy—"The plain ones, not the peanut," she specified. "Who wants to have peanut breath when they’re kissing? Plus, they’re small and they kinda tickle, and you really have to use your tongue to pick them up… And, of course, they’re chocolate," she added with a smile.

"What is your favorite food?" I wondered.

"Oh man -- that’s like asking me to pick my favorite hunk! There’s so many… But if I could only live on one thing (okay, two things) for the rest of my life, it’d be chocolate cake with vanilla icing and a big glass of milk. Not exactly the healthiest diet, but my inner child would be very happy."

However, she recently tried a kind of stewed seaweed recently.

"It was salty and slimy, and I am never going there again!" she declared. "Yuck!"

She can also tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi, and especially between Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi.

"I swear, most people are more wedded to their brand of diet soda than they are to politics or religion!" she said.

She's also known two people who can tie a cherry stem with their tongue.

"A father and daughter," she explained, "which makes me think the skill is genetic—and therefore means I don't have to feel bad because I can't!"

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

"Write a lot. Seriously, that’s it. I see a lot of newer writers crank out four, five, ten stories, and think they’re ready. Well, some of them are, likely -- but it’s even more likely that most of them aren’t. You know things after writing ten stories that you didn’t know after your second. You know things about story-telling after a hundred stories that you’d never have learned otherwise. Seriously, just keep putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and don’t be discouraged if your tenth story gets rejected. Writing’s a learning process like anything else, and it’s a lot harder than driving a car!"

You can keep up with Sierra on her website,


anny cook said...

Excellent interview! And especially, excellent advice!

Sierra Dafoe said...

Anny, thanks so much! It was a fun interview to do :-)

-- Sierra