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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Author Interview: Annabel Joseph

Whipped Cream is pleased to have Annabel Joseph whose latest book, Deep in the Woods is out from Ellora's Cave. She also has a new book, Fortune, scheduled to be released this fall.

Annabel's "thrill line" has moved pretty much to the fringe as far as erotic romance is concerned. She's been involved in the BDSM lifestyle for quite a few years and told me she has "kind of graduated past a lot of what's out there" in erotic fiction. When she is looking for erotic fiction to read, she turns to authors like Anneke Jacob, Molly Weatherfield, or Julian Masters.

"They write kink with a pretty hard edge and some pretty involved psychology on the BDSM side of things," she explained. "With vanilla romance I need to read someone like Laura Kinsale who is going to push envelopes and not make her heroes too classically honorable and gentle and callow. I like heroes and situations with a harder edge, and surprises. I am always looking for authors who are going to show me something I haven’t seen before. And I’m definitely a sucker for a bad boy. If erotic heroes are too nice and considerate, I’m left completely cold."

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

"For me, erotica is simply something written to arouse. When I read erotica, I don’t expect a gripping plotline or much character development, just as much titillation as possible. It’s nice to find well written erotica with great storylines and interesting character development, but this happens so infrequently in my experience that I try to just not expect it. I find with erotic romance there is more attention paid to developing the characters and providing more of an emotional baseline for the sexy stuff, which I like. And with pornography I always think of it being more visually-based and definitely more blunt with almost no attention to finesse or the niceties of writing." She added, with a grin, "With that said, I do on occasion indulge in reading porn."

When Annabel is creating her own story, it's important to her that the story not be just some quickly trumped up, lame framework on which she can throw a bunch of shallow sexual encounters as soon as possible. She's been asked to do that in the past, but for her, there has to be a buildup, realistic tension, and really intricate groundwork before she can get her characters in bed together. The BDSM portion also has to have a strong emotional slant to it as well.

"It can’t just be, 'ooh, I’m going to tie you up and hit you with this flogger and it’s going to make you moan real loud,' " she said. "I can’t stand when I download a book that looks really great and spicy and it turns out to be another one of those books where two characters who just met decide to go to bed together or do a BDSM scene together literally hours after their first meeting and somehow end up being perfect for each other by the end of two days. That just doesn’t work for me. I like to show relationships growing over time and really enduring ups-and-downs and challenges. With a BDSM dynamic especially, that’s very important, because a BDSM scene can be even more intense and emotionally intricate than a sex scene. I suppose that’s why my books always run to the longer end, usually 60-80K words."

Annabel doesn't have to do a whole lot of research since she writes contemporary BDSM. She has a lot of personal experience from her own adventures and a lot of kinky friends who are generous about sharing stories and experiences they think might inspire her. If she does decide to write about an aspect of the lifestyle she's not familiar with, she turns to or puts out a call on the local kink networks for experiences or information.

"For instance, I decided to write a story with a lot of shibari recently, and that's something Husband and I never experimented with, so I had to turn to others for firsthand experiences and advice. I got more information and inspiration than I could cram into the book. I find that if you approach people in the lifestyle from a standpoint of genuine curiosity and respect and wanting to know more, they are more than happy to share whatever they can."

"Is there a boundary between porn and erotic romance that you personally would never cross?" I asked.

"I am a bad person to ask when it comes to this. I am actually asked to tone down things I’ve written because they are a little too raw for general consumption. Not that I ever write anything really sick, but I do personally find pornography and really objectifying, raunchy sex incredibly hot. I have to remind myself often than most romance readers are not that way and prefer even their spiciest sex with a softer edge. So I try to strike a balance. I try to open readers’ minds to greater and deeper possibilities of perversion, but not go so far that they are too squicked out to see the beauty of something really raw."

Annabel set out to write exactly what she's publishing now, but when she first started she didn't know there was actually a market for it. She knew that what she was writing had too much romance and what she calls "warm fuzzy emotion" for it to be straight erotica, but it was at the same time too perverse and spicy to be picked up by any mainstream romance lines. So, she self-published her first three stories.

"Then I met one of the editors from Loose Id through local kink connections and showed her what I was writing," she told me. "She said, 'HEY! Send us your next book, silly! This is exactly what we publish and women are crazy for it!'"

"If you could entertain a character from a book, who would it be and what would the evening be like?" I wondered.

"Okay, I will cheat here and say that instead of just one character, I would like to hang out with Dave and Ryan from Deep In The Woods. They are two long-time friends who are equally kinky, and Dave shares his lovely sub Sophie with Ryan for one fun-filled week. I had such a great time writing those scenes because I adored both characters—so much so that Ryan ended up getting his own novel. Sophie had a blast subbing to the both of them because they’re two really creative and depraved dominants, which is just…hotness. I’d love to go to some museum or art opening with them and get all hot and bothered over their intelligence, humor, and charm, and then go home with them and get worked over in the bedroom all night. Oooh. Does that sound too slutty?"

On a personal note, I wondered who Annabel would choose to be, if she could be anyone she wanted.

"There are so many people I’d love to be, but on the practical side, every time I see some new Twilight-related news item, I wish I was Stephanie Meyer. Here’s a gal who wrote a very unassuming set of books for young adults with a very simple, romantic premise and tapped into an international fervor. Same with J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books. I would like to be either of them because their legacies as writers are secure in history and they have inspired and entertained so many people. Not only that, but they have endless opportunities now. They can write whatever they like, go into film, do anything and they will be paid attention to. They are also kajillionaires, which has got to be nice."

We were talking about body piercings, and Annabel shared that she would really love to have nipple rings (actually, "really, really, REALLY"). She's been scared off, though, by horror stories of how long they take to heal and other icky things like leakage and infections.

"My nipples are a huge part of our sex play," she admitted, "so I really can't take chances with them being out of commission for an extended time or getting nerve-damaged or injured or something. So it remains a fantasy for me."

She and her husband are into orgasm denial, so she's super turned on by photos she's seen of women who have a series of rings put in on both sides of their labia in order to lace it shut or affix some kind of locking clitoral shield to prevent masturbation or clitoral stimulation.

"Oooh, so sick and hot," she assured me.

For eating off another person's tummy, Annabel suggests something nice and gooey that has to be licked repeatedly. She does give a word of warning about honey, however.

"I played with honey with someone years ago and it turned into an absolute disaster. We ended up in the shower laughing our asses off because we got stuck together. Here's a tip: Honey is not an effective lubricant!"

Finally, I asked Annabel what advice she had for authors who want to write erotica.

"Keep your pen name private!" she said with a laugh. "Honestly, I think that’s the single most important decision I made starting out. It makes it easier to write without some level of self-consciousness or inhibition, since you don’t have to worry about Grandma Rose deciding to pick up your work. My main advice in general would be to try to write without inhibition, because that’s when the most exciting and erotic things happen. It’s something I still struggle with, but I know I write better when I’m not worrying about who’s going to read it and what they’re going to think of me. I remember chuckling over discussions I had with my editor during my first book edits. 'He could not fit his cock in her ass in that position,' or 'I think cunt is too strong a word here, how about pussy?' Just completely matter-of-fact pointers about the most nasty, down-n-dirty sexual encounters. That went a long way too in helping me see that feeling inhibited or embarrassed is really pointless and works against you in this field."

You can keep up with Annabel on her blog,

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