Long and Short Reviews welcomes Kathryn Harvey, the erotic persona of best-selling author Barbara Wood. (pen name of Barbara Wood). One lucky commenter on this interview will win a print copy (US and Canada only please) of her newly re-released erotic novel, Butterfly, the first book in the Butterfly Trilogy. When Kathryn was a small child—before she was three—she told stories to her dolls and teddy bears and, as she got older, began writing her stories down. She refers to herself as a storyteller, rather than a writer.
"Writer sounds rather general and technical," she explained. "Sterile, really."
The characters always come first for Kathryn.
"Once they are well rounded and are living, breathing people, then they tell me their stories," she said.
"If you had to do your journey to publication over again," I asked, "what would you do differently?"
"Absolutely nothing. I sold my first book on the first try, to Doubleday in hardcover. My publishing experience has been lovely."
Kathryn always works on one book at a time, so she gets blocked on one, she will just switch to another book and pretty soon the old block is gone.
"Wine helps, too," she assured me.
Her favorite author is James Michener. His works Hawaii and The Source greatly influenced her own writing.
"He was a fabulous story teller as well as gifted with the ability to draw the reader in and sweep him or her away to exotic locales, to experience different periods in history, to make the reader feel like he or she is really there." Other authors who have influenced her are Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.
"I am a sci-fi fan," she told me, "although I do not write that genre."
One of the most important elements of good writing is the author herself enjoying what she does.
"If the writer is bored with what he or she is writing, you can be sure the reader will be bored, too."
"If you could spend a day with anyone from history, dead or alive, who would it be, and what would you do?" I asked. "What would you ask them?"
"Queen Nefertiti. I would ask her to tell me the truth about her husband and the real origins of monotheism. I believe Moses and Old Testament stories are rooted in ancient Egypt. Bring Nefertiti to life and the Bible will be illuminated."
When Kathryn's not writing, she loves to walk and play golf—describing herself as "fanatical" about both. She's new to the game and newly obsessed with it. In fact, she's just recently finished reading Golf Dreams by John Updike. She told me she can't read enough about the game.
"Plus I like to travel. I do needlework. And did I mention that I golf?" she said.
"What's the weirdest thing you've ever done in the name of research?" I wondered.
"For my novel This Golden Land I lived underground at Coober Pedy in Australia."
Kathryn told me that she's not of the "screen" generation and much prefers print.
"I love the smell of a paper book, the feel of the cover and pages. Screens are a nuisance that we have to tolerate for convenience."
The hardest part of writing for Kathryn, even after 25 books, is sending the manuscript to her agent.
"I white-knuckle it every time," she confessed.
"Describe your writing space," I asked.
"A desk, books, a statue of the Virgin Mary, a baseball card with my husband on it, and a cat, asleep."
Even though she has a desk, she likes to write standing up—Hemmingway did, too.
She doesn't like to talk about works in progress, because she's afraid she'll jinx it.
"How do you personally distinguish between pornography, erotica, and erotic romance?" I asked.
"It’s all about the details, how 'dirty and nasty' or how much is in the mind of the characters, their fantasy so to speak. Porn is stark and to the point. Erotica a little less so with more fantasy thrown in. Erotic romance is all about the story with sex to spice it up."
Her favorite erotic romance is Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty trilogy, and her favorite erotic author is Nancy Friday, because she collected the real fantasies of real women, with My Secret Garden being her favorite book. When it comes to her own erotic fiction she will look at it objectively and ask herself if it's something she would buy in a bookstore.
"Is it tasteful yet exciting, or is it offensive and not something I would want to read?" she said. "As I said before, if the writer isn’t satisfied by what she is writing, then it’s a sure bet the reader won’t be either."
"What research books do you recommend for authors starting out in writing erotica?" I wondered.
"Anatomy for one. I’m constantly amazed at how many people don’t know the difference between a vagina and a vulva and a uterus. Next I would recommend The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort, a classic. And again, Nancy Friday."
But, she offers this advice to authors who want to write erotica—" Don’t get overly anatomical and think it’s sexy; remember that the brain is just as powerful a sex organ as those others. I would also say, leave a few things out for the reader to fill in. As they say, leave something to the imagination."
Finally I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"Just do it. Sit down and write one page a day and at the end of the year you have a novel. Don’t let anyone discourage you or say it can’t be done. And don’t spend a lot of time sitting in classes on creative writing, or going to those expensive writing weekends. Just do it."
About the Author: Barbara Wood, writing under the pseudonym Kathryn Harvey, is the international bestselling author of twenty-five acclaimed novels, including New York Times bestseller Butterfly. Her work has been translated into over 30 languages. Barbara lives in California.
Above an exclusive men’s store on Rodeo Drive there is a private club called Butterfly, where women are free to act out their secret erotic fantasies. Only the most beautiful and powerful women in Beverly Hills are invited to join: Jessica, a lawyer who longs for the days when men were men; Trudie, a builder who wants a man who willchallenge her with no holds barred; and Linda, a surgeon, who usesmasks to unmask the desires she hides even from herself.
But the most mysterious of them all is the woman who created Butterfly. She has changed her name, her accent, even her face to hide her true identity. And now she is about to reveal everything to realize the dream that has driven her since childhood—the secretobsession that will carry her beyond ecstasy, or destroy her and everyone around her.