The lockdown began in Montreal on March 12. I was already in a state of personal crisis, with my mother entering the final stages of ovarian cancer. At the same time, the world around me descended into chaos. Food was scarce, toilet paper scarcer, and, worst of all, the newspaper and magazine budgets my freelance writing career depended upon were rapidly drying up.
Medicated for both anxiety and depression, I knew I needed to take care of myself. Thankfully, new episodes of “Outlander” were airing. Who can be stressed while spending an hour in a world where a WWII combat nurse can fall back in time and land in the arms of an 18th century highlander who worships her and wakes her with oral sex? With the show’s sweeping historical romance and steamy sex scenes, I became obsessed with Jamie and Claire.
When the season ended I tried to find a replacement, somewhere new to escape to. I made a half-hearted attempt to read romance novels, but whatever I found was either poorly written or just too raunchy. They lacked the story and emotional connection I was searching for ― and the scorching sex I craved.
So, I did what any sane 48-year-old woman raising two teenagers while suffering from anxiety in the midst of a global pandemic would do. I decided to write my own erotica.
I had been curious about penning something sexy for a long time. Based on a lifetime’s worth of fantasy material, coupled with decades of writing experience, I figured I could pull off something half-decent. It was the fiction part that scared me. I write, but always the truth. I lack the imagination to make up stories and weave plots interesting enough for people to want to follow.
So, I signed up for an online intimacy writing workshop with our local writers’ association. The course was made up of mostly hobbyists with a sprinkling of published writers. Our instructor, April Ford, is a local author, generous with her knowledge and connections, bringing in Lukas Rowland, a queer male writer, to do a reading that blew me away, no pun intended.
I was excited about the course, but nervous. The first exercise consisted of forcing two strangers into a situation and engaging them in an intimate conversation. I panicked. See above re: lack of imagination. In the end, I took the night my husband and I met. It was a good scenario, as we experienced one of those love-at-first-sight moments without ever speaking a word to each other ... mainly because I was there with his roommate.
I re-wrote the scene as if we had spoken and fleshed out what that conversation would’ve been like. And it was so much fun, I kept going. By the time I was 2,000 words in, I realized I was discovering these characters on the page and watching them come to life. It was unlike anything I’d written before. And when it came to the sex, I was surprised at how easily it flowed. I’d picked up a copy of Diana Gabaldon’s “I Give You My Body,” her manual on how to write sex scenes, and her advice on focusing on the emotion changed everything for me.
“The work was good. The sex was smoking. My best friend even provided me with a 'wetness meter' because that’s what best friends do. Her insight that it’s all about the things we’re too vulnerable to ask for ― our deepest fantasies ― helped me dig deep to shape the sex scenes.”
Before I knew it, I had 5,000 words, then 10,000. Within two weeks, I had a complete 25,000-word novella about a pair of star-crossed lovers who find their way to each other; a story I’d created out of (almost) thin air.
And it was hot.
Or at least I thought so. Now that it was finished, my next step was to find out if it was actually any good. I selected a few friends I trusted to, A, be able to read erotica I wrote without picturing my husband and me, and B, give me honest feedback. The work was good. The sex was smoking. My best friend even provided me with a “wetness meter” because that’s what best friends do. Her insight that it’s all about the things we’re too vulnerable to ask for ― our deepest fantasies ― helped me dig deep to shape the sex scenes. I then spent three days turning sixes into nines.
Next up was choosing a pen name. I wanted it to be sexy and gender-neutral, so I did a quick Facebook poll, using a compilation of favourite suggestions to fashion one of my own.
Bolstered by my new secret identity, I decided it was time to come clean with my family. First I broke the news to my husband, whose pandemic coping mechanism of choice had been to build an industrial IOT platform. When I told him about my new erotic literary adventure, he cocked his head, looked at me, and said, “So while I’m trying to better the world, you’ll be writing smut?”
At that moment, we made a bet — which one of us would strike it rich first with our pandemic side hustles?
My children had an entirely different reaction. As a parent, it’s always rewarding when you discover new ways to mortify your offspring. They were well aware of my “Outlander” obsession, my 12-year-old daughter often yelling down at me to lower the volume on the TV. And they knew I’d written sex-themed articles in the past. But this was next level. I sat them down and said I was going to try writing fiction. Sexy-time fiction. There are really no secrets in this house.
My daughter said she just didn’t care, and I told her she’d change her mind once she’s living in the house porn built. In the meanwhile, she makes me hit the escape key on my laptop when she walks in the room.
My 14-year-old son, on the other hand, was mildly intrigued by the idea of a porn empire, and deeply fascinated by the business end. I now get a constant stream of questions regarding my pricing tactics and marketing strategies.
The decision made and disclosed, I got busy writing a second book. Once it was done, I made quick work of getting both of my books up online. Navigating the world of self-publishing is a trip in itself. I briefly thought about submitting to publishing companies, but I figured this whole thing was an experiment — why wait years to be published when I could literally have a book up in days?
There was just one thing I didn’t gamble on. When I started this journey, I considered myself a writer. Now I realize I’m also a businesswoman, taking care of ad spends and marketing while figuring out the trim sizes and accounting. Thankfully, there are Facebook groups for everything — even burgeoning erotica writers. Learning the ropes (and tropes) of the genre has been invaluable, down to which book covers work and how to promote a first-in-series.
“Pivoting to porn during the pandemic has saved me. My mom passed away in July and it felt impossible for me to move on. Writing these books has become a reason to get out of bed each day.”
I now have five books for sale, and two more queued up and ready to go, a new one being released on the first of each month. I love writing them and immersing myself in the world I created. I don’t write about billionaires or mafia bosses, shape shifters or royalty. I craft stories about real people, in everyday situations, who find love in surprising places. And then they proceed to have mind-blowing sex.
I worried at first about the sex getting repetitive, but found an approach that works. No sex scene is gratuitous. Each one moves the story forward and centers around an emotion. Coming at it from that angle lets me keep it fresh, and it’s amazing what the imagination can do when you’re hiding behind a pen name. One of my favourite scenes takes place on a wedding night and the groom spends pages exploring his bride’s body like a landscape, memorizing each curve and dip as he prepares to worship her for a lifetime.
Pivoting to porn during the pandemic has saved me. My mom passed away in July and it felt impossible for me to move on. Writing these books has become a reason to get out of bed each day. They’re keeping me sane and holding my head above water during the most trying period of my life. Because really, when everything around you falls to pieces, who doesn’t want to escape into a world where every single one of your fantasies are fulfilled? Where people meet, fall in love, and then make a mad scramble to remove their clothes? Especially at a time when we can no longer touch each other.
The pandemic is currently surging, and it doesn’t look like things are getting better any time soon. I figure at least I’m giving people a distraction, like Gabaldon’s “Outlander” gave me. One of my best reviews to date said, “I have my period, I broke my ankle, and the world is falling apart. There’s no reason for me to be horny. Yet here I am, trying to figure out how to screw my husband.”
The best part is that I’m honing my craft every day, and it shows in everything else I write. What started out as an experiment has turned into my salvation.
Are there downfalls to living in a fantasy world? Absolutely. For one, I’m walking around in a constant state of semi-arousal. While at first my husband found it amusing to have his wife constantly rubbing up against him, the novelty has quickly worn off. He’s living in the real world, not the one I’ve created in my head. When I come up behind him, wrap my arms around his waist and purr into his neck, it’s only when I get soap in my eye that I notice he’s elbow-deep in dirty dishes. And when I rub my eyes to clear my vision, all I see are my kids arguing, the dog eating the last of the toilet paper, and infection rates rising across the city.
So I just go back to writing my latest book.
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