The latest contributor interview from Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women
Tenille Brown’s writing is featured online and in several print anthologies, including Caught Looking, Ultimate Lesbian Erotica 2007, A Is for Amour, D Is for Dress-Up, and The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Women Writers. She obsessively shops for shoes, hats, and purses and keeps a daily blog on her website www.tenillebrown.com.
Tell us a little about yourself, aside from what’s in your official bio.
I am 30 years old. I was raised in the south where I now reside with my five-year old twins. In my other life, I work in law enforcement.
What was the inspiration for your story, “The Change of Life?” Do you feel that older women aren’t as well represented in the world of erotica as they should be?
At the time I began writing “The Change of Life,” I was still in my twenties. However, I was a new mother to two very demanding babies and it suddenly occurred to me that these two little people would encompass my life. That, coupled with my being married at the time, I saw my life flashing before my eyes. I was a wife and a mother, period. I started thinking, already, about empty nest syndrome and pondering “what’s next?” and out the story came.
I feel that older women have been very under-represented in erotica, and I always strive to do something different, to do that thing that might make an editor take a second look at my work, so it was my goal to sort of go against the grain in that aspect. I’ve actually been using older characters for as long as I’ve been writing erotica, and I was in my early twenties when I started. I mean, when I’m in my 40’s and 50’s, hell even in my 60’s, I fully intend to still be having mind-blowing sex and I want this to come across in my writing.
You write: “Bernard, honey, if you don’t mind, could you kiss me a little more and when you touch me, could you not stop at my breasts? And honey, if it’s not a problem could you let me get on top this time, do things my way?
But she couldn’t say those things to the man who had been nothing but good to her, who she had led to believe was satisfying her every need for the past eighteen years.”
It turns out that Bernard might be more accommodating than Doll gives him credit for. What advice would you give to a woman like Doll, who is clearly unhappy with the sex she’s (not) having in her marriage?
The advice I would give to a woman in that situation is to be as verbally free as she is sexually free. Saying what you want can be as sexy as getting what you want, and you never know, your man may simply be waiting for instructions.
Your story is one of many in Dirty Girls where there’s not necessarily a “happily ever after” ending. Is this a deliberate choice? What emotions are you trying to provoke in readers with the story?
It’s not that I don’t believe in happy endings, but I am a realist. And yes, the ending was definitely a deliberate choice. While I wanted to address the issue of the empty-nest and sexual repression, I also wanted to be sure I didn’t give people false hope. Let’s face it, so many women stay in unhappy marriages. So many women “just deal with it” and I wanted my story to be a realistic portrayal of this. And, admittedly, I was feeling pretty hopeless myself at the time.
I suppose one of the main emotions I was trying to provoke was hopefulness. Even though things didn’t end the way Doll had hoped, she still left. She was still out there pursuing a different life. Maybe this situation will give her the strength the try again, and maybe this time she won’t simply retreat into what’s comfortable and familiar.
What’s your general erotica-writing process like? Do you write on a set schedule or when you’re inspired?
I almost laughed out loud when I saw the words “set schedule.” In my dreams, it would be that way. I’d have my own little writer’s nook. I’d carve out four hours of quiet time to write each day. I’d produce new stories at an astonishing pace.
In reality, I write very sporadically. I go through periods of feeling ultra creative where I’m writing and writing and periods of feeling like I absolutely suck and I won’t even touch a notebook. Lately, I’ve just been too tired and I’m not disciplined enough to make myself do it. But, when the inspiration does hit me, I have to write then and there. The words may be on a grocery store receipt, on the back of an electric bill or on my kid’s homework assignment, but they get written.
What do you see as the connection, if any, between erotica and feminism?
Though it’s become much more mainstream these days, erotica is one of the boldest genres of fiction out there. I think the power writing erotica gives you is the main connection to feminism. There’s the freedom of saying everything you want to say, the leaving your inhibitions at the door. It shows strength and determination. It shows courage.
What do you think makes a good erotica story work?
Anticipation in an erotic story is always good. Surprise me. Have my panties wet before the characters even touch each other. I enjoy the build-up sometimes more than the act itself. Also, to me, a good erotica story is one that’s outside the box yet believable. Not all sexual escapades start at a nightclub and they don’t all end at the altar. I enjoy stories that stray from the norm, like funny sex stories or sad sex stories, stories when the ugly guy gets laid, or when the shy girl gets the fucking of her life. I enjoy the unexpected.
What are you working on next?
I am always all over the place with my writing. Sadly, most times I don’t complete all the projects that I start, but I always have something in the works for almost every call that’s out there. Right now, I am writing an airplane sex story called “Liberation” and that one might actually get finished.