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Interview with Melissa Gira

May 10, 2008


Photo by Melissa Gira via Flickr

(From Rachel: I changed Melissa’s book bio to better reflect what she’s doing now – this is a blog after all. She’s also got a Tumblr.)

Melissa Gira (melissagira.com) is a blogger, a writer, an editor of Sexerati: Smart Sex (sexerati.com), and a contributor to $pread magazine and the blogs BoundNotGagged and Valleywag. An advocate of international sex workers’ rights, a mobile media maker, and a shameless sex futurist, she fully unpacked three times in the last year and prefers to work out of her purse-size office: cell phone, wireless keyboard, and DV camera—wherever a cheap GPRS signal and fancy lip gloss can take her.

Tell us a little about yourself, aside from what’s in your official bio.

I’ve been writing about sex since I was 8, started publishing my essays in zines and underground rags when I was 14, and online when I was 16. But “A Prayer to Be Made Cocksure” is the first piece of erotica I’ve ever written for publication.

What was the inspiration for your story “A Prayer to be Made Cocksure?” How long did it take to write and what was the most challenging part?

I was living in absolutely historic and uncared for 1920’s apartment, a little bachelorette studio. It’s so small that I could only bring anyone over to fuck them in it. There was really no other reason to invite anyone up; I was newly single, for the first meaningful time since I was 14, and I was also very sad. I’d broken up with the man I moved to San Francisco and also with the boy who had become my lover as that breakup took over my life. My whole life really broke: I needed a new home, but that home was colored with all of this memory already.

I felt like an old woman in the wooden elevator that took me up four floors every night. I would sit in my bed and try not to see the cockroaches rambling along the kitchen floor. I cried a lot, and jacked off a lot to get to sleep. I’d write myself smut to get off to, put on headphones and let my MacBook Pro read it to me in TextEdit. That’s how the first and last paragraphs of the story came out, in the dark. I filled in the rest over the next few months. The hardest part was taking out this whole undergirding that had supported the story, a reverie on the Hindu creation myth. It’s still in there, a little bit. But that’s what I get for having a boy with hippie parents fuck me.

What do you hope readers will take away from the story?

That sex isn’t always hot because it’s erotic, but because it’s changing you — literally, melting off layers. That vulnerability is sexy. That blowjobs are sex all in their own right.

How do you feel upon rereading the story now?

At the Cafe Royale reading in San Francisco a few weeks ago — when I came to the bit about not getting fucked, I started to cry. My longtime lover and new lover were in the front, and they noticed. The story now is solidly nostalgic. It’s about a sex I’ll never have again, but then it keeps on going without me. Who knows who else will have sex with my story. Actually, they should totally write to me if they can to say how and when they did.

You write in the story, “There is a great before that lovers can never return to, that time that starts before they meet, so by definition, it can’t be measured, unless one counts one’s birth as the beginning.” Can you elaborate on this thought?

I have this ethos, that I don’t always live up to, of never ending things with a lover entirely. Never becoming the enemy of someone I adored that much to let into me, even if it was only for a day or two. So if a love affair is never going to end, then how can you tell when it begins? With your first date? The first time you heard about each other? It doesn’t matter, almost, because you can never go back. You can never be who you were before you came together.

You primarily write non-fiction about sex, for the sex worker advocacy site Bound Not Gagged, for Sexerati, and for Gawker Media tech blog Valleywag. How does writing fiction differ for you from those endeavors?

If we can even call it fiction, right? I’m not sure I’m capable of writing fiction anymore. Which is probably why I write so little porn. I also don’t keep my weird theorizing and bad public intellectual habits out of the bedroom. It’s always politics and pop culture and gossip as pillowtalk. All of it overlaps for me, all of it is arousing; what comes out published is due to the good graces of an editor knowing when to tell me what’s masturbation and what’s good for the audience.

What do you see as the connection (if any) between feminism and erotica, or feminism and sex writing more broadly?

Can I defer to Hélène Cixous? She advocated for women to adopt l’écriture féminine, and so did Anaïs Nin. A lot of my female role models as writers wove sex and theory together that way, valued the personal dimension of sexuality as greatly as the political dimensions of gender, class, and power. I see the connections, but I also wouldn’t stay in bed wanking and writing and call that my patriarchy-smashing gesture. What does obsess me now is how the business of writing about sex, as women, is so fraught — we’re all either desperate Carrie Bradshaws or conniving sluts looking to topple men with our “confessions.” When really, as Tracie Egan just wrote at Jezebel, “the only void [many of us ]are looking to fill is “the one between [our] legs.”

What’s your general erotica-writing process like? Do you write on a set schedule or when you’re inspired?

Most of my erotica is written on my phone or in a notebook and in transit. I still write the most hardcore stuff on planes, where the work has to substitute for masturbation. The furthest most of those stories go is my lover’s inboxes, but that’s what inspires me: that very private audience, writing for them in semi-public where no one knows what’s really going down on the page.

What are you working on next?

I’m headed to Mexico City this summer for the International AIDS Conference, my first. I’ll be presenting on how social media improves the social networks and health of sex workers, based on a series of blogging and podcasting classes I’ve been offering on my own since 2005 and with the St. James Infirmary, a free community clinic for sex workers and their partners based in San Francisco. So gearing up for that — doing interviews and handling a lot of audio gear — and also being a good San Francisco Web 2.0 kid and having a lot of fun planning a startup dealing with sex. I’m going to let someone else gossip about its launch, of course.

Podcast, reviews, excerpt and more

May 5, 2008

So much has been going on with Dirty Girls, I don’t even know where to start, but here’s a few things:

Listen to a podcast interview with me on the Seal Press site about the book

Read an excerpt from Carol Queen’s story “Shocking Exposé! Secrets Revealed!” about the Lusty Lady peep show, at Tango magazine

A review of Dirty Girls in Lucrezia Magazine

However, Dirty Girls is certainly not just for girls alone. As Bussel was quick to point out at the New York launch party, which I attended, the book’s original title was Dirty Girls: Erotica by Women. Anyone with a love of erotic fiction can explore his or her dirty side with this volume. And I guarantee anyone will want to.

Get the best seats in the house at the Lusty Lady Theatre in the legendary Carol Queen’s “Shocking Expose! Secrets Revealed!” Explore a tangle of the senses and a melding of two strangers’ bodies in Rachel Kramer Bussel’s expertly crafted tale “Icy Hot.” Encounter the post-structuralist implications of ownership and autonomy within a relationship as Isabelle Gray’s “In the Name Of …” sees a couple exploring sensual pleasures outside their marriage for the first time. And delight in a darkly-tinged, BDSM tale in Alison Tyler’s provocative “Like a Good Girl.”

A rather negative review of Dirty Girls (scroll down) in Erotica Revealed

And in me news, here are some recent Q&As:

Sex Files in Gotham Digest

Q&A in Minneapolis’s vita.mn by Alexis McKinnis all about erotica and sex

Q&A in Minneapolis alt weekly City Pages

Dirty Girls contributor interview with Kristina Wright

April 18, 2008

Kristina Wright’s erotic fiction has appeared in over forty anthologies, including four editions of the Lambda award-winning series Best Lesbian Erotica, two editions of Best Women’s Erotica, two volumes of the Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, and three editions of Ultimate Lesbian Erotica. Her work has also been featured in the nonfiction guide The Many Joys of Sex Toys and in e-zines such as Clean Sheets, Scarlet Letters, and Good Vibes Magazine. Kristina holds a BA in English and an MA in Humanities. For more information, visit her website, www.kristinawright.com.

Tell us a little about yourself, aside from what’s in your official bio.

Surprisingly — or not so surprisingly — I’ve been writing about sex since I was in high school. The title of my senior Psychology research paper was “Behind Closed Doors: Women’s Sexual Fantasies.” I got an A. Since then, I’ve written numerous academic papers on the topic of female sexuality.

I stumbled upon writing erotic fiction quite by accident. It was 1999 and I had just published my first romance novel with Silhouette Intimate Moments. I was sick of writing novel proposals, so I wrote this quirky story called “Service Entrance” about a woman who gives a man a blowjob and then pays him for the privilege. I had no idea what to do with the story. At the time, I subscribed to a newsletter called Jane’s ‘Net Sex Guide, put out by the fabulous Jane Duvall, who runs Jane’s Guide. The newsletter editor, Adrienne Benedicks, who runs the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, liked my story and sent me the sweetest, most flattering e-mail about it. “Service Entrance” was my very first erotica story ever and Adrienne bought it for Jane’s ‘Net Sex Guide within days– talk about validation!

After that first sale, I discovered Adrienne’s mailing list for erotica writers, which is a treasure trove of information for writers. A few months later, I sent “Service Entrance” to Marcy Sheiner for what would become a new series for Cleis — Best Women’s Erotica — and she published it in that inaugural 2000 edition. I haven’t looked back since. I give tons of credit and appreciation to Jane Duvall, Adrienne Benedicks and Marcy Sheiner for starting my career as an erotica writer.

(Just a note about “Service Entrance” — I received several e-mails telling me I must be a guy pretending to be a woman because women didn’t enjoy giving oral sex that much.)

Other things about me: I had a long distance, whirlwind relationship with a Navy sailor back in 1990 and this October we will have been happily married for18 years. I’m a coffee addict. The baristas at my local Starbucks often have my coffee ready before I even get to the counter. I have had the same car for almost 16 years — a blue 1992 Mazda Miata. I’ve known my best friend Sheri for almost 20 years, though we’ve only lived in the same state (Florida) for a year and a half. I believe in commitment and I’m very loyal: whether it’s to marriage, a coffee shop, a car or a friend.

Your story “Beautiful Creature” is told wonderfully from a male point of view. What was the inspiration for the story? What do you feel you bring to the form as a woman writing from a male POV?

It is unusual for me to write from the male POV. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I have taking the male perspective in a story. It wasn’t a conscious thought on my part, really. “Beautiful Creature” just evolved as Jon’s observations.

The story was inspired by a trip I took with my husband Jay to St. Thomas in July 2006. Jay is a SCUBA diver and would get up quite early every morning to go diving. I’m not a diver or a morning person, so I would drag myself out of bed around 9 and head down to the beach. Each day, about the time I was heading back to my room for a nap before lunch, I would see this stunning woman sitting at the open air bar by the pool. She was always alone, she looked heartbreakingly sad and I couldn’t help but wonder about her story. She wore a wedding ring, but I never saw her husband (or anyone else, for that matter). Observing her this way, unable to get into her head, I started speculating on what the men who noticed her (there were many) might be thinking. Thus, Jon was created.

In the story, your narrator Jon zeroes in on a married woman and pursues her. He seems to see parts of her that she blocks off from the rest of the world:

The elevator had passed the fifth floor and was climbing.

“Take your top off, now, before the elevator door opens, or I won’t fuck you.”

She stared at him, blue eyes startled, a blush creeping into her cheeks. Despite her dismay, there was something in her expression that let him know she was aroused at the thought of exposing herself at his command.

How does he know or intuit what she will like sexually?

“Beautiful Creature” is all about stripping away — literally and figuratively — the superficial artifice that has become Pamela’s identity. Jon is that rare person who cannot only see beneath the surface of what she shows the world, he also has the nerve to follow up on it. There is also the fantasy world that is vacation– things can happen at an island resort that couldn’t possibly happen any place else. Pamela is able to let her guard down and allow Jon into her private world because she’s out of her element and he recognizes a crack in her carefully maintained facade.

In a sense, “Beautiful Creature” is bittersweet, because the lovers only have that one encounter to enjoy each other before parting ways. What emotions are you trying to evoke in readers with the story?

I think consciously trying to evoke emotion can be a tricky thing because readers bring to the story their own history and experiences. When I finished writing “Beautiful Creature,” I felt happy for Pamela. She had finally found what she craved — not Jon, he was only a conduit for the emotions she had kept bottled up– but all of those desires “good girls” aren’t supposed to have. She had fallen into that trap of the pretty girl, the untouchable beauty, the trophy wife, and Jon pulled her free. Yes, their time together is bittersweet, but I think there is a sense of hope, as well, for Pamela’s future happiness.

You’ve written dozens of erotic stories over the years. How do you keep your erotica exciting for you as an author? What do you do if/when you get writer’s block?

To be honest, it’s tough sometimes to keep it exciting for myself. When I find myself yawning over what should be a hot sex scene, I know it’s time to work on something different. I know I’m onto something good when a story or writing project scares me — my best writing usually comes out of challenging myself to do something different.

I don’t really believe in Writer’s Block, but I do have times when I will procrastinate from writing. There are times when I’d rather clean (and who likes to clean?) rather than write. Then I’ll read a book, watch a movie or listen to music that I find sensual or arousing. It doesn’t have to be porn or erotica — Motown can get me going — it just has to get the creative juices flowing. I’m also a big believer in people-watching for inspiration, obviously. Several of my stories, including “Beautiful Creature,” have been inspired by watching interesting people in public. We all go about our lives as if we’re in a private bubble, never realizing that others are watching us…and speculating about who we are. I carry my camera everywhere and will take pictures of things that inspire me, whether it’s a little girl picking a flower growing out of a concrete sidewalk or the Emo teen reading The New York Times or an elderly couple holding hands and giggling. These images have a way of working themselves into my writing.

What’s your general erotica-writing process like? Do you write on a set schedule or when you’re inspired?

I try to write on a loose schedule of six days a week/ five to six hours a day, with about half of that time devoted to erotica writing. The rest of my work time goes to other writing projects, administrative stuff (which includes reading guidelines, research, blogging, answering e-mail, etc.) and editing stories in progress. When it’s crunch time, that changes to seven days a week and as many hours as I can write. I don’t think I’m particularly disciplined, but non-writer friends tell me otherwise, so I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective.

My favorite quote about writing, which I’ve seen attributed to the amazing Dorothy Parker, is: “I hate writing– but I love having written.” It’s been my experience that if I wait for inspiration to strike before I start writing, I’ll have a very clean house, be caught up on my e-mail and have watched all my Netflix movies — but won’t have written more than a few hundred words.

What do you see as the connection (if any) between feminism and erotica? Are there feminist elements in your work?

Erotica, like feminism, is about empowerment. Erotica anthologies such as Dirty Girls are not only entertaining and arousing, they let women explore their fantasies and reassure them that it’s all right to enjoy sex on their own terms. When I write a story like “Beautiful Creature” and a woman identifies with the emotions and desires of the female character, hopefully she feels validated. And aroused, of course. Likewise, I think it’s important to stop excluding men from the feminist discussion. Dirty Girls is sure to have many male readers and, hopefully, they will come away from the collection understanding that female sexuality is a powerful force of nature — certainly as strong and meaningful as male sexuality — and something they should respect and cherish.

Several years ago, Rebecca Walker (Alice Waker’s daughter) edited a book of essays by young feminists called To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism.This collection of essays by a broad spectrum of feminists dispelled the myth of feminists as suit-wearing, sex-loathing, man-hating women. There have been other essays and books since then that have expounded on the notion of what it means to be a feminist, but mainstream culture still perpetuates the message that in order to be a feminist you cannot admit you are a sexual being. Likewise, Dirty Girls offers a wide variety of voices on the topic of what it means to be a “dirty girl.” Every story, every opinion, every experience is valid– and “dirty” is not a dirty word.

What do you think makes a good erotica story work?

What makes a good erotica story work are the same things that makes any good story work — character development, attention to detail, a twist that catches the reader off guard. If the sex flows naturally out of the characters’ relationships and personalities– whether it’s traditional sex, kinky sex, alien sex or sex that is only suggested — the reader will believe in the characters. And the writer.

What are you working on next?

At the moment, I’m frantically trying to finish my first screenplay. I’m taking a graduate screenwriting class for fun and I have spent the past sixteen weeks being scared out of my mind. It’s a good thing. I’m taking the summer off from teaching (I’m a college adjunct, teaching English and Humanities) and plan to spend the summer writing a novel length erotic romance, working on some nonfiction pieces and, as always, writing short erotic fiction for upcoming anthology deadlines. (Like I said, I’m committed.)

The Dirty Girls book party (with boob cake), in photos

April 15, 2008

Piles of Dirty Girls

What can I say about the Dirty Girls book party? It was a lot of fun, though the start of it was rocky because I was a bit frazzled, as usual. Sutra Lounge was an amazing, intimate, gorgeous venue, with a throne-like chair for us to sit on and drink specials and loveliness. Between 40 and 50 people showed up and listened raptly as I read along with Lillian Ann Slugocki, Suki Bishop, Tsaurah Litzky, and Sofia Quintero. Then I got to cut the boob cake from Moist and Tasty, which had thick fondant as the “skin” and yummy chocolate cake with a light layer of frosting beneath. I sold out all my copies of the book and we signed autographs, primped and posed for photographer Stacie Joy, and chattered away. At the very end of the night, Marie Lyn Bernard (who is reading at In The Flesh on Thursday along with Sofia Quintero) showed up. See my entire photo set here

Dirty Girls contributors
L to R: Lillian Ann Slugocki, Sofia Quintero, Suki Bishop, Rachel Kramer Bussel

Lillian Ann Slugocki read from “Trucky Stop Cinderella:”

Lillian Ann Slugocki reads "Truck Stop Cinderella"

Suki Bishop read from “Flight:”

Suki Bishop reads from "Flight" in Dirty Girls

Tsaurah Litzky read from “Lily:”

Tsaurah Liztky reads from Dirty Girls

Sofia Quintero read from “El Encanto del Mar:”

Sofia Quintero reads from Dirty Girls

The cake was amazing:

Touching the boob cake

My friend Tess was sporting amazing cleavage to match the cake:

Boob cake plus boobs

Fun with cowardly anonymous comments, or, how I disempower women

April 11, 2008

I just got an anonymous comment over at Lusty Lady saying:

Rachel, I think you’re just propping up the sleazy straight guy fantasy. By promoting female bisexuality, that’s what you’re effectively doing. Female bisexuality for the purpose of male appeasement is actually dis-empowering to women. I note that you don’t seem to promote male bisexuality or the women who like male bisexuality. Why’s that?

What’s funny is…I have no idea who this person is (very likely a “sleazy straight guy”). But, okay – I’m a bisexual woman, so, um, it might make sense that my work focuses on women, though not all of it does. But I also have written about “Dirty Bisexuals” (including men) and boobisexuals (which I broadened to include gay men). I know I don’t have the platform of The Village Voice anymore, but trust me, I dig bi guys. I just think it’s interesting how the first place someone goes is on attack. I would say more but I don’t think anonymous comments simply meant to provoke are really worth it. What do you think?

Urban Gypsy loves Dirty Girls

April 11, 2008

My blogger friend Tess, who rocked a gorgeous corset at the Dirty Girls book party last night, had this to say about the book:

From the first story, Fucking Around, by Marie Lyn Bernard, I was hooked. Hooked enough, I couldn’t resist reading, and squirming in my seat, on my commute. However, in nearly every story, there’s an emotional component that got under my skin and made me ache as well as throb.

The variety is compelling. I am only half way through and I can’t wait to read the next story and the next. Do you like to watch and be watched? Does the beat of music make your clit throb? Have you ever thought about leaving a long term relationship and delving head, heart and cunt first into the unknown? Do you want to sit and watch as your lover sinks his erection into a girl you chose for him? Have you thought about jerking off the stranger sitting next to you on a plane? The dirty girls in this collection do all that and more.

Some stories are wank worthy from the start, Like a Good Girl, by Alison Tyler, is a prime example of writing that got my heart thumping and my pussy wet almost immediately. Truck Stop Cinderella, which I had the pleasure of hearing the author, Lillian Ann Slugocki, read at In the Flesh, makes you feel like you’ve known her heroine, Gracie, in eight pages.

Dirty Girls book party with free boob cake TONIGHT!

April 10, 2008

I’m having a super fun, free book party tonight, April 10th, for my brand-new anthology with 27 HOT stories, Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women, from 7 – 9 pm in NYC at Sutra Lounge, 16 First Avenue off First Street, Free

There will be boob cake to honor the nipple on the book’s cover from Moist and Tasty, readings by me (Rachel Kramer Bussel) and contributors Tsaurah Litzky, Sofia Quintero, Lillian Ann Slugocki and Suki Bishop. Plus drink specials and books for sale!

See you there! If you can’t make it, the book is available for sale on Amazon or directly from me, autographed, $14 including shipping (U.S.), email me for details.

The Dirty Girls virtual book tour kicks off!

April 2, 2008

Viviane’s Sex Carnival kicks off Day 1 of my virtual book tour for Dirty Girls today with an excerpt from my story “Icy Hot,” about a woman, a man, a hot day and the last bag of ice in the bodega. Check back here every day for more excerpts, reviews, and interviews about the book.

Dirty Girls author interview with Marie Lyn Bernard

March 21, 2008

I’ll preface this interview by saying that I totally heart Marie Lyn Bernard. Her story “Fucking Around” is worth the price of Dirty Girls alone. I say this as someone who reads so much erotica, almost nothing seems new anymore. I’m always looking for the exquisite gems like hers, the ones that I’ll gladly reread over and over, the ones that teach me and thrill me and make me remember and want and lust. Her words do that.

She has this incredible energy and sense of humor and intelligence that all combine in this unique and wonderful way. That sounds vague, but only because I’m pretty much saying you have to meet her and/or read her work to know exactly what I’m talking about.

It comes through in this interview, and in her piece, “Fucking Around,” which opens Dirty Girls and makes it fitting to have her as my first author interview. Also, you can catch her LIVE on Thursday, April 17th at my reading series In The Flesh where she and Haviland Stillwell will reprise their awesomeness. In the meantime, watch these videos (parts 1 and 2 from the same night) of her reaing with Stephanie Whited at an earlier In The Flesh, parts 1 and 2. She also has her own YouTube page.

Marie Lyn Bernard is a half-Jewish, half-Midwestern farmer’s-daughter freelance aspirant. She blogs regularly at This Girl Called Automatic Win (marielynbernard.blogspot.com), the L Word Online, and OurChart.com. Among other places, her work has appeared in The Bigger the Better, The Tighter the Sweater: 20 Funny Women on Beauty; Body Image & Other Hazards of Being Female; Best American Erotica 2007; Best Women’s Erotica 2005; Marie Claire; nerve.com, CleanSheets, Suspect Thoughts, Fresh Off the Vine, Conversely, Desdmona.com, The Sarah Lawrence Review, and ElitesTV.com. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 2003 with a very handy degree in English literature. She lives in Harlumbia, believes in St. Elmo’s Fire, and occasionally fools around with a website called www.marielynbernard.com.

Tell us a little about yourself, aside from what’s in your official bio.

I’ve been typing words for many years. I used to write novels about time travel, now I write about how I used to write novels about time travel. Every day I promise myself I’m gonna start a “schedule,” sometimes I write it down, when I follow it I’m certain I’ll follow it tomorrow too but then I don’t always do that. My favorite writers right now are Stephen Dunn, Eileen Myles, Jennifer L. Knox, Lorrie Moore, Sam Anderson and Mary Gaitskill. I own approximately 15 hoodies but still do laundry every week. I analyze everything until it barely exists, like Angela Chase. When I grow up, I want to be a big bright shining star, but the kind that can shine brightly without having to go out into public places very often. Cavestar. I have a lot of big ideas about changing the world through literature but when I start to talk about what I want or who I am, insecurity takes over and instead of speaking about ideas, I just shrug a lot and look at my shoes. I could’ve benefited from eating more Fruit by the Foot. As I write this, my friends are saying, “Don’t write anything ridiculous or crazy.” Real friends or imaginary friends? I’ll never tell…

What was the inspiration for your story “Fucking Around” and how long did it take to write?

Who knows where thoughts come from? They just appear. (Name that movie!) This is what I remember: I went to an In the Flesh in early ’06 and my friend said, “You should read here.” And so I emailed you (RKB) and said “Can I read here?” and you said, “Yes.” So later that year, my best friend Haviland and I went to another In the Flesh, and afterwards we talked about how we’d like to do something really different, together, for my In the Flesh reading in ’06. About two days before the reading, I realized I had nothing to read. This is typical. And so I wrote a draft of “Fucking Around” in about 3-4 hours. I brought it to Haviland. We read it together⎯it was over ten minutes. We cut and added…eventually we trimmed it down to approximately the proper time. I tweaked it a tiny bit the next day. All in all…it took about 5-6 hours to write. In retrospect, I can’t believe I used to do things so quickly. I wish I could do that again. I think “New York City fucks me,” is something we all think every now and then. Some of the encounters are specific people, imaginary or real.

I think it was on the tip of my tongue⎯possibly related to these “city poems” a girl Amalia had written in my high school (I went to a boarding school for the arts where students took Poetry Seriously) that included brilliant lines like: “chapel hill feeds me smushed-up cake with a spoon. she calls all her clothes ‘pajamas’.” and “d.c. molests his children. nobody really says much about it because they’re afraid of him hearing and writing down what they say.” I’d forgotten about these poems until my friend who came to my reading reminded me. I thought, yes⎯THAT is where thoughts come from! Other people’s thoughts! I imagine personifying cities (anthropomorphism) is a popular technique⎯the Mesopotamian gods, Uncle Sam, etc. I guess I just took it and made it sexy, but I think at the time I was also thinking a lot about why we come home to certain places/people again and again despite their obvious glaring drawbacks, and why the rest of the world/population is never enough. Also that week I was moving⎯jobs, friends, apartment (brooklyn to manhattan), goals⎯so probs that was related to my state of mind.

In the story, the narrator is fucking various cities across the United States. In your experience, what city is the best place to have sex in?

I feel obligated to answer “New York City.” ‘Cause the whole world’s spinning outside without you, so you have to start a fire in your room to feel that anything you’re doing is actually important. But really…it’s where your heart is. FYI, I think it’d be funny if I answered “Detroit,” and then gave you several reasons why: 1. The Henry Ford Museum, 2. Eminem. 3. My Mom lives there in case of an emergency. 4. Motown!

I think cities are best; the sensation that there’s a million other things you COULD be doing, but you’re choosing not to ’cause you’d rather be fucking…as opposed to sex by default (nothing else to do). I really have no idea what I’m talking about, I’d like to go back to “where your heart is.” Kansas? That’s not a city. Oh wait, it is! Kansas City! Never been there. I bet it’s full of hotties who like to do it, like Dorothy Gale.

The story has an unusual format, and worked very well as a live piece. Was it challenging to write the story in that way? Do you feel that it works differently on the page vs. live?

I’ve written many plays and screenplays so it wasn’t hard to write as a live piece. If anything, it’s easier ’cause it’s not 100% my responsibility to rock it, I can depend on my co-reader to carry some of the weight. I think it’s much more effective live, but people who’ve read it on the page still feel it’s good, which surprises me, but now I accept that idea. At first I wouldn’t let anyone read it ’cause I was like, “OMG, it’s better live.” But here we go with the book, I’m totally Zen about it, fo’real.

Your story is very humorous, but also sad at times; it goes through a lot of emotions. Was that deliberate?

That’s always how I write, ’cause that’s how my brain works: sad and then funny, funny and then sad. I don’t think I’ve ever been sad sad sad sad without a break of funny or vice versa. My brain, to a disturbing degree, isn’t interested in sticking to one feeling or another. This is refreshing in fiction (I hope), less refreshing in real life/actual friendships/relationships.

Why do you enjoy writing erotica? How is it similar or different from the other kinds of writing you do?

I think it’s easier…’cause the “climax” of the story is already a given⎯whatever conflict you’ve set up between your characters can be confronted/resolved via the sexual encounter. It’s like anything where you’re writing with a theme/topic…it helps. It guides. The kind of writing “I do” lately is a lot of television recaps and blog entries and top tens and to be honest that is not so different, except that speaking explicitly of what actually happens during sex is shocking rather than expected. Now that more people actually read what I write, I don’t write about sex as much unless it’s from a cultural/political perspective or more subtle. I dunno, it makes me feel too exposed I think. But you get to reveal some of your character’s most ingrained fears/passions right away, which is great. Right now I dig writers like Mary Gaitskill and Maggie Estep who don’t shy from explicit sex in their narratives but also aren’t writing with sex at the forefront of their goals for the story. If that makes sense.

What are you working on next?

1. World peace
2. Self peace/esteem
3. My Blog, Obvs.
4. My Book…my…Memoir! ’cause I’m So! Important! It’s about paradox. And the self. Surprise!
5. There’s always another blog to write.
6. Getting the hell out of dodge.
7. Reading (next on the list: The Book of Other People/edited by Zadie Smith, Virginia Woolf/Orlando, Kathy Acker/My Mother: A Demonology, Junot Diaz/Drown, the new issue of Marie Claire.
8. Polishing/improving my video editing skills to make more videos
9. Cleaning my room
10. Finishing this interview! Ta-Da!!

Dirty Girls book parties and Bookslut interview

March 12, 2008


Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women has just arrived at my publisher, Seal Press, so copies should be in bookstores any day. Save these dates:

NYC book party: Thursday, April 10th, 7-9 pm, Sutra Lounge, 16 First Avenue (at First Street), NYC, with readings and a boob cake from Moist and Tasty – with readers Tsaurah Litzy, Lillian Ann Slugocki, Sofia Quintero, and Suki Bishop

San Francisco book party: Monday, April 28th, 7-9 pm, Cafe Royale,800 Post Street (at Leavenworth), San Francisco, with Rachel Kramer Bussel, Carol Queen, Donna George Storey, Melissa Gira, and Gina de Vries

Also, on Thursday, April 17th at 8 pm, I will be reading along with contributors Sofia Quintero and Marie Lyn Bernard at my reading series In The Flesh, at Happy Ending Lounge, 302 Broome Street. Free, 21+, with free candy and cupcakes – click here for full lineup. And if you’re not in New York, don’t worry, we’ll be taping it and I’ll post the readings here – they’re going to be fabulous and in fact, Marie Lyn Bernard’s piece, “Fucking Around,” I first heard read at In The Flesh and loved it so much I knew I had to have it for Dirty Girls.

Melissa Lion interviewed me over at Bookslut for her Sticky Pages column.

The whole point of this column is to hip you to books that have hot sex, but not hot covers. You know, so you can read them on your lunch break or tuck them under your arm and retire to the airport loo. Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, does not have this type of cover. It has nipple. Not exactly sittin’ in the bleachers during soccer practice reading. However, the erotica in it is by far the best I’ve read. The stories are well-written and dirty, elegant and realistic. So realistic, I made that rookie reader move of checking the author’s name against the narrator’s name no less than five times. Surely this is real, I thought, or maybe just hoped.

A column picking out the scenes in this great book would be far too long, so I went for the lazy girl approach. I dropped an e-mail to Rachel Kramer Bussel with seven questions attached. I figured that as a senior editor at Penthouse Variations, a prolific writer, and one of America’s top cupcake mavens (no kidding), she’d be way more interesting than I would. Plus there are a few scenes I need to reread. Excuse me, would you.

What makes a good sex scene in fiction?

A scene where you know what at least one of the character’s motivation is, that you get why they’re having sex with that particular person, what makes it hot for them. You want to put the reader into the middle of the sex and make them feel everything the person is feeling.

Read the rest of the interview