Here’s an author interview with Julia Chambers. Take it away, Julia…
- How did you start writing erotica?
As a student in the late 1970s I embraced feminism and then, as now, was proud to call myself a feminist – believing as I did, and still do, that any reasonable being, male or female, cannot but be a feminist.
I also embraced men and in my spare time did a lot of reading, particularly D H Lawrence, both activities that alienated me from many magnificent women who were at the vanguard of academic feminism. In fact I don’t think Lawrence has ever recovered from Kate Millet’s attack.
I had read Anais Nin’s sexy stories and enjoyed Emanuelle’s mile-high fucks. Erica Jong had given us the ‘zipless fuck’. There were also the new imprints like Black Lace – it seemed that women were writing sex.
Maybe they had always done so and I wondered if, perhaps, I could unearth, and retrospectively establish, a tradition of women writing about sex – not as the opening act to marriage but as an act undertaken without sanction and for pleasure not procreation.
To cut a long story of rummaging in The Private Case of the British Museum Library short, I didn’t, so I decided to write my own.
- What erotic authors do you enjoy reading?
Of course there’s Nin and Arsan, and some of women who wrote for Girodias’ Olympia Press are adept at raising the pulse – to them I would add writers who don’t write specifically erotic stories but whose work is often erotic and whose sensuous prose is a near tactile pleasure to read. Amongst those I would put Jeanette Winterson and Angela Carter and D H Lawrence.
- Where do you draw your inspiration from?
As someone who has read a lot of erotic literature, I confess to referencing much of it in My Renaissance – indeed, Julia reads several significant texts in Mr Corallo’s library.
I rework ‘classic’ sex scenes in my stories, some you may recognise. Of course I also draw on my own life experiences as a teacher of English in 1980s Milan (although Julia has more fun than I did!) and as a teacher of literature.
I am also an avid consumer of glossy magazines and frequenter of art galleries.
- Do you have any unusual writing rituals?
In her introduction to Oranges are not the only Fruit Jeanette Winterson writes that ‘Dinginess is death to a writer’ and for me to do something well I need to be well-dressed, and sat at a desk, any desk, anywhere, but on a chair and preferably with some sweetness in the air (I have a frankincense candle burning in my study as I write…).
. Where’s your favourite place to write?
Anywhere I have an idea I want to put down and where that is possible – and see above!
- Who is your favourite character from one of your stories and why?
I think I most enjoyed creating the rather prissy teacher (of sixth formers perhaps) who meets the devil in my One Day stories. So much sex in literature is so deadly serious, and sometimes quite pompous, as if the attainment of orgasm is like getting an OBE. I wanted to raise, at least, a wry smile at some of the sillier aspects of fucking and all the paraphernalia. I wanted to have some fun. I do that through my narrator who engages with the devil as an equal, and occasionally, in spite of his flashy manoeuvres, his superior. I also get to enact many of my own sexual fantasies at the devil’s sumptuous masque.
- Do your nearest and dearest know what you do, and if so, what was their reaction when they found out?
Because my interest in the subject had an academic starting point, I have always discussed sex writing with my family and my mum was always the second reader of my stories (the first being a lover). She however, has always disliked my use of ‘cunt’, as have a couple of girlfriends but after trying out other monikers, cunt it is and will remain – but that’s another essay!
My teenage son knows about the book but has no wish to read it – thank heavens – although I have told him I would rather he read my stories and any of the erotica on our bookshelves than whatever is out there on the net. He has only asked me one question with regard to my stories after he had been discussing ‘50 Shades’ with his classmates (boys and girls), it was; ‘Mum is the sex in your book nasty or just naughty?’ Hand on heart, I could assure him it was actually quite nice.
- How do you get yourself in the mood to write?
I don’t! I just have to write when I make some time to do so.
- What’s the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?
I taught ‘creative writing’ for many years and always told the students not to believe anyone, or themselves, when they said ‘I just write for myself’ – every writer writes to be read, by other readers. Even a diary entry is only a matter of deferred secrets….
- If you get writer’s block when you’re writing, how do you get around it?
Just write – anything.
- If you could bring one of your characters to life, which one would it be and why?
The American in My Renaissance – I think you’ll find it’s obvious why.…
- Which author, erotic or otherwise would you love to meet and why?
If death is no obstacle I’d love to have tea with those extraordinary women writers of the 19th Century, the Brontes, Eliot, Braddon, Gaskell…
- What are you working on at the moment?
Getting all these student essays marked and graded… and pulling all ‘One Day’.