Here’s an author interview from Peter Tupper.
Find out what he had to say…
- How did you start writing erotica?
In the early 90s, I was in university and reading a lot of very academic studies about sexuality, pornography, the male gaze, the female gaze, et cetera. That was also when I was first exploring the BDSM scene. These ideas became “Subjective Lens,” about a scientist who gets drawn into the BDSM scene he is trying to study. I submitted it to Circlet Press’ S/M Futures anthology. I’m glad, and slightly amazed, that Circlet decided to publish it, as it was pretty long and rather talky and cerebral for an erotica story. That was my first fiction sale.
Many years later, I was thinking a lot about BDSM and roles, and the conflicts between the roles people want to play versus the roles others want them to play. Circlet announced it was starting up again and launching a line of ebooks. One of them was an anthology of steampunk stories. I recast the story into an explicitly pseudo-Victorian setting and submitted it. They wanted a rewrite with a more conclusive ending and, of course, more sex. After that, “The Innocent’s Progress” was the lead story for Like a Wisp of Steam. I’ve been submitting to Circlet a lot since them, with stories in the Elementary Erotica and Like an Iron Fist anthologies.
- What’s your favourite published work of yours and why?
Probably “The Impurity.” It’s the one story in The Innocent’s Progress that isn’t in the same world as the other stories, and it’s a revisionist take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. It was also inspired by the Julia Roberts/John Malkovich movie Mary Reilly, which told the story from the perspective of Jekyll’s maid, though it was a poor execution of a good premise, in my opinion. There have been plenty of adaptations and retellings of the Jekyll/Hyde story, but I don’t believe any really explore what happens if you gave Jekyll’s formula to a woman. I also think it is the most complex and emotionally strong story I’ve done.
- Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I really got started reading Pat (now Patrick) Califia’s early novels and stories, along with Anne Rice’s erotica.
Michael Manning’s Spider Garden comics were a big inspiration too. If I could get any artist to adapt my stories to comics, it would be him.
Lost Girls, by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie, was also an influence, as was Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell: the literary pastiches, the sense of time, the undertone of melancholy mixed with humanism.
I’m working on a non-fiction book about the history of consensual sadomasochism, and a lot of the characters in The Innocent’s Progress were drawn from real people of the 19th and early 20th centuries I studied in my research. “The Pretty Horsebreaker” is especially populated with my parallel world’s analogs.
- Do you have any unusual writing rituals?
I use the “pomodoro technique” sometimes: short writing blocks of up to thirty minutes, separated by breaks of up to ten minutes. I used to hate the concept of outlining, but writing non-fiction has forced me to learn the importance of having a plan when writing.
- Who is your favourite character from one of your stories and why?
Probably Miss Ccri from “The Pretty Horsebreaker” and “The Spirit of the Future.” She’s loosely based on a real 19th century courtesan and adventuress, Catherine “Skittles” Walters. I love domineering, aggressive women, but I think I managed to give her a believable amount of humanity and complexity, rather than being a one-dimensional dominatrix.
- What’s the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?
Keep it simple, keep it short. I think too many people who want to write science fiction or fantasy want to emulate the multi-volume epics they read as teens (Harry Potter, Twilight, etc.), and don’t learn how to tell a story with economy, or keep it fast paced. I hope that short forms of fiction will see a renaissance and more people learn to write a short, self-contained story.
I started reading the first of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel books and the first of Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books around the same time. I finished the LeGuin book, which was a quarter the length of Carey’s book, and never got past about the same number of pages in the Carey book. LeGuin’s book had everything (magic, action, romance, coming of age, mystery, etc.) while Carey’s book bogged down in aristocratic politicking I just couldn’t care about, though I liked the basic premise.
- Which author, erotic or otherwise would you love to meet and why?
Alan Moore, author of Watchmen, Promethea, From Hell, Lost Girls, etc. He comes across as a very smart, creative guy, with a lot of insight into storytelling in all forms. He’s also principled: he’s taken his name off film projects of his works. It’s a rare person who can turn down that kind of money.
- What’s your favourite genre within erotica and why?
Science fiction. I think there isn’t enough SF erotica, and I don’t just mean sex with aliens. Technology like the Pill changed the way people have sex. The French used to call an extramarital affair a cinq à sept, “five to seven”, referring to the urban, industrial separation between work and home. The affair was what happened between those two blocks of time. People need to look at coming technologies and consider the sexual implications.
- What are you working on at the moment?
I just submitted a story to Circlet’s HP Lovecraft-themed anthology. It wasn’t easy writing an erotica story after a writer notorious for a paranoid dread of the physical and the feminine, but I enjoy these literary pastiche projects.
I’m still working on my BDSM history project, and blogging about that as I go. Fiction and non-fiction each exercise different intellectual and creative capacities, and they can complement each other beautifully.
I mostly think in terms of short stories and flash stories, not novels, though I know that’s where the money is.
- What’s the biggest writing challenge you’ve ever taken on? Did you succeed?
“Tragedy, then Farce” in the Like an Iron Fist collection was the most difficult story to write, because of its subject matter. It’s about man who was a de facto slave of an authoritarian regime. Through relativistic travel, he comes back home fifty years later and discovers that the government that enslaved him has fallen, but people use the uniforms and titles and implements for erotic roleplay. That story was about the complex and tricky relationship between real-world violence and oppression, and eroticized play acting. There are sub-sub-cultures of kinky people who roleplay as guards and prisoners in WWII concentration camps, or antebellum masters and slaves, but even “mainstream” master-slave roleplay can be traced back through many steps to a romanticized version of real-world slavery. I’m uncomfortable with writing non-consensual or “dubcon” sex scenes unless they are obviously an unrealistic fantasy. I think I managed to explore this dicey subject in a satisfactory way.