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Tobsha Learner: Erotic fiction masterclass

In this exclusive Q&A, Entice author Tobsha Learner offers up an insight into erotic fiction, for fans and aspiring writers alike . . .

Q: How do you write good sex scenes?

The secret is to develop enough tension between the characters before you get them between the sheets (or up against the wall or wherever) so that by the time they are actually about to engage in the act itself the reader desperately wants them to consummate the act.  But in the actual wording of sex and all related erotic activity it is quite challenging. So much of bad erotic writing is either cheesy or downright gross. I try and put myself into the character’s skin – think about how they might feel being touched or penetrated that way but also the rythmn of the description. You can do a lot with the length of sentences, the actual sound of words (some sound sexier than others) to make a paragraph sound like it’s reaching a climax along with the sex it is actually describing. The more people involved the harder it is – orgies are particularly difficult as you have to make sure you’re not adding any extra limbs or body parts by accident – and that it all makes sense. Sometimes I find myself making little drawings to double check.Q: Is psychological foreplay as important as physical foreplay?

I think so. Erotic writing is no different from ordinary writing in this way. The more psychology built into your characters the greater the satisfaction the reader will experience when they finally have sex/make love/dissolve the anger between them or whatever the motivation is for them to have sex in the first place. As an erotic writer I am interested in the many psychological ways we abuse, exploit, revel, indulge and conqueor using sex as a tool. For me it is as much about power and love as it is about pure animal lust. As a reader I need to care about the characters, I need to feel I am in their skin, to feel the growing excitement, the erotic anticipation.

Q: What’s the difference between erotica and pornography? And does it matter?

Erotica is subjective – pornography is objective. Subjective means the reader experiences the narrative from the character’s POV, they are inside the mind of the character – under the surface. Objective means they are merely a cold outside roving eye – it is all surface – we are not interested in what the porn star is feeling , we are merely interested in what is happening visually to her/his body.

Yes, it does matter, at least to me.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

I always describe my short stories as a combination of Anais Nin, Henry Miller and Ralph Dahl. I love the short story format and I think erotica is particularly suited to the genre as so many sexual and emotional encounters are remembered and described amongst us (as gossipy friends) as episodes. Life episodes that shape divorce, affairs, self-esteem, public and political life. They are often the unspoken spine of much drama. I also like to surprise so I always have a twist at the end of my short stories.

The three collections have different inspirations. QUIVER is really a homage to the libertine spirit of Sydney – which I have always viewed as a kind of Babylon by the sea.

TREMBLE is more of a reworking of many of the root myths and fairytales that are familiar to us (although these are very adult fairytales!) ie: Diver (a mermaid story) Virgin (miraculous conceptions) Snore (a ghost story)etc. Whereas YEARN is very London, and really is tales of lust and longing – the ironies of unrequited love, but consummated lust.

Q: Any tricks you can share with first time erotica writers?

Keep a secret diary of some of the anecdotes your friends might share with you about their own sexual encounters. Use your imagination to build on a snippet you might have experienced or heard about – read good erotic writers – some of the classics (Anais Nin, Story of O, etc). Think beyond your own gender and sexuality. When you write a sex scene read it out loud – and be prepared to edit when it sounds absurd!

QUIVER, TREMBLE and YEARN, three erotic short story collections from Tobsha Learner, are available in ebook from Piatkus Entice from 12th July 2012.