That’s a saying, isn’t it? The flip-side of Write What You Know? Regardless of whether it’s a saying or not, I do believe there’s value in pushing your limits, finding your comfort zone as a writer and stepping over the line. For me, that meant venturing into the territory of erotica.
That’s not to say that sex scares me, but writing about it is intimidating. While I have it on good authority that most humans enjoy sex, talking about isn’t always easy. The same goes for writing about it. Hell, there’s a whole award dedicated to writing sex badly. Writing for publication in and of itself is frightening enough. You’re taking an essentially intimate act and making it public. No matter how much you say the work is not the author, it is still something the author created, something they put time and energy and a piece of themselves into making and it hurts when people judge that piece and find it wanting. Combining that process with subject matter that already makes many people uncomfortable/embarrassed/judgmental? Well, that just seems like a recipe for disaster.
In short: It’s scary. Which is precisely why I wanted to do it. I wanted to prove to myself I could. And so I set myself the challenge of writing a story for Circlet Press’ Like Slipping Under Cover, an anthology of erotic spy fiction. And lo and behold, it worked.
In an odd way, my story, Spook, is a tribute to James Bond. Obviously there’s a strong current of sexuality running through the Bond films, misogynistic as it may be. But that’s not what I wanted to focus on. Particularly with the three most recent films (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall) there’s a sense that Bond is ultimately lost. A spy who casually uses his real name in a business built on aliases and false identities can either be seen as someone with nothing to lose, or someone who has already lost so much they have no sense of themselves. I prefer the latter interpretation – a spy who has spent so long hiding who they are that they essentially do not exist anymore.
With Spook, I wanted to push that idea to the extreme, presenting a spy who has literally forgotten whatever self they used to be, absorbing bits of every person they touch to further inform their secret identity. Plus also there’s sex.
All of which is to say that Like Slipping Under Cover is now available from Circlet Press. You can even find an excerpt of Spook by following the link if you want a little taste of what happens when I push my limits and write what scares me.