Thursday, April 12, 2012

Interview: Elizabeth Black

Elizabeth Black writes, erotica, erotic romance, dark fiction, and horror. She writes the latter two as E. A. Black. Her fiction has been published by Naughty Nights Press, Circlet Press, Xcite Books (UK), Romance Divine, New Dawning Bookfair, Ravenous Romance, Stupefying Stories, and Kizuna: Fiction For Japan. She has also worked as a gaffer (lighting), scenic artist, and prosthetic makeup artist for concerts, film, stage, and television including "Die Hard With A Vengeance", "12 Monkeys", and "Homicide: Life On The Street". Currently living in Massachusetts by the ocean, she is surrounded by her husband, son, and four cats.

Is There a Message in Your Novel That You Want Readers to Grasp?

Yes, that a sexually free woman isn't a slut. My book is set in 1983 and sexual attitudes really haven't changed much over the past 20 years. Even today, women who are sexually active without being married are given the hairy eyeball. Look at the recent political dust ups in the U. S. over contraception. We have old white men in positions of power saying things like “Back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.” As if women should keep a pill between their knees so they don't spread their legs. How insulting! And we have other, old white men calling sexually active women sluts insisting the the general public shouldn't have to pay for their birth control when nothing of the kind will happen. You don't hear this kind of noise when it comes to men and their penis pills. Apparently it's okay for men (including those old white men complaining about women's contraception)  to have Viagra for their dicks but women can't have birth control to keep from getting pregnant or catching STDs. Double standard, anyone?

I also wanted to show that experimenting sexually is a viable and time-honored way for a woman to explore her needs. Men aren't the only Casanovas out there. A woman may learn a great deal about herself from her experiences with her lovers whether they are male or female. My character has also been abandoned by her father, so there are insecurity issues for her to deal with. I wanted to create a character women could identify with, even if they never had as many sexual partners as Catherine Stone. There's quite a bit of myself in Catherine . I know from personal history that many men feel intimidated by a woman with lots of sexual experience, especially if she has more experience than he does. They worry about their own performance. There's no real reason for a man to feel so insecure. A woman with lots of experience will make his experience with her even more special.

I hope my women readers relate to Catherine and have or either  have had her concerns. Granted, this is a book for straight women although Catherine is bisexual. Her primary focus is on men. Women who read my book may wonder like Catherine if they'll ever find love amid the sexual freedoms of modern society. Some don't want to be tied down and they don't like the pressure to conform, marry, have kids, be “normal”. They worry about pregnancy and STDs. They fear being used and tossed aside by men. They wonder how they will ever balance career and family life. Most of all, they look forward to what the world has to offer them in every aspect, including sexually. This is a “coming of age” book that will resonate with many women.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Not challenging per se but exciting. I enjoy opening my characters and plots as if they are layers of an onion. As I explore my characters, especially Catherine Stone, I learn more about myself. Catherine is very much like me, especially since I based “Don't Call Me Baby” on some personal experiences as well as my very vivid imagination. I had been looked upon as a slut since I have had many sexual partners. You know the old saying: “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” I always respond with this: “Why buy the whole pig when all you want is a little sausage?”

As far as a challenge goes, I suppose I put a lot of myself into my characters whether they are male or female. I sometimes feel as if I expose myself too much and I get a bit embarrassed. I feel naked. Do I really want readers to know me that well? As Hemingway famously said, “There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”.

How many books have you written and which is your favorite?

I've written two novels and several novellas. I've written mostly short stories, though. I love writing short stories. I also write horror and dark fiction as well as erotica and erotic romance. I really don't have a favorite. I like each of my books for different reasons. “Don't Call Me Baby” is special to me since it's the one closest to my personal beliefs and experiences. I am a child of the '80s. I remember the big hair, sexual experimentation, and my penchant for dating older men (just like my protagonist Catherine Stone). I'm not a cougar. I don't like boy toys. I prefer men whose skulls have already closed. ;)

Other personal favorites are “Feral Heat”, “An Unexpected Guest”, and my short story “Purr”. My favorite paranormal character is the ghost which influenced “An Unexpected Guest”. That one is a paranormal erotic romance. I love ghosts. It's special to me because it's my first published book. Granted, it's flawed but the story works. I like my bisexual werewolves in “Feral Heat” so much I turned the novel into a series. The second book in that series is “Filthy Leuker: Feral Heat 2”. “Purr” is a very popular erotic take on a portion of the “Puss In Boots” fairy tale. That one inspired my upcoming series of twisted erotic fairy tales, beginning with “Climbing Her Tower” (Rapunzel) and “Trouble In Thigh High Boots” (a longer version of Puss In Boots).

If You had the chance to cast your main character from Hollywood today, who would you pick and why?

Oh, wow, who would play Catherine Stone? Good question! I'd like Angelina Jolie for the part but she's in her 30s now. Maybe she can pull off college-age. I think she can. I'm fascinated with Angelina Jolie. She reminds me very much of myself, especially when I was younger. I also like Karina Lombard. She played Antoinette in “The Wide Sargasso Sea”, a movie about Edward Rochester's first wife. You are probably (hopefully!) familiar with his second wife, Jane Eyre. Lombard also starred in “The L Word”, a U. S. cable television series about a group of lesbian friends and lovers. Lombard has a lazy sexuality about her that is very appealing. Both of these women are sexy without thinking about it. They are also intelligent and thoughtful. I would like to see an actress slightly older than Catherine play the part since Catherine is older than her years.

When did you begin writing?

I've always had a pen in my hand but I didn't begin seriously writing until about four years ago. I decided I was going to make a serious go of this fiction writing thing and I dove right in. I'd already worked as a feminist/political writer and I grew tired of it. Burned out, too. Then I worked as a sex writer and copywriter for a sex toys company, which I continue to do to this day. It was only natural I finally gave in to the urge to write fiction. I started out with erotic romance and erotica but I also write dark fiction, fantasy, horror, and some science fiction.

How long did it take to complete your first book?

I'm still working on it! I started it ten years ago when I moved to the northeast coast of Massachusetts. It's almost finished now. I'm going to hire a professional editor to help me tighten it and make it better. I expect to do that before the end of the year. This one is entitled “Secrets and Lies” and it's a mystery/family saga novel.

“An Unexpected Guest” is my first published novel. I think it took me about six months to a year to write it. It normally takes me up to six months to write a novella.

Did you have an author who inspired you to become a writer?

Yes, one of my parish priests. The guy was a seriously bent poet. He had been published by The New Yorker. He had submitted some of my poems but I never saw them published. This was when I was about 14 years old. He was also an alcoholic who was eventually sent to dry out at a home for recovering priests in Florida. I still miss him.

A close friend of mine who is a science fiction writer inspires me to create. We've been friends for nearly 20 years. When I feel down or stuck I write to him and he talks me through my difficulties. He's truly an inspiration and a valued friend.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

Finishing the story and handing it in. I get a high from that. I like seeing my thoughts gel together into a coherent whole. Before that point it's  wisps of smoke and echoes, at least until the characters and the story form. I also like getting to know my characters as well as creating exciting plots. Sometimes my characters surprise me. I imagine them doing one thing and they do the complete opposite, all the while laughing at me. Catherine was stubborn, which didn't surprise me since I'm very stubborn. She wants things done her way or no way. We wrestled a bit but we came to compromises more often than not.

Describe your latest book in 4 words.

Hot Sex In 1983. That's “Don't Call Me Baby”.

Can you share a little bit about your current work or what is in the future for your writing?

My current work is a collaboration with that science fiction writer I mentioned earlier. We're working on a historical adventure novel set in Japan from the mid-1500s to approximately the late 1700s. There will be adventure, guns, trade, and pirates! I'm also about to self-publish two erotic versions of fairy tales. They're being edited as I type. One is called “Climbing Her Tower” and it's an erotic version of Rapunzel. The other is “Trouble In Thigh High Boots” and it's an erotic version of Puss In Boots. This is a longer story than my short story “Purr”, which is also based on Puss In Boots. If these two books do well, I will tackle “Beauty and the Beast”. I'd like to write a sequel to “Don't Call Me Baby” but I haven't come up with a plot line yet.

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