Writing erotica after the Fifty Shades effect

30 September 2015

Jenna Ellis is the new voice of erotica. With her first novel, Our Little Secret out now, Jenna talks about the importance of storytelling and emotional honesty in erotic fiction, and how far the genre has come in recent years.

My friend’s grandmother died recently and when she and her mother started going through her granny’s possessions, they found a neat hand-written manuscript in a box under her bed.  They sat down and started to read it, unable to believe that the prim, Scottish matron with her tweed twin-sets they’d always had to mind their p’s and q’s around had penned such a saucy bodice ripper.  They were actually very proud.

The point is that all of us have sex, but we also all have a private erotic fantasy life, which most of us hardly ever share – even with our nearest and dearest.  It’s something difficult to express.  Fantasy doesn’t reflect you, or what you would actually do in real life, so admitting to the wildly salacious scenes you’ve imagined or half-imagined feels embarrassing.  

We haven’t really been able to discuss this much up until now, but thanks to the success of Fifty Shades, the debate has started.  We girls are acknowledging that  fantasy is important us – and having books that feed into our erotic fantasy lives are necessary.  But whilst it’s a given that men find visual stimulation works for them – hence the vast porn industry - women are more tricky.  We need an emotional element to our fantasies.  We need a story.

Of course, these days, there’s a lot less stigma attached to writing and reading erotica thanks to E.L James’s novels making erotica mainstream.  Nobody is embarrassed about reading an erotic fiction book on the tube anymore and thankfully, would-be erotica authors don’t have to hide their manuscripts under the bed.

But we’ve got fussier and I knew even before embarking on my own erotic novel that the pressure was on.  Female readers are on the look out for new material, but they’re on the look out for something good and not just a copy-cat of what has gone before.

My feeling has always been that in order to execute an erotic fantasy well, the writing has to be good enough to suspend the reader’s disbelief all the way through the novel.  In fact, I would argue that in erotica, the writing probably needs to be better than in other genres – say thrillers, where the plot is what propels you through.  Above all else, an erotic novel needs to be emotionally honest and engaging.  It won’t work if the reader doesn’t care about the characters.

Bearing all of this in mind, Our Little Secret, a suspenseful, erotic thriller following Sophie Henshaw, an adventurous nanny from Manchester as she travels to New York to work for the mysterious, uber-wealthy socialites Edward and Marnie Parker.  But you’ll have to read it to find out what happens next…

Our Little Secret

Our Little Secret

Our Little Secret by Jenna Ellis is perfect for fans of Fifty Shades of Grey, who want something a little saucier.

Can she promise not to tell? The chance of a lifetime...
When Sophie Henshall answers an advertisement in the The Lady to be the live-in Nanny for a New York family, she could never have known just how much her world was about to change.
Luxury beyond her wildest dreams...
Transported to the Big Apple and thrown into a glamorous world of palatial homes, designer clothes and fast cars, Sophie feels out of her depth and yet excited at what the future holds.
Can you keep a secret...
Her hosts are flirtatious, irresistibly attractive and Sophie cannot resist the temptations that they put in her way. But all is not as it seems, and the mysterious Parkers have secrets to share.

Read extract  

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