Writing erotica after the Fifty Shades effect
How did the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon change erotic fiction writing? The author of Our Little Secret, Jenna Ellis, discusses how the genre has evolved in the past decade.
Jenna Ellis is the new voice of erotica. Before the publication of her debut novel, Our Little Secret, 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 of Grey, the debate has started. We girls are acknowledging that fantasy is important to 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 lookout for new material, but they're on the lookout for something good and not just a copycat 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 . . .