This is part seven of a discussion with Johnny Murdoc and myself. Read part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, and part six. Pick up Candid here.
JOHNNY: I don’t know if I can make an argument about why gay erotica is viable or essential; I can only say why I write it. In the past, I’ve talked about the way my brain processes information, or how I write to turn myself on, but I think there’s a better answer. I write gay erotica because I write stories about people and sex is an often overlooked aspect of people’s lives, at least in fiction. When fiction does tread into sexual territories, it’s often cringe-worthy or laughable. There’s a reason that there’s a Bad Sex in Fiction Award, but no Good Sex in Fiction Award, right? But I don’t just write about sex, right? I write about sex in a way that’s titillating, and that’s what seems to set people off. That is where I fall into a ghetto, suddenly. Because I think sex should be titillating. I think action scenes should be thrilling, I think that funeral scenes should be heartbreaking and hopeless, and I think that sex scenes should be sexy. Now, I also think they can be funny, heartbreaking, thrilling or sad—I’ve had sex that fell into each of those categories—but no matter how complex the sex was, it was also arousing. I think it should be the same in fiction writing.
And I think fiction writing is key to understanding how others live their lives—it’s often easier to relate to a character than a real person—and that’s a goal always worth pursuing.
Now, a lot of this conversation has been meandering, and it’s been hard to separate our “let’s have a conversation we can share with readers” from the “let’s have a conversation where we learn about each other” because you and I didn’t really know much about each other when we started doing this. When I agreed to publish Candid, you were more or less a total stranger. But now Candid‘s release looms large (four days from this writing, give or take a few hours), so we should probably bring the official conversation to a wrap so that we can do something with it in time for the book release.
I want to give you the final word, since this is your Queer Young Cotillion. So tell me what worth you think erotica has. Tell me why you’re going to keep doing it. Most importantly, tell me how long it’s going to be before you submit something new to Queer Young Cowboys.
BENJI: Two things: Fuck yes, and the phrase Queer Young Cotillion got me through the last abominable hour of my restaurant job last night. So thanks for that. Maybe I’ll go tiara shopping on my next day off.
Regarding erotica, I think it’s telling that leading up to the release of this novella my mom, who has been totally supportive of my writing, has started to ask when I intend to put out non-erotic material. There’s wisdom in the question: erotica (and gay erotica at that) doesn’t generally sell as briskly as other genres. I’m not exactly looking at $50k advances here. But it’s also vaguely embarrassing for her and that’s the part that gets under my skin. That’s the part that’s always gotten under my skin. I might have mentioned it in this conversation before but I wrote my first piece of erotica as protest, and I think a strain of that is still in there somewhere. I don’t find sex embarrassing. I think good sex can be transformative, satisfying, funny, and ridiculous, among a whole host of other things. If my sex fiction can put a little more of that stuff into the world then all the better.
I mostly want to keep writing erotica because I don’t want to stop. I’m cool with that.
As for when next we’re going to queer it up together, I don’t know, aren’t you sick of me yet? In all seriousness though, I have the germ of a thing that might be something. Maybe in a month or two it might be worth looking at and we can start this long, sexy process all over again.
Thanks, by the way, for all your work on this book, J. You put a lot of love into it and it shows. And for anybody reading who has made it this far, then bully for you. Whole lot of rambling to parse.
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