Through the Back Door: How I Started Writing Erotica
My name is Dale Cameron Lowry, and this is my first time blogging on the Erotica Readers & Writers Association blog. There are lots of old-timers who have been around ERWA since the internet began, but I am not one of them. I’m a new timer who first heard of ERWA in 2015, when I was looking for markets where I could sell my racy short stories. I signed up for the email list, got involved in conversations, offended a few people with my strong opinions about the English language, got offended a few times, and overall have had a fun time.
In December, Lisabet Sarai approached me about writing a monthly post for the ERWA blog. I guess because I’m opinionated, but I didn’t dare ask lest I give her second thoughts. Like a puppy who’d just been thrown a Frisbee, I wagged my tail and grabbed it. So here is my inaugural column.
I came to writing erotica through the back door, in the heat of the moment, almost by accident. (Isn’t that how it always happens?)
First, some background: I was raised in a prudishly religious household. Not a terribly oppressive environment, mind you, but still one in which the thought of sneaking a copy of Playboy or Playgirl into the house was beyond consideration. My idea of pornography was flipping through the men’s and women’s underwear section of the Sears catalog and later, thank the direct mailing gods, the International Male catalog, with its close-ups of Adonises in bikini briefs and banana hammocks.
My first experience reading erotic fiction was at the campus LesBiGay center (that’s what we said back then) in 1993, while perusing an issue of On Our Backs, the now-defunct lesbian, feminist, and sex-positive porno mag. I found myself reading a story about two women, a strap-on dildo, and anal sex in a shower. I remember thinking, “Huh. People without prostates can enjoy anal. Who knew?”
So, in my case, erotica was educational. (Except for the part about it being fun to have anal sex in the shower. That’s almost always better in fantasy than reality.)
Then there was the time I housesat for a family off-campus and found the parents’ secret stash of erotica from Cleis Press. Men with women, women with women, women with men, men with men, men with men with women … Many delicious flavors, and I devoured them all. But that was my guilty little secret. It was better to pretend to not have any interest in such lowly things.
See, I had a minor in creative writing at a snooty liberal arts college and considered myself a Writer with a capital W. I was into Literature. Sure, you could write about sex, but it was only literary if it was neurotic (Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint), violent (Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina), disturbing (Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov), or magical realism with a little anti-Semitism thrown in (Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry).
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being Literary. I’m a fan of Philip Roth’s and Dorothy Allison’s work. But I didn’t want to write about sex in those ways. So I didn’t write about it.
And then I listened to a Toni Morrison interview, in which she said that she only began writing later in life because, when she was younger, she didn’t have anything new to say. I became convinced I had nothing new to say, so for many years, I stopped writing at all. (Lesson: read Toni Morrison’s books, but take her writing advice with a grain of salt.)
Eight years ago I got fired from my job, so I suddenly had lots of time on my hands. I decided to dabble in writing again. And to take the Literary pressure off my shoulders, I decided to write in the trashiest genre I could think of: romance!
One day, I came to a point in a story where two of my characters were headed to the bedroom together, and this time, they didn’t close the door on me. They wanted me to know what went on in that bedroom. They talked a little during sex, joked a little during sex, and their relationship changed during sex. Most importantly, the way they viewed themselves changed.
For me, a good story is all about the character and how they change as the story unfolds. As one of my writing teachers used to say, “Put a character in a tree, throw stones at them, and see how they react.” And to not include that sex scene would have been to skip a vital part of the characters’ development.
After that, more of my characters wanted me to go into the bedroom with them. I guess they’re exhibitionists. I lost (most of) my inhibitions about writing about sex, and sometimes I found that an entire story could take place during a single sexual encounter.
How’d that happen?
Dale Cameron Lowry lives in the Upper Midwest with a partner and three cats, one of whom enjoys eating dish towels and wool socks. It’s up to you to guess whether the fabric eater is one of the cats or the partner.
When not busy mending items destroyed by the aforementioned fabric eater, Dale writes and edits queer romance, erotica and speculative fiction. You can find the most up-to-date list of Dale’s books and anthologies at www.dalecameronlowry.com/books and get Dale’s writing tips at www.dalecameronlowry.com/for-writers.