Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Latest Posts

Once Upon a Place

by | Feb 21, 2018 | General | 4 comments

In what city does Fifty Shades of Grey take place?

I had to look this up. The answer is Vancouver, Washington, but does anyone care? Does the setting matter at all in erotic fiction?

Many authors (and I suppose readers) might argue that it does not. Certainly quite a lot of the erotica and erotic romance I encounter is set in a generic urban or surburban environment without any distinctive geographic or cultural features. These tales focus entirely on the characters and the action, which apparently could be happening anywhere. The background is an undifferentiated blur.

Personally, I prefer stories that provide a strong sense of place. I guess that’s because I read erotica for the total emotional experience, not just for the sex. However, I also find that a specific, vividly depicted setting can heighten the erotic charge.

One time-honored technique in writing erotica is to use all the five senses. Our bodies are located in space, and our senses bring us messages from that space. So the roughness of the cheap blanket in the seedy hotel room—the fragrant fresh-mown grass clinging to our sweaty bodies—jazz, drifting in the window from Bourbon Street—the sticky sweetness of the ice cream we shared, before you dragged me into the cool shadows under the pier (which smells of rust and seaweed)—the distant orb of the full moon sailing above as I lie on my back with you pounding into my cunt— all these sights, sounds, scents, tastes and textures combine to bring an erotic interlude to life in the imagination.

Of course, you can provide sensory details without specifying exactly where it’s all happening. As an author, though, it’s easier to conjure these details if you have a particular setting in mind.

Setting complements and enhances both character and plot. Where you come from, where you live, strongly influences who you are. A person from Boston thinks, speaks and acts quite differently from someone who comes from Los Angeles (not to mention Marseille or Singapore). Even when I don’t mention it, I almost always know my characters’ geographic histories. Not infrequently in my stories the major conflict flows from background or cultural differences between the protagonists.

Meanwhile, certain events can occur only in certain places. For instance, a devastating landslide is pivotal in my MMF tale Monsoon Fever, providing a catharsis that pulls the characters into three-way sex. That story is set in hilly Assam, India. It just wouldn’t work in Bangkok, or Venice, or Minneapolis.

I guess I’m known for my evocative and varied settings. My novels take place in Thailand, in Boston, in London and LA, in Pittsburgh, in rural Guatemala, in Paris, in Rajasthan, in Manhattan, in Worcester MA, and in northern California. I’ve written stories set in Provence, in Newport RI, in Nebraska, and in Amsterdam. I do tend to return in my writing to places I’ve lived or visited often, as I can describe them with greater ease, but I certainly haven’t been to every location that shows up in my fiction.

I wonder if readers can tell which of my settings are based on real experience, which on research and imagination.

For me, the joy of reading is being pulled into a new world, rich in detail, intense and believable. So I want to know where a story is happening—even if that location is totally fictional. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series has the strongest sense of place I’ve ever encountered in a book. That’s one reason why I love it.

I try to offer my readers the same joy. I know some of you don’t care. I’m writing for those of you who do.

(If you’re one of those people, check out my new Asian Adventures series—short erotic pieces set in different Asian locales. The most recent title, set in Thailand, is Butterfly.)


About the Author Lisabet Sarai

Sex and writing. I think I've always been fascinated by both.

Freud was right. I definitely remember feelings that I now recognize as sexual, long before I reached puberty. I was horny before I knew what that meant. My teens and twenties I spent in a hormone-induced haze, perpetually "in love" with someone (sometimes more than one someone). I still recall the moment of enlightenment, in high school, when I realized that I could say "yes" to sexual exploration, even though society told me to say no. Despite being a shy egghead with world-class myopia who thought she was fat, I had managed to accumulate a pretty wide range of sexual experience by the time I got married. And I'm happy to report that, thanks to my husband's open mind and naughty imagination, my sexual adventures didn't end at that point!

Meanwhile, I was born writing. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, though according to family apocrypha, I was talking at six months. Certainly, I started writing as soon as I learned how to form the letters. I penned my first poem when I was seven. While I was in elementary school I wrote more poetry, stories, at least two plays (one about the Beatles and one about the Goldwater-Johnson presidential contest, believe it or not), and a survival manual for Martians (really). I continued to write my way through high school, college, and grad school, mostly angst-ridden poems about love and desire, although I also remember working on a ghost story/romance novel (wish I could find that now). I've written song lyrics, meeting minutes, marketing copy, software manuals, research reports, a cookbook, a self-help book, and a five hundred page dissertation.

For years, I wrote erotic stories and kinky fantasies for myself and for lovers' entertainment. I never considered trying to publish my work until I picked up a copy of Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat while sojourning in Istanbul. My first reaction was "Wow!". It was possibly the most arousing thing I'd ever read, intelligent, articulate, diverse and wonderfully transgressive. My second reaction was, "I'll bet I could write a book like that." I wrote the first three chapters of Raw Silk and submitted a proposal to Black Lace, almost on a lark. I was astonished when they accepted it. The book was published in April 1999, and all at once, I was an official erotic author.

At this point, Raw Silk has been reprinted by three different publishers. The most recent version is available from Total-E-Bound and still selling well, I'm pleased to say. Since that initial release I've published more than fifty single author titles in erotica and erotic romance, including eight more novels, and have contributed to dozens of anthologies.

In addition to writing erotica and erotic romance, I also edit the stuff. I'm very proud of my anthologies of literary erotica, Sacred Exchange: Stories of Spirituality and Transcendence in Dominance and Submission (with S.F. Mayfair) and Cream: The Best of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. I'm also editor for the Coming Together Presents altruistic erotica series. Each Presents volume offers work by a single author, supporting a cause selected by that author. So far we've released seven volumes of stellar erotic fiction, each of which does double duty by making the world a better place.

A lot has changed since my Black Lace days. Black Lace itself has bitten the dust, as has my second publisher Blue Moon. The e-book revolution has made it easier to get published but a great deal more difficult to get noticed. Promotion claims at least as much of my time as actual writing. Speaking of which, I blog regularly at Beyond Romance and Oh Get A Grip, and offer news, excerpts, free reading, reviews and more at Lisabet's Fantasy Factory.

I still get a thrill from writing erotica. It's a never-ending challenge, trying to capture the emotional complexities of a sexual encounter. I'm far less interested in what happens to my characters' bodies than in what goes on in their heads.


  1. I think place and setting are a character of their own. I always feel so much more engaged when I can picture where I am.

    Most of my stories are set around London or in rural Sussex and I anchor to the environment as much as possible.

    I think this is also helpful to overseas readers; if I open a scene with someone driving, then I try to get an element of English driving in the first paragraph (roundabouts, not intersections) to get the mindset in the right country.

    I don’t often have my stories set in the states, but when I do, I always get an American beta to catch the cultural glitches 😉

    • Hi, Tig,

      I am working on a story now with two English characters. I am really going to need help with the authenticity of their speech patterns. (Just giving you a heads up!)

  2. Not to mention, you an have some fun with certain locations. I set a story in Boston with a rather crude visitor asking a cabbie where he could get scrod. Yeah, it’s silly, but whoda thought there was a past pluperfect tense for screwed?

    • Giggle.

      The problem is that non-Bostonians might not get the joke!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


  • 2018 (20)
  • 2017 (103)
  • 2016 (137)
  • 2015 (160)
  • 2014 (155)
  • 2013 (144)
  • 2012 (110)
  • 2011 (14)
  • 2010 (5)
  • 2009 (31)
  • 2008 (8)
  • 2007 (3)


Babysitting the Baumgartners - The Movie
From Adam & Eve - Based on the Book by New York Times Bestselling Authors Selena Kitt

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Latest Posts

Pin It on Pinterest