Ashley Lister talks with DL King


D L KingD L King is the author of two novels, The Melinoe Projectand The Art of Melinoe, as well as the novella The Marrying Kind. Aside from full length fiction, King is responsible for the erotic review site, Erotica Revealed, has written many short stories and is the anthologist responsible for the Cleis titles Where the Girls Areand The Sweetest Kiss.

As if that weren’t enough, D L King is a regular reader at Rachel Kramer Bussel’s In The Flesh reading series and has just completed an extensive cross-country tour promoting her fiction. She kindly took time from her busy schedule to talk to ERWA about some of the finer aspects of her writing.

Ashley Lister: Your fiction, particularly the Melinoe titles, focuses heavily on the dynamics of power-play, between fem/dom and male/sub relationships. Is this an aspect of erotica that has a personal interest to you? And is this why you’re able to write on the subject matter with such an air of knowledgeable authority?

D L King: Thanks for the compliment and thanks for asking for the interview! So, if I’m not misunderstanding you, you’re asking about my personal experience relating to BDSM and fem/dom? First, let me say, I don’t have access to all the science fictiony devices, nor to the cool institute and club in the books, but yes, I suppose there is a certain degree of personal interest in female domination and male submission.

I do a lot of research for my stories and books. I’m not a doctor, but I’m interested in medical fetish and if I’m going to write a hospital scene or a medical fetish scene, I want to make sure the scene and description is not only plausible, but as accurate as possible, as well (that is, if I didn’t invent the instrument or practice). I must say, I learned a lot about electricity and surgical procedures writing The Melinoe Project.

That said, I do like to know how things work and what they feel like. I like to watch a submissive’s reaction to various scenes—all in the name of research, of course—so I do like to do a certain amount of exploration and experimentation. I want my scenes to be a accurate as possible so someone with personal knowledge can say, yes, that’s exactly what that feels like!

Ashley Lister: Without giving away too much about the content, your excellent short ‘New York Story’ (published in Best Lesbian Erotica 08 and Best Erotica 08) has a strong connection to the 9/11 incident. I know from previous conversations we’ve had, the enormity of that tragedy affected you on many levels. How difficult was it writing a piece of fiction that had such a personal connection? Did your personal connection to that element of the story make you approach the fiction in a way that was different to your normal writing style?

D L King: Actually, I set out to write a simple, lesbian ghost story. It was for a particular call and I thought it would be an interesting challenge, as I’d never written a lesbian story, or a ghost story before. When I began the piece, 9/11 hadn’t even entered my head.

The story centers around a sexually repressed young woman who moves into a Greenwich Village brownstone, daydreams of sex with all her historical heroines and finally has lots of sex with the ghost who’s been haunting the house for over a hundred years. That was really what I had in mind when I began writing “New York Story.” Somehow, the story took on a life of it’s own and, before I knew it, the World Trade Center was involved.

I think the best stories do take on a life of their own, but I really had no idea that this story would head in that direction. With time, September 11, 2001 became uniquely intimate and personal for New Yorkers, in a way it couldn’t really be for others. As such, it tends to appear unexpectedly in odd thoughts and situations.

I cried when I wrote that story; something I’ve never done before or since. I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it all the way through, reading it aloud, without bursting into tears, so before I read at the KGB Bar, during the Best Lesbian Erotica reading at Drunken, Careening, Writers!, I practiced it over and over. Thankfully, I was able to read it through without making a fool of myself, but the story still affects me deeply.

Ashley Lister: Astute readers of your work will not have failed to notice that your writing should be stamped with I (heart) New York.Do you think it’s a conscious decision on your part to foreground your home city? Or is it that your characters embody the essence of New York and therefore need to be fixed firmly in the heart of the tri-state area?

D L King: Tri-state area? Who cares about New Jersey or Connecticut? Yes, it’s true, I do heart NY, primarily two boroughs, although the other three could easily enter into my stories. But you must remember, the last time I mentioned New Jersey, it was in a fairly derogatory way in “Hard Wet Silk” (Frenzy: 60 Stories of Sudden Sex, Alison Tyler, editor, Cleis Press 2008).

I suppose my characters do exude the “essence” of NY. I find New York City and its inhabitants endlessly fascinating, stimulating and sexy. It’s my hometown and I know its dirty, loud, sweet, crazy heart better than that of most other places, so I suppose I can’t help putting it at the forefront of much of my work.

Ashley Lister: In regards to your recent work as an anthologist, what do you specifically look for when compiling a collection of short stories? Has the experience of editing and compiling affected the way you now tackle calls for submission when you’re not the editor of the anthology?

D L King: I suppose I look for a lot of things, when compiling an anthology, but the first and foremost is a good story. I know that sounds trite but that really is at the start. Just because something has a beginning, middle and end and has to do with the theme of the call for submissions doesn’t necessarily make it a good story. And yes, I know that can be purely subjective, but if I’m the editor, I have to think it’s a good story. It also has to be well written; I’m a stickler about that.

I once received a story that had no paragraph delineations: no indents or extra spaces—it just rambled on as one long column of words. It had no quote marks for dialogue. It was impossible to read and I gave up after a page. That’s all the way at one end of the spectrum, but you get where I’m going here. If every other word is misspelled or rules of grammar seem to be mere “suggestions” I tend to take a pass. You see, I’m fundamentally lazy and if I have to practically rewrite a story, that’s working too hard!

Another pet peeve of mine is people who don’t follow formatting guidelines. I’m actually pretty anal (and I’m not just talking about sex, here…). When I don’t receive a submission in the proper format, I have actually gone through the process of changing it myself. It’s time-consuming and a pain in the butt. But I print each story out and make notes on the paper, so, I need that double spaced, easy-to-read font, I’m just sayin’…

All that aside, I look for something interesting; something different; something that’s beautifully written or intriguingly written; something that makes me laugh—or cry; something that grabs my attention and makes me want to continue turning the pages. And of course, I look for something that makes me wet and squirmy. After all, this is erotica! (I suppose that’s really what you were looking for, but you know me—anal—and I have the toy cabinet to prove it!

Ashley Lister: As I mentioned in the introduction to this interview, you’ve recently completed an extensive book tour, reading and promoting your work across the country. Ordinarily, an author writes their work and doesn’t get to see the response or the reaction from the readers/audience. Having read your work to audiences, has this made you more conscious of the responses you are provoking?

D L King: I guess it surprised the hell out of me.

You’re right, writing is a solitary business. We sit in chairs, looking at our computer screens and family and friends break our concentration when they call or ask inane questions like, “If the house is on fire, who do we call?”. We work in our heads, usually in silence. Even if we have friends who read our work and critique it, that isn’t the same as the response from strangers—a response, I might add, that a writer never sees unless s/he reads in public.

My first public reading was at Rachel Kramer Bussel’s In the Flesh, several years ago. I was thrilled to have been asked and chose an excerpt from a novella (The Marrying Kind) because it fit the length requirement and I thought it was both hot and funny. I practised it over and over, reading it aloud to myself and to a friend who said it was good and politely chuckled at the funny parts.

I’m basically a ham. I like performing in front of an audience. But I was nervous almost to the point of nausea, the first time I read. What I remember is that the place was packed and that the laughter, sometimes outright guffaws, were spontaneous (and totally in all the right places). I think that was the first time that I realized that people might actually like what I wrote.

Now I love to read in public. It’s one of my favorite things. I still get a little nervous, which makes for a nice adrenalin high, but it’s fun. I once told Jeremy Edwards, shortly before his first reading, that it was the most fun you could have with your clothes on.

The tour promoting Where the Girls Are (my first anthology), Girl Crazy and Lesbian Cowboys was great fun. I got to meet new people and read with a group of amazing women writers. It’s great to talk with readers and watch audience reaction. I don’t know if doing that has changed the way I write; I doubt it. But I suppose it has given me the confidence to continue. I heartily recommend it!

Ashley Lister: What are you currently working on and where can readers go to find out more about D L King?

D L King: I’ve got a few story ideas brewing, attached to a couple of calls for submission. I’m working on (although I don’t know if “working” is a good word—perhaps “ruminating” “looking at” “occasionally thinking about” a novel I began a while ago. I’ve recently begun to add to it and think it may bear completing.

I’ll be editing a spanking anthology for Logical Lust soon and I’m thinking about writing something tacky and tasteless with a friend. We’ll see how that goes…

You can find more stuff at my blog, more about my work at my website, read occasional 140 character ramblings on Twitter and I’m Dl King on facebook.

Thanks for the interview. Now I think it’s time for a nice glass, or three, of Port. You?

Ashley Lister
October 2009

“Between the Lines” © 2009 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

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