Ashley Lister talks with PS Haven


PS HavenPS Haven is a prolific author and illustrator of erotic fiction whose short fiction has been included in such titles as Best American Erotica, Coming Together, B is for Bondage, Playing with Fire, and far too many other titles to list here.

An accomplished storyteller, Haven’s work is distinctive for building strong tension between the central characters and including beautifully crafted scenes of hard-hitting erotica.

Haven kindly took time out from a busy schedule to talk to me about the pleasures of writing (and drawing) sex, and the process of producing rich and satisfyingly hot erotica.

Ashley Lister: Where do you get your ideas from writing fiction? And where do you get your ideas from for your artwork? Does inspiration for the two come from the same source? Or do you find yourself being inspired by different things for fiction and artistry?

PS Haven: Well, first off, thanks for that introduction, and thank you for the honor of being interviewed for ERWA. I’ve been visiting the site for years and ERWA has always been an invaluable resource. Thanks!

The ideas for writing come from all over the place. Music is a big one. I’ve had more than one story inspired by song lyrics. Other stories and writers will frequently spark a story for me, too. There have been plenty of times when I’ve read something and wanted to try my hand at that particular style, or put my own twist on a certain concept. To be honest, though, the majority of my writing has historically been created to serve as a sort of propaganda. I started writing as a way to put into words the dirty things I wanted to do with my partner. Things I maybe didn’t have the balls to say out loud. I could present them as the desires of fictional characters, and then gauge the reaction from my significant other. If I wanted to try anal sex, for example, then I’d write a story where the characters try it and it was the greatest experience of their lives. Confessing this, though, makes it sound very subversive and manipulative! I suppose in that way, my writing is influenced by the former Soviet Union, or possibly the Catholic Church…

The drawing comes from a different place. A drawing can spring from simply what I think might be fun and engaging to draw. Pointillism is so labor intensive and time-consuming that I’m always mindful of a subject that’s going to hold my interest visually for the hours it will take to illustrate it. I usually look for images with a lot of variety as far as texture and shading go. And of course I want them to be visually stimulating. Since I almost always draw from photo reference, I’m also restrained by what images I have access to, or what I’m able to photograph. As opposed to writing, the drawing ideas are much more practical.

Ashley Lister: I mentioned in the introduction that you have a distinctive ability to build tension. Your unnamed female protagonist in ‘Westbound’ (from B is for Bondage) spends the first half of the story alone, building to her encounter with Richie: and yet this solitude adds to the tension in the story from when the two characters do come together. Did you deliberately shape the story in this fashion to stress that tension? Do you think this helps the reader empathise more with the characters’ predicaments?

PS Haven: I went into “Westbound” hoping to explore some unconventional definition of bondage. On a metaphoric level, the protagonist has escaped the bonds of a bad relationship and has struck out on her own to find her freedom, which can be frightening and liberating at the same time. On a literal level, she becomes trapped by her car breaking down on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, which is also frightening. So, basically I was trying to juxtapose that duality. And then of course there was the practical reason of needing her to be stuck on that highway all by her lonesome.

But yeah, I think it always helps to put the reader in somewhat familiar situations. We’ve all been stranded by a piece of junk car. Everyone knows how helpless you can feel when your car won’t start. Then, with that basis in reality, I was able to amp it up by having her literally bound to her car and willing to do just about anything to get back on the road.

Ashley Lister: Similarly, in ‘Out of the Frying Pan’ (from Playing with Fire) you manage to tell a powerful and compelling erotic story where the main sexual event happens behind closed doors: closed doors where the reader doesn’t get to see what’s happening. This story draws very effectively on the readers’ imagination and is a stunning example of ‘less is more.’ Did you deliberately set out with this story to make the reader do the hard work? And did you deliberately intend to write a story about two sexual events, one of which took place before the story started and the other of which happens where the reader can’t see what’s going on?

PS Haven: Thanks! Yeah, with “Out of the Frying Pan”, I definitely wanted the reader to decide for themselves, not only what happened behind that door, but if anything at all happened. And that was compounded (hopefully) by the clues we were given about the event that triggered this act of retribution. Actually, we know more about the first encounter than we do about the one that takes place during the story. There’s something very powerful about the notion of leaving something to the imagination. A tantalizing glimpse through a cracked door, snippets of an overheard conversation, that sort of thing. “Out of the Frying Pan” was an attempt to capture that feeling and let the reader fill in the blanks along with the poor husband straining to listen for noises on the other side of that door.

Ashley Lister: How does creating and producing erotic fiction differ from creating erotic art?

PS Haven: Pointillism is really technical. Once you’ve sketched out the image and finalized the composition and all that stuff, from that point on it’s simply executing. Putting the dots where they need to go, with the proper density. So you’re locked into it after a certain point in the process. The writing is so much more fluid. You’ve got more freedom to let the story lead the way, to let the characters tell you what they want. As a writer you can always go back and change things, even after multiple drafts. With the drawing, you’ve got more of a blueprint to follow. Each has its own rewards and frustrations.

Ashley Lister: I mentioned ‘Out of the Frying Pan’ in connection with your fiction. As I said, the story draws heavily on the reader’s imagination. Do you ever worry, when illustrating fiction, that your interpretation of events might differ from the reader’s interpretation?

PS Haven: That’s the beauty of it, actually. It’s up to the viewer to decide what’s really happening. What’s going on just off the edge of the paper? Who else is there? Where are they? Is that his wife, or someone else’s? That sort of thing.

I’ve read interviews with musicians who’ve expressed disdain at having to create videos for their songs, because they feel like it robs the listener of the chance to determine for themselves what the lyrics mean. I think that same sentiment can be applied here.

Ashley Lister: What advice would you give to anyone interested in honing their skills as an author or artist?

PS Haven: For writers, it’s the clichéd advice to give, but just read. Read what excites you. Then write what excites you. I’m certainly in no position to be dispensing writing tips, but that’s really what it boils down to I think. For erotica writers especially. Write what you would want to read. Write what turns you on.
For artists, that’s a little harder. I’d say just practice. I know that if I don’t pick up a pen for a while, I get pretty rusty.

Ashley Lister: Finally, what are your current projects, and what are you hoping to do next with your writing and illustrating?

PS Haven: Pretty quiet on the illustration front. I’ve got a full-length memoir/novel I’m pitching around right now, hoping to get some interest in it. Got a couple of short stories in the pipeline I’m not at liberty to discuss just yet. As soon as I’m freed up to brag about those, I will. I’m also considering the possibility of compiling my car-themed stories and offering them as an anthology with a few new ones thrown in. I’ve actually got a sci-fi concept kicking around in my head as well. Think the Dukes of Hazzard meets Mad Max…

Thanks again to you and ERWA for this opportunity, Ashley! Best of luck for your continued success.

— Haven

Ashley Lister
December ’09 – January ’10

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

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