Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Brushing Up with M. Christian

I’ve been an admiring fan of M. Christian’s work since well before I began writing erotica myself. He’s edited twenty anthologies and written over three hundred stories, four novels, and four short story collections, with numerous appearances in Best American Erotica and other Best of’s as well as being an annually returning alumnus of The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica. His narrators and protagonists come in a rainbow of sexual preferences, yet the stories are always incandescently erotic and convincing. On top of this, his work spans a range of genres, from literary to horror, science fiction and a soupcon of erotic romance.

I’ve always wondered what the “M” in M. Christian stands for, but I’m pretty sure it stands for “Maestro”!

I recently had the pleasure of reading one of his most recent novels, Brushes. A multi-layered treat for the mind and the senses, Brushes reminded me how a well-written novel can really draw you into a totally different world and keep you there, enchanted. M. Christian transports us to glittering Paris where we follow the adventures of eight denizens of the art world, from an acclaimed artist and his muses to desperate wannabes. As their lives brush up against each other, serendipitously, inevitably, all experience a compelling sexual encounter that changes their lives forever. The variety of sex scenes is like a tempting buffet, the prose as silky smooth as a pot de crème. The novel definitely raises fascinating questions about the artist’s life and the silliness of the business surrounding it. This tale of mystery will definitely provoke and entertain anyone who’s intrigued by the power of the creative--and the erotic—spirit.

That’s me, baby—how about you?

And now, I have the even greater pleasure of inviting the Maestro to my blog to chat about writing, erotica and sensual indulgence of the culinary persuasion.

DGS: I’ve always been amazed at your versatility as a writer, your virtuoso ability to cross genres and genders. How do you do it? Or are you actually a shapeshifter from another galaxy?

MC: Nah, I’m just a classic hack, though being a shapeshifter from another galaxy would make it a lot easier to find a date on Saturday night.

How did you get started writing erotica?

Well, I’ve always wanted to be a writer – in fact I first remember deciding it would be the life I wanted to live when I was in the fourth grade or so – but I had zero luck with it for, oh, about fifteen years. Tired of rejection slips, I signed up for an erotica writing class from Lisa Palac, who used to edit a magazine called Future Sex. My thought at the time was something like: why the hell not?

Turns out I was pretty good at pornography – who knew? – and Lisa bought my first story, which was subsequently published by Susie Bright in her Best American Erotica 1994. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

You’ve been publishing erotica for a long time now. In your view, how has the genre and the publishing environment changed over the years.

Lordy, that’s a big subject! Right off the top of my head I’d guess the biggest change has got to be the death – or imminent death, to be polite – of the traditional publishing model of business. Printed books are simply way too expensive to produce, especially these days, and far too difficult to sell. Sure, there will always be big houses operating like we’re still in the ‘50s but going forward we’re going to see far more small-to-medium-sized publishers connecting with very specific audiences. That’s good news for readers, as a publisher’s profit doesn’t have to be hundreds of thousands of dollars. Only having to make a few thousand means they can take risks and produce books for very narrow-focused interests. The bad news, though, is that the days of huge – or even large – advances for authors are gone … bummer. Don’t despair, though. Because the smaller publishers don’t have huge overhead, they can pay better royalties, and because of Amazon – the sort-of-great literary equalizer -- a small-time author has about the same ‘shelf’ space as a big-time one … the trick, of course, is to get yourself noticed.

You’re now blogging at Imagination is Intelligence with an Erection, Frequently Felt, Meine Kleine Fabrik and The New Café (Racer) Society. What do you like about blogging? How does it fit into your fiction writing schedule?

Actually The New Café (Racer) Society is a two-wheeled, one-man enterprise run by my brother, S.A. – who works with me on Meine Kleine Fabrik. I like blogs because they’re a way to get yourself out there. With Meine Kleine Fabrik, which is German for “My Little Factory,” the name of a jewelry company S.A. used to have, it’s a kind of commonplace book; a way of sharing the fun and wild and weird and silly and cool things we’ve come across. Frequently Felt is kind of the same thing but with a sexy twist – and is also a place where authors can share their work as well: my way of opening the door for new erotica writers. Imagination is Intelligence with an Erection, is my writing site: the place where I post reviews, announcements about new projects, new books and suchlike.

I kind of cheat, to be honest, with these blogs: I usually just post or repost stuff I find. Sure it makes them a bit less ‘rich’ but I simply don’t understand writers who spend hours posting and no time on their craft. Working on stories and books is what I love to do, so they will always be my top priority.

One of the pleasures for me while I was reading Brushes was the chance to come to my own conclusions about the shadowy central figure, the artist Escobar, based on the clues provided by the perspectives of the different narrators. It’s also fun to see how the different characters “brush up” against each other in different ways on the streets of Paris. But what might be pleasure for the reader could present a real logistical challenge for the author. Did you have a particular strategy to plan and keep track of all the “brushes” in the novel?

Thank you so much – it means a lot to me that you liked it!

While it was a tad challenging, it was also a lot of fun to do. My motivation was to try to put together something showing our various ‘faces:’ like the Donna I know isn’t the Donna other people know, etc. In the case of Escobar these multiple ‘faces’ are amplified because of his fame: the people around him have their own perspectives on him, twisted by jealousy, fear, unreasonable admiration, and all those other lovely emotions. Occasionally I’d find myself ‘painted into a corner’ especially since I was trying to tell the story from different perspectives but also taking place at the same time. Although there are some things I wish I’d done better, I thought it came out pretty well. I guarantee I’ll do better with the next book, and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that ….

Your novel has countless wonderful examples of how an erotic scene reveals character—this is really the heart of the book. I’ve chosen this excerpt from chapter 4, told from the point of view of Marcel, a snobbish, fastidious gallery owner, who has called in a paid companion to “celebrate” after a long day in the art business. Here’s a tasty sampling of the scene:

"I love my breasts," she said. "I love they way they look, but I really like the way they feel." Purple painted nails slid over the slopes, stroked under, and deliberately hesitated over the rises of her nipples. One hand went behind, reaching for another clasp, preparing for another revelation.

More than at any time in recent memory, he was aroused. With Josephine it had been there, but more abstract, more a quality of the whole experience than a pulse-matched deep down, stirring where he wasn't Marcel the gentleman, the rich man, the owner of L'Art, but rather just a man and a very demanding desire. He might still be struck by silence, but he could move.

There was a good reason Zazu would love her breasts. They were phenomenal. Large yet exceptionally firm, they swept gently from the satin of her chest, ending in two saucer-sized, swollen areolas, topped by aggressively firm nipples the color of fresh strawberries and the size of gumdrops. As her bra joined her clothes at her feet, her breasts swung and jiggled, a mesmerizing display.

"Aren't they beautiful? I'm so lucky. But what's even better is that I like how they feel, not just how they look." With thumb and forefinger she tightly plucked at her right nipple, much harder than he'd ever seen a woman do before. She hissed, deep and languid, in response. Then the same, this time to the left, but now the hiss became a moan and her knees seemed to lose a bit of their strength. "Oh, wow," she said through a sharp laugh.

Stroking himself, he realized he didn't care that he was or that she knew he was. It was too good. This woman was beautiful and sexy, and more importantly, he was enjoying himself more than he ever had before. How his zipper had come down, how he'd extracted himself from his underwear, he didn't know, but there it was and he wasn't about to stop. Again, the question -- but this time only the barest of whispers in his mind and nowhere near a loud thought: what am I? The answer came immediately: I am me... and I like this.

The other nipple again; this time she had to catch herself before dropping all the way to the carpet. It took her some time to pull herself up and stand straight. "I like this. It's one of my... things, I guess you could call it." Peering through her purple bangs, she caught his gaze with hers. "Having fun?"

Even before he'd realized he'd broken the silence, he found his voice. "I-I am."

Do you have a particular favorite among the characters or scenes in Brushes? Any that were harder or easier to write?

Once again, I really appreciate your kindness and support, Donna! Writing can be a damned hard life so compliments and kindness – especially from a writer I like and admire – are a real treat!

Each of the characters in Brushes had their challenges, as well as their easier bits. I’m so glad you liked Marcel: he was a particularly fun one as I was trying to use his sexuality as a pretty broad reflection of his personality: removed and controlling in life, removed and controlling in bed. Escobar was probably the hardest because as I was ‘doing’ him, I kept thinking that here he is, the guy everyone’s talking about. A bit of pressure there ….

What’s next for you?

Let’s see … working on a gay horror novel called Monster that should be done in a few months. Have a new collection of straight erotica coming out soon, called Licks & Promises. Both The Bachelor Machine, my science fiction erotica collection, and Dirty Words, which is a gay erotica collection, are being reprinted and should be out soon. I’m also chatting with some publishers about doing some new anthologies – more on those very soon. I’ve also done my first screenplay, the movie for which should be shooting soon, and I’m working on other fun stuff as well. Just keep an eye on my blog for more info and updates and such.

Finally, describe a perfect meal that would be guaranteed to seduce you—into a deep conversation about the writing life, if not something even juicier!

A perfect meal? Hummm … I love a lot of food, and have a long list of great restaurants, but to make any meal perfect I’d have to have the company of my wonderful lady, and soon-to-be-wife, Sage Vivant. As I already mentioned, writing can all-to-often be a brutal and hard life. I am very fortunate to have found the woman of my dreams, and would never do anything without her.

Well, congratulations--that's definitely a match made in erotica heaven!! I wish you both all the happiness in the world (as well as many delicious meals together).

Thanks so much for stopping by to talk shop with me. And for those of you interested in some more hot-and-hot-off-the-presses M. Christian fiction, check out his novel Painted Doll and Hack Work, a series of short story downloads, as well.

9 comments:

Emerald said...

A lovely interview! I remember M. Christian's name being one of the first I encountered when I started writing and submitting erotica, as it seemed to be all over the Erotica Readers and Writers Association website. I really appreciate the generous and substantial advice I remember reading from him at that time when I was so new to the genre.

Brushes sounds quite intriguing indeed. Thanks to both for the interview!

Alana said...

Donna, thanks for the feature. :-)

No lie. M. Christian is da Bomb. One of the most versatile and prolific writers on our planet.

My first encounter: "How Coyote Stole the Sun" in BAE 1997. I think 1997. What's certain is it remains one of my favorite stories ever, regardless of genre. I read the story, then read it again, and have read it since then, and I always think, "This is fucking cool: gay erotic mythology."

Obviously, when I was but a fledgling writer submitting stories to the likes of Cara Bruce, Leslea Newman, Jamie Joy Gatto, and Marcy Shiener, a story like "How Coyote Stole the Sun" inspired me. I felt liberated. Erotica wasn't formuliac. Anything was possible.

In fact, M. Christian has probably made it possible for me to publish gay erotica as a woman. Not write, but publish. He's one of those writers who's knocked down a lot of fences.

Thanks, M. XXOO

Peace,
A

Neve Black said...

Donna,
Nicely done once again.

I'm also a big, big fan of M. Christian. I finally reached out to him via blog late last year telling him so, and he was so nice and gracious to me.

He's a well respected writer and chiming in with Alana's comment here, he has knocked down a lot fences for us. Thank you!

Hmmm...shapeshifting for dates? Now there's a story! :-)

Thank you!

Jeremy Edwards said...

I really enjoyed reading this, Donna and MC! And the excerpt is so compellingly sensuous and lovely. I especially like—both politically and erotically—the emphasis on the woman's enjoyment of how her body feels.

EllaRegina said...

Great interview! Thank you both.

SusanD said...

Wow. Another really interesting interview, Donna, and M.! Really piques my interest in the book, too. thanks for this.

M.Christian said...

Thank you so much, Donna -- this means so much to me. Yer the best!

And an extra big THANKS so all the so-lovely comments posted here. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate this ... I'm tearing up ....

Love

C

Donna said...

Our pleasure, M.C. You truly have inspired us with your wonderful stories and your generous spirit!

Lisabet Sarai said...

First of all, big smoochy congratulations to you and Sage! As a veteran of more than 26 years of marriage I can tell you -- marriage can be fabulous if you've found the right person.

Second, don't forget to send me a review copy of Monster!

And I'm delighted to hear that THE BACHELOR MACHINE will be coming back into print. It contains one of my all-time favorite stories, "State".

Warmest wishes,
Lisabet