Joe: A few months ago I revealed that bestselling erotica author Melinda DuChamp was one of my pen names.
I also mentioned that I was working with other writers to continue the DuChamp brand.
I'm now going to publicly expose two of those writers (with their permission).
The first co-wrote Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland and Fifty Shades of Alice Through the Looking Glass with me. This was a 50/50 effort, and we knocked each book out in less than a week. We thought of it as an experiment, both in writing and in sales. We'd both written sex scenes before (her many more times than I had), and we'd also worked together on previous projects, so we wondered if we'd be able to write some funny, smart erotica to capitalize on the Fifty Shades craze going on at the time.
As many of my blog readers have probably already guessed, that writer is Ann Voss Peterson.
Ann and I had already done some pretty risque sex scenes in the Codename: Chandler series, so it wasn't as weird as it could have been writing erotica with someone of the opposite gender. (Ann also does the terrific Val Ryker thrillers, which have their fair share of sex in them. Her latest is Burned Too Hot.)
Ann: No emotional core? So that’s your problem!
Joe: One of many.
Ann: We’ve always had fun writing the Chandler books together. But this was truly a surreal blast. The stories were ridiculous and fun. I’d written 25 romantic suspense novels previously, but erotica and romance are two different genres. Romantic suspense is a story told through plot and emotion. In erotica, the story is told through sex.
Joe: Or in our case, sex and silly jokes. We wanted it to be hot, but also funny and smart. We tried to have realistic character arcs even with all the nonsense happening, and to also have themes to the stories. The first Alice book is about a woman discovering her sexuality, and embracing it. The second is about tolerance for the sexuality of others. The latest is about monogamy, and keeping a longterm relationship spicy.
Ann: There is also a romance running through the series, although most of the action itself takes place in Alice’s fantasies.
Joe: Yes, there is some heart behind the heat. Another of our goals was for the stories to be empowering along with amusing, thoughtful, and hot. Erotica is meant to be read with one hand, but that doesn't mean it all comes down to inserting Tab A into Slot B. Or Slot C. Or rubbing Slot A against Slot B...
You get the idea. Even if these stories had no sex (which would reduce their word count by 90%) we still wanted them to be good stories.
Ann: Exactly. For me, story is about character change. In erotica, the sex itself leads to the character’s transformation. The sex is the plot, but the story needs to have all the other elements as well.
Joe: It's also important to state that while these books are very graphic, they aren't crude or vulgar. Not a lot of swearing. In fact, the language is almost classy, rather than clinical. Yes, it's erotica, but it isn't the hardcore kind. The only time we drop an F bomb is if the characters are purposely talking dirty to turn each other on.
Ann: We set out to write fun, lighthearted, sex adventures. Adult parodies of the original Lewis Carroll tales. And although Alice is an adult in these stories, she retains that fairy tale sense of wonder. And many readers seem to think they are as fun as we do.
Joe: So after Ann and I made a few hundred thousand dollars, we decided we should probably do more with DuChamp. I asked another person I'd co-written with if she'd like to give it a go, and she said yes. That writer was Tracy Sharp. (Tracy did Jacked Up! with me, and the excellent Leah Ryan series, which have their fair share of sex in them. The latest is Red Surf.)
The situation was a bit different. When Ann and I collaborated, we did the outline together and each wrote half the book. We made Tracy a different sort of offer. Tracy?
Tracy: The way that the collaboration worked was that I’d write 90% of the story and then they would go through it and delete and add as needed. It worked out really well. I had so much fun writing Fifty Shades of Jezebel and the Beanstalk.
At first I didn’t know if I could really write a fairy tale. I’d written sex before, but the light, fun, fantasy part would be different for me. Especially a funny, silly one like these are. A story without a dead body in it! It was a challenge, and it really was cool to do.
Plus, Joe and Ann are excellent to work with. Very approachable.
Writing a Duchamp novel was also a challenge because, at the time, there were already two of them, and those are fantastic. They're so well done. I had my work cut out for me in doing the Duchamp name justice. I hope I have! Now there are six Duchamp titles and they are all wonderful.
Joe: And what's next for Jezebel?
Tracy: Jezebel has two more sexual adventures on the horizon, and they are fun, silly and hot, hot, hot! They will be finished in the next couple of months. These two were outlined with Joe and Ann (the Duchamp Master/Mistress) and I can’t wait to release them.
That brainstorming session on Skype was hysterical. It was entertaining, highly enjoyable and very satisfying.
Ann: Maybe someday we’ll publish our Skype feed.
Tracy: It was really neat. I’ve never been in a brainstorming session like that before. Not just about plot and character, but different sexual situations and encounters. There are rules to follow when writing good erotica. The way things are said is important. A lot of thought is involved.
Ann: Writing erotica is very fun, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. When the plot centers around sex, it can be a challenge to come up with enough variety to fill a story of 30,000 words or more.
Tracy: You’re right, Ann. It isn’t easy, and these books are not just your run-of-the-mill erotica, either. They are very intelligent and sweet, and they follow narrative structure as well. Plus, a lot of variety.
Joe: We wanted a little bit of something for everyone. Which meant thinking up different kinks, fetishes, and practices. Some of the conversations we had were pretty funny.
Ann: There was a point in each book where it seemed we couldn’t come up with one more new or sexy idea, a special kind of burnout we affectionately named hitting the porn wall.
Joe: "Did we do a bondage scene in this one? How about spanking? How many blowjobs were in the last chapter? We made her a sub earlier, how about a Domme next scene? We need more synonyms for penis. What the heck is edging? Can someone actually orgasm that many times?"
Ann: It's really fun to collaborate with other authors. Make it a group effort rather than going solo. ;)
Joe: Not that there is anything wrong with solo. But the more, the merrier. And that way, we never devolved into focusing on any particular sexual encounter. These books really have a bit of everything. Name a kink, we've got it covered.
I actually learned a quite a bit. There are a lot of consenting adults out there doing some really freaky things. And things that I didn't think would be erotic turned out to be pretty sexy.
Ann: Tell me about it. I think our newest release, Fifty Shades of Alice at the Hellfire Club, is the only erotica ever to include a poetry slam.
And I shudder to think what my Internet search history looks like.
But getting back to franchising, with both the Jezebel series, and the Sexperts series (that author still wishes to remain anonymous) Ann and I took the stories and made them more Duchamp-like. Adding jokes and silly poems, heat where needed, fleshing out the character arcs, and basically making sure the tone and voice was consistent so fans would feel they were all written by the same author.
The books continue to sell well, but the last few aren't getting the number of reviews the first two did. Dunno why, considering sales have been decent.
So here's what we'd like to do.
For a limited time you can download three Duchamp titles for free. Click on the book title, or the URL, and they'll be directly downloaded to your computer. Then you can upload them to your ereading device of choice.
Addendum: The free period has ended. Thanks to all who downloaded and reviewed!