My background is horror. Ever since I was in second grade and my parents introduced me to the Goosebumps series, for which I still have a place in my heart, I’ve been in love with things that make my heart skip and make me fear shadows and wish for nightmares.
Enter third grade. Find a very abridged version of Dracula. Before my body even understood what desire was, the images in my mind of a man looming over a woman, then sinking his teeth into her … I understood that it was a very primal, dominating, dangerous act that thrilled me as much as the monster stories. (And thus develops my biting and blood kink.)
These days, if I find a submission call for erotic horror, I jump on it – sex and horror, blood and boobs, these are things that have resonated with me from a very young age. I know them – they are familiar to me. Hell, the slasher genre understands it quite plainly. Get a bunch of teenagers separated off, bare a few breasts, show some sex, then off with their heads in an orgy of blood and gore.
But there are only a few erotic horror calls, only a few calls for stories with unhappy or violent endings. Everything’s HEA or HFN, which is all well and good unless you’re accustomed to that subtle uneasiness, that unwillingness to blink lest something catch you in the dark. I like my monsters to be monsters.
It’s why many of my characters – not all, but sometimes even the HEA or HFN characters – are not always nice, not always good. Sometimes a HEA brings two amoral or immoral people together. Sometimes people discover that maybe they are not the solid citizen they thought they were. Sometimes people have their whole moral foundation shatter and somehow seem to continue standing. And these people still find their own brand of love that is, perhaps, different from the common, normal, safe kind of love. Even if I can’t bring in bloodplay, I still like to make you wonder, “Do I really want these two people’s passions meeting, or is that a storm where I want to get out of the way?”
On other occasions, I find my kinks and fantasies hitting a wall of real world sensibilities. I’m a fan of dubious consent in fantasy, but there isn’t that much call for it in erotic romance. And what about age of consent? How do you reconcile an consenting age requirement with a medieval era request, or even with full consent? Sometimes past reality doesn’t mesh with real world sensibilities either.
So sometimes I wonder – where do I draw the line? Erotica often permits fantasy elements (hence why there is so much barebacking), but when is my fantasy a touch too dark for generally lighter fare. When does my horror become too much for my erotica?
I try to play it safe. For instance, in FRIGID BITCH, I made a conscious decision to respect my MC Renee’s agency to avoid dubious consent. Antagonist Grant pushes her sexual boundaries and is, perhaps, dominating, but in the first few real sexual encounters, Renee is the initiator even if Grant is the instigator. Once that agency is no longer respected, Grant would become the villain.
But other times, when I feel a submission call is asking for me to push those limits, I dive straight in. “In Circles” of Fist of the Spider Woman is an outright horror piece that has deeply erotic elements, but they are erotic elements meant to make a reader very uneasy – a flash of nausea or anxiety that mingles with arousal. I like the combination. One of my new submissions for another erotic horror call has extremely dubious consent issues – it is meant to repel as much as it is to arouse. And I’m working on a fairy tale retelling of Bluebeard that will probably never see the light of day because my characters became decidedly on the dark side of gray when it comes to ethics.
Horror and erotica – they’ve been interconnected in this cemeterial labyrinth I call my imagination for over a decade, and I’m not sure I could separate them anymore even if I wanted to. Which I don’t. Horror deals with underlying anxieties, and sex is the cause of a great deal of anxieties in this world. They go together, meant to upset the comfortable ground on which you stand.
I’ll play nice now and then with some sweetness and light. But even then, I hope my writing gives you pause at one point or another. Like a bullet in an alley three streets down. It’s distant, possibly your imagination or a car backfiring. You’re safe. Right?