Erotic Authors Association interview Dec '06 (cached version)
Interview with Saskia Walker (UK), author of newly released Double Dare (Penguin), with our reviewer Down Under, Pamela Weatherill
© 2006 Pamela Weatherill and Saskia Walker
I have to ‘fess up. It would be wrong not to. Double Dare is the first of Saskia Walker’s work that I have read. It will be the first of many I suspect, but you see I have come to enjoy Saskia’s writing in whatever shape I can get my hands on from Australia.
There’s her down to earth web page [http://www.saskiawalker.co.uk] where she waxes lyrically about romance, erotica and gothic adventures as well as describing her typical day and her gorgeous cat.
Then there is her Blog [www.saskiawalker.blogspot.com] where you can catch up on the genuine excitement she carries with her on her journey as a writer.
‘The Saskia she allows us to see publicly is definitely the Saskia that wrote Double Dare’, I thought to myself when I was asked to interview her for EAA.
I just hoped that she would live up to that little pedestal I was building for her. I like a good role model you see … so we started off by talking about good strong sexy women…
Pamela: Let's talk about female leads in erotic fiction. Isn't it refreshing that the female lead in new wave erotic writing doesn't have to be brandishing a whip to have the sexual power in the relationship?
Saskia: Absolutely! I'm glad that came across.
As a reader I've always responded to women characters who can ask for what they want and go after it. It's actually much more achievable in life than hoping Mr. or Mrs. Right will come along and instinctively know what works for us!
A woman's sexual confidence relates to her whole feeling of well-being and self worth. Early on in my short story writing career I had the opportunity to work with Dr Lonnie Barbach. Lonnie bought one of my shorts for an anthology called "Seductions." Lonnie was a psychologist practicing with non-orgasmic women and found that reading erotica helped women lead more fulfilling sex lives, promoting health and happiness. She published her findings in academic papers and then crossed over into the mainstream. This resulted in many fabulous help-yourself books and several collections of erotica. Her findings mirrored my own tentative beliefs about erotica -- I felt liberated by it, both as reader and writer.
Writing a character who has all of that sexual confidence invites the woman reader to be empowered as she goes along with the character's tale. We have stacks of women's magazines telling us how to pamper ourselves and let out inner sex goddesses run free for example. Erotic fiction can function in the same way.
One of the things my editor at Penguin says that she loves about my work is the strong, sexually confident women, and reviewers and readers are saying the same thing. That's given me a real sense of success. Whilst I might not always write about women who are as self-assured as Double Dare’s main female character Abby is to begin with, they'll always get to that point over the course of their adventure.
Pamela: Abby displayed her vulnerabilities as much as her strengths and still comes across as totally secure with her sexuality ... what kinds of responses are you getting about this?
Saskia: I'm happy to report that the readers seem to be experiencing that aspect in the way I hoped -- revealing Abby's deepening emotional attachment.
For Abby’s male counterpart Zac, his internal conflict is more evident, because he's aware of their hidden business connection. It was important that I showed Abby's growing emotional bond in physical terms though. I wanted to make Abby and Zac true to their environment, strong individuals -- they'd have to be that way to be successful in a high-powered finance and property world. So when Abby starts to fall in love she offers herself sexually in different ways, ways that show how her lover recognizes and calls on her very deepest self.
For me the infinite variety of sexual scenario, behaviour and expression is what is so fascinating about writing erotic fiction. For example, there's a scene at the point Abby realizes how much she cares for her mystery lover. She's with her best friend who is bisexual and talking about how she feels. I wanted this to work as a sensual scene but almost as a ménage scene as well. Zac's affect on her is so powerful that she becomes intensely aroused just talking about him and her friend makes love to her to explore that arousal.
I wanted this to show how much Abby has changed over the course of the novel, because Zac is encouraging her to express her sexuality she does things she may not have done before. As a writer I'm very keen on sound character motivation. I like there to be a good reason for why things happen when they do!
Pamela: This might just be my own personal perspective, but I really liked the way Abby’s bi friend Marcy was used to both move the story along, but also provide that extra depth to Abby’s sexual being. While we only met Marcy twice in the novel, their female friendship also demonstrated women of strength…
Saskia: Marcy was an important character for me. In a novel-length I think we have a chance to explore the nuances of sexual attraction and desire, and that is so much fun. In the Abby/Marcy relationship it was important to establish that they were friends and that Marcy's bisexuality is something they are coming to terms with in a positive, open way. However, by putting her there she is a bit like a loaded gun, she was going to go off at some point, we all wanted that, but when the time was right for the protagonist and the plot.
I write a lot of lesbian and bi short fiction, and it's important to me to be able to include GLBT characters in novel-length too. Right now I'm writing a fantasy novel set in an exotic ancient world, very different to Double Dare, but I have a gay couple in that.
The infinite variety of sexual experience fascinates me, but in all my writing (no matter what the genre) the heart of what I'm doing is exploring relationships, connections. I love to explore what gets us from that first glance to wild monkey sex and beyond.
Pamela: Well talking about wild monkey sex, Abby and Zac's first meeting in the elevator could have easily been a frenzied sex scene between them as two strangers. The sexual tension was palpable and the scene was a classic erotic one asking for it. In choosing to have them wait, experience each other as voyeurs, and take the relationship just a little more slowly than that, what were you setting out to achieve apart from anticipation for the reader?
Saskia: My aim was to show the instant dynamic, illustrating that they might be a good match on many levels. Aside from the physical attraction they share a meeting of minds, express their sexuality and reveal a little of themselves to each other, all without speaking. If they'd gone straight for the prize, I couldn't have shown all of that and its powerful hook on them.
Regardless of their possible business connection, I wanted it to feel that there was an inevitable connection between them -- a connection that would not be denied. As a couple they are very much equals, and right from the outset Zac encourages Abby's sexuality, inviting her to share it with him. That's established on the opening pages, which for me was very erotic and as you say builds anticipation of how they will behave together as the story progresses. Elements of voyeurism and exhibitionism are introduced, themes that are played out more fully as the novel progresses.
Whilst I chose a business setting for the story, I didn't want it to be a classic power play story, it was more about a couple who thrive off each other, which empowers them in work and play -- that's what I hoped to set up in that opening scene.
Pamela: This brings us nicely back to strong women role models! Do you consider characters like Abby to be role models for women?
Saskia:Well, hell, I'd like to be Abby! [laughing here]
I think she could be, but it's not an unattainable fantasy. It's important for me to write women (and men, for that matter) who are within reach. Abby lives in a glamorous world, she is sexually confident and can go after the man she wants, but she also has faults, doubts and vulnerabilities. She trusts too easily, she's a bit of a rebel in her working environment (not always a good thing.) She also feels unfulfilled at the outset despite apparently having so much, because the mystery and adventure is lacking in her life, adventure that Zac brings her, sexually and otherwise. I wanted the whole package to be a woman who is believable, balanced. She gets things wrong, but she copes with it -- and that is what is so appealing.
I do believe that sexual confidence can change or enhance a woman's life, no matter what her situation, lifestyle, shape, size, looks. Abby does represent that, as many of my women characters do. In my short erotic fiction I often put my characters in sexual situations they weren't expecting -- for example a woman in a bondage story thinking she was going to be the one in bondage, having the guy turn the tables on her. The edginess of being in that situation: can I/can't I do this? Taking that step beyond our own boundaries is both an empowering and a liberating adventure, whether in fantasy or real life.
Pamela: Human relationships are in their most raw state in erotica, we saw both Abby and Zac loose themselves, explore their own desires and be totally vulnerable to each other sexually -- yet they still choose to keep their professional secrets from one another.
Abby, as an investment advisor works with risk analysis everyday and Zac was comfortable with risk from a business perspective. So how did you decide when they would open up to the next level throughout the book -- whether sexually, emotionally or professionally?
Saskia: This is what I loved playing with in the story! At first each of them sees it as an affair, and in an affair they might only reveal a little of themselves. But as the desire multiplies and the attachment grows, they reveal more and the conflict of their other connection weighs heavily. Once I started writing, there was an almost natural flow to peeling back the layers. The most basic connection of all, the fact Abby is working for Zac, is the last to be revealed. Meanwhile, everything that has happened between them cannot be denied. They represent a powerful sexual match and their emotional connection is deep and rich. In the end, the three-fold business/sexual/emotional connection comes together and meshes.
Pamela: Finally then I need to ask you, as a role model for writing strong women role models:
In your opinion, what is the recipe for the ultimate tension and the ultimate connection between characters?
Saskia: Desire that comes with conflict, I guess.
Oh heck, I'm not sure I even have the ingredients, let alone a recipe. Ask me again in five years. I will say this though -- a little wish fulfilment goes a helluva long way!
Pamela: Well I will be asking you again about your winning recipe, but I doubt that we will be waiting five years …
And on that note, good EAA members? We wish you a happy holiday season full of whatever kind of ‘wish fulfilment’ is going to get you the holiday adventures you have been dreaming about …
© 2006 Pamela Weatherill and Saskia Walker
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