evocative writers of dark erotica
SDk: Let’s begin with some foundations: what is your definition or interpretation of “dark erotica”, and what attraction does it hold for you?
Anne Tourney: I’m probably stating the obvious by saying that dark erotica draws from areas of the psyche that are typically consigned to the shadow side of the sexual imagination. It might be more interesting to define this sub-genre by the emotional and creative risks it demands. Dark erotica requires delving into a level of imagination that lies below the surface of socially approved forms of sexual identity and creative expression. It also requires a certain amount of emotional courage. I know that whatever I discover on those expeditions – either about my own sexuality or about sex in general – is going to challenge my sense of who I am.
When I set out to write a dark erotic story, I begin with emotions that disturb me: shame, fear, resentment, anger, envy. I palpate these feelings, see what reactions and images rise from palpating their most tender spots, and use those responses as my raw material. I have to say that while dark erotica inevitably stirs disturbing sexual responses in my own body, I don’t set out to arouse or titillate the reader. My purpose, my hope, is that my shame or
fear or lurid fascination resonate with them deeply. Maybe the reader will feel repelled by what I’ve written. Maybe they will feel vindicated, validated, or simply troubled in some indefinable way. My goal, if I have one, is to show the reader my deepest secrets, and have her finish the story with her assumptions about sexuality turned or twisted in some way that’s either repulsive or redemptive – ideally both. The fact that these unsettling, visceral, even grotesque selfdiscoveries propel the narrative and its imagery defines erotica as “dark” for me.
SDk: You’ve had a lot of erotic fiction published over more than 15 years, but dark erotica is perhaps not as well represented in your work as you’ve indicated you’d like it to be: why is this?
AT: Writing dark erotica can take a big emotional toll; I’m not capable of visiting those hidden places on a regular, reliable basis. When I’m writing a dark erotic story, I’m deliberately poking and prodding at suppressed desires, shameful feelings, humiliating memories, or flat-out nightmares. In order to do this over the length of time it takes to write and revise a short story, I have to have a certain degree of sanity and stability in my life. I’m more apt to write a dark story when I’m feeling calm
and reasonably happy. That’s when I feel strong enough to stir that tranquil surface and dig for the detritus buried underneath.
SDk: You’ve been going through some kind of creative hiatus recently – can you tell us anything about this, and where you might now be going with your writing?
AT: I wrote erotic novels, and then chick-lit romantica, from 2001 until 2007. At the same time, I was going through a very stressful Bachelor of Science degree program and working full-time in the medical field. I ended up mentally and creatively exhausted from all the school work and deadlines. Towards the end of that period, writing became so difficult for me that I could barely meet those deadlines. I’d stopped taking risks and was focusing on finishing projects. By last winter, it wasn’t a matter of deciding that I needed a break; my writing just came to a standstill. I couldn’t stand to sit at the computer anymore. I’d been keeping a couple of blogs online, and I couldn’t even scrape up new content for those. I dreamed of relocating to the desert and becoming a hermit, but that wasn’t practical. Instead, I went offline and wrote almost nothing; I started taking a lot of photos as a creative
outlet, because my ego wasn’t invested in creating images. I stopped reading fiction and began reading poetry. Over the past year or so, I’ve published one erotic fiction piece, a vampire story for an anthology by Susie Bright. Other than that, if I’ve written at all, it’s mostly material that won’t see the light of day.
I recently read a wonderful line by the poet William Stafford, in his book Crossing Unmarked Snow: “Somewhere deep where we have no program – our next discovery lies.” I want to go back to that deep place again, and find that sense of anticipation and joy that comes from