evocative writers of dark erotica
SDk: Letís begin with some foundations: what is your def-
inition or interpretation of ďdark eroticaĒ, and what attraction does it hold for you?
Anne Tourney: Iím probably stat-
ing the obvious by saying that dark erotica draws from areas of the psyche that are typically con-
signed 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 Ė either about my own sexuality or about sex in general Ė is going to challenge my sense of who I am.
When I set out to write a dark erotic story, I begin with emo-
tions 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 donít 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. May-
be the reader will feel repelled by what Iíve written. Maybe they will feel vindicated, validated, or simp-
ly 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 thatís either repulsive or redemptive Ė ideally both. The fact that these unsettling, visc-
eral, even grotesque selfdiscover-
ies propel the narrative and its imagery defines erotica as ďdarkĒ for me.
Youíve had a lot of erotic fiction published over more than 15 years, but dark erotica
haps not as well represented in your work as youíve indicated youíd like it to be: why is this?
Writing dark erotica can take a big emotional toll; Iím not capable of visiting those hidden places on a regular, reliable basis. When Iím writing a dark erotic story, Iím 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. Iím more apt to write a dark story when Iím feeling calm and reasonably happy. Thatís when I feel strong enough to stir that tranquil surface and dig for the detritus buried underneath.
Youíve been going through some kind of creative hiatus recently Ė can you tell us
thing about this, and where you might now be going with your writing?
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 pro-
gram 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. Iíd stopped taking risks and was focusing on finish-
ing projects. By last winter, it wasnít a matter of deciding that I needed a break; my writing just came to a standstill. I couldnít stand to sit at the computer any-
more. Iíd been keeping a couple of blogs online, and I couldnít even scrape up new content for those. I dreamed of relocating to