internet took over the porn market). It was all erotic fiction and quite literary – and no advertising whatsoever. I have always felt very, very passionately that writers need to be read – not just have their stories gathering dust somewhere. I have always been hyper aware of the mental and emotional health of my fellow writers, mostly because my own mental and emotional health has often been pretty precarious. A life-rope is sometimes all another writer needs to feel like he or she can go on for another day. Other-rooms.com, in a lot of ways, was a life-rope: send your best stories to me and I’ll publish them. You’ll get readers. Other-rooms.com averaged about five thousand readers a day back in 1998. And then the literary erotica market really kind of exploded in the late ’90s – especially with Masquerade Books. Other-rooms.com kind of partnered with Masquerade at that point. We promoted Masquerade’s writers, their new titles, and their monthly erotic journal. In 1998, I launched Marilynsroom.com and Masquerade Books was in fact one of my partners then. (Not to be confused with MasqueradeBooks.com, the online bookstore, which I was also in charge of.) Suddenly erotica publishing opportunities were everywhere.
SDk: You edited Zowie! It’s Yaoi! Western Girls Write Hot Stories of “Boys’ Love”, which strikes us as another pioneering step. Whose idea was it? It must have been challenging and fun at
the same time to bring this Japanese genre into the Western literary orbit – and your profile bio states it was “controversial”. How so?
MJL: The book was my idea, and the reason it was controversial was because hardcore fans of true, illustrated yaoi (Japanese comics written by women wherein the characters are boys who fall in love with other boys) passionately despised that book, with every fibre of their beings. They didn’t see any room on the entire planet, it seemed, for non-illustrated yaoi stories, even though, by the time I first wanted to publish the book, non-illustrated yaoi stories written by Western women were popping up all over the internet as ebooks. I didn’t make up the genre! The genre wasn’t my idea, even though, later, I believe it was Penthouse magazine, or maybe Playgirl, who insisted I had created the genre. My idea was to edit a collection of the stories and put it out as a traditional print book. It was pioneering only in the sense that I might have been the first editor, or the one with the highest profile, to bring out a collection like that in print, and I still stand by the high quality of the stories that are in that book. But it was a book that got ferocious criticism from young women all over the place, most of whom never even bothered to read it.
SDk: Yet another pioneering move: you founded the Erotic Authors Association in 2001 and were its executive director 2001 to 2006. Can you say something
about the EAA and why you founded it?
MJL: I can’t stress enough, the high literary quality of erotic writing that was being written and published in America and England in the late nineties and early 2000s. Really just incredible stuff. By then I had done Other-rooms.com, Marilynsroom.com, MasqueradeBooks.com, and the eroticbooksociety.com so I truly think I was exposed to every erotic title that was out there. People were just creating some amazing stuff. And yet when you left the big cities on either coast, few people knew that erotica even existed. When the Book-of-the-Month Club people launched the Venus book club (for erotica), people living between the coasts became more aware of us and our books, but they were still feeling compelled to hide the books under their beds, or what have you, when company came, you know? Erotica is something a lot of people have always been ashamed of reading. But in those days, the writers were taking such beautiful risks with language and erotic ideas because they had publishers willing to back them. Masquerade was probably the biggest, but there was also Carroll & Graf, Blue Moon, the awesome Black Books, a few others; and there is still Cleis, and Circlet Press.
But anyway, I wanted to honour all this greatness somehow. I wanted to give out awards to the publishers, and cash awards to the writers who can always use all the cash they can get. Giving out Lifetime Achievement Awards was very
important to me honouring our predecessors. And I also felt that if we banded tog-ether, it would raise our
/ I wanted to publish the erotic books other publishers wouldn’t touch. Books of high literary quality but that also explored the taboos. /
profile, give us more press opportunities and help us sell more books and, hence, get bigger advances.
SDk: The EAA’s founding members are a who’s who of writers in the contemporary erotic genre – were you pleased at the level of response you had and who came onboard in support?
MJL: It was a little like pulling teeth to get the writers onboard for the EAA. But I did my usual “terrier” routine: I wouldn’t let it drop! Emails, letters; showing up at readings to badger writers into joining. These were my friends and colleagues so I don’t think I was ever truly annoying, but they just never saw as much of a financial future in writing erotica; they never believed we could be taken seriously enough to have a formal “Association” that gave out awards. Jack Fritscher, in California, was instrumental in helping me get the EAA off the ground, along with Rob Stephenson in New York. The other writers did get onboard, obviously, but they sort of sat back and had a bit of a “wait-and-see” attitude.