Interview with Emma Holly

Emma Holly writes wonderful erotic fiction for women. Her books are highly sensual and perfect for women that prefer an excellent written love story and/or erotic book.

Her books are published at British Black Lace books, she has finished an erotic romance and has also published some short stories..

Please visit her website to find more information about Emma and her books:

Angela: Could you tell us something about yourself? Your likes and dislikes, where you come from etc.?

Emma Holly: Hi Angela. First of all, thanks for asking me to do this interview. It's nice to know I have fans all over!

Now, something about me . . . My favorite things are good books, good chocolate, strong coffee and long walks. And sleeping. I like sleeping very much! Which probably tells you I have reached the 'certain age' the French are always talking about. Dislikes: having to watch my weight, bad books everyone adores but me, and when "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is preempted by basketball. I am shamefully addicted to TV and to the internet, but books are probably the only thing I couldn't live without. They are both solace and inspiration to me, a window on the world and an escape from it. I always wonder what people who don't read do. It seems a dull existence to me.

Currently, I live in Minnesota, though I lived for ten years in Philadelphia, where MENAGE was set. Minnesota is much colder and less sophisticated, but it's also cleaner, safer and offers more in the way of natural beauty. I belong to a good writer's group here and have met most of my friends through them.

Angela: Why and how did you start to write? Was that something you always wanted to do? Why did you decide to write erotic fiction?

Emma Holly: I always wanted to write. When I was young I was very much in my own little world. Sometimes I'd be late to school because I'd sit by the side of the road to tell myself a story. (My barrettes were always handy to take the starring roles.) My first fictional loves were fairy tales, science fiction, and then romance - which I tried to write but couldn't sell. I tried erotic fiction because it fascinated me and because my sex scenes were the one thing no one ever complained about. Ironically, writing erotica helped me hone my storytelling skills. Now I've sold my first erotic romance. Perhaps I will work my way back to science fiction, too!

Angela: How did your family react when they learned that you write erotic fiction? I can imagine that this could become difficult for some family members to hear that one writes erotic books? Many readers/writers of romance books are not taken seriously by critics and the public. Have you made the same experience as an author of erotic fiction?

Emma Holly: My family is much more literary than me. Despite having studied English at a good university, I loathe most literature. All that gratuitous misery, all that pomposity and just plain sloppy storytelling. Most days I'd rather read a mediocre romance than a "good" literary novel. Anyway, my family's reaction was not a moral judgment against the explicitness of my writing but against it not being literature. Some seemed to assume I was slumming and would return serious fiction once I was established. Nothing could be further from the truth! I found my writer's voice when I switched to erotica. Suddenly my stories were stronger, more emotional. Suddenly I had something to say that I really
cared about.

Despite their occasional dismay, my family has been very supportive of my career. I really have to give them credit for that. It is much harder to pat someone on the back when you disapprove!

Personally, I don't worry too much about respect. I think romance writers waste way too much energy on it. In any case, respect isn't something you can demand from other people. You earn it by doing the best job you can. If you don't get it, then the other person should be ashamed, not you. I write the kind of books I would want to read and I'm proud of them.

Angela: Where lies the difference between female erotic fiction and (male?) erotic fiction? Is male erotic fiction more graphic than female? Or are women described as "horny and brainless"?

Emma Holly: I'm a bit sexist when it comes to reading material. No matter what the genre - mystery, science fiction, adventure - I prefer female authors. In general, I think women are better than men at portraying emotion and character in a convincing way.

For erotica, I think women are are more likely to put the sex into an interesting context. When men write erotica, they either concentrate primarily on mechanics or bog down in pseudo-literary posturing (and you know how I feel about that <g>).

Amusingly, I once read what I thought was an exception to my prejudice: a gay writer who wrote the most tender, amusing and HOT erotic stories. The characters were wonderful, the stories engaging - every bit as good as a woman's. I thought, well, maybe he's more sensitive because he's gay. Then I found out he wasn't a he at all! "He" was a woman posing as a gay man because her readership would have been upset to discover she wasn't male.

Angela: Why are your books published within the British Black Lace series? Is there an American equivalent? Did you ever had problems with the differences of British and American language? And why are Black Lace books so fast out of print?

Emma Holly: There isn't an American equivalent to Black Lace. The American erotic houses like Blue Moon and Carrol & Graf target a narrower audience. If you're not into S&M or D/s, in and of itself, it's hard to connect with what they publish. Though they have female writers, the books are not designed to be especially female-friendly.

For my first book, the Briticisms were hard to learn, but they became more automatic. Occasionally, their copyreader will question me about an Americanism and I'll either offer a neutral alternative or plead with her to leave it in. My characters are, after all, Americans.

As to why Black Lace books are so fast out of print, I can't speak for their marketing department but I suspect they want sales to work that way. They'd rather print too few than too many and be forced to swallow a lot of returns. Between you, me and the wallpaper, I don't think they've done all they can to open up the American market which, compared to the UK, is potentially huge. If they did, print runs would be larger, profits higher, and they'd probably be more willing to run the risk of reprints. But that's armchair marketing. Black Lace has managed to stay in business when the other British erotica houses have folded. Perhaps they do know best.

Angela: Could you explain the difference of the Red Sage "Secrets" series and Black Lace books to readers that have never read one of them? Both are erotic fiction for women but they are totally different. Will you write another short story after your fantastic "Love Slave" for the "Secrets" series?

Emma Holly: Secrets stories have to follow the basic formula of a romance novel. They center on the development of a relationship between one man and one woman and lead to a happy, committed ending. The sex is explicit but certain kinds of sex are verboten: hardcore S&M, lesbian scenes, anything non-consensual or bathroom-y. Black Lace novels can involve a romance but certainly don't have to. They offer more leeway for multiple partners and a variety of kink.

I can't say whether I'll write another novella for Red Sage. Alexandria Kendall offers an appealing amount of freedom to her writers at a time when other publishers are growing increasingly hidebound (no vampires, no futuristics, no anything-out-of-the-ordinary). On the other hand, Red Sage is a very small house and I'm trying to grow my career. I suppose the decision will depend on having a story I really want to write that won't fit anywhere else.

Here's the Secrets website in case anyone wants to check out their books or guidelines:

Angela: I know that  sex scenes in books are the authors fantasy but where do you get your ideas for them? By reading other erotic or romance books? Do you watch erotic films?

Emma Holly: Like most authors, I get my ideas anywhere I can! Sometimes they come from books or TV, sometimes from the dark recesses of my subconscious. When they're not my own fantasies, they usually spring from my wanting to improve on another artist's idea, to make their fantasy suit my taste.

If I could find erotic films I liked, I suppose I would watch them. The few I've seen, which came recommended, were too stupid for me. Whatever turn-on value they had was ruined by my sitting there thinking: "Geez, this is idiotic." The only erotic film I've seen that I really loved was Zalman King's first "Red Shoe Diaries" with David Duchovny. Close to

Angela: Would you be interested in write a historical Black Lace book because all your Black Lace books are contemporaries?

Emma Holly: Black Lace likes the contemporaries. Apparently, they sell better in the UK. Now that I've gotten my feet wet writing this sexy historical for Berkley, though, that might be something I'd consider.

Angela: I heard that you finished a vampire story and/or an erotic romance book? Is that true and can you tell us more about it? Will they be published?

Emma Holly: The only vampire story I have coming out is a short one for Marcy Sheiner's BEST WOMEN'S EROTICA 2001. I'd like to do a full-length erotic vampire story someday, but I don't know when I'll get to it.

Angela: Many Black Lace books contain S/M scenes. Is it hard to write them because I donít think that every author of books with S/M sex scenes belongs automatically to this scene. ;-) How do authors research because I think itís hard to write about it and not to crash through the boundaries of the uncommon in S/M? Do you think that S/M is something women like to read about? Or do women prefer some "softer" spanking scenes (which were also common in romance books for a long time.)

Emma Holly: When I decided to try my hand at writing S/M, I read Gloria and William Brame's DIFFERENT LOVING: The World of Sexual Dominance and Submission. I found it fascinating and helpful, though I didn't always buy the spin
they were trying to put on the lifestyle.

Dominance and submission (D/s) is an extremely popular erotic theme and some of the people driving that popularity are women. Naturally, every woman will like something a little different from every other. Some women will only like reading about male-female power plays if they are very soft, or even disguised as something besides S&M. (The masterful alpha-male hero in romance is a good example.) Other women will be aroused by the mere mention of a leather whip. I believe (and this belief is entirely un-scientific) that if erotica wants to expand beyond its niche audience, it will have to embrace the softer side of D/s, as well as cater to a wider variety of kinks.

Incidentally, when I wrote VELVET GLOVE, I posed myself the challenge of making Dominance and submission understandable to and arousing for people who wouldn't normally like that subject.

Angela: Very often the characters in erotic books are not jealous and share everything together. But your books are different and I saw that they also contain e.g. a "menage à trois" but as soon real love is involved your characters become jealous which makes them more realistic to the reader because mankind is jealous... ;-). Do you think that a "menage à trois" can work without jealousy (in real life and fiction)?

Emma Holly: Personally, no. I think jealousy is a part of life and relationships regardless of how many people are involved. Which isn't to say you couldn't have a rewarding threesome. You probably could. I just think it would involve many challenges and it would never play out to the perfect satisfaction of all the people involved. That only happens in fiction.

I include jealousy and other negative emotions in my books because I think conflict helps involve the reader. To me, my stories are fantasies. They're very much controlled by my imagination. What reality I include is there to help the reader suspend disbelief, to make her think maybe the story really could happen. In other words, the "reality" is there to help her enjoy the fantasy.

Angela: Most romance books are "political correct" (i.e. the heroine does not have sex with other men as soon she meets the hero, she marries her lover and the sex positions donít vary). I would say your books are also romance books because you always write about a deep, real love between hero and heroine but you decided to let your hero/heroine make their experiences with other partners thus your books (or every erotic book if you like) are not "political correct" in the common sense. Are you against political correctness and do you think that you might get problems with a "normal" romance book because you are known as an author of erotic fiction?

Emma Holly: I wouldn't call what traditional romances promote "political correctness" so much as sexual and social conservatism. That conservatism exists because a large segment of the readership *wants* to read that kind of book; they want to see their values and ideals upheld in the fictional world. Multiple partners or exotic sexual practices would ruin their enjoyment of the story. I'm not against people writing or reading books like that. In an ideal world, there would be a book for every taste - hopefully, lots of books. Fortunately, not all writers restrict their characters to the missionary position!

I don't know whether my having written erotica will cause problems for the reception of my romance. It will probably stir interest, and possibly controversy, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. As a member of Romance Writers of America, I've been involved with the romance community from the start. I know this has increased sales of my erotic novels. Readers who wouldn't otherwise read an erotic book will try mine because, as a fellow romance fan, they think I must be safe for women to read.

Interestingly enough, erotica fans can get as snooty about romance as romance fans get about erotica. I guess everybody wants to look down on someone else!

Angela: Do you think the stories from Black Lace books (not only your stories) can be transferred into real life if women were more courageous? What about the dangers of diseases? I noted that the characters in all contemporary Black Lace books practise "safer sex" and that thereís a warning in all Black Lace books.

Emma Holly: The warning says that 'Black Lace novels contain sexual fantasies' which I believe is quite, quite true. What happens in them is under the author's control. In real life, if you try to recreate a fantasy, there's always the chance your partner will depart from the script or just prove to be a bad actor! Erotic fiction is a safe way to explore what arouses you, which can be unexpected. The fantasies you never knew you had can be transferred to real life, sometimes with great benefit, but you have to remember that real life involves real people: real hurts, real consequences, real hang-ups. Living, breathing human beings rarely behave like characters in a book. Courage is an admirable trait, but so is caution and responsibility. Sex, even when it's done for fun, is serious, potentially life-changing stuff. (I think you can tell I'm a romance writer now <g>!)

As you say, disease is (or should be) a concern. Safer sex is just that: safer, not safe. And readers should definitely not use erotic novels as a template for which kind of sex is safest!

Angela: Do you think the views of women about erotica have changed within the last years? That they became more courageous and comfortable with erotic fiction, sex toys etc.?

Emma Holly: Definitely. With the advent of collections like Susie Bright's BEST AMERICAN EROTICA and Marcy Sheiner's HEROTICA series, erotica has moved into the mainstream. In romance, writers like Robin Schone reflect this trend. In the field of sex toys (hm, quite an image there), Good Vibrations has, er, plowed the way to make
sexual paraphernalia more accessible and acceptible to the average woman.

Angela: Do you have a favorite hero/heroine among your books? (By the way, my fave hero is Grae from "Love Slave" and I also liked Lily very much...)

Emma Holly: Truthfully, I love all my heroes and heroines but if I have to pick, I suppose I like the flawed ones best. I love my heroine from IN THE FLESH. She is so bad you have to admire her chutzpah. And when the hero loves her in spite of her sins, it makes me tear up. Ditto for the hero in BEYOND INNOCENCE, my sexy historical romance. He is a Protector with a capital "P" and yet his very desire to keep the people he loves safe leads him to the darkest side of his nature. He is a control freak and a bully and I absolutely adore him. His love is great enough to both damn and save him. That kind of dichotomy is fascinating for a writer to explore.

Angela: What books and authors do you normally read? (I saw that you recommended e.g. Katherine Sutcliffe - my all-time fave author - and Jean M. Auel). Could you also recommend books of other authors of erotic fiction?

Emma Holly: All my faves are on my website: (Yes, let's make people go there and increase my hit count <g>!) In general, I read romance, mystery (especially British mystery), a lot of
research books and a little science fiction. I don't read too much erotica because it's hard for me to find what I like. My favorite erotic novel ever is probably CRY TO HEAVEN by Anne Rice about a sexy Italian castrato. Love, revenge, opera and plenty of kinky sex. Absolutely mesmerizing.

Angela: Do you know if your wonderful "Menage" will be re-released?

Emma Holly: I don't know. I wish I did because people are always asking me! You'd probably have more luck asking my publisher.

Angela: Could you tell us more about your future plans? What comes next?

Emma Holly: Immediately next is revisions for my Berkley book, tentatively scheduled for June 2001. After that, I'll probably do another historical romance, but I'm not under contract so I'll have to see what pops up. I'd like to do a plain-jane heroine and a decadent tortured artist hero. And I'd like to send them to Venice. What an editor will want is anyone's guess.

Next up for readers is my July Black Lace, IN THE FLESH, which features a Japanese American hero and an exotic dancer heroine. I just got my author copies, so of course I'm excited about that!

Whoo. Hope I didn't blather too much. Thanks for inviting me to talk!

© Angela Weiss und Isolde Wehr, Mai 2000, Die romantische Bücherecke

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Dieses Interview entstand im Mai 2000 zwischen Angela W. und Emma Holly für:

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