Toyboy Warehouse Interviews – Erotica Author Lily Harlem
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself, what brought you into the world of erotica?
I fell into writing erotic romance by chance. I’d just completed a creative writing course at Cardiff University, and saw a contest with LoveHoney to write an erotic piece of fiction. I was thrilled to win first place with MADAM PRESIDENT – a saucy tale about the first female president of the USA and the British PM (you can read it in Stories For When The Sun Goes Down). After that I wrote more erotic romance and was picked up quickly by Violet Blue to feature in Best Women’s Erotica 2010 – which even got a mention on Oprah Winfrey! – before progressing to longer pieces. My first novel was released in 2010 and since then I have written, and had published over 65 other pieces of work, many of which are full length novels. Writing has become a full time job for me and something I love very much.
2) What have you learnt in your time as an erotic fiction writer?
Before I started writing I was a registered nurse and worked in London. I spent most of my time in the accident department and thrived on the fast pace and the adrenaline. I also adored my colleagues and the satisfaction that came from helping people when they were vulnerable and in pain. Now I enjoy a slower pace of life. I have many hours on my own and I’ve learnt to be okay with that. I miss nursing but it wasn’t ever going to be a life long career for me for several reasons (twenty years was enough) and now, with a second chance at a job that allows me to indulge my creative side, I’m very happy. It’s a good place to be not least because my home is now Wales and I have amazing views from my small, top floor study.
3) Many other writers in your position struggle to get their work seen by a wider audience, what obstacles have you faced in your time?
There are many obstacles every step of the way. First and foremost the work you’re promoting has to be quality. By that I mean learn the craft. Many people have wonderful imaginations and talent for telling stories, but there’s a skill in putting it onto paper, and definite rules that publishers want adhered to. Once the work is out there, it’s important to do some promotion, of course it helps if the publisher is also on your side when it comes to marketing. Having a newsletter is a great way to keep readers who are fans of the genre up to date, and by giving out a free ebook to everyone signing up, it’s possible to let them sample your work. I give out a copy of SCORED, a super sexy sport themed erotic romance, to everyone that signs up to my newsletter.
4) What do family & friends think about your profession? Are they supportive?
I think it sneaked up on many of them. I use a pen name which only a few people in my ‘real life’ know, but all family and friends know I write and that when I’m immersed in a project I don’t tend to be very sociable. My husband is very supportive and always keen to help with research! He travels a lot on business, and while I used to hate that, now I look at it as quiet days with just my cat and dog and the space to write. I am of course very glad when he comes home.
5) Tell us about Toy Boy?
TOY BOY was great fun to write and as the words hit the page I was transported to Greece which is where I set this short novel. Several years ago we holidayed there and spent a week sailing around the islands. For as long as I live the colours of the sea and the sky and the beautiful white buildings will be with me. There is something magical about Greece and being out on a boat with turtles, dolphins and sunfish, then throwing anchor in a deserted cove and opening a bottle of wine to go with bread and cheese for lunch. I gave the characters all of this and more, it was the perfect place for a romance to blossom. I also enjoyed the dynamics of the older woman, younger man in the story and the fact it was her that needed persuading to give them a chance.
Getting something unexpected can be a shock, but it can also be a wonderful treat, if you allow yourself to indulge, that is.
Kay is bubbling with excitement. She’s booked a sailing holiday of a lifetime in Greece with a man she’s fallen for hook, line and sinker. They met on the Internet. She’s from Oxford, he’s from Washington State. She’s a business lecturer, he runs his own successful business.
They’re perfect for each other, and she can’t wait to meet him and spend time in and out of his bed, allowing him to seduce her for real and not just with softly spoken words over the telephone.
But when she arrives in the idyllic port of Fiscardo, she’s in for a shock. There’s a reason Sullivan’s photographs were grainy, and it’s not because he’s sporting a potbelly or balding as she’d suspected. It’s because he’s over a decade younger than her and could rival any Greek god in the looks department. What’s more, his sex appeal and lust for her is off the scale.
Should Kay take what she can with her ‘toy boy’ and have some fun in the sun or hop on the first plane back to England? It’s a tricky decision for a woman who believed she couldn’t be surprised by life anymore.
6) What advice do you have to people tempted to write erotic fiction but haven’t started yet?
As I said before, learn the craft, whether it’s an evening class, online class or something at the local college. You need to understand the process before you start. Then find yourself a friend/fellow author who has at least a smidgen of sensitivity and a whole lot of honesty, to share your work with. Opinions on the plot and characters are always best heard from a friend rather than a publisher or reviewer, it gives you a chance to fix any issues. Then be persistent. A successful author is one who hasn’t given up.
7) What does the future of erotic fiction hold?
It’s been a whirlwind for erotic romance and erotica these last few years. Fifty Shades of Grey’s success combined with the popularity of self-publishing means everyone is able to ‘give it a go’ independently. This has made it hard for readers to find quality material and also made them reluctant to spend their money when so many books are only 99c/99p or free. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for self-publishing and have several of my own books on that platform, I also have 99c/99p and free books (but only first in series) so readers can sample my work. But it’s not viable to produce quality books with quality editing and quality cover art and sell at that price. I hope that the genre continues to be popular, and that readers don’t become disillusioned if they pick up a few ‘bad’ books. There are many wonderful, talented authors out there, who, like me, are compelled to write, do so for a living. These authors create fantastic sexy characters for readers to fall in love with and beautiful storylines perfect for curling up with on cold winter evenings.