Good morning book-lovers!
Today we have erotic author Jonathan Asche here for an interview. Jonathan’s new book, Dyre, is now available on Amazon.
Please welcome Jonathan Asche!
Tell us about your new novel, Dyre.
Dyre is the story of Gene Esley, the surviving partner of a successful Atlanta real estate developer. It’s while Gene is staying at his house in the mountains of Ardenville—a fictional stand-in for Asheville, North Carolina—that he meets Dyre. Dyre is the ultimate fantasy man, and the perfect diversion for a rich, middle-aged man who’s wrestling with feelings of loneliness and guilt. The sex is awesome, but things gradually become darker as Gene suspects Dyre may be motivated by more than lust or love. Soon he’s not only questioning his relationship with Dyre, the life he shared with Geoffrey, his late partner, and even his own sanity.
What was your inspiration for Dyre?
The 1969 movie Paranoia was probably the biggest inspiration. In that movie Carroll Baker plays this wealthy widow who’s seduced by a young drifter, played by Lou Castel. Later, the drifter’s sexy sister joins them, and soon the widow’s days are a blur of drugs, alcohol and fucking these scheming siblings. It’s one of my favorite movies and I wanted to put a gay spin on it.
Dyre is your third book – what have you learned or what has changed about your writing or how you approach it over those years?
I certainly put a lot more thought into the writing now. When I wrote my first novel, Mindjacker, I approached it as nothing more than a stroke book. That’s not to say I wasn’t concerned about character development or plot, but the story was largely designed to take the reader from one sexual scenario to the next. Then I was at the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans the following year, and I was scheduled to read from Mindjacker, sharing the stage with a more established writers like Dominic Santi. Though I didn’t embarrass myself too badly, I felt so undeserving to be in their company. After that I was determined to approach my writing more seriously, even if I was writing smut. My follow-up novel, Moneyshots, had a far more complex story and the writing was stronger, if I do say so myself. Both Moneyshots and Dyre follow the same rhythms of mainstream thrillers—backed by the steady percussion of explicit, man-on-man action, of course.
How has the business of writing and publishing erotic fiction changed over the years?
Erotic fiction has always been the bastard child of the literary world. Still, in the past someone wanting to write in that genre had a lot more venues in which to publish their work. There were even publishers that specialized in erotica, like Bad Boy Books. I published my first porn short story in 1993, in Torso magazine. For the remainder of the ̓90s and the early ̓oughts I sold stories to various gay skin magazines—Honcho, In Touch for Men, Mandate, Playguy. When I published my first book it got reviewed in one of those magazines and that helped immensely. An ad placed in Advocate Men helped, too.
Then those magazines started going away, so I focused on writing for erotic anthologies like Cleis Press’ Best Gay Erotica series. Writing for the anthologies always seemed a bit more highbrow, and getting accepted in one always made me feel a little more respectable, like I had arrived. Also, the expectations were higher so that really helped push me as a writer. Not that the skin mags would publish any ol’ thing I banged out, but those relied more on formula. That said, I missed the magazine money. Not that anyone writes gay porn to get rich, but to put it in perspective: I could get $150-$200 per story when I wrote for magazines; an erotic anthology usually pays $50-$75.
The options are a lot more limited today, especially if you want to get paid for your work. There are still gay anthologies to contribute to, but not as many as there once were, and publishers targeting the gay market only publish so many erotic titles a year. That leaves self-publishing, which has exploded over the past few years. Today a writer can sell his or her story directly to readers on Amazon, but good luck reaching readers. It’s easy to get lost in the vastness of the internet.
How has the readership changed?
I was surprised at how many women read gay erotica. I’m sure this isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s an audience that’s a lot more visible now. It makes sense, I suppose, since guys are more likely to seek visual stimulation on the web. Women are more willing to use their imaginations.
But the female audience can be a tough one. When Mindjacker was published in 2003, the initial response was from male readers and the response was largely positive. Over time, I noticed more women were posting reviews of the book online, and their reviews were more critical. More than a couple complained that Mindjacker had too many sex scenes. Too many sex scenes in an erotic novel—I couldn’t wrap my head around that one. Another female reviewer took issue with the main character’s power to possess men’s minds and will them to sexually gratify him, writing that what he was doing was tantamount to rape. While she wasn’t incorrect, I thought she was over-thinking it. I only wanted guys to jack off reading Mindjacker. I certainly wasn’t prepared for it to be reviewed from a feminist perspective.
I think Dyre should have a little broader appeal—at least among those who read gay erotica. There is a much stronger story, and not every chapter is an excuse for a sex scene. That said, while this book has fewer sex scenes than Mindjacker or Moneyshots, some of those sex scenes are a bit more extreme than those in my previous books.
What are the challenges (and rewards) of self-publishing?
The biggest challenge is promoting your work. Just putting your book on Amazon is no guarantee people will read it, so much of my spare time is spent trying to build an audience on social media and think up creative ways to attract potential readers. It’s been quite the learning experience.
Another challenge is all the prep work involved. I had to make things more difficult by creating my own imprint, J. Tom Books, and handling the details involved with that: forming an LLC, getting a business account, building a website. Then there was the matter of editing. I hired someone to edit, of course, but when he returned the edited manuscript I had to fuck with it some more. I was confident that my copy was pretty clean even if the story wasn’t, so I sent the manuscript off for printing. Well, when I got the initial proof copies back from the printer I gave one to my husband and asked him to skim through it for anything that was missed. He caught an error in the first sentence, which I had re-written since it had been professionally edited. The smart thing to do would have been to give the manuscript to my husband first, then turn it over to the pro. That’s the problem with the “smart thing”: it’s so obvious it’s easily overlooked.
But these challenges are also rewarding. When my books were being put out by a small publisher most of the work was falling on me, the author, anyway, so why not eliminate the middle man? I’m a graphic designer by trade, so I knew I could design an attractive cover, as well as format an interior that looked like something put out by an established publishing house. That’s the paperback, mind you. Formatting the digital edition was something else entirely. Nevertheless, I like being in control of the whole process, despite the extra work and my mistakes.
If you could expose one myth about erotic fiction authors, what would it be? And what’s the truth?
That writers of erotic fiction do so because they can’t write. In truth, a lot of mainstream authors have written “dirty” books: Harlan Ellison, Donald Westlake, Iris Owens and Lawrence Block, to name a few. And Anne Rice wrote a series of BDSM-themed books—The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty’s Punishment, etcetera—under the pseudonym A. N. Roquelaure.
What’s been the most difficult aspect of writing (either in writing Dyre or in general)?
Finding time to do it!
What’s been the most rewarding experience from writing (either with regards to Dyre or in general)?
I love telling stories. Seeing a story develop from the first chapter to the last is always a thrill. A writer can be as surprised by what develops in writing a book as a reader is reading it. Dyre’s final chapters are nothing like what I initially planned when I was working on the early chapters.
What’s next for you? Another erotic novel? Something else?
While I’ve enjoyed writing erotica, I want to move on to more mainstream genres. I’m returning to the novel I had started writing before I got the idea to write and self-publish Dyre. It’s a serio-comic Southern soap opera that takes a lot of its inspiration from the Mississippi town where I lived when I was in high school. I plan to re-release Moneyshots under the J. Tom Books imprint in the interim.
Wow — lots going on in your writing world! I look forward to seeing how your writing career unfolds!
Thanks for stopping by and sharing about Dyre and about your writing career so far.