PJ KINSTON INTERVIEWS EROTICA AUTHOR ROWAN DARKLEE…
PJ: When did you start writing?
RD: I started writing short stories in more mainstream genres when I was twelve or thirteen. I spent my teen years in foster homes so writing was something I could do that was insular and cerebral. I started writing erotica in my late early teens, but it was a teen view of sexy, not a very good one. I remember in junior high getting caught with a particularly sexy Harlequin novel and being sent to the principal’s office.
PJ: Do you think that writing helped you get through the traumas you suffered as a child?
RD: Absolutely. It was the thing that saved me. I could escape into a world I created on my own.
PJ: What are the signiture elements in most of your stories?
RD: Castles tend to be featured a lot in my work. Not all the time, but often. I think that playing around with gender roles is something I almost always do. I like featuring bisexual men and women because there is not a lot of that out there and I am bisexual myself. Travel is always an element.
PJ: Does your family know you write erotica?
RD: My husband certainly does. He beta reads all my work, even the gay stuff. Some of my inlaws know but in a vague kind of way. They know I write “sexy stuff” and “blue novels” but they have never read any of it.
PJ: Do you keep what you do a secret?
RD: I would say I am discrete, but not secretive about it. I don’t hand out copies of my work to friends and family but I don’t hide what I do either. I definitely have friends who know I write very explicit things. When I meet new people and they ask what I do, I often (but not always) say I “write dirty books.”
PJ: Do you get a lot of judgement from people for that?
RD: Actually, no. Most people ask where they can read some of it. Others just nod and say, ‘yeah, OK, cool.’ I’ve never had someone flip out about it or say I am doing something wrong. I think times are changing and people are more open minded about sex now. I used to keep it a tight secret but now I have loosened up and care a lot less what people think.
PJ: Why do you write so much male/male in your work?
RD: Because it’s hot. Also, I like writing gay men who are in equal partnerships. That isn’t done often. A lot of gay romances (usually written by women) feminize or weaken one character, usually the younger one, to make an unbalanced partnership. Or they go the other way and both the men are alphas. My goal is to write men who are multi-faceted. Men who have strengths and weaknesses and don’t bend to the broken/damaged precious one image, or the strictly alpha one. I hope I am doing that. I don’t know.
PJ: What are your favorite kinds of women to write?
RD: Again, I try to avoid the female stereotypes of the perfect woman, the blushing virgin or the whore. Most women don’t fit into any of those categories. I like making independent female characters without making them ass kicking Buffy The Vampire Slayer types. I think women, like all humans, have weaknesses and strengths and that they should be written with both in mind. I don’t like female characters who never make mistakes. Sometimes, people fall for the wrong person. Sometimes people are messed up. That’s just being human, not necessarily female.
PJ: Do you feel that you write ‘feminist erotica?’
RD: I try to put female characters on the same emotional and success level as men. I don’t know if that makes it feminist. I am not aiming for that. My work involves a lot of BDSM encounters which some people might think un-feminist. I have never labeled my work feminist and I am not sure if the label applies. I guess others would have to decide that based on their personal definition of feminism.
PJ: What do you think of Fifty Shades Of Gray?
RD: It was not my thing, but it was a nice read. It was pretty tame actually. It was kink-light. I don’t think it deserves the backlash it often gets. It is a modern, kind of simple story with some light kink in it. People reacted to the controlling element of Christian Grey, but a lot of women have fantasies about that, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with fantisizing.
PJ: Do you think that the Fifty Shades series effects women’s view of healthy relationships?
RD: No, I don’t. I strongly feel that it doesn’t. Women have fantasies at all points of the spectrum. I think it is wrong and very unfeminist to police women’s fantasies. it’s like saying that women are too stupid to differentiate between fantasy and reality, which seems a pretty low opinion of women to me. I don’t think that women are entering into abusive relationships because they read Fifty Shades Of Grey.
PJ: Do you research the BDSM lifestyle a lot for your stories?
RD: Not really. A lot of my friends are self styled “kinksters” and I get a lot of information from them by friendly osmosis. None of my characters are “in the BDSM community.” They have their own kind of thing going on. I keep it safe and sane most of the time. When I am writing romance, I keep it safe and sane. When it is about love. When it is a thriller, I depart from that because the danger is part of the element of thrill. Look at ‘Last Tango In Paris’ and ‘Fatal Attraction’ and that’s what I go for in thrillers. Though I’ve never had a character go to bunny boiler levels. I think that when you’re writing, you’re telling a story, not a morality lesson.
PJ: Do you engage in any of the acts that your characters do?
RD: Nope. I am boring and vanilla. I tried to be kinky for a while but I never have the energy. By the time someone ties me up, I’m like, ‘I dunno, why don’t we just watch Game Of Thrones or something.’
PJ: Does writing ever turn you on?
RD: Yeah, sure. I sometimes write a scene and then go and jump my awesome husband. It’s boring married people sex, but it’s good. We’re both happy.
PJ: What is the most difficult thing about writing?
RD: The publishing part. I self publish, and I think the act of self promotion is tacky, so I am naturally the antithesis of a good publisher.
PJ: Do you think that gay erotica and gay romances hypersexualize or fetishize gay men?
RD: I think erotica fetishizes everybody, doesn’t it?
PJ: What has influenced you the most and inspired your writing?
RD: Travel. I travel a lot. I have been an expat in four countries and I often take off and stay somewhere for a month or two for no reason other than I can. I am currently in Edinburgh, Scotland for three months, writing a book. Exotic locations show up often in my work.
PJ: A lot of writers have a theme of wealthy men. It is it’s own category now. I notice that you have wealthy men in your work, but they seem a bit different than the usual billionaire stuff.
RD: I have never written a billionaire story, just because I can’t imagine having that kind of money. I write people with wealth often because wealth provides opportunities to write a kind of fantasy world based in some level of reality. My rich guys are different because they don’t lead charmed lives. They have debts, bills, problems and they aren’t balling out like crazy. I don’t really find that sexy. Maybe I am boring, but I like a man with a savings account that knows how to use it.
PJ: Do you write women with wealth?
RD: Not as often as the men, and I just realized that. I should write more wealthy high profile women. I think I like the ‘Alice down the rabbit hole’ kind of thing, and that is easier to write when you take a character from rags to riches, like they are experiencing something new. But yeah, I should write more female CEOs. I have some male/male stuff that does the same thing.
PJ: Do you consider your stories ‘over the top?’
RD: Absolutely. I love castles, vampires, magical powers, exotic locations, fast paced car chases… the works. I also like smart, down to earth too. But yeah, I love over the top. It is a fantasy escape.
PJ: What is your ultimate goal with your writing career?
RD: I don’t think I have a career yet. What I want to do is write sexy, interesting stories that readers enjoy. I’m not trying to write a great piece of literature. I just want it to be good, fun, sexy, entertaining. I am not trying to be Hemmingway. I would love to be known for sexy, trashy airport books. I’d like to make a little money now and then. That’s a bonus. I want a good back catelog and repeat readers. If readers say, ‘yeah, this author writes fun steamy stuff that doesn’t suck’ that makes me happy.