February 6, 2009

Writing Erotica

As much about anticipation as it is about sexuality

By Marcela Landres

According to Publishers Weekly, Ellora’s Cave, a successful e-book publisher of erotic romances, saw a 20% growth in e-book sales from 2006 to 2007, the same year Kensington, Avon, and Harlequin started new erotica imprints. While the economy may be cold, erotica is clearly hot. Read this month’s Q&A with Michelle Herrera Mulligan, editor of the erotica anthology Juicy Mangos, to learn more.

Helping Latino writers get published, Marcela Landres


Michelle Herrera Mulligan is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. She co-edited Border-Line Personalities: A New Generation of Latinas Dish on Sex, Sass, and Cultural Shifting. She edited and contributed a novella to Juicy Mangos: Erotica Collection. Her articles have appeared in Latina, Woman’s Day, Time, and Publishers Weekly, among many other publications.

Keep an eye out for her upcoming web site: twww.mich elleherreramulligan.com

Q: Juicy Mangoes is as smart as it is sultry—how did you come to edit an erotica anthology?

A: Johanna Castillo, an editor at Atria Books, contacted me because she liked Border-Line Personalities, my previous book, and thought I might be a good fit. I guess she liked how contemporary and honest (and sexy) thevoices in Border-Line were, so she asked me to edit and contribute a story.It was an incredible challenge for me, the first fiction I’d published. I loved the opportunity to explore what excites the female libido (especially the Latina libido)—I wanted to know: what are our darkest, most primal desires? It was an intense writing exercise for me and for all the writers, because ultimately, we all had to write great stories.

Q: How did you choose the writers who contributed the stories?

A: Two of the writers, the excellent novelists Sofia Quintero and Elisha Miranda, were already on board when I came on to the project (They had originally pitched the project to Johanna). We chose the others, Mayra Montero, Yxta Maya Murray, Adriana Lopez, and Mayra Santos-Febres based on who we thought were the most sensual yet imaginative writers out there. We wanted women who had a lot of depth in their writing, along with the bravery to take a lot of risks.

Q: What are the elements of good erotica?

A: Good erotica is believable. As the writer, your task is to create compelling characters, and make us feel every moment with them. The writing is as much about anticipation as it is about sexuality. The excitement comes from what happens before the big scenes: Is he going to kiss her? Did she brush against her shoulder on purpose? If you’re able to build tension in your stories, even a kiss can feel deeply erotic.

Q: What makes for bad erotica?

A: Bad erotica is cliche and vulgar. If your story depends on dirty words and oversexed scenarios, it’s not going to be good one. To be memorable, the story has to be able to stand on its own, and the sex has to feel seamless, something that reveals a layer of the characters’ consciousness. Otherwise, it will seem forced.

Q: Who is your agent and how did you meet him/her?

A: My agent is Joy Tutela, of the David Black Agency. I met her at a dinner party and we instantly clicked. We’ve been great friends ever since.

Q: Other than honing their craft, what advice would you give to Latino writers looking to land a book deal?

A: I know it’s a cliche—I would say, network, network, network. Go to every book fair, reading, and library event that hosts authors in the genre you’re interested in. Find out where everybody is going for drinks or coffee afterward and join them. And don’t be shy once you get there! I’m a huge believer in saying exactly what you need out loud, over and over again. Someday you’ll be having drinks with somebody, and they’ll say, “My best friend is an agent. Your project sounds like something she’d be interested in.” I know in an economy like this, this sounds like a fantasy, but believe me, it happens.

Marcela Landres is the author of the e-book How Editors Think. She is an Editorial Consultant who specializes in helping Latinos get published and was formerly an editor at Simon & Schuster. Reprinted from LatinoLA.

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