Charlotte Stein on building intimacy and writing first person erotica
Today's Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 3 author interview is with popular novelist Charlotte Stein. Charlotte's novels include Never Better, Addicted and Taken, among many others. Follow her @charlotte_stein on Twitter. Her story "The Skin of Someone Else," about a woman who works in a bar and lusts after a frequent customer. He flirts with her coworker while she looks on from afar...until she gets up close and very personal with him.
See our previous interviews: Aya de Leon on merging social justice and erotica, Annabel Joseph on writing femdom stories and August McLaughlin on the connection between women's pleasure and politics.
Here's what Charlotte Stein had to say about her celebrity writing inspiration, writing powerful first person stories and building intimacy.
How long have you been writing erotica? How and why did you get started?
I’d say I’ve been writing erotica since I was maybe seventeen or so…though my first published piece of work happened about eight years ago. It was a short story in a Black Lace anthology, “Playing,” in Lust At First Bite. I was a big fan of Black Lace books and they were one of the few publishers that accepted unsolicited submissions at the time. They put out a call, my friend made a pact with me to send something in, so I did!
What was the inspiration for your story, “The Skin of Someone Else,” in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 3?
Oscar Isaac in Show Me A Hero.
What were the most enjoyable and most challenging parts of writing it?
The secret notes part of it was the most enjoyable. Bringing everything to a conclusion, as ever, was the hardest.
How does the story fit in with your larger body of writing (if at all)? Is Trudy similar to other protagonists you’ve written?
I’d say she’s similar in that she has a lot of doubts and neuroses. She’s unsure of herself, and has taken some hard knocks in her life. That’s always what I’m interested in—heroines who’ve struggled and aren’t that confident, but who grow into themselves over the course of a story.
What’s your favorite line or paragraph from your story?
The initial description of him. It usually is, to be honest.
"He works at city hall, this guy. Or at least, he's there a lot for this job. And his job, whatever it is, takes a toll. Anyone on earth could see that—his shoulders are always slumped when he comes in here, as if he spent the day carrying a bag of rocks on his back. His hair is usually swept up high off his forehead, the way it gets when someone has been running a hand through it all day. Plus he always seems rumpled, somehow."
One thing I especially liked is that even though in the first part of the story it’s one-sided, you build an intimacy between Trudy, the narrator, and the stranger who’s a regular at the bar where she works. She fantasizes about him, but it’s less crude than tender. How do you create such connection before they’ve even said a word to each other?
I think it’s just about really exploring the heroine’s feelings and inner life, but through observation of something else. Not so much “she felt happy, she felt sad.” More “he looked like this, he did this, she imagined him doing XYZ in his life.” She builds a version of him before they even meet, and whether that ends up true or false it creates a connection. But it also reflects on her. It tells the reader what she’s like, too.
They are also drawn to each other by words—his quoting of Pablo Neruda in his notes to the narrator’s coworker, and her having an Octavia Butler book on her bookcase. I’m a total book nerd so of course I appreciated this.
As a fiction writer, how do you use books to reflect an element of your characters?
Sometimes it’s just a book both characters love, and that helps forge a connection. Other times I like the book they mention to each other to have some meaning that reflects on the wider story. A particular scene or theme might resonate.
You often write in the first person, as you do in this story. Why do you gravitate toward the first person and why do you think it’s popular with readers?
I think it’s just easier to get right in the head of your main character, and I’m a big fan of using that to put meat on the bones of the story!
What are you working on next?
Next up is Total Virgin, the first in my Strange Love series.
What’s the hottest erotic scene you’ve ever read?
Probably the whole of Dreamers In Time by Sarah Copeland.
Read "The Skin of Someone Else" by Charlotte Stein now in Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 3, available from:
Kindle (all countries) - download free sample erotic story
Amazon (all countries) - print
Barnes & Noble (print)
Powell's (Portland, Oregon independent bookstore or mail order - free shipping over $50) Books-a-Million
IndieBound (find your local independent bookstore)