Novelist Aya de Leon on merging erotic fiction and social justice
Berkeley-California based author, activist and professor Aya de Leon is our latest Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 3 contributor interviewee. Aya is the author of the Justice Hustlers series, featuring books Uptown Thief, The Boss and forthcoming May 2018 novel The Accidental Mistress, one of several 2018 books by our contributors. Her erotic short story "After the Heist" in BWE features interracial lesbian couple Jody and Kim engaging in some cheerleader roleplaying, complete with cheerleading outfit and pom poms. The two also appear in her Justice Hustler novels. Learn more on Aya's website and follow her @AyadeLeon on Twitter.
See our previous author interviews: Annabel Joseph on writing femdom erotica and August McLaughlin on why women's sexual pleasure is political.
How long have you been writing erotica? How and why did you get started?
I started with Uptown Thief, my first Justice Hustlers book. I wanted to write a sexually charged book that was also really political. So I decided to write about a community of sex workers who heist unscrupulous corporate CEOs involved in a sex trafficking scandal.
What was the inspiration for your story, “After the Heist,” in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 3?
The story takes place during the second Justice Hustlers book, The Boss. Whenever the main storyline is heterosexual, I always want to include a luscious queer sex scene.
Your protagonists, couple Kim and Jody, are also featured in your Justice Hustlers series. How does this story fit in with the rest of their storyline?
They're part of the heist team, but they're also the sexual/relationship moral compass of the community. Unlike the women who date men, they are able to integrate the sex work with their coupleship.
In “After the Heist,” Kim dresses up as a cheerleader for Jody, which you contrast with Jody’s recollection of watching the cheerleaders in the halls in high school as a queer girl and how seeing Kim in her uniform brought back those tough feelings. How do the two of them reclaim their queerness and identity through role-playing?
I'm fascinated by sexual politics of sports, and how cheerleaders were originally set up to cheer for male athletes, but now they cheer for both men's and women's teams. And yet, the dynamics are totally different. I wanted to see how that would play out with a female athlete who had never really gotten her due, because of sexism. What kind of longing would that set up? I remember that great movie, But I'm a Cheerleader.
Work and sex are intertwined in your story, from Jody being on a job as a thief at the start of the story to mentions of sex work. How do these two elements play off each other in your writing?
Because sex work is already so marginalized and criminalized, that's part of how they become thieves. They already crossed the line of legality into sex work, doing what they had to in order to survive. So when another huge series of financial pressures threaten their women's health clinic, they choose to heist the unscrupulous in order to resource and protect the marginal and vulnerable.
What were the most enjoyable and most challenging parts of writing it?
It's all really fun. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to follow a similar pattern and satisfy the sex scene tropes without becoming boring and formulaic.
How does your story fit in with your larger body of writing (if at all)?
It's one of the many relationships and erotically charged moments in this New York world I'm writing.
What’s your favorite line or paragraph from your story?
When Kim's labia winks from below the cheerleading skirt!
You balance writing fiction with your work on social justice issues. How are the two intertwined for you? What role do you think fiction plays in social justice?
Basically, I want to create stories that center on women of color who have to fight the real-life battles in our world—racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, xenophobia, whorephobia—and there's a lot of action and drama, but they totally get to win.
What are you working on next?
Book 3 of the series comes out this year, The Accidental Mistress. And I'm starting book 4, which brings back Marisol and Dulce from Uptown Thief and sets them both against the backdrop of the hurricane in Puerto Rico.
What’s the hottest erotic scene you’ve ever read?
So hard to choose. I can't really pick just one!
Read "After the Heist" by Aya de Leon now in Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 3, available from:
Kindle (all countries) - download free sample erotic story
Amazon (print - all countries)
Barnes & Noble (print)
Powell's (Portland, Oregon independent bookstore or mail order - free shipping over $50)
IndieBound (find your local independent bookstore)