By Evangeline Jennings
Here at Pankhearst, we like sex. A lot. We also enjoy writing. Putting the two together is something we aspire to. In our own curiously deviant way. So naturally we’ve become interested in erotica, pornography, the blurring of the lines. And by the way the internet has enabled all the above.
So when a new independent author of erotica offered herself up for a grilling, how could we say no?
Especially when she told us she was releasing her story, Memoirs Of A Gigolo, in our favourite serial format.
Like many writers of erotica, Livia Ellis prefers to bask in anonymity. Who knows who lurks behind that carefully chosen alias? Not Pankhearst, that’s for sure. She could be your mother for all we know. Possibly your father. Maybe Mitt Romney. Or even an otherwise credible indie author friend of ours. Honestly we haven’t got a clue. Whatever, this interview was conducted entirely by email. An approach which comes with obvious costs and benefits.
On the plus side, it makes it easy to type up. On the down, nuance is difficult to detect and it’s all but impossible to pursue an occasional point with a two day turnaround time.
Jimmy Swaggart once called rock’n’roll the new pornography. At Pankhearst we believe the new wave of independent authors should attack the status quo like a new punk rock – different, wild, dangerous, and free. Livia Ellis doesn’t see it that way. Asked to talk about herself, all she’ll say is that:
I am so uninteresting compared to my characters. I’m really very dull. When I’m not writing, I’m reading, painting, drawing, practicing the harp, or knitting. I’m really very boring.
This, of course, assumes her characters are more interesting that a mysterious woman who claims to play the harp. OK then, go on, convince us. Forget about the foreplay. Throw us up against the wall and tell us about this gigolo of yours.
Memoirs of a Gigolo is the story of a young man that has come to the end of the proverbial party of his youth and found himself having to pay the check. He’s lost most of his money, his family has pretty well disowned him, and the woman he loves has returned to her husband. He’s come to the conclusion that the most expeditious way to get his life back is to find a wealthy wife. To this end, he engages the service of a matchmaker. While she’s searching for a wife for him, he’s working for her as an escort.
I’ve checked, and my pants aren’t on fire. This is erotica as an escapist fantasy, not a million miles away from the sex and shopping bonkbusters or Fifty Shades Of Shite. But it’s not a Twilight rip-off wrapped up in a menopausal misunderstanding of the wonders of submission. Memoirs Of A Gigolo is the labours of Hercules seen through the eyes of a Harold Robbins fan.
Memoirs is written as a heroic journey. From the call to the adventure, to the trials, and finally the reward. A male prostitute may not fit the definition of an archetypal hero in the minds of purists, but then again why not? The unexpected hero is often the most engaging
And Livia says she found her inspiration eight miles high.
I was sat next to an Argentinian male escort on a transatlantic flight. He was impossibly beautiful. But even more noteworthy, was how incredibly charming and genuine he was. It was not hard to imagine why people would pay to have him accompany them to functions and yes, for sex.
Since that encounter, I’ve had the kernel of an idea rolling around in my head. Then I was trolling the magazine rack in an airport, reading about the scandalous lives of people I could care less about, and the idea hit me. What happens when the party ends? What happens to these people when their lives implode? What if I created one of these people, destroyed their life with their own hubris, wrote about the fallout, then the eventual rebuilding of their life? I had my story.
The first sex scene in Memoirs Of A Gigolo comes when Oliver, the hero, visits a post-middle-aged doctor who sticks his finger up Oliver’s arse and pays him for the pleasure of blowing him. I’m guessing you’re writing for women of a certain age. Do you have a particular demographic in mind? Or is this one of those cases where you’re writing for yourself?
I’m writing for me. I’m very pleased that I’m gathering an audience, but Memoirs has always been my vanity project. From the very beginning I had a vision of what I wanted the final product to be.
It was originally conceived as a serialized story as it’s being released. I shopped it around to a few publishers. They all loved it, but they wanted to change the very core of it and turn it from a serial to a single book. In the end, I had a choice between compromising on how I envisioned the story being told and going with a publisher, or self-publishing and keeping the integrity of my vision intact. I’m so pleased that I took that path. I have complete control over the story. I’m not certain I could have turned it over to someone else.
And how is it working out? Can you tell us about your adventures in self-publishing so far?
I’m still going back and forth between self-published work and working with a publisher. I’m getting used to not having to answer to anyone other than my readers for the content of my work. I may never go back again to traditional publishing unless I am in a position to have some say in how my work is treated.
There has been a learning curve, but I seem to be getting the hang of it. There is a lot more for me to learn, but I seem to have the basics down.
She certainly does. As you can read on Livia’s own blog, Memoirs Of A Gigolo was available on Amazon for free for five days. 1972 copies were downloaded. It reached #7 on the top 100 free erotic downloads list. And during the week following the promotion, she sold 79 copies priced at $.99 each.
More importantly perhaps, 18 five star reviews were written on the various Amazon sites and she says she was contacted by no less than four agents. Which is food for thought, hipsters. Food for thought.
What else do you have planned – one release per month for a year?
Yes. One release a month for a year and several off arc standalone stories with holiday themes. I must be out of my mind. In Volume 2, which will be out on November 1st, a few new characters will be introduced, and I will begin to expand on my use of the heroic journey in telling Oliver’s story.
A technical note for anyone thinking of publishing a serial, Volume One came in at just under ten thousand words. As did the first standalone – Happy Halloween Oliver – which was published on October 16th. Volume Two will be available tomorrow.
Subtle plugs for the books done and dusted, let’s see if we can discover any more about their author. How long has ‘Livia Ellis’ been writing?
I started writing when I was a child. I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer.
Did you write other genres before you began writing erotica?
Oh my yes! I wrote chick lit, sci-fi, fantasy and young adult. I have millions and millions of words I’ve written that will never see the light of day.
How did you find yourself writing erotica?
I started writing erotica in response to writers block. This isn’t something I’ve had to deal with often, but it’s not unknown to me. I was working on an academic paper at the time and I was just stuck. I needed to turn my mind to something else just to give it a bump. I opened a new document and started writing a fantasy story of a princess that was about to marry a duke that was the ruler of a desert kingdom. I not only still have the story, but it’s about 3k pages long at this moment. Whenever I feel stuck in my writing I go to my fantasy epic and write a few scenes. I won’t say it started off as erotica, but that’s immediately where it went as soon as my beautiful, yet sheltered princess, met her incredibly handsome and dashing duke of a husband on their wedding day.
When I get writer’s block, I masturbate. Have you written erotica before Memoirs Of A Gigolo?
Loads! I love writing about sex. It’s so powerful. Sex is never just sex.
What reaction are you hoping for in your reader? A gentle Oh my? A slight flush? Or a full-on OMFG orgasm?
That’s tricky. I think of it as slight flush work – but I might be underselling the level of heat in the story. What I really want is the reader to still be thinking about the story after they’ve finished it and not just about the sex.
And do you ever find yourself getting distracted while you’re in full creative flow?
When I’m in full creative flow, the house could burn down around me and I wouldn’t notice.
Um. By distracted, I meant aroused? And by flow … oh, never mind.
No. Not really. For me the story isn’t about the sex so much as the sex is a component of the story of Oliver’s journey from irresponsible boy to a man that owns his own life. There is a strong erotic element to the story, but it’s as much about sex as Moby Dick is about a whale.
She said “dick”.
Most of the erotica I’ve read is really bad. There is no story. It’s just sex held together with some bad dialog. I’m trying to rise to a different level.
Well, let’s see.
The Doctor asks me if I want to know how big my erect penis is.
Why not? It’s not like it can’t get any more surreal for me. Kafka couldn’t have done my trip to The Doctor justice.
He pulls out a tape measure. I am more pleased to say I am packing nine inches of pure English manhood. I hate to demystify the legend of the twelve-inch cock, but the average man is about six-inches fully erect. At nine-inches I’m positively enormous. The Doctor is impressed. He’s seen a lot of cock in his time, but mine is one of the biggest.
Memoirs Of A Gigolo – Volume One
I do so love good dialogue. But I also like a full-on OMFG orgasm and for ninety-nine cents I better damn well get one. But yes, so much contemporary erotica really is very bad, so let’s talk about some of the more acclaimed writers in the field.
EL James? The empress has no clothes.
Agreed. And not in the fun way. What about the annoyingly anonymous Remittance Girl? There is a lot to admire about her. From her blog to her writing. I can’t say that I don’t envy her reach and style just a touch.
Just a touch? The woman rocks my world. Talk to me about Alison Tyler? She is the kind of writer that I think deserved the sort of break out hit that was 50 Shades of Grey. One of the problems with 50 Shades is that readers immediately caught on to the fact it was poorly executed. Someone that writes well would have done more for the genre than EL James did.
Agreed again. Good writing is important.
The Redhead with enormous tits stands with her back to one of the columns of the four poster bed that dominates my visual field. Her arms wrap behind her body, holding tight to the column. That pair of well rounded, generously endowed breasts thrust forward. Burying my face between the set as I give them a good fondle and squeeze is added to my list of things to do before I die. A pair of creamy white legs encased in a pair of shiny, black, thigh high boots is spread wide. Between those legs, The Matchmaker is enjoying a feast.
Memoirs Of A Gigolo – Volume One
And who, if anyone, has influenced you? Anais Nin is probably my greatest influence next to Collette. John Cleland. Otherwise, Cicero and Pliny. I was reading through their letters when I came up with the idea for Memoirs.
All the best movies feature an Uma Thurman dance scene. Fact.
The internet makes erotica easier, for writers as well as readers. What about in your real world, do friends and family know your dirty little secret?
Most of them do. Some don’t. I run in some pretty conservative circles. I’m choosy about who I discuss my writing with.
That’s probably for the best. And how do the ones who know feel about it?
I’m lucky to be surrounded by very supportive people.
What is Erotica for?
It is to explore the paradoxical nature of sex.
And who is it for?
Anyone that finds the most basic and complicated of human desires worthy of exploring.
And, presumably, gets off on the idea of an old man sticking his finger up a young stud’s bum. Or a bit of red hot girl on girl action. With enormous tits.
One question that concerns Pankhearst rather more than it probably should, is what precisely is the difference between erotica and porn?
Erotica is to ballet what Porn is to pole-dancing. Erotica is the sultry dark eyed international man of mystery – maybe it is a cliché, but there’s a reason he’s a popular guy – who gives a smart savvy woman exactly what she wants and in abundance. Porn is gopher-like Ron Jeremy huffing and puffing his way to an aneurysm on the back of some probably not so bright girl young enough to be his granddaughter. Eeeewwwww. Erotica is sexy. Porn is just sex.
I’m not sure we’re watching the same porn.
I watch fairly low quality 70’s porn. Maybe I should update my selection.
Definitely. They have it on the internet now, you know. But if porn is Just Sex, earlier you told me “Sex is never just sex.” Discuss?
When is sex ever just sex? Even if the participants claim sex is just sex, I cannot believe there isn’t something more. At least in my own experience, sex was never just sex. That giving over of your body to another person creates an intimacy that transcends the mundane. Even if it is anonymous and unemotional, there is a primal connection that is basic and leaves an impression.
I may not remember the names of every man I’ve been with, but each of them left an impression.
Sex is never just sex. We are all capable of reason and rational thought – despite what our behavior might imply. We consider our actions. We may be responding to a more primal need when we engage in the physical act of coitus, but our thinking brains are part of the discourse. Only for animals is sex just sex. For human beings it is a part of the body, mind, spirit paradigm.
She said “paradigm”.
Where do you get your ideas for the sex in your writing?
Sometimes they hit me like a bus and other times they grown like mold on bread.
Do you ever borrow from personal experience?
Often. Usually I will see or hear something that sticks with me until it becomes part of my work. Sometimes I will take a person I meet and form them into a character.
Is there any degree of wish fulfillment?
There are three things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. One: Tell the story of a mythical journey in a modern context. Two: Write a serial. Three: Write something purely for me without any consideration given to the expectations of others.
So no dark deep hidden fetish about an aging doctor fingering your arse? In a totally different … um … vein, cast your book as a movie?
This is a hard one. First I have to say I have always envisioned it as television. Probably because I’ve written it in episodes.
I like Charlie Cox or James McAvoy as Oliver – Someone that is clearly handsome, but not intimidatingly beautiful or unapproachable – charming I think is the best word.
Catherine Zeta Jones as The Matchmaker.
Stephen Fry as The Doctor.
Alexander Skarsgard as Elon.
And Keira Knightly as Renata who first appears in Volume 2.
Olga is the one that gives me the most trouble. Most of my readers that have commented tell me they see Megan Fox. I’m not certain she would be my first choice, but she definitely looks like Olga.
Not sure I can see Zeta Jones settling down for a “feast”, but if Olga and Renata get together in Volume Two, you’re cooking with gas. Especially if a strap on is involved. But I’ve a feeling I’m over-staying my tenuous welcome. So to wind things up in traditional Pankhearst style, why not pick a theme song for Oliver?
Eye of the Tiger, by Survivor.
Ah. Yes. The world was so much simpler in the 1980s.
If you need to learn more about Livia, here’s a couple links.
A final treat. The lovely James McAvoy and Keira Knightley get it on.