Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Question Nobody Asks

By Andrea Dale (Guest Blogger)

Even though, according to an interviewer, I “have so many aliases, you’d think I was a spy!”, I’ve never hidden my pen names. I use them just to delineate between the different genres I write in (erotica, romance, speculative fiction) as well as between my solo writing versus that with coauthors.

So, yeah, I’m not shy about the fact that I write erotica. Yet the question I never get—and the one I’d love to answer—is “How did you get started writing erotica?”

Well, pour yourself a shot of tequila and I’ll tell you!

Back in the mid-1980s, Penthouse Forum (the digest-sized magazine) ran an ad stating that if you they published your letter, they’d send you a t-shirt. Well, I was a starving college student, and free clothes were free clothes, right? I’d been writing and submitting fiction for several years at that point, so this wasn’t a great leap for me.

And I laughed with delight as I wrote that letter—it was so much fun!—and I got my t-shirt (“My Letter Was Printed in Penthouse Forum”), and then I discovered that Forum and its sister digest, Penthouse Variations, would pay me for these letters. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to keep me in cheap vodka (college, remember?).

At the same time, I was writing romances, and it bothered me to no end that I had to go into the seedy back room of a store to buy a magazine while romance novels were proudly displayed in bookstores—and yet they both featured the same sexual acts. Yes, different word choices can evoke a different tone, but at the very least, why couldn’t we call a spade, a spade? (Or a penis, a cock, as opposed to a throbbing shaft of love, or whatever. Come to think of it, throbbing shaft of love still sounds pretty pornographic, doesn’t it?)

So no one was more thrilled than I when romance caught up with erotica and embraced sex whole-heartedly, real words and dirty words and kinky words and all. We’ve reclaimed honest passion from the seedy back rooms and put it out there for all to see—kind of like confidently wearing a certain t-shirt. My stories and novels can be found proudly displayed in bookstores (even if it’s still fun to indulge in occasional trips to seedy back rooms).

It was a slow build over the years—like really long foreplay—but I’m thrilled we made it. I look back with fondness, and some amazement, over my own path: from Forum and Variations, to West Coast Swingers (hey, their annual contest paid really well!), to Cleis Pres and Black Lace and Cheek Books, and even Avon and Harlequin.

And, in case you were wondering: Yes, I still have the t-shirt to prove it.

Thank you, Lisabet, for letting me finally answer the question!

What about you, dear readers? What’s the question you wish everyone would ask you? Or is there another burning question you’ve been dying to ask me? If so, fire away!


I’d have to transcribe my first Forum letter (I wrote it on a—gasp!—typewriter!), so here’s a taste of a recent story “The Broken Fiddle,” in Alison’s Wonderland—my very first Harlequin sale.



Phoebe knew it was useless to deny she’d been ogling. The young man across the room who was pulling a fiddle from its case was delicious. Hair as black as coal and curling silkily to his collar, eyes as blue as twilight eve. High, sharp cheekbones that looked as though they’d been chiseled out of marble. Pale skin that would have made Snow White blanch with envy. Slender but sturdy, wearing a pair of faded jeans so snug he must have to use a shoehorn to get them on. She spooned another bite of crumble, laughing to herself. He was barely more than a boy, and at thirty-two she felt like a dirty old woman for contemplating his impressive bulge.

By the time they finished their meal the crowd was gathering for the ceilidh, and they managed to snag two chairs by the fire just in time.

The band played reels that left Phoebe breathless with melodies that leapt like cold, wild streams. Reels with boundless energy and a relentless beat that made her think of really great sex.

The fiddle player’s hands flew over the strings, made a blur of the bow. He played his instrument with passion, and she imagined that passion extended to other areas in his life.

That left her breathless for another reason altogether, and with her nipples tightening beneath her shirt. She shouldn’t, she told herself, be thinking about the young man’s lips and how they might feel on her skin. But she squirmed in her seat all the same.



Yes, Dayle A. Dermatis got her start writing for Penthouse digests, and the fact that they always changed her byline probably is what makes it so easy for her to slip in and out of pseudonyms now. As Andrea Dale and ½ of both Sophie Mouette and Sarah Dale, she writes erotica and erotic romance. Under her own name, she’s sold speculative fiction and media tie-in. As Kendra Wayne, she writes stories-by-request for Custom Erotica Source. Want to spend more time with any or all of her multiple personalities? Stop on by her website or visit her blog, Facebook, or Twitter…






Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Dayle,

Welcome to Beyond Romance! I remember the first time I "met" you, when you submitted your story about the Green Man to SACRED EXCHANGE. I didn't realize you'd been writing for such a long time.

By the way, you not only have the shirt, you clearly have the body to show it off!


Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Thank you, Lisabet, not only for hosting me, but for remembering "Return to Wildwood"! I still love that story very much, and was thrilled when you bought it for Sacred Exchange.

And, blush, the waist cincher helps!

Miz Angell said...

Hey Dayle. :D

Hooooolllyyy boobage batman! Glad to see the t-shirt still fits :P.

I just wish people would ask me questions - of course my body of work isn't extensive enough to warrant an interview independently.

But what I'd like to ask you is - how often do you base characters on people you know IRL?

Because I happen to do it quite often - hopefully if anything gets pubbed they won't recognize themselves. *gleep*

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Hi Angell! ::waves madly::

Good question! I suppose it depends on what you mean by "base characters on." You know, for example, the physical inspiration for the hero in my novel A Little Night Music..but the character is not that person. The character has a different background, different problems...a whole different life.

In my mind, a fair number of my heroes look like someone I have the hots for, especially celebrities--off the top of my head, I can think of characters inspired by Josh Holloway, Naveen Andrews, Morten Harket...but I doubt the reader would notice that. I've also had characters say things that my husband has said, that my mother has said, etc., and I've used pieces of ideas based on real-life happens ("Storming the Castle" in Sweet Love, for example, was inspired by a real castle in Wales that was saved from being turned into a theme park by the discovery of nesting rare bats. Sometimes you really can't make this stuff up!).

I've read some of your stuff, and I think you keep things vague enough that the people you've been inspired by won't recognize themselves. One writer-friend of mine people see themselves in her writing all the time--but always when the character wasn't based on them at all--yet when she deliberately wrote about someone (and thought she was being screamingly obvious), the person didn't get it at all. :-)

katsrus said...

Great excerpt. Really interesting post. You are a new author to me.
Sue B

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Hi, Sue! Thanks for posting. I hope you'll check out some of my stuff. :-)

Lev said...

Very interesting to see the excerpt, and you were an excellent writer even from the beginning. It was my great honor (and considerable delight) to be part of our little critique group way back when.

And fabulous shirt. I love the way it, er, stretches.

Nanci said...

Hello Dayle,
This was a fun post to read. You are like a colorful diamond with many facets.
Your excerpt has enticed me to now check out
your other work in depth. A Little Night Music is the only piece of your work that I have read cover to cover, largely based on the fact that your inspiration is mutually shared! I think you need to wear your shirt more often :) and I know someone recovering from surgery who desires to be the subject of a short story. hmmmm could it be? He says he will provide the wine tee hee

TeresaNoelleRoberts said...

As a sometime co-author of yours, I have some idea how you'd answer this, but it might be fun for the audience: how did you get started writing with co-authors and would you take on more such projects with different people if the right opportunity arose?

(BTW, I'm amazed you still own a T-shirt from college. I'm not amazed you still look hot in it.)

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Lev, you were a great critiquer and one of the people who boosted me farther up the road I'm on. :-)

Nanci, I do owe Monk a story, don't I?! Depending on your kink-interest level, I can recommend a couple of other rock-based stories to you... ;-)

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Teresa: Good questions, you minx! ;-)

Both of my coauthors (Teresa Noelle Roberts and Sarah J. Husch) were friends and fellow writers long before we started writing together.

Teresa and I (writing as Sophie Mouette) met at a writers conference in, um, 1990 or 1991 (aka way back in the mists of time) and by the end of the weekend were shutting down the bar each night, convinced we'd been separated at birth. But although we became each other's first reader, we didn't write our first story together until 1999. Of course, we utterly failed to take any marketing into account when we chose to write a 10K lesbian paranormal novella... (I suspect it may become available as an e-book soon, though, if there's enough interest from readers. Any votes?)

Teresa and I have several projects in process—stay tuned!

Sarah and I (writing as Sarah Dale) have been friends since junior high, and although we've been each other's first readers since then, we inexplicably never collaborated on anything until we looked at each other and wondered why we didn't turn our rock-and-roll fan fiction into something actually marketable. And thus A Little Night Music was born.

Sarah's busy with her solo fiction right now, but I hope to tempt her into more Sarah Dale fiction someday.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

And of course I kept the t-shirt! It's a part of my publishing history! (Along with my very first professional rejection slip, from Seventeen magazine, which I received on my 16th birthday. I was all excited that now I was a "real writer"!)

As for it still fitting...remember when a size L really meant large?!

nanci said...

bring on the kink, don't need you to hold back anything on my account!

thorngrove said...

[stands and applauds] ;-D

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