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October 26, 2011

I am thrilled to have Maxim Jakubowski here today taking about erotica, writing and his latest release, Ekaterina and the Night.

And as an added bonus, courtesy of Xcite Books, three lucky winners can get their hands on a copy of Ekaterina and the Night in their choice of paperback or digital format. (International entries welcome)


Having agreed, on the occasion of the publication of my new novel EKATERINA AND THE NIGHT to participate in a 21 day blog tour, which means coming up daily with a new subject or angle to discuss, rather than boring you all to death in promoting what is, naturally, a wonderful novel full of lust, travel, deeply troubled characters and explicit passion set all over the world and the centuries (end of advertisement…), truly sharpens the mind and has made me think quite deeply about why I write the sort of things I do, my motivations, my past involvement with writing erotica and also, I fear, about some of what irritates me most in our field these days.

I also edit the MAMMOTH BOOK OF EROTICA annual anthology of the genre’s best annual stories, which sees me consume, in a marathon reading orgy around Easter every year, over 1,000 stories in order to make my final selection, and it’s an uphill task which sure concentrates the mind on the many failings of our genre. I’m not saying it’s not enjoyable, but reading dreadful story after dreadful story is truly depressing and only redeemed by the occasional find when someone somewhere has managed to find a new way of saying things, or demonstrated intelligence and wit and ambition. Fortunately, the latter occurs at least daily as I wade through the mountain of manuscripts and makes it all worthwhile. So, don’t think of me as ungrateful.

When erotica is good, it can be splendid, a genuine epiphany which connects mind and beauty and intellectual and bodily appreciation in ways other popular genres can’t. Truly give me STORY OF O or Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty novels rather than even Raymond Chandler or Isaac Asimov.

However, please don’t submit stories to me that have no storyline! Moments in the mind (or the bed) and streams of consciousness do not a story make. You need a structure, canvas on which to paint your pictures of sensuality. Tales in which a sexual encounter operates as the only premise and is, generally, evidently a wish fulfillment scenario, do not satisfy, they are half-baked. Or worse, write the story in question in the second person. You’ll hear me screaming from a continent away!

No more fragrant pussies. No more hunks. No more cliched vampires or other supernatural creatures with their mysterious ways guaranteed to bed an unaware beauty at the bat of an eyelid.

Cone on, folks, use your imagination a bit better and come up with something original. This is not the romance field where everything can be rewritten ad infinitum and there are only 10 or so basic plots that keep on being spun in every shape or size until life has been squeezed out of the book or story. Writing is a challenge, so rise to it (no pun, thank you). You don’t forge a career spinning variations on things you’ve already read, it requires a valiant stretch of the imagination, a strong will, courage, hard work and the problem today is that with the ominous spread of ebooks and opportunities for self-publishing, there is too much lazy writing out there. I might sound bloody high-minded, but if you have nothing to say, just stay quiet, don’t write.

Ground your stories in reality: I want to smell the bodily fluids, I want to feel the heat of the emotions, I want to cry when something goes wrong with your characters, I want to experience their pain as well as their pleasure, I want to shiver, I want to get a buzz in my genitalia, I want to hold my breath before I turn the page because I don’t know what to expect next, where the story is heading. Surprise me, delight me.

I’m not bothered if you are just using the power of your imagination or whether what you are writing about is based/inspired by your own life or something that has happened to people you know or have heard of. Fiction functions as a hall of mirrors, when it is at its best, and transforms the prosaic reality of real life into a material that shimmers and captivates.

Blissfully ignore all the tired old traditions of the romantic novel. Erotica is not a quest for the happy ever after or the perfect mate (however good he or she might prove in the sack, on the grass or on the kitchen table). It needs conflict, background, style, blood and guts to stand out on the page, a storyline that is not always necessarily linear, it needs a backdrop that will surprise and enchant, even a social reality that will enhance the genuineness of your characters.

Exercise: what is the most taboo thing you have ever done or heard of, been truly ashamed of having been involved in? So write about it, transform it through the miracle of fiction into something universal so that no reader will ever guess it actually happened (in real life or just your mind), break that taboo with abandon, turn it into something that will grip, shock, fascinate your unknown reader.

Exercise: what is your worst fantasy, something you would not dare do in real life? Write about it, but not as wish fulfillment, analysing the dreaded attraction, getting to grips with its horror or possible delights. Never be afraid to tackle the darkness of your thoughts. Use writing as catharsis.

A year ago, I was asked by the Faber Academy in London to run a three-day course about writing erotica, writing about sex and it proved a fascinating experience. It was a small group of students, some of whom had published a few things already and others who had not. We dissected stories, discussed, argued, came up with many more exercises (with my fellow writer and friend Stella Duffy taking over for one afternoon, so that the gay and lesbian and important aspect of erotica was also covered). But the one thing I learned from the creative writing course, even as an instructor, was inevitably that there are no rules. So feel free to ignore me. I am just one person, a misanthropic old sod who over the last 15 years or so of writing and editing erotica has acquired habits and strong dislikes, and swears under his breath all too often when he is confronted by certain things that go against his personal grain. And if I may be allowed to mention EKATERINA AND THE NIGHT again, it’s the sort of novel where I have obeyed all my own personal rules of writing erotica. Which I think/fear makes it uncommon, surprising and I hope interesting as a result. Without being too big-headed about it, I think you will find it very different from most of the other erotic novels you may have read of late. But then that’s the way I see everything I write!

Oh yes, there is one sacrosanct rule, just one: be true to yourself, in erotica as in life.


Lolita meets Story of O, another memorable tale of love, sex and feelings from ‘the King of the erotic thriller’

When Ekaterina meets Alexander a shockingly sexy but tender romance develops.

She is a young Italian trainee journalist, who dreams of wild sexual adventures. He is the older Englishman who she believes can fulfill her fantasies. When Ekaterina is sent to interview the ageing writer Alexander in London, she is blinded by his charm and experience. Their relationship explodes in a sensual orgy, which defies society’s acceptance.

When a mysterious angel of death who calls herself Emma enters their lives, Ekaterina and Alexander know their days together are numbered.

A shocking climax set in Venice in winter brings the three protagonists together.

A tale of sex and tenderness that ranks alongside Jakubowski classic The State of Montana.

Ekaterina and the Night buy links:

Paperback (available in the US slightly later than the UK)



MAXIM JAKUBOWSKI worked for many years in book publishing as an editor (including titles by William Golding, Peter Ackroyd, Oliver Stone, Michael Moorcock, Peter Ustinov, Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Paul Ableman, Sophie Grigson, Marc Behm, Cornell Woolrich, etc…) and launched the Murder One Bookshop, which he owned and ran for over 20 years. He now writes, edits and translates full-time in London.



Courtesy of Xcite Books, three lucky winners can get their hands on a copy of Ekaterina and the Night in their choice of paperback or digital format. (International entries welcome)

Simply leave a comment on this post to win. Be sure to check out the rest of the posts in the tour, because the more comments you make, the more chance you have of winning! Go here to see the blog tour schedule.

PLEASE leave your email address in the body of the comment. No email address = no entry. Winners will be drawn and contacted on the week ending 11th November 2011.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2011 12:12 pm

    It’s reassuring to know that the qualities Maxim Jakubowski looks for in erotic fiction are also helping to define the genre of literary erotica.

  2. books4me permalink
    October 26, 2011 9:50 pm

    I have read that erotica is just sex while erotic romance is sex with a story line, which is what Maxim is talking about.

    books4me67 at

  3. October 27, 2011 4:48 pm

    So the story still reigns–and he’s advising the writer to give readers a real experience! He said “don’t give me any more hunks.” I doubt if that’s possible. 🙂 I’m glad he wants to get inside the character’s minds and emotions.

  4. MJB permalink
    October 27, 2011 10:56 pm

    I really want to win this book, so I’m going to put in some more entries on your blog tour. I’m also enjoying your posts.
    msmjb65 AT gmail DOT com


  1. Hear erotica | Syr21

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