Interview & Giveaway: Pushing the Envelope with Eden Bradley
Eden Bradley is a bestselling, award-winning author of erotic fiction. Her books have been published by Bantam/Delta, Harlequin Spice, Berkley Heat, Samhain, Phaze, and others. In addition to The Lovers, she has a second November release, Pleasure's Edge, written as Eve Berlin.
Eden, thanks so much for accepting my invitation to be interviewed here at Dear Author!
Thank you so much for having me! I'm thrilled to be able to talk about my latest releases-they're very different kinds of books. Pleasure's Edge (Berkley Heat), my debut Eve Berlin book, is more "classic' erotic romance, with a purely alpha hero. It's very romance-focused, even though it's fairly heavy BDSM. I don't think love and kink have to be mutually exclusive. While The Lovers (Harlequin Spice) is an erotic romance, the relationship dynamics are definitely something we don't often see in this genre. My Spice books are meant to challenge some of the "norms'.
As I said in my review of The Lovers, I've been a fan of yours since reading The Art of Desire. I would describe your work as dark, provocative, literary, and erotic. How would you categorize yourself as an author? How would you categorize The Lovers specifically?
I feel like I'm always evolving and exploring new ground, new sub-genres, so other than dark and erotic I'm not certain where I fit. I write mostly contemporary, but I've got my Midnight Playground vampire series from Samhain, and I took part in a multi-author post-apocalyptic anthology, the Wasteland series, which was really interesting. I write a lot of kink: BDSM, bondage, ménage, food fetish, tattoo fetish in The Art of Desire, which you mentioned. I like to explore some of the more extreme sexual practices, but I'm also just as interested in love. The one thread that runs through all of my work is my fascination with psychology. The more complex my characters are, the more interesting they are to me. I always want to know what makes people tick. Why are they damaged in some way? Why are they drawn to extreme forms of sex? What about their personal history creates conflict, especially within their relationships? That intense process of self-discovery through sex and relationships appears in all of my work. One of my editors once said I write women's fiction with a lot of hot sex, which I think may be accurate for many of my books. Although other than a handful of my short stories, they all include a strong focus on developing romantic relationships, as well.
The Lovers feels more "literary' in voice to me than some of my other books. I think it's dark, definitely a psychological exploration, and one of the more purely sensual erotic stories I've written. It's written in first person and reads a lot like women's fiction, with a strong sensual and sexual element underlying the whole story-‘that was my intention, anyway.
The Lovers is a groundbreaking piece, in my opinion. As far as I know, it's the first f/f/m ménage novel released by a mainstream romance publisher. What inspired you to push this particular envelope, and why do you think you succeeded?
How I get story ideas remains a mystery, even to me. I was fortunate enough to find an editor who was willing to take a risk with this one. I felt that Audrey was a key element in Bettina's self-discovery process. In fact, it was Audrey's character that came to me first. Then I began to ask myself the "what if's'. What effect could this enigmatic, sensual sort of gypsy have on other people? What kind of person might respond most powerfully to her?
A big part of being able to contract The Lovers is that my editor at Spice, Susan Swinwood, is someone who is willing to take chances. Spice is a more "literary' erotic line-‘the only of its kind among the New York romance publishers, that I'm aware of-‘so Spice books are often a little different in tone and content. Susan is a bit of a visionary, in my opinion, someone who thinks outside the box, and some of my books are very much outside that erotic romance box, perhaps especially The Lovers.
I really enjoyed your use of the ocean as a metaphor for female sexuality, the exquisite eroticism of the f/f sex scenes, and the strong emotional connection between the women in The Lovers. That said, my favorite scene included Jack. Was it important for you to portray Audrey as a plausible love interest? How did you balance the three characters?
It was crucial for me that Audrey be believable as a love interest. I wanted the reader to experience Bettina's journey right along with her, and her interactions with Audrey are at the root of a deeply emotional and psychological process.
I don"t know that the characters are perfectly balanced because that's not necessarily how life happens. This story is-‘in my mind, anyway-‘more something that could happen in real life, and less a fantastical romance. But it was also important that Bettina's experiences with both Audrey and Jack be powerful and life-changing. Hopefully I've achieved that. While some of the story was written with a particular intent, a lot of what happened was organic. I hate to admit it, but I often have very little control over my characters-‘they're a bossy bunch.
The Lovers is part dreamy fantasy, part melancholy realism. Bettina's journey was, at times, difficult for me to read. Was it difficult to write?
Oh, I love that description! I'm at my happiest when I suffer through my own stories-lol! I love when my characters can make me feel, even make me cry, and Bettina's story absolutely did that. It was difficult to write because there are bits and pieces of me in there, as there are in most of my characters, especially my female protagonists. But that's one of the best parts about the writing process for me. It can be cathartic, my own little journey of self-discovery.
Although m/m and m/m/f ménage has found an audience, f/f and f/f/m are almost unheard of, even in digital publishing. To quote Carina Press editor Angela James, "it doesn't sell." If a (largely) heterosexual female readership isn't interested in this type of material, why write it?
I wrote the story that had to be told, the one in my head, the characters demanding it of me. I know that sounds a little silly, but I swear that's how it happens for me. Yes, writers can be a bit schizophrenic, and those voices in our heads can get loud!
My agent shopped the proposal to several editors before it found a home at Spice. She was very much behind the idea, so I trusted her when she said we'd find someone to buy it, and luckily, she was right.
M/m is a huge seller in erotic romance, and I write a lot of that, too, for Samhain, my e-publisher. But this was a niche that needed to be explored, in my opinion. Research has shown that being with another woman is one of the top female fantasies, and I believe that female sexuality can often be quite fluid, so I figure it's only a matter of time before f/f stories become more popular in erotic romance. They're already a big seller in the literary erotica market. We'll have to wait and see how The Lovers sells, but I love this book, the feedback has been extremely positive so far, and I'm very hopeful.
You're a popular, prolific author in print and digital. Many of your ebooks feature m/m/f ménage. How is writing f/f/m different from m/m/f? How is it the same? Will The Lovers appeal to your established readership? Why or why not?
Writing two women together is more sensual. The female body is so much softer, and the way sex happens is different-‘the mechanics, as well as the psychology, the emotional process. Men and women simply are different, and that's not a bad thing. Those differences will always be apparent during sex, when people are their most primal selves. The commonality is that ultimately, sex is sex. Pleasure is pleasure, no matter the source. And those intimate connections always make us question ourselves on some level, no matter who the other person is, or what sex they are.
I hope The Lovers will appeal to my readership. While my e-books run very heavily to m/m/f and m/f/m ménage, I think my e-book readers are an adventurous bunch, and many will be ready to try something different. Those who followed me from my Bantam books will be used to me approaching unusual material, as I did in my novel A 21st Century Courtesan, in particular (there is a f/f /f sex scene in that book). And because I've always written a lot of BDSM and other extreme material, my readers tend to be fairly open-minded. I think erotic romance readers are becoming more open in their story choices in general, although I understand some may reject this book outright because of the f/f sex. I certainly hope readers enjoy The Lovers, and that those who may not normally read a book with f/f sex scenes might consider giving it a try.
Do you think society's views about sexuality are changing? Will the next generation of romance readers be more open to sexually fluid characters?
Absolutely! I've seen an enormous progression in people's views on sexuality in the last twenty years or so. I believe we are becoming more open on a cultural level, that as women, we are becoming more accepting of our desires, and especially the fluidity of female sexuality. What women read can be a reflection of those changes, and can also inspire growth and change.
I would love to read another erotic, well-executed f/f or f/f/m story. Are you planning to write one (please say yes!)? Do you have any influences or recommendations?
Anne Rice's work, (Exit to Eden and her Beauty series both contain f/f sex), has had an enormous impact on my writing in many ways. I've also read a lot of the Best Women's Erotica volumes, and a number of the anthologies from Cleis Press. They put out some wonderful erotica, and their anthologies give me a chance to discover new authors, which I love.
Currently I'm working on Eversong, the fourth book in my Midnight Playground series for Samhain, and am about to write a f/f/m sex scene-‘a first for my e-books other than a touch of it in my Wasteland anthology story, The Breeder. Hopefully my editor will like it. I love writing f/f sex, so we'll see how readers accept it. That will largely determine how much more of it I write, so fingers crossed!
Thanks so much for joining me! I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.
Thank you again for having me!
I always love to hear from readers. They can visit my websites, www.EdenBradley.com and www.EveBerlin.com , or my group blog www.Smutketeers.com for more information about my books, or to contact me with comments and questions.
Do you have a question for Eden or an opinion about any of the topics covered in the interview? Are you a fan of ménage romance? Would you be interested in reading f/f or f/f/m? Why or why not?