Writing about sex and erotica has exploded because of the internet: What are the latest trends and kinks? Is anything off limits or taboo anymore?
Jordan and Samantha earned their degrees in English from the Univ. of Colorado. Their shared love of erotic fiction led them and Samantha's husband to create Oysters & Chocolate, showcasing some of the net's best erotic writing and art. Since going up in July 2005, it has grown to host over 700 articles, 40 galleries and 500 authors, and its own book due out in May 2009. Their devotion to quality sex writing and art have made this bold new take on Literotica a bona fide success.
Do you receive submissions that include extreme violence and disturbing imagery?It’s rare, but we do sometimes get stories that have pretty violent rape-fantasy content. We almost always reject these, with one exception – we published a series called “Bad Girl” in which a woman enters into a BDSM relationship that quickly turns abusive. As the story progressed, it got more and more violent and harder and harder to publish. But we did put a "force fantasy" warning on it so that people would know what to expect. Interestingly, that series got a lot of praise from our readers!
Aside from the force-fantasy imagery, the other “disturbing” stuff we come across is often incestual or has elements of beastiality. As a rule, we never publish material that features beastiality or pedophilia. We have published some of the incestual work, because it was just so well-done.
Out of all the submissions you receive, are they mostly dominated by female authors?Honestly, it’s probably 60-40% male writers to women writers. When we first started the site, we had even a higher proportion of male writers – which was surprising! Or maybe it isn't, after all men are experts at turning women on -- especially those smarty-pants erotic writer types.
When reading through the erotica submissions is it hard not to get turned on?It’s impossible not to get turned on!
At times, when the erotica submission are very good, we have to take a few (ahem) “personal” breaks. Luckily we both work from our home offices and the bed (and sex toys) aren't too far away.
Other times, it just kind of sneaks up on us. It’s a very funny experience that we have to laugh about. We’ll read a slew of submissions, turn off the computer, and go about normal daily activities, like go to the bank, pick up the dry-cleaning, etc... Then all of a sudden, it will hit us. We’ll be in the grocery aisle and realize, “I’m really, really turned on!” That’s when we head to the veggie aisle. But not usually together of course.
After all these years of reading submissions, do you have a favorite piece that has stuck with you?Samantha: I definitely have a few favorites: “A Technicality" by Sommer Marsden, “Another little Secret” by Heather Monaco, “His Pet” by Terri Pray, and “Thin Walls” by Aimee Herman. Each of these stories has a character that has really stuck with me, and of course, that character had some very hot sex!
Jordan: I would agree with all of Samantha's picks. There are definitely stories that stick with you over the years. Another of my very favorites is “The Shadow of Matthew” by Gwen Masters, oh! and I think many of the stories you'll find in our upcoming anthology will stick with us forever and ever. There are some brilliant pieces in there.
Do you find that art is imitating life, in that all things erotic are becoming more mainstream? How do you think this will impact society in the next decade?What an interesting question! The erotic is definitely becoming more mainstream, but it still has a long way to go, believe it or not. We come up against walls in our professional life frequently because of the “adult” nature of what we do. We hope that as erotica becomes more mainstream, people will have healthier views of sex and their own sexuality.
When we were younger women, as far as erotic books went in our local bookstore, we had a choice between “romance” novels or Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty Steries. We read both, and thank goodness for the Anne Rice novels – otherwise, we would have been stuck with the notion that heroines remain absolutely chaste before marriage and that horses and boats must be involved to have really great sex! We are partially joking, of course, but the point is that the more open and honest society is about sex and erotica, the less we put ourselves and others into unhealthy boxes.
I really liked the idea of your "40 Days & 40 Nights" contest. How was the response to it? And will you be hosting any similar contests in the future?We’ve had a great response to our contest. We didn’t quite receive the 40 stories we were seeking, but we got close enough to run the contest.
The best thing is the response we’ve received from the reader-involvement. More people are commenting on the stories and rating them than we’ve ever had with our normal publications it’s very exciting to interact with the readers at a higher level.
There are some real gems in the mix, so if you haven't done so already definitely visit the contest entries and help us out by rating a few of them yourself. The contest reading phase runs through the end of March.
How did your extended family react to your decision to open Oysters & Chocolate?Samantha – I definitely received mixed reactions, but for the most part, they were positive. The Irish Catholic side of my family reacted with a mix of embarrassment and delight. I think they were embarrassed that one of their own was going to work in “porn,” as they like to call it, but they all get that little gleam in their eye when they ask me about it. On the other side, my family has been pretty non-responsive about it. And when I told my grandmother about it, she was quiet for a minute, and then said, “You know honey, we used to have to read dirty stories to get ready for sex with our husbands when we were young.” We both laughed about that.
Jordan – I've also received mixed reactions. My immediate family is very supportive of me. In fact my mom is a regular visitor to our site. My father and his Irish-Catholic brother are also both very supportive. However my extended family on my mother's side are Orthodox Jews, so I wouldn't dare tell them what I do for a living. At family events I have to cover up my tattoos and keep quiet about my life. They probably all think I'm an underachiever. However with the increasing amount of publicity we've been garnering, I have a feeling that one of them is going to tune into Oprah one afternoon and see me on the couch talking about sex -- I will likely be disowned at that point. But I'm proud of what I do, so if that's a consequence so be it.
How did your childhood and teen years influence your choice of profession (if it did?)We both had a love of writing and literature at a very early age (indeed, we were just chatting the other day and realized that the same fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Weaver, helped to cultivate, in both of us, those first sparks of our love for creative writing!). As teenagers, it was a shared dream to publish a book together. – we just didn’t know it would be an erotic book! We always fantasized that one day we would be sitting together at a Parisian cafe sipping our cafe au laits and talking about our latest publishing deal. This has turned out to be closer to the truth than we ever imagined it may be.
Samantha – my mom was always very open about sex created a safe and healthy place for us to discuss it together. I could always go to her with questions. But more importantly, she acted as a sex-positive role model for me. When I was a young woman, she taught me the importance of embracing my sexual side as an adult in order to be a full, well-rounded person. Her attitudes definitely paved the way for my choice of profession.
Jordan – I grew up in a born-again Christian household (okay if you read this entire interview you may be confused - so here's a simple equation to clear things up: Irish Catholic + Jewish x Born Again Christians/ Catholic + Jew = non-religious erotic smut editor & writer) so in my house the education I received about sex was that a man's penis is like a plug and a woman's vagina is like a light socket and when you plug the two together you get electricity! This of course made me VERY interested in sex and led me to a life of rebellion and sexual overactivity. I think my experience with sex and education in writing has definitely contributed to the makings of an excellent purveyor of literary erotica.
What is your favorite product on Eden Fantasys? And WHY?Samantha – The sportcuffs are my favorite so far (although there are so many wonderful things to try!). The neoprene makes them super comfortable, and they’re very versatile. My husband like the Velcro-feature as well as the sporty look of them (what can I say, he’s not so into leather).
Jordan – I'm a vibrator girl in a vibrating world! Give me a g-spot vibrator and I'm in heaven! I'm also a big fan of cock rings especially vibrating ones of course.
Wow! You are both 69 years old? You look damn good! What is your secret and where can I buy it?Haha! A woman never tells, right? We’re actually both in our early thirties (which combined almost adds up to the magical 69), but we are blessed (cursed) with young looks. Our secret – Irish genes and living at high altitude, the lack of oxygen seems to do wonders for the skin! Oh and sunscreen, lots and lots of sunscreen - we need to keep our skin pale (we know it's very old school - but for us the choice is pink or pale, so pale it is).
How do you plan on explaining your job to your future children, if you plan on having any? Will you be upfront about it or wait until they are old enough to know exactly what it means?Samantha – I will most likely follow Jordan’s lead, because she’s handled it so well with her preteen daughter – try to keep it under wraps until they are old enough to understand a little bit about it. When they become teenagers, I will probably be more open with them about it –but they can’t see any of it until they turn 18.
Jordan – yes, Samantha has said it perfectly. I am a lucky parent to a 12-going-on-13-year-old girl. She's had an inkling of what I do since we started in 2005. It's only been recently that she's understanding it a little better and I've definitely instructed her that she's not allowed to look at my site until she's 18 - a rule she honors. The best thing is that I am very open about sex-education and she knows WAY more than I did when I was her age. This has served us well because we have an open dialogue about all this stuff and she feels comfortable asking me questions. She's getting real information from a trusted source - what can be better than that?
Do you two have plans on affiliating with any other companies or partnering up with anyone else in order to expand your O&C empire?Yes! We definitely want to partner up with other pro-women, pro-sex people and companies as we continue to grow… especially chatty, fun-loving, sex-talking California girls!
Do you two get weirdo stalkers because of the industry that you represent? If so, how do you handle it?Do you mean besides you? (wink wink)
Jordan unfortunately had a short-term stalker who met her at our launch party. He was a very disturbed, lonely cross-dresser. Luckily, she was able to avoid him until he lost interest.
Other than that one incident, our experience has been very positive. We have some readers and writers who have been great supporters and followers of O&C, whom we love.
We are fortunate in that working in erotica we are surrounded by bright minded individuals. High class erotica leads to high class fans.
Yes, I'm full of questions!
Were you afraid of failure when embarking on this venture and if so, how did you overcome that fear?Looking back, we were just so full of naïve optimism and drive that failure never even entered our minds as a possibility! (We’re not sure if this was a good thing or not.) Since then, we’ve definitely gone through stages of doubt and frustration – but luckily, we’ve done so at different times. So one of us is always full of enough rainbows and sunshine to carry the other one through.
That said, we’ve gotten a lot smarter about things. If we still had the same ideas we did when we started, we never would have made it this far. We live by the mantra of Patience, Passion, and Perseverance (we love the P words including pussy, penis and penetration). And we are always open to growth and change, we definitely learn from our mistakes and move forward.
Do you plan on creating another source of media (ie, a radio show or podcast) that appeals to the auditory crowd?At present, we have no plans to create our own radio shows or podcasts, but we do have a secret project that we hope to release soon that definitely has an audio-element to it. And we hope to continue to join other wonderful people on their radio shows!
Obviously you both realize the explosion of internet marketing in the last few years. How do you market your book and site without coming across as trashy? Do you run into companies that refuse to hear you out because of the nature of your work? How do you overcome that rejection?One number one policy is to always keep it classy. Of course, there will always be people out there who think erotica is trashy, no matter what; but we strive to present it in a fun and stylish manner. We try not to push our site and book in an overbearing way, and hope that the people who want to read erotica will meet us half-way.
We always run into companies who don’t want to deal with us. We were denied the possibility of speaking at a very prominent independent bookstore in Denver just last week because of the “erotic nature” of our anthology. We were told they aren’t interested in "that kind" of genre, even though they have a huge erotica section. Sometimes, these rejections feel like a slap in the face – they seem to come out of nowhere from people who we didn’t expect it from. But, we try to “turn the other cheek” (yes, sometimes it’s a butt-cheek) and keep on with our work. We figure it's their loss anyway. I mean who wouldn't want to know and love us and our work??
What is it about erotica that makes it so hard to write? The best examples of the genre can be absolutely transcendent. What I see more of, though, is a lot of heaving and moaning and throbbing sexes. Is there something inherent to the genre - the experience of love and sex perhaps? - that makes it more of a challenge (than, let's say, everyday life) to translate to paper?
Erotica has always struck me as being particularly difficult to do well and I'd love to get your take on the genre both as writers and readers.Simply put erotica is rife with cliché. It can be a total crack-up sometimes, but other times it's infinitely frustrating to read. One of Jordan's least favorite phrases is "wave after wave of pleasure" (used to describe an orgasm). It's used so frequently that it makes her nauseous (in fact it was hard for her even to write it out like that hehe).
We think it's difficult for writers to avoid cliché when describing sex; they have a difficult time talking about cocks and pussies in a unique and inviting way.
We love how you describe the best pieces as being transcendent, because that's how we feel. We can definitely tell when a piece is fresh and unique and full of innovative language. A perfect piece gives us goosebumps and turns us on. It's important for writers to understand that erotica is not JUST SEX. Sure there is sex involved, but the best erotica has a plot and characters who we actually care about whether or not they get their freak on in the first place.
We both think that universities would do well to include an erotic fiction course in their creative writing programs (and we'd be happy to teach a class - for any of you school administrators out there who are reading this). This could potentially save erotica editors worldwide the pain and suffering of reading about "his throbbing, pulsing rod entering her slick, dripping entrance" one more time.
How did your project go from being a website featuring stories and articles to actually producing a book? How did that experience differ from web publishing? What can readers expect from this upcoming book?We were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. We'd been wanting to compile an erotic anthology for some time and were just beginning to send out query letters to publishers and agents (with little response). One day out of the blue our agent Emmanuelle sent us an email asking if we would be interested in literary representation. She said that editors were recognizing the burgeoning popularity of erotica and that they had discussed our site at a meeting in NYC. After we got over the initial shock over the good news we signed on with her and wrote a book proposal which she quickly sold to Penguin Group.
We are SO excited about this book (Oysters & Chocolate: Erotic Stories of Every Flavor ). There is a massive difference between book and web publishing. Web publishing depends on rapid turnover of new material on a daily basis. This means the publishing schedule is only weeks or days ahead of itself from when we read, accept, edit and post a story. We can't dilly-dally over the most minute of minute details in web publishing. Book publishing, on the other hand, has a VERY slow publishing schedule. It took over a year for us to produce this book and we spent months finding material and even more months combing over each accepted story and cleaning up the smallest imperfections (the work of both of our editing, the Penguin editor, and a copyeditor as well). The end result is that the book will feature the highest quality erotica possible. For you erotica connoisseurs you are definitely in for a treat.
Do the two of you enjoy writing erotica yourselves? If you do, is some of your work posted on the website and will you be featuring some of it in the book? Also, how did the three of you decide which stories to choose for this book? I've read some of the posts on the Chocolate & Oysters blog, and there are many that are quite good.Honestly the bulk of our time is soaked up by sourcing and editing stories as well as running our business. That said we both truly love writing erotica and because we are completely immersed in it we have both improved in the genre since we first started. We've both only published one story each on the website (due to time constraints and the fact that it's not fair to accept our own work when there are so many great writers there in the queue.)
We are happy to say that we also both have a story in the upcoming anthology. This was fun because we submitted it along with 38 other top stories to our Penguin editor under pen-names and she selected both our stories in the final cut. We didn't want to push our stories into the anthology ourselves, so it was very exciting when she accepted them. The stories will be printed under our pen-names.
The selection process for the book was quite intensive. We received hundreds of submissions. We then had to narrow those hundreds down to forty and submit those to our editor at Penguin. She got to make the final cut to twenty stories. It was a very emotional process because we had to let go of a lot of beautiful stories - some of which we were very attached to.
Do you find a direct correlation between your business success and your satisfaction with your sex life?
~KadiSamantha -- For me, the correlation between our business success and satisfaction with my sex-life is always in flux. There have been times when I haven’t been satisfied with my sex-life because I wanted to try some things I had been reading about, but my husband just wasn’t into it, and there have been other time when our sex life has definitely been more adventurous and exciting because of what I was reading. What really makes me laugh is the reaction my husband’s friends have to what I do. They assume we have this wild, unimaginable sex-life – like we’re wild swingers who host key parties at our house and hang from sex trapezes all day long. While that kind of lifestyle is wonderful for some, that’s not what my husband and I share. And for me, that’s one of the most important points in what we do – Oysters & Chocolate, and erotica in general, is for all kinds of people – swingers, monogamous marrieds, orgy-goers, people who enjoy the BDSM lifestyle, women who are looking for Mr. Right, women who are looking for Mr. Right-Now – basically every adult who enjoys sex!
Jordan -- My sex life has gone through a serious metamorphosis since we began this project way back when. When we started I was single and reckless. I enjoyed a variety of partners and sexual experiences and many of them were influenced by my immersion in erotica. I am a free spirit when it comes to sexuality and this really shines through in my sexual relationships. Now I've been in a monogamous and loving relationship for nearly two years. This has changed my sexual lifestyle drastically and I'm learning new things. I'm discovering a lot about what it's like to connect sex with emotions - and it's been an enlightening journey. My boyfriend would tell you that he is the luckiest man alive to have me. He appreciates the fact that I'm sexy, sexual, naughty and adventurous and that I have access to a lot of dirty ideas that play a big part in our physical interactions.
You must read tons of submissions. What do you see is the next kink that is beginning to be explored? Do you think writers have boundaries anymore?We do read TONS of submissions, and we often get the impression that writers express their fantasies through their stories, rather than write about things they actually do in real life. Although we could be totally wrong.
Typical kinks that are explored include BDSM and anal sex as well as cheating and stranger sex. One kink that we’ve seen grow – ever so slightly – is the threesome with two men and one woman, where one man actually penetrates the other (and boy, we’d love to see more of this! In fact we want to see more gay erotica in general).
There are definitely still some topics and fetishes that our writers aren’t apparently exploring. These include the more obscure predilections like “adult diapers and baby lovers,” and "stacking" (if you don't know what this, don't ask). However that doesn't mean those writers aren't out there, we suspect they run in different communities where these fantasies are shared with like minded individuals.
Our site definitely attracts the more mainstream writers (if you want to call BDSM and swingers mainstream). If you are interested in off-beat kinky stories you should check out our writer V.C. who really holds the candle in this category.
I know it’s a little mean...I can’t help but to wonder what you do with the fantastically bad submissions you receive. Not the ones that you can give some helpful feedback and direction for...I’m talking about the hopeless cases, the truly bad. Do you have a file that you maybe revisit, cocktail in hand, and read aloud to each other on a blustery day? Do you have a particularly bad story or poem that comes to mind or serves as an inside joke?One of the unexpected joys of this job is the experience of reading the “fantastically bad,” as you so aptly put it. These submissions provide us with the necessary break we often need – and yes, some great laughs. Interestingly, it’s the fantastically good and the fantastically bad that we most often remember. In fact at one point we talked about including a section for the fantastically bad on our site, but we weren't sure how the writers would feel about being included there.
How did you know we revisit them, cocktail in hand??? We must be soul-sisters.
What future developments do you have planned for your website?We have all sorts of ideas simmering, including a unique video project, a weekly sex-tips newsletter delivered to your inbox, a nonfiction sex advice book, the addition of some very flirty and fun O&C products, and a free erotic ecard section.
To echo some of the questions already posed, erotica is obviously a difficult beast to tame, artistically speaking. Other than the articles of grammar, how much objectivity can be applied to its writing and/or editing? And how do you balance objectivity and subjectivity harmoniously in order to develop a product that’s ready for consumption?It’s the age-old question of “quality.” And indeed, how does one judge another’s writing, in any genre? We look for erotic stories that have the essence of “quality” – well-written, creative, unique. We look for strong, genuine narrative voice. Character, dialogue, pace – these are all important elements to a quality erotic short story, and we take them all into account. Of course, sometimes we come across great short stories that lack eroticism, which we often have to reject. And there are times when we come across a short story that is incredibly hot, but lacks anything else – for us, these stories are harder to resist.
In the end, editing is a subjective process because our own personal tastes enter into play. It helps to have two of us, as a sort of “double filter” for what we publish. In addition we recently hired a lesbian section-editor, Aimee Herman who is also an incredible writer and contributor to our site, to handle the Oyster (lesbian) flavored submissions; this was definitely a category where we felt lacking in our ability to properly judge the stories.
How do you find your authors and your photographers/photos? Do you have a criteria? What does it take to get involved?We post submissions listings on various art and writing websites, and all of our submission guidelines are readily available on our site. We have contributing writers and artists from all over the world, which we absolutely love. Submitted short stories should be between 500 and 4,000 words, and should be well-written, and checked for spelling and grammar. We accept erotic short stories of quality that turn us on! For art, we look for images that are both aesthetically pleasing as well as erotic, and we usually look for images that, in particular, will appeal to women. We review all short stories and art, and every submission receives a response.
Are there any genres that you really do not consider at all, or is it really more a matter of just how graphic the writing styles are that helps you determine suitability?We do not consider stories that contain beastiality or pedophilia. We also stay away from stories that feature excessive violence towards women (although there is sometimes a gray area here). We love graphic! Usually, the more graphic, the better! But the graphic should be woven into a well-written story.
I would think that an individual's tastes and passions would influence their fantasies and desires as well as their erotic writing. Do you find that the different backgrounds that the two of you have help each of you to gravitate toward stories from different genres thus creating a more varied overall book or do you both have to agree on the desirability of all the stories in order for them to be included?Such a great question! Interestingly, the two of us usually agree on what we want to accept and what we want to reject – and this is mainly because we accept and reject based on the quality of the writing, and not the erotic content therein (unless there is a lack of erotic content – we also reject on this basis). Our differing backgrounds do help in rounding out the stories we accept. Just recently, one of us wondered how a porno shot (or money shot) could possibly be at all sexy for a woman to experience (haha), and the other emphatically assured her, it was hands-down a turn-on! The story under scrutiny was thus accepted.