It always intrigues me how many of my fellow authors also write erotica, albeit usually under a pen name. It seems to be the literary equivalent of playing the piano – that thing at which some become virtuosic but which pretty much everyone in the field has mastered to some degree or other and in which they continue actively to dabble.
Now, with news that Anne Rice is to go back to writing erotica under her pseudonym A N Rocquelaure, it seems more and more of them are opening up about it. And this is where I do likewise, having just published “An Oxford Christmas”, book two in my Dreaming Spires series of character driven and socially conscious (I can’t quite help myself and just abandon myself to unadulterated smut) series that follows the life of Kayla Dyson from 18 year old interviewee for admission to Christ Church, Oxford’s most famously privileged college, to wildly successful social entrepreneur and role model to millions.
Oxford is, of course, no stranger to passion (see under Brideshead and Morse’s sex obsession). A lot of this is, no doubt, the result of the concentration of evocative architecture (again see Brideshead, under “achingly erotic mid distance shots of Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons”). Indeed, when I casually asked twitter a week or so ago for suggestions for future settings for sexy set pieces I was amazed by the volume and diversity of the answers that flooded in.
I will confess to playing up to some of the tourism porn (literally!) – book one is set in Christ Church, though not always the parts of the college you might imagine. But I also want to look at the Oxford that doesn’t always make it into the guidebooks, and in book two there is much more of that. It’s that part of Oxford, the vibrant, year-long fascinating streets and hidden nooks and crannies filled with possibility that have always fascinated me, and feature in much of my writing.
This is not just a book about a hidden Oxford, interspersed with naughty bits, an erotic streetmap as it were (though it most certainly could be used as such – provided people bear in mind public decency and privacy laws if they are thinking about going down the recreating route!). I am always drawn to stories with elements of social awareness, and I wanted to create, in my heroine Kayla, the antithesis of the kind of privilege typified by the likes of Ana Steele. Kayla grew up on a North London estate, her mother sacrificing the very little she had to ensure Kayla could go where she wanted in life. Kayla grew up, as a result, with an iron sense of purpose, but also with a very ambivalent relationship to her roots – as the thing that make her what she is, a part of her for which she is very grateful, but which she wants to transcend, whilst never turning her back on the people and the place. That, and the cross section of privileges that make up the university, makes for a fascinating social melting pot that I want fully to deconstruct and get to the heart of as the series progresses.