Writers strive to have a recognizable voice. When you crack a book's spine, the words need to broadcast the author's identity. A handful of erotic writers do that for me. I know nearly from sentence one that I'm reading a Nikki Magennis or Jeremy Edwards or Sommer Marsden or Kristina Lloyd or Shanna Germain. I hear the cadence of the words in my head—as if the writers were whispering just to me. (Sure there are others—these are the ones in my mind this morning.)
But EllaRegina's voice is louder than most. I can recognize her almost instantly. Her wit and her style are hers alone. So I have to say, I cheated a little this time around. I *did* know I was choosing ER when I read The Dark Room. But that was the story I would have selected to feature even if I'd had no idea who the author was.
My intro to ER's work was in the form of a personal ad called "Faceless Filly Seeks Rider"—the piece appears in Frenzy and is under 400 words from start to finish. When writers can craft whole stories in less than two pages, I am mesmerized. ER binds me in her spell every time. Now let her wrap her strands around you...
Alison Tyler: Do you need a certain mindset or tools or other to enable you to get into your writing, and if so, what?
EllaRegina: Essential need: peace of mind. I cannot feel emotionally encumbered. If real life fires require extinguishing, I find it impossible to write. The singular exceptions being, funnily enough, your 250-word flasher contests; I somehow break through the flames and attend to the task at hand. I think it's *precisely because* the parameters of these competitions are so narrow that I can do this: I have a theme and a limited number of words with which I must express myself; that challenge takes my mind off the blazes.
Tools: something capable of mark-making and paper (if I'm in the field), or my computer.
Alison Tyler: Do you have a writing ritual or routine? Do you need quiet or noise? Can you work at a café, or do you have an office? Are there ways you like to warm up?
EllaRegina: No ritual. If in avoidance mode I procrastinate and feel guilty until guilt wins and I force myself to sit and work. This mostly occurs when I edit or am proofing galleys (tedious microsurgery—however ER, in this case, does *not* stand for Emergency Room). If I'm writing a story I just plug and play. No need to light a candle or incant.
Routine: erratic. If working on something and not distracting myself I'm in my chair 24/7—often not eating; forget "sleep hygiene." At crucial stages I turn ringers off my phones. When an idea sparks I go with it and the story creates its own momentum. Sometimes I get into trouble when restlessly between projects, although I'm always thinking about stories or jotting notes. However, downtime can also be fruitful—never underestimate the unconscious.
I need QUIET! (Sorry, I didn't mean to shout.) I can handle ambient sounds unless my neighbors torment me with explosives or crazy-making industrial drones loom beyond my windows. During critical junctures or if local sonic color becomes too vivid, I pop in earplugs. Then I'm insulated within my little word box and all's well.
That said, when inspiration strikes "on the outside," no matter where or whether elephants run amok in the streets, I open my small Etsy notebook—with me at all times—and effectively block out the noise.
My "office" runs along a wall in the living room: a desk with computer/screen; electronic paraphernalia; selected inspirational objects—including funny buttons and gifts from a certain generous writer/editor/publisher/contest-runner I know; a cup holding pens, a rainbow of Mini-Sharpies and highlighters for corrections (different colors per draft); index cards listing ideas and titles for future stories; and a bottle of hand sanitizer (words can get incredibly dirty!).
I warm up, literally and figuratively, with a cup of tea.
Alison Tyler: What's your favorite season?
EllaRegina: There are no seasons in here.
Alison Tyler: Do you hang out with other writers for inspiration and critical feedback or do you self appraise?
EllaRegina: I have real life writer friends but our hanging is purely social. I am inspired by several wonderful erotica writers—now friends—all met online. We share our work—usually when pieces have already been written and submitted so it's a horse/stable situation in terms of critical feedback. While still writing, if I hit any snags, I will bother—I mean question—a couple of the aforementioned friends. I predominantly self appraise—editing ad infinitum until a story is where I think it should be. I have "beta-testers"—none of them writers but all of them readers—to whom I read completed (or nearly-so) works. Vicky, my Mac's robotic voice, also helps me but provides no feedback.
Alison Tyler: Describe your ideal lover.
EllaRegina: He seems to exist only in my imagination so I'd rather not detail his winning attributes. It will only make me wax maudlin.
Alison Tyler: Describe your ideal meal.
EllaRegina: In theory: salmon, Champagne and something green. In practice: lately I've been consuming a 14-year-old's junk food dream. It's amazing I'm even alive. I'm subsisting on diet soda, potato chips, pretzels, cookies and popcorn. It's a miracle I don't wake up with severe acne, a math test after homeroom and an orthodontist appointment at 4 o'clock.
Alison Tyler: What was your inspiration for “The Dark Room”?
EllaRegina: Recently, you asked if we'd ever used these contest flashers as the start of something new.
"The Dark Room" presents the converse situation. I'd been blocking out a long piece for a while—taking notes, mentally composing the thing. The story is pitch black; its physical setting—the dark room—parallels the narrator's psychological state. It's one of those projects I've been afraid to fully confront—inhabiting an area I haven't tackled in my writing though I'm very much there in my head. The longer story has more sex, of course—with 250 words sex was, by necessity, fleeting—and probes the protagonist's mind. No happy ending—quite the contrary, even worse in the full-length tale. My goal: putting down the truth of what it's like to be human, warts and all. Life is complicated.
With "The Dark Room" I wanted to create not a synopsis, but a self-contained 250-word version. The premise is established, the same beginning—more or less—and final revelation.
Truthfully, I was surprised it received any votes—the sex was minimal and the set-up such a downer; I didn't think it would fly. Also, I got sidetracked by the Braille "Fuck" button and concentrated on sight or lack thereof—though sound/hearing were involved—so felt I'd flunked thematically.
My gallows humor found it ironic that "The Dark Room" won—a blind man led.
On a tangential note, a recent New York Times article begins with reportage of a real life Craigslist "casual encounter" that mirrors my idea somewhat.
Alison Tyler: What are you working on now?
An anthology of my short stories; various long form projects, two inspired by your 250-word exercises; and ideas for two erotica anthologies—I'd be the editor.
Alison Tyler: What is the favorite story you’ve written to date (and why)?
EllaRegina: A story called "The Hand & I."—(I. for Ida)—as yet unpublished. I'm quite fond of this piece because it represents a turning point for me, marking the direction I see myself heading in. The story is insane and surreal yet based to some extent on reality—or at least my retrospectively-envisioned take—1930s black and white Manhattan, like photographs from that era (with intermittent color flashes); another place and time. I enjoyed the research—gazing at pictures of buildings no longer standing. This city has been *many* cities throughout its history yet a continuum as well.
"The Hand & I." was inspired by a car from that period—for sale near my parents' house—kept in the lot outside a small showroom selling new and used vehicles. We'd drive by and I'd drift into the Time Machine. One day, when the place appeared closed, I approached the mint-condition sedan for a look-see. I tried the door handle and—voilà!—the automobile, she was unlocked! I didn't do more than stick my head inside and feel the upholstery but I inhaled air unbreathed for over 70 years. Soon after this encounter the car was gone. I should have bought it—I imagine that with every spin we'd go back in time, that Chrysler and I.
For more EllaRegina exotic information, slip over to her blog. And be sure to enter my next contest for your own chance at being dissected by me!