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THE SEX FILES: Alex Milton discusses his BDSM fantasy novel The Etiquette of Lying: A Polyamorous BDSM Journey

Yes, you can pretty much avail yourself of some quick distraction over at Clips4Sale, and plenty of other places across the net. But if you like your adult material of a more nuanced and studied variety, if you are looking to be more than just aroused by some naughty material, and if you like a good read, might I suggest the writing of Alex Milton’s latest book, The Etiquette of Lying: A Polyamorous BDSM Journey (published by Wordwooze Publishing). From ‘across the pond,’ I managed a sit down with this very interesting scribe of erotica and here’s what he has to tell us about his latest book, The Etiquette of Lying. and his take on publishing and writing.

First and foremost: How did a nice guy like you end up writing naughty stuff?

Hahaha! Is this the part where I flutter my eyelashes, and go: ‘Who says I’m a nice guy?’

The Etiquette of Lying started with a challenge. A friend who is into kink was discussing books she’d read, and bet me I couldn’t write a “Fifty Shades without billionaires”. Money and power is very seductive; how could I make my readers want to date (or want to be) my characters if they didn’t command fleets of lawyers and helicopters?

I like writing erotica because -contrary to literary snobbery- it’s not easy. Like horror, if you step off that narrow line, the story either becomes far-fetched or unintentional comedy. The dialogue has to be witty, plausible. When it comes to seducing people, intense eye colors and moody stares will only take you so far…

Certainly while not every publisher takes to erotica, not every erotic publisher takes to every book. How does a writer of adult material find the right publisher these days? Is it just a matter of sending out what you can to whomever you can, hoping something sticks?

You should leave no stone unturned, but publishers aren’t stupid, they know when they’re holding a standardized cover letter that’s been sent to a hundred other editors. If you want a person to show interest in you, return the compliment. Take fifteen minutes to tailor each letter, even if it’s just getting a contact name.

Scan the publisher’s website. If they only print 18th Century romance with the occasional light spanking, your story about an orgy at a hardcore fetish party is unlikely to find a home there.

Never give up. I often read about bestsellers that were turned down by several publishing houses. You can imagine the witch hunt among a firm’s editorial staff when the owner discovers they rejected a book that sold ten million copies!

Tell us a little bit about The Etiquette of Lying: A Polyamorous BDSM Journey.

It’s about a foursome who fall desperately, helplessly in love with each other, and whether that relationship will work. It doesn’t help that all the characters are concealing facts about their pasts – hence “The Etiquette of Lying.”

Most chapters begin with a social media extract, written by one of the protagonists. The question is: Are these clues for the reader? Or merely the fake personas so many people have on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. these days?

Jen is a recently promoted London detective, whose friend Sean, lives outrageously in the city, yet has no discernible income – something which may force her to choose between him and her career.

Annabel is the owner of a successful mail order company, who is dating a younger man – one of her employees. When Annabel suggests they act out a BDSM fantasy, she can’t understand why her lover, David, rejects the idea so vehemently.

Jen and Annabel have their own unresolved history, and David is sending private messages to an unknown person on social media. As you can tell, there’s mystery, contemporary and romance elements in the novel.

As most writers like to create rich and interesting characters, many want to make the place of action (in your case London) something a reader can sink their teeth into as well. What’s the good and bad (if there is any) of setting a story in a specific place?

For all its faults, I adore London, and Brighton, the other UK city that features in the novel. I hoped my enthusiasm would both enrich the prose and snare the reader – how many people have started a novel because they’ve been to its setting?

It was impossible to write about Sean, Jen, David and Annabel without mentioning these cities – like all of us, they’re products of their environment. Every restaurant, bar and tourist attraction in the book is real – I should be charging them for advertising!

Your setting is another character, and like your protagonists, it’s helpful to compile quotes, sketches and bio’s, which you keep in a (mostly unused) folder. For example, I had no intention of mentioning Jen’s star sign, but it came up in “the spa chapter,” and gives the reader a glimpse of Jen’s romantic outlook, as opposed to her lover’s cynicism.

Obviously, you can’t take liberties with descriptions of real places, or the reader will decide you haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about. I was so paranoid, I actually checked the historical weather forecasts to make sure, if my character was holding an umbrella, it was definitely raining that day!

Impossible as it has been for all us writers to ignore the success of a Fifty Shades, do you think a kink novel that becomes that popular is good or bad for the genre of adult fiction?

It’s got to be good, right? It’s removed the “taboo factor.” Adult fiction is more widely available. I suppose one issue is that fledgling authors now write in that field simply because they feel it gives them a better chance of getting published, and I’d just say: “Don’t.” You have to love what you write, or this business will have you reaching for the Prozac. If you only want to make money, go work in The City.

Fifty Shades got a lot of criticism, but give E.L. James credit – she drew some very different ideas together-“Tess of the D’urbervilles” meets “Twilight”-and readers were fascinated. Good luck to her.

What percentage do you think of your naughty writing is taken from experience, fantasy, wishful thinking, fear?

What’s that old saying? One third of writing is based on yourself, one third is people you know, and the other third is pure imagination’?

Ten years ago, I was like a Sixties musician that wanted to try every hedonistic experience imaginable. Sex with the risk of getting caught was a big thing. I went to swinging parties, and the cliché was true – everyone was “nice,” rather than seedy. London’s “Torture Garden” is insane, and my close friend has told me about this dance party in San Francisco called “Bondage A Go Go” that I just have to attend one day… Put it this way; a justified criticism of Fifty Shades was that anyone who liked BDSM knew the author was a tourist.

The end of my book is based on a friend’s fantasy (she keeps joking she wants royalties). As for wishful thinking and fear? Life’s too short – if you want to try something, and it doesn’t upset the people who matter, then do it. I wouldn’t be frightened of anything that happens to my characters.

What are you working on presently and what might we expect from you in the future?

Legions of short stories; for some reason the phrase Trains, Plane and Automobiles keeps popping into my head…my characters rarely have sex in just the bedroom! I like all genres, so it might be a challenge to write an historical erotica, a sci-fi erotica, a noir erotica…

Finally, it’s a predictable answer, but a sequel to The Etiquette of Lying. I’ve already gotten messages demanding to know what happens next – which is a nice problem for a writer to have. Ultimately, it’s my readers who will keep me in business, and I thank them all for their comments and support.

You can buy The Etiquette of Lying here.

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