Rachel Kramer Bussel is a New York-based author, editor, blogger and event organizer. She has written for numerous publications, including Alternative Press, CNN.com, The Daily Beast, The Frisky, Gothamist, The Hairpin, Huffington Post, Inked, Jezebel, Lemondrop, Mediabistro, The Nervous Breakdown, New York Post, New York Observer, New York Press, Playgirl, The Root, Salon, San Francisco Chronicle, Time Out New York, The Village Voice, xoJane and Zink. She has edited 40+ anthologies for Alyson Books, Avon Red, Cleis Press, Pretty Things Press, Ravenous Romance and Seal Press, including Anything for You: Erotica for Kinky Couples, Suite Encounters: Hotel Sex Stories, Going Down, Irresistible, Women in Lust, Orgasmic, Fast Girls, Passion, Obsessed, Bottoms Up, Spanked, Tasting Him, Tasting Her, Gotta Have It, The Mile High Club, Do Not Disturb: Hotel Sex Stories, Best Bondage Erotica 2011 and 2012, Best Sex Writing 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012, and 6 of her anthologies have won Gold IPPY (Independent Publisher) Awards for Erotica and Sexuality/Relationships. She has contributed to over 100 anthologies, including Susie Bright’s Best American Erotica 2004 and 2006 and X: The Erotic Treasury, as well as The Sexual State of the Union and Yes Means Yes.
Rachel conducts reading and erotic writing workshops worldwide, and including Chicago, Las Vegas, London, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Toronto. She has presented, spoken and taught at conferences including Dark Odyssey, Erotic Authors Association, Sex 2.0, and SXSW. For five years, she hosted In The Flesh Erotic Reading Series in New York City, which featured 300 readers, including Kevin Allison, Jonathan Ames, Laura Antoniou, Mo Beasley, Susie Bright, Lily Burana, Kerry Cohen, Jessica Cutler, Mike Daisey, Mike Edison, Stephen Elliott, Polly Frost, Gael Greene, HoneyB (Mary Morrison), Debra Hyde, Maxim Jakubowski, Diana Joseph, Jillian Lauren, Neal Medlyn, Scott Poulson-Bryant, Julie Powell, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, M.J. Rose, Susan Shapiro, Danyel Smith, Grant Stoddard, Cecilia Tan, Carol Taylor, Jo Weldon, Susan Wright, and Zane, among others. Rachel holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and women’s studies from the University of California at Berkeley.
JULY WESTHALE: You’re so accomplished, and have written for a number of wonderful publications around the country, as well as hosted workshops and edited anthologies. How did you get your start in erotic writing?
RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: I was in law school at NYU and realizing that law was not a career fit for me. At the same time, I was reading wonderful erotica collections like Herotica and Best American Erotica, and though I’d never written fiction before, I decided to try my hand at writing a fictional celebrity sex story, “Monica and Me,” which got published in Starf*cker edited by Shar Rednour, as well as Best Lesbian Erotica 2001 edited by Tristan Taormino. I’ve been writing ever since—at first it was just a story every few months, then I got asked to edit some anthologies, and now I try to submit to as many anthologies as I can think of story ideas for.
JW: What are some of your own favorite titles?
RKB: Far and away, my 2013 anthology The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories is my favorite. It’s my 55th anthology, actually, and my second of micro fiction of 1,200 words or less, following Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex, but it’s the first one that I felt was truly an excellent introduction for newcomers to the genre because it’s so varied. It’s gotten a wonderful response and I was thrilled to work with so many new authors, and see what a wide range of orgasm stories they came up with. I also like Orgasmic, which was the inspiration for The Big Book of Orgasms, since it has 25 stories of such varied types of orgasms and motivations for them, and one of my all-time favorite stories I’ve published, “Chemistry” by Velvet Moore. Spanking is my favorite topic to write and edit erotica on, so Spanked: Red-Cheeked Erotica is special to me, and was the first book I created a book trailer for, which you can watch at http://spanked.wordpress.com/about/
JW: Can you tell us about some of your upcoming events?
RKB: I’m teaching an erotic writing workshop January 17th at The Pleasure Chest at 1150 Second Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side at 7:30 for the New York Academy of Sex Ed (sign up and get details here). I’m teaching an extended three-hour version of that introduction to erotica writing as well as a three-hour nonfiction sex writing workshop on March 14th (yes, both on the same day!) to CatalystCon attendees in Arlington, Virginia. These are special classes that come with in-person feedback on your work, and you can sign up here and I hope to be teaching more erotic writing workshops in places like Toronto and Albuquerque and Portland, Maine and wherever else I’m asked. I send out a monthly newsletter, which you can sign up for on here, on the left-hand side to stay tuned for future events.
JW: What are your favorite things about writing erotica?
RKB: I like that I’ve learned to eroticize anything, whether it personally turns me on or not. That has expanded my writing opportunities and allowed me to sell more stories than I would have otherwise and helped keep it fun and interesting for the last 13 years. I also like that I have such a wealth of research material online at my fingertips, from Pinterest to Flickr to news stories and sex toy stores. Whenever I’m stuck on a plotline or story idea, I just search until I find something new to focus on.
JW: What advice would you give to emerging erotic and sex writers who are just entering the industry?
RKB: As with any kind of writing, study the markets you’re submitting to closely. Read several issues of a magazine or publication and look at an editor’s previous work to get a feel for what they want. The biggest advice I have sounds basic, but you’d be amazed how many people don’t follow it: adhere to the guidelines! Mine are very specific because those are the things that make my work as an editor easier, and following them certainly gives you a better chance of getting published by me than not following them. My current call for Best Bondage Erotica 2015 is on my website and I will be posting more there soon.
Other than that, I’d say be creative and bold. Try to think outside the box. For instance, with bondage, there are so many unusual ways of tying someone up, as well as settings and motivations. As an editor, I can’t simply include the twenty or so stories I like, but the stories I like that best go together to create a whole sexy varied package. So for Best Bondage Erotica 2015, I want male and female and non-binary gender tops and bottoms, I want newbies to kink and old hands, I want multiple partners, I want bondage plus all sorts of other sexual activity. I want characters ages 18 and 80. I want dark and light, serious and humorous, sweet and filthy, multi-published writers and never-been-published writers. That may not let you know how to approach your story, but I recommend trying to make your story as unique as possible. A killer opening line that grabs the reader and doesn’t let go until the end is always a pleasure too.
I also recommend doing some major thinking about what you want to get out of erotica writing. Even if you only plan to publish a story once, you’ll have to decide whether to use your real name, and if not, what your pseudonym means to you. If you do want to have a career as an erotica writer, you’ll want to establish a web presence as yourself or your pseudonym and pay attention to the markets. If a story gets rejected, either send it back out to a new publisher or editor, or look at it and see if it can be revised and improved. Don’t get discouraged—everyone gets rejected, and the great thing about the erotica genre, especially the anthology market, is that collectively editors need hundreds of stories per year, so there are always new opportunities.
JW: What do you think the future of erotic writing looks like?
RKB: I think we will see more erotica of varying lengths as authors venture further into self-publishing and hopefully we’ll also see more literary fiction and other genres spicing things up. We’re already seeing a wave of kinky erotic romance that I think will continue. I’ve been impressed to see the thriving audiobook market for erotica, which is bringing the genre to new readers. I don’t necessarily know where it’s going but I’m always on the lookout for whose work to read next.
JW: For fun! Tell us something interesting about yourself. (favorite things, celebrity crush, fantasy scene, something few people know about you?)
RKB: I love game shows and one of my life goals is to go on one! I also love Hello Kitty and am looking forward to visiting the Hello Kitty Café in Seoul, South Korea in 2014.
JW: Thank you so much for your time, Rachel! For more information about upcoming tour dates, classes, titles, and where to buy her many book, check out her website.