I had the pleasure of being there the first time Jade A. Waters read her erotica in front of a room full of people. It was the reading to celebrate the publication of a book we are both in, The Big Book of Orgasms, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. It was wonderful to hear Jade bring her story to life, and to be there for her first reading. We have stayed in touch ever since. Jade is one of the sweetest erotica writers I know, and I am so glad to be in community with her.
Today, I am particularly excited to share an interview with her, where she discusses, among other things, the publication of her novel, The Assignment, a kinky erotic romance that is the first in the Lessons in Control Series. More about the book, first, and then on to the interview!
What would you do if someone offered to fulfill your wildest fantasies?
Dean Sova is everything Maya Clery craves. From the first touch, their connection is intense. After leav
ing her troubled past behind, Maya thought she was happy—she is happy—but meeting Dean
forces her to acknowledge dark needs she longs to explore yet has never had the courage to face.
Her perfect match, Dean encourages Maya to set loose the submissive urges inside her in a series of assignments intended to open her mind and test the limits of pleasure…but Maya isn’t sure she can fully let go of her inhibitions.
What would you do if someone offered to fulfill your wildest fantasies?
The answer seems obvious. You take the offer and hope the price isn’t too high.
Book one of Lessons in Control
This book is approximately 81,000 words
One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise! Find out more at CarinaPress.com/RomancePromise.
Thank you so much for these great questions, and for hosting me, Xan! My answers are below…
How would you describe yourself to a new reader just discovering you?
I call myself an “erotica writer and poetess,” because in truth, I love verse as much as I love narrative, and sometimes I like to blend the two in at least some stylistic choices. Content-wise, I have a strong romantic streak that sneaks its way in a lot, but I also enjoy writing erotica that doesn’t always have a happy ending. I like the bittersweet side of things at times, I guess, and, because I believe sex is transformative, I like that to be an important aspect on the page, whether the story be light and sassy or dark and achy. My characters are often learning about themselves through their sexual encounters/dynamics, or they are having some sort of emotional transformation in the moment. The Assignment, and the entire Lessons in Control series, feels like a blend of the erotic romance with the transformative element. Maya’s ride has not been an easy one, and while her relationship with Dean grows in romantic intensity, her sexual experiences with him are powerful and full of self-discovery.
We first met at your first public reading, where we were both reading our erotica. Tell me about what it’s been like transitioning from writing erotic short stories to writing a series of novels. What was challenging? What’s been fun?
And what a fun reading it was! I’m so happy we met. 🙂 But, in answer to your question, they are such vastly different beasts, aren’t they? I actually started as a novel writer—though I later learned that what I was writing was more novella-like—and then I tried short stories in a Fiction Writing class in college. I liked how the entire story happened in such a small space; it required words to be at their most powerful, with no extra fluff. From there, I dabbled in short stories fairly sporadically as I wrote a couple more novels (this time proper length), and it wasn’t until I opted to switch into erotica in early 2013 that I really gave shorts a chance. Turns out, I loved them! Everything suited me—the brevity, the quick turnaround time, the language choices, and even the fact that I could edit the crap out of them to make them fit a word count. (I’m one of those weird writers who enjoys editing, a lot.) Still, I kept telling myself I needed to try a real novel, now that I’d found my true passion in writing erotica.
Of course, writing an erotica novel quickly turned into writing a whole series…which is an experience and a half. There’s something to be said about sticking to the same characters for a long period of time. You get to know them better and deeper than in a short story, because all their extra quirks, mannerisms, and back stories come blaring out. This is fantastic and fun, but it can be a challenge, too, because you’re with them for a longggggg time. Another perk of a full length—and even more so in a series—is that there’s a great deal of flexibility since you have so much more story to tell. On the other hand, something I’ve preferred about shorts (and flash fiction, and poetry) is that those pieces are the most spontaneous I ever am with my writing. Okay, probably my whole life. I am a planner in all things, and full lengths require planning. With my shorts, I never plan. I like allowing myself the freedom to just fly free and be a pantser when I write them.
What sparked this series for you? What made you want to write this couple’s story?
Okay, truth time—The Assignment was loosely inspired by a short relationship in which I was playfully issued an assignment on date one. It wasn’t really my thing (though I did happily play along), but I thought the premise was interesting for the building of an entire relationship, and, in particular, I wanted to explore how that would play out for a main character who not only felt extremely independent, but who had the troubled past that Maya does. I wondered how that would affect her, on all levels—would she be intrigued enough to keep trying? And in time, would she overcome her fears? She’s a sexual creature before she ever meets Dean, but the experience allows her to grow into who she is. I knew when we pitched the series to Carina that the arc would continue to follow their exploration and romance, but I had no idea where it would go beyond some minimal plot points. As I continued writing them, I got excited to develop Dean more, and overall, how their dynamic builds and grows in time.
It’s clear that one of the core things you wanted to do in this novel was contrast abusive relationships with consensual BDSM. Can you tell me about why that’s important to you?
So many reasons! There are a ridiculous number of instances both in fiction and in real life where abuse is explained away as BDSM. This drives me crazy—having been in an abusive relationship at one point in my life, and also having had some enjoyable BDSM experiences—because they are not at all the same thing. Abuse is an act in which a person inflicts harm on another without regard for them as a human being or for their feelings and boundaries. BDSM, on the other hand, is a shared experience full of emotions and feelings for all parties involved. This is why, even in fiction, consent is critical, just like it is in sex. It’s up to the players how they want to negotiate or tailor that consent as well as their relationship and dynamic as a whole, but I hate seeing portrayals where that notion is dismissed in order to allow characters to just do whatever the fuck they want to one another. If I meant for the character to be a bad guy? Okay. But otherwise, consent is part of the package. It’s also a sexy notion. Negotiating a dynamic in which one party has the consent of another to push them to their limits—or farther, if that is something they’ve agreed to—goddamn, that’s hot.
Tell me about the role of bondage in Dean and Maya’s relationship. What makes bondage hot for them? How do they connect through bondage?
Dean and Maya have played somewhat with bondage in each of their pasts, and they’d found it enticing then. Years later, they’re both open-minded, direct, and into exploring. Once Dean shares that he’d like to play with bondage with Maya, she is intrigued to try it under better circumstances than she has in the past. They give it a shot during their second date, and Maya is blown away by how exciting it feels—the rope itself, the binding, the physical limitations while her mind gets to soar. Dean is equally turned on, both by her interest in trying it, and how vocal she is over it. (Speaking desires is a huge piece of this story.) Maya has previously not explored this option with someone she trusts, and as she and Dean further their bondage experiences, it not only increases the electricity between them, but makes her feel more at ease and better able to trust him. She’s been after a true feeling of safety and surrender for a long time, and their bondage experiences foster that for her.
What do you enjoy about writing two characters that are new to BDSM exploring together? What are the challenges of telling that kind of BDSM romance story?
You know, I read several BDSM books before I started, and—at least in the selections I read—the characters were either already deeply involved in it, or one was extremely experienced while the other was not. I felt like there wasn’t enough representation out there of both parties giving it a whirl. “Let’s try…” is so sexy to me, and I wanted to venture into the world of what it felt like to try it all on and build from it. Neither of these characters was at a disadvantage having not tried it at all, and because of this, the two of them got to build their dynamic and in turn, their entire relationship, together. The challenges there were, one, a lot of readers have grown accustomed to BDSM and might want it to be “harder” or “less experimental,” but that wasn’t Maya and Dean’s story. Another challenge was conveying that Dean was exploring, too. He’s into it—real into it—and has slightly more experience…but he’s still a newbie, so making sure he didn’t sound “pure Dom” or “fully developed Dom” was important to me.
What’s up next for Dean and Maya? And what’s exciting on the horizon for you?
Oh, man. Their story gets even better! I admit, I had a hell of a time with book 2, The Discipline (more on that closer to its release in March). But, after a gazillion rounds of revision and edits, I think I fell in love with that story even more than book 1. Book 2 gives us more of Dean, and him fleshing out his view of relationships, while Maya is clearly confident and comfortable with their exploration and submission, too. Their relationship grows on multiple levels there, and by book 3, The Reward—which I’m currently revising to turn in to my editor—we get to see them discover what it is they’ve truly built together. Past struggles rise up, drama ensues. It’s good stuff. 🙂
As for me…I’m looking forward to a couple readings for the book coming next month, one of which will be at the Dirty Old Women event in Oakland on January 24th. I’ve got a few other things in the works, too, as far as future writing plans…but it’s a little too soon to share them. For now, I’m trying to keep my focus on Maya and Dean and their journey into the world!
Thank you so much for having me over, Xan!
Jade A. Waters is an erotica author and poetess in sunny California. A lover of candy, coffee, dancing, and endless karaoke, she is happiest when surrounded by words—be they on the page or shared in good conversation. Her short fiction and poetry is featured in over a dozen anthologies from Cleis Press and Stupid Fish Productions, and
currently, Jade is hard at work on the next book in the Lessons in Control series from Carina Press. Visit her at http://jadeawaters.com, or follow her at http://twitter.com/jadeawaters.