Describing himself as a misanthropic humanitarian, cynical optimist, today I talk with J.S. Wayne about his multiple genre works as he balances his hours as a professional writer, storyteller and polyamorous kink practitioner and educator.
You’ve released an anthology of your own works, Eat My Shorts, which ranges in genre from sci-fi to Gothic horror to urban fantasy to contemporary, hetero and LGBT couplings, and content levels from hardcore erotica to erotic romance.
Do you think people you meet shy away from the subjects you write about?
Some do, of course. I accepted a long time ago that being so public and open about my proclivities and my preference for writing varying shades of erotica would put some people off. And that’s fine, really. I’m not everyone’s particular brand of Scotch, and don’t care to try to be. But I refuse to be less than authentic or try to pretend to be something I’m not, no matter what. If that means I don’t sell a book, or attain another follower on Twitter, or flat-out turn someone off, that’s the price you pay for being you. It’s also why my Twitter profile is so “in your face” about who and what I am; it’s a quick and easy way to invite in people who enjoy my brand of Scotch, so to speak, and warn off those who don’t.
I can’t imaging you’re backwards in being open about the subject anyway, but how do you deal with those situations?
If someone doesn’t approve of my subject matter, or the way I live my life, that’s perfectly okay. My way is MY WAY; it may not be right for anyone else, but that doesn’t inherently make it wrong for me. There are more than enough people out there who either fantasise about my lifestyle or live it in their own unique ways, so I don’t feel the need to push the issue with those who don’t.
I’ve learned to sort people who are sincerely interested, or who are seeking honest information or a different point of view, from those trying to score a cheap “moral” victory at my expense. The former get honesty and as much detail as they can stomach. The latter get a polite smile and a good look at my back as I’m walking away to seek out members of my tribe. Life is too short and I have too many better things to do to be bothered wasting my time in frivolous debates about the “rightness” of the things I do and don’t do, in writing or reality.
Do you think the market has changed or the public’s acceptance of erotica has changed since the advent of books like 50-Shades, either in public or behind closed doors?
I think the market for erotica has always been there. How it’s presented and branded has certainly changed in the post-50 Shades world, and the fact you and I can even have this discussion at the present time is a strong indicator of just how culturally acceptable it’s become. Instead of a fringe taste which nearly everyone indulges in one form or another but refuses to admit to, it’s become unworthy of comment to see someone reading erotica/erotic romance a la Anne Rice/A.N. Roquelaure, E.L. James, etc. at the bus stop.
It’s about as out of the ordinary as someone blowing their nose, and I feel this is a very good thing. It speaks to the fact our society is maybe, hopefully, finally ready for a serious conversation about the realities of sex and consent, as well as why erotica can be both beneficial and harmful and where the lines between fantasy and reality should be drawn.
I’m not sure I dare to ask, but what the hell. What do you do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m most likely either with one or both of the girls of House Unicron, having a drink, singing karaoke, at a dungeon or some or all the above. I also read a lot, and very rarely watch TV, although Mouse has got me watching Dr. Who from the beginning of the 2005 reboot. I also read a lot, usually about two books a week. My favourite books, by far, are The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. I actually got my girls hooked on the series too, and I have to really work at not giving spoilers out!
Do you read much non-fiction about writing?
Honestly, I don’t put much store in books about HOW to write. They either set too much store by mechanics (Elements of Style, by Strunk and White) or try to establish one writer’s process as The Wan Twue and Only Way™ to write. Nonsense, of course; while I’m all about understanding the rules, it’s only so I can more effectively break them. The “right” way to write is the way which works for the writer and their ultimate audience. My “right” way looks not a damned thing like Stephen King’s, or Mercedes R. Lackey’s, or Jim Butcher’s, etc. etc. etc. Right for me would be completely wrong for them and vice versa. That’s how you come up with unique, distinctive voices: by NOT following The Wan Twue and Only Way™ mindlessly and slavishly.
Can you tell me about your career as a writer?
I won 3rd place overall at the Rapid City, South Dakota regional spelling bee. Does that count?
I wrote my first novel at 17 and completed it at 32. My second novel, Wail, was completed in 20 writing days before my 33rd birthday. So, as far as writing with professional intent, I’ve been doing it for over half my life! I actually became a “professional,” “According to Hoyle” writer just after I turned 33, so it’s been most of a decade. When I first started, I published stories and novels with Noble Romance Publishing and Changeling Press, as well as a one-off charity anthology I created, edited and published with Black Velvet Seductions and a short story in the 2013 Kolob Canyon Review. However, since 2017, I’ve been completely independent and have no plans, desire or intention of changing that. In total, I’ve published 22 short stories, novels, novellas, and one nonfiction book about the BDSM lifestyle.
Tell me about how you write.
I’m a pantser with dreams of being a planner. Usually my stories start with a vague concept, or a single image, or one really cool line, and I build the story around it with no clue where it’s heading. I’ve been experimenting with outlining lately, and it works…kinda. My biggest problem is, my characters get all sorts of mulish about doing their own thing, and I’m just along for the ride.
Mostly, this works out okay, but I sometimes find myself muttering, “You DO realize I can destroy you, everything and everyone you’ve ever loved and your whole stupid universe with a single paragraph, right?”
Aaaaaaaand my characters don’t really give a damn. [sigh]
Writing, by far is my favourite part. I relish telling a good story which I know readers will enjoy and respond to. But editing depresses me and I actively despise marketing, even though they’re both necessary evils. I like to write using the inverse Hemingway method; I write sober and edit, and market, drunk, because they’re less painful when my brain’s a bit soggy from good Scotch.
I always like to have music which is appropriate to the scene or type of writing I’m doing, caffeine and my vape pen close at hand. I close the door, put in my earbuds and let the music play while the words flow. I also shut down all my web tabs except for Google while I’m writing, because otherwise I can lose whole days surfing Twitter and keeping up with friends, which isn’t exactly a winning strategy for getting word count down.
What writing software do you use?
I use LibreOffice, because it’s free and I got very irritated with Microsoft Word. It gives me most of the functionality I need, relatively few hassles, and it’s very user-friendly, which is a must for a Classic Nintendo guy in a Playstation world! I once wrote a short story on a typewriter, just to see if I could, and it was maddening! I can write and edit on the go far more easily with a word processor, and my hat’s off to anyone who’s still using old-school tech to write their stuff.
That said, tech can also be my biggest handicap. Twitter notifications, text messages, phone calls, email alerts, puppy videos and so on are often more of a hindrance than a help, and that doesn’t even take into account the various app-based games I play! I usually have to put my phone away or set it to vibrate, shut down everything except basic Google searching and block out all possible distractions so they don’t get in my way.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Delete the word “aspiring” and all its conjugates from your vocabulary NOW. If you’re putting your ass in the chair and doing the work, you’re a writer. END OF. “Aspiring” or any of its conjugates say, “Hi, I’m a wannabe, and I’m sorry to bother you, but perhaps if it’s not too much trouble or bother, you’ll read my pointless scribblings.” FUCK THAT NOISE! If you did the work, OWN your work. Be proud of your work. You did something relatively few people can do and do well. Don’t label yourself as a wannabe, wish-was or never-will-be. There are plenty of people out there who are perfectly happy to do that for you. You have to be your own advocate, and if you’re crazy enough to sit down and see a story through to its completion, you’re also insane enough to be proud of it and the parts which set YOUR story apart from anyone else’s.
Can you tell me about Eat My Shorts!: The Absolute Best of J.S. Wayne (…So Far…)?
It’s an anthology of previously-released and never-before-seen stories. It represents my growth as an author, and my ability to write well beyond one little niche. As far as an introduction to my work, and the universe-building I put into my works, I feel like Eat My Shorts! is a very strong, fun journey for the reader.
I call it erotic romance for simplicity’s sake, but there’s also a lot of “pure” erotica in it. Eat My Shorts! is a lot like me in that respect: you can place it in just about any pigeonhole you like, and it will fit…but not entirely. I like to leave it to the reader to form their own opinions about what it is, or isn’t, rather than telling them. I know what I wrote; how they perceive it is not up to me anymore, and trying to pin it down to “just one thing” does a disservice to both the stories and the readers.
Why did you choose to write erotic romance?
I love erotica and erotic romance because I love love. I love the act of love, the feeling of love, and the ways in which love is expressed. In these genres, I feel like there’s a lot more room to look at the things which are universal to human beings, instead of the things which divide us.
That said, I really don’t feel like I chose the genre. The genre chose me. When I wrote my first erotic romance short, it was a lark, something I did to kill some time before I jumped back into urban fantasy, which was my intended and stated genre of choice when I started. But it turned out I had a knack for erotic romance, and it spoke to something in me which just sort of demanded I keep going with it.
Eat My Shorts! is currently available at Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, iBooks and Walmart.
What was the biggest challenge with self-publishing the book?
The biggest challenge in my mind was twofold: overcoming the mental block that many of these stories hadn’t performed as well as I’d hoped the first time around, and knocking the chip off my shoulder that because I’m a male writing in a heavily female-dominated genre, I had something to prove. I just had to take a deep breath, put it out into the world, and hope they would do better as a lower-priced collection than they had as standalone stories. So far, it seems to have worked out well!
You don’t mention your books being available on Amazon. Can you explain why you didn’t choose that route?
I’ve been watching Amazon’s tactics and practices change and evolve with varying degrees of alarm, disdain and disgust for years, especially vis a vis the way they treat authors and reviewers. When I went fully independent and elected to self-publish, I couldn’t stomach the thought of agreeing to Amazon’s terms. They take too much, offer too little, and their terms and conditions are so heavily biased in the company’s favour as to be utterly nonsensical. If I wanted to be hooked into a bad contract, I could have stayed with my first publisher until they went down in flames. I certainly don’t need to give a third-party seller publisher cuts of my profits just for a few megabytes of virtual shelf space. And that doesn’t even touch on the ways in which they subtly and not-so-subtly censor authors and content beyond traditional industry standards.
In many ways I see Amazon as a dangerous blight on the entire industry which too many people are willing to accept as the cost of a little extra convenience. It’s fine for others to go that route, and I recognise in some ways I’m actually self-sabotaging a bit for the sake of my personal ethos. Still, the books I’m actively promoting are not and will not be present on Amazon until I see a MASSIVE sea change in their policies and practices, particular as they affect the people who provide the product they sell.
Smashwords has none of these problems, and they are far more author-centric than Amazon while not compromising the reader experience, which I greatly appreciate. Also, I actually have access to more and wider distribution channels than I would with Amazon, which makes it a better overall investment for identical or less effort.
What has you experience of social media as part of building your author platform been?
I love Twitter as a marketing vehicle, and for getting to know people. As a writer, I feel it’s my job to forge real relationships with my readers and show them there’s an actual person with merits, flaws, foibles, good and bad days behind the words they read. I like being real, and so far, the people I’ve met really seem to respond to that and enjoy what I have to say.
If you enjoyed this interview then why not follow my blog where I’ll be posting more interviews soon. I regularly provide an insight into my own experiences as I work towards publishing my debut novel, In The End. If you’re an author, or work in the industry and you’ve got an interesting story to tell, drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org