By M. P. Rey
Gay literature is spreading all over the world. I knew it would happen someday, but I never thought I’d be part of this revolution.
In just a few years, gay books went from dusty shelves of hidden rainbow-flag bookstores to best-selling charts of digital platforms like Amazon. Prudes, haters, bashers, religious nuts cannot be more pissed, but homosexuality has never been more glamorous in literature than in the past few years.
A huge number of stories featuring gay characters have been published digitally and, surprise-surprise, they are selling. Gay erotica, in particular, is no longer a genre for militant homosexuals bold enough to venture into secret gay sex-shops. A huge number of gay erotica writers and readers are not gay at all. As a matter of fact, most of them are straight women. And they are not in just for the plot, as my female readers keep pointing out to me. It’s the actual sex that drives people into this kind of sub-genre.
Is it just sheer curiosity? The effect of digital anonymity? Or people are finally free to explore parts of themselves long hidden because of social and religious pressure?
I’ll be honest — the idea of exciting people, especially straight men and women, with a gay sex story is particularly rewarding to me. It makes me feel I achieved a higher level in what I’m writing. I often wonder how many straight men download my stories every day and enjoy them. With enjoy I mean are turned on by them. Giddy smile.
I write stories that cross the boundaries of several genres. There’s sex, often kinky sex, love, drama, humor, and violence. A murder, once in a while, or satire, but that got me into trouble more than once.
Some people are pretty damn serious about their reads even when it’s “just” erotica.
Not that erotica is a lesser genre. Many great stories written in the past were erotic for their time and rather scandalous. Today the boundaries between romance, erotica and pornography have become even more blurry. The sheer number of indie books published suggests that nearly any possible sexy plot has been explored by somebody in a more or less accomplished way. Many people find it hard to pick the right story for them. Reviews are misleading because often based on personal taste rather than literary achievement (or lack of it). Moreover many erotic stories don’t even try to have literary merit.
Sometimes trying to write a more literary piece takes away from the sexiness of the story and you get in trouble with some of your readers. It’s unfortunate, but true.
I focus (mostly) on gay short fiction. Short stories, novellas, serials. Short fiction is more of an intense reading (and writing) experience, I feel. All your emotions are channeled like in a good movie.
I generally refer to my erotic tales as sex stories, since they are first and foremost stories. The fact that they turn people on is a bonus, but the scope is wider, generally. I like them to touch the raw nerves of society, tease my readers, be thought-provoking, not just prompt people to some solitary (or maybe not solitary…) action. But I love to imagine what happens behind closed doors when one of my stories pops up on an e-reader late at night. Naughty smile.
I don’t work with gay characters only. Some of my men are straight, questioning, or bisexual. Best Friends, Best Lovers, for example, follows the discovery of gay sex and love between two bisexual men. It was meant as a satire of the erotic romance genre. Some people got its satirical twist, some didn’t and were pretty vocal about it. Recently I’ve started exploring serials as well, since digital publishing opened a new era for serials, especially now that they can be followed easily. The Total Owner, a pretty hardcore erotic serial I’ve recently started to publish, is in fact a parody of the corporate world. On the contrary Naked Night Love is not satirical at all and it’s an erotic noir that explores the dark side of homosexual romance, sex and prostitution.
The magic of digital publishing for short-story writers is that it revived the genre completely. Today a short-story has the same dignity of a novel. It can even turn into a best-seller. Short-stories have an unprecedented potential to be appreciated and I feel they lend themselves to further exploration by contemporary writers. However, it’s a lot harder to write something meaningful in just a few pages. Let alone truly arouse somebody, especially if that somebody has a different sexual orientation.
The fact that the interest for LGBT stories is growing outside the LGBT community is something that prompts some reflections. Are we turning straight people into questioning people or even bisexual by the sheer force of imaginative writing? Or the anonymity of digital sales allowed a long-standing curiosity to come into the open?
The fact that the pool of readers has shifted makes me wonder about my target audience often, although I tend to write stories that I like and hope they’ll get noticed by the right audience. I think there’s quite a bit of a difference in writing gay erotica for women and gay erotica for gay men. Traditionally gay literature is far more daring, campy, kinky, and experimental than mainstream gay erotica that sells nowadays on digital platforms. Are we killing gay identity by consigning the genre to people that don’t really know the gay world and underworld? Are we creating a fictitious and skewed perception of gay relationships and gay life?
Digital publishing has democratize publishing, but it has also democratized reviewing. Is it OK that people with no knowledge of iconic gay and underground literature bash a gay writer’s work because it doesn’t fit their idea of what a gay story should be?
When I wrote my first gay novella almost three years ago I couldn’t imagine my stories would be read by thousands of people around the world. Traditional publishing was not even an option for short-stories with sexually charged gay themes. No way my stories would be published unless I agreed to major cuts or editorial changes, and have them included in obscure anthologies. Through social networks and indie publishing, on the contrary, I was able to have my work read worldwide – and make some money along the way.
Censorship is not a big issue anymore. In a sense digital publishing allows the real story to shine through before an army of editors fix it to fit the expectations of publishing houses and readers. As an indie writer you can take more risks. You can try things out and see what happens. The only story I had trouble with was Three Men, One Bed (no wonder). Its first edition was blocked on Amazon. I had to rewrite the whole story to make sure it was less controversial, and change the cover. I never knew what the actual issue was (Amazon won’t tell you why your story got blocked, it will just decline publication). Other than that I was able to publish pretty hardcore content (e.g. Confessions of a Kinky Cop, The Total Owner, Naked Night Love) without problems.
The idea of writing sex stories and not having to discuss the content or style with anybody gives more immediacy to the narrative, I feel. Maybe indie stories are less polished, in general, and some are pretty terrible, but in a sense they retain a bit of the spontaneousness of the initial draft, something reminiscent of the good old days of the Beat Generation when the process of writing was more important than the final product. It’s writing for the pleasure of writing. Even when I work in tandem with my editor I always tell him to leave stuff a bit rough. Ultimately no one imposes me any changes. If a story turns out good and people like it, I can pat myself on the shoulder. If it’s bad… well, a whip may come in handy. Smirk.
All in all my experience with digital publishing has been good so far. Perhaps it’s not the best route if you’re in a hurry to see your literary merit recognized, but in my case it worked just fine. If I ever write a long piece of fiction I may consider traditional publishing, but for now I enjoy being brought to bed by my readers on a Kindle.
A keen observer of human sexuality, M. P. Rey loves to touch the raw nerves of society, exploring different facets of human behavior, sexuality, feelings and love. Most of his short stories and novellas climbed the best-seller charts of LGBT Fiction, LGBT Romance and Gay Erotica on Amazon.
His titles include: Confessions of a Kinky Cop (2012); A Gay Kinky Game (2012); The Man at the Window (2012); The Photographer (2012); Best Friends, Best Lovers (2013); What Men Won’t Tell You (2013); Three Men, One Bed (2013); Office Mates (2013); Sid & Monroe (2014). He has recently published two new serials: The Total Owner (2015) and Naked Night Love (2015).
To check out his work, click here.