Thursday 25 December 2014

Occupational hazards: Eileen Gormley, erotic fiction writer

"I'm going to a flogging workshop. You can't write about it unless you've done it"

Eileen Gormley, left, with writing partner Caroline McCall
Eileen Gormley, left, with writing partner Caroline McCall

I've always read everything I could get my hands on. I got into science fiction first and went from there. I certainly didn't make a lifelong decision to write erotica. I liked writing, but I'm slightly dyslexic so when I told my teachers I wanted to be a writer, it was like 'get serious'.

I did other things when I left school, mainly business-based. In a lull between jobs I sent an article to the 'Longford Leader' and was nicely surprised when they said they'd run it. I freelanced as a journalist until I had my third baby.

I needed more intellectual stimulation so I started a creative writing course at UCD. It was a fun experience and on that course I met Caroline (McCall, her co-writer). We had very similar tastes, although we were writing different things.

She had been doing some writing for an American publisher, so we worked on that. We did a novella ('Angels, Demons and Doms'), which sold well. That's how Penguin Ireland heard of us. Penguin basically said, 'we want something to knock '50 Shades of Grey' off the shelves ... can you do that?' Then they were like, 'can you do it in five weeks?' We managed to write a book in five and a half weeks but it nearly killed us. We moved during that time and I hardly noticed.

The name Evie Hunter came about because Penguin only wanted one name on the books. I liked the name Helen Hunter; Caroline liked the name Eva Elliott, so we decided to split the difference.

How do we co-write? Mostly, we email passages back and forth to each other. We meet once a week to brainstorm and sort out plot issues. Caroline writes the girl parts and I write the boy parts. I write during the day, and Caroline has the 'night shift', so she'll email me her work before she goes to bed.

I like writing in general, but erotica often just comes into it. As soon as two people get together and the clothes are off, they're at their most vulnerable and emotional.

That said, it's quite difficult to write sex scenes. It's one thing that tends to annoy me as people think it's easy, but to do it well you have to get under the characters' skins, to feel their bodies and smell their scents. You have to get inside their emotions and let the reader know what the character is feeling. It's not about writing porn. A lot of it is sense and emotions.

We talked to a lot of experts in the S&M field about '50 Shades of Grey'. They told us that half of the stuff in the book was not physically possible. Neither Caroline nor I read '50 Shades' as we didn't want to be influenced by it ... but we did go out and research the kinky stuff.

I'm going to a flogging workshop in a week. You can't write about it unless you have done it. We personally road test as much of it as we can. Let's just say that once you've learnt it, you can't unlearn it.

My kids find it a little cringeworthy: they're not that impressed by what I do. When I tell people what I do for a living, they generally say, 'you should write my life story. I'll split half the money with you'. I think they reckon we spend time swanning about in satin pyjamas.

In the last two years we have written four full-length novels and five novellas. We have lurched from insane deadline to insane deadline hoping for a chance to catch our breath. We're looking forward to writing our own separate stuff, too.

My advice to authors in general is that you have to write a million crap words to end up with some words that people will pay for. You will never write a bestseller on your first go. There is freedom in knowing that you can write rubbish and write for fun, and with each book you get better.

When it comes to writing erotica, the trick is to write for yourself. Tell yourself that no-one will read this, so feel free to be as filthy as you like. Both of us have said to our families, 'the other one writes the really sexy stuff'. I'm not sure how much they believe us.

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