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50 shades of Green - Irish erotic fiction writers discuss our appetite for sex

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Erotic writers Eileen Gormley and Caroline McColl. Photo: Mark O'Sullivan.

Erotic writers Eileen Gormley and Caroline McColl. Photo: Mark O'Sullivan.

The pleasures of winter by Evie Hunter

The pleasures of winter by Evie Hunter

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of Grey

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of Grey

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Erotic writers Eileen Gormley and Caroline McColl. Photo: Mark O'Sullivan.

"Abbie watched as Jack lifted the mosquito netting and slid into the hammock, patting the miniscule space beside him. Oh God - she would be lying that close to him. She hugged her arms around herself. The evening had turned chilly.

So she was going to spend the night with a bona fide Hollywood heartthrob. She could just imagine Kit screaming when she told her. If they got out of this. Her best friend and her cosy apartment in New York both seemed a long way away.

"Abbie, quit dithering and get into bed. I promise not to bite.' She scrambled into the hammock and rolled against him. 'But I don't, Mr Winter, so keep your hands to yourself.' His response was a snort of laughter. Jack leaned over her so that he could adjust the mosquito netting. 'There,' he announced. 'Snug as two bugs in a rug.'

"'You don't have to sound so pleased about it, and watch where you put your hands,' she said. Abbie rolled over on her side and slid into the middle of the hammock. Jack curved his body around hers and dropped his arm around her waist. 'Where do you suggest I put them?'"

The Pleasures Of Winter by Evie Hunter - the pen name adopted by erotica writers Eileen Gormley and Caroline McCall - has it all. There is a Hollywood star in the form of Irish actor Jack Winter ("a gorgeous combination of both Colin Farrell and Hugh Jackman," the authors say) and a heroine in sassy New York journalist Abbie Marshall. Then there are exotic locations; a plane crash in a remote rainforest, not to mention, of course, plenty of sizzling scenes featuring hot, steamy sex.

Largely fuelled by the incredible success of the Fifty Shades Of Grey series, this is a genre that has exploded in recent years.

"Fifty Shades has revolutionised the erotic literature industry," Caroline explains. "It's made it all so much more acceptable. You no longer have to hide your racy book behind a 'respectable' magazine.

"I spotted someone reading one of our own on the DART the other day. It was wonderful, but I was the only one staring - seeing a saucy cover barely raises an eyebrow these days." "And eReaders have helped that too," Eileen adds. "Even if someone didn't want to walk into a book shop and pick up a copy in person, it takes seconds to download something a bit risqué onto an electronic device. That means plenty of readers opt to order our books online." Being an erotic fiction writer seems incredibly exciting - it conjures up images of tousled hair, red lipstick, lace negligees and feather-trimmed dressing gowns in satin. Surely it's glamorous and, well, thoroughly sexy? Eileen and Caroline, who are both in their mid-50s, are adamant that "the reality is very different indeed!"

Indeed, the duo, who both write individually under their own names as well as in tandem with the Evie Hunter moniker, also say that it takes much more than scenes of explicit sex, uncontrolled passion, and teasing bondage to make a really good erotic read.

"Firstly, different books have different levels of heat injected into them. So Ellora's Cave, our publisher in the US, likes things to be a lot more explicit than the Pleasures range for Penguin would. But all erotica, regardless, has a moral compass. An affair with a married man, for example, wouldn't be tolerated at all.

"Then we're both very plot-focused as writers - hopefully, even if you don't like the sex in the book, you'll still like the stories and the characters and everything else," they say.

"We're writing 100,000-120,000 words; there's got to be more than just the kinky stuff. In fact, one gay woman told us recently that she read one of the books and loved it, but still flicked through the sex scenes because she had no interest in them."

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Mother-of-three Eileen originally hails from the Midlands and says writing was always a passion of hers - she was a journalist who wrote her first book, the hugely successful Don't Feed The Fairies, in 2011. Meanwhile, Dubliner Caroline lives with her husband and beloved pets and wrote non-fiction before switching to her current outlet. Her work includes futuristic romances Time Slip and Virtually Yours.

Aside from the particulars of plot and characters, the pair say that central to erotica's amazing success is the sense of escapism that prevails throughout the genre: exotic destinations and steamy climates, private jets, yachts, and dashing playboys with a rogue glint in their eyes. And opening up new worlds complete with fetishes such as bondage is clearly tantalising for many readers.

"It's wonderfully exciting and thrilling to allow your mind to go on a journey with these characters," Eileen says. "And it's nice to be able to try something out mentally before giving it a go in real life. Maybe a woman is interested in bondage or a particular fetish - she can explore that mentally and if she likes the sounds of it, she could then progress on to trying it out in some capacity with her husband or partner.

"It's actually rather difficult to find out what makes you tick otherwise. Erotica can be the first of many steps to sexual fulfilment."

The women explain that they came up with the Evie Hunter pseudonym themselves, after Penguin requested a single name for their literary creations. "I liked the name Helen Hunter," says Eileen. "Caroline liked the name Eva Elliott, so we decided to split the difference."

Caroline adds: "We're definitely getting better at what we do - with every book you improve and you learn."

They're rightly proud of their success to date - and plan to continually add to their current haul of some 10 books, but Eileen admits that her three teenage children remain steadfastly "mortified by what I do". "They've never read anything I've written - and they never will!" she says. "They'd only start asking awkward questions about how I could possibly know what I know - and in such detail - about erotica!"

Caroline continues: "I don't have any children but I do have half a dozen sisters and my mother is pretty embarrassed by it all. For a while I don't think she was really aware of what it was I actually did, but eventually she got her hands on a copy of The Pleasures of Winter and, well, she's pretty aware now!"

Not that that's the limit of the awkward situations that Caroline and Eileen have weathered. Indeed, Eileen once gave a packed public bus in Switzerland an explicit preview of a forthcoming title.

Caroline explains: "I remember the publisher telling us that some edits were needed asap over the Christmas period a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, Eileen had gone skiing. She was on the side of a mountain in Switzerland with little or no wifi so we had to do the re-writes together over the phone. So there was Eileen was on a crowded public bus, which was the only place that she could get decent reception. She was describing in pretty graphic detail the sexual exploits of one of our characters while I furiously took notes on the other end of the line." "Let's just say I raised eyebrows," laughs Eileen.

The duo insist on getting every detail in their books just right. "People want it to be genuine," they explain. "If we depict a bondage scene that is implausible or unrealistic, that's frustrating for whoever is digesting that content. And a lot of our readers are well-informed about sex toys and fetishes. There isn't room for error in that regard."

Research trips to fetish fairs abroad ensure the Evie Hunter books are modern and exciting, while feedback from readers is invaluable. "Sometimes a female reader will ask for more detail on something we've included in a book," says Caroline. "An email will land that begins with something like; 'you know that thing that that character did to that woman, well I was just wondering...'"

Even more excitingly, Caroline and Eileen have just welcomed their very first Evie Hunter baby. "A reader touched base to tell us she'd just given birth to a beautiful baby that was conceived after she got pleasantly aroused reading some of the racier passages we'd written. Her husband is delighted too - on every level!"

Eileen and Caroline are already working through plots for forthcoming Evie Hunter books, as well as their own individual titles. "Irish people really do love to read about sex and to explore their fantasies," they say. "So as long as the demand is there, we'll keep writing."


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