Sisters in Smut and Their Stories

When first invited to spend some time at a whacky-sounding gathering called The Smummit, I was both curious and cautious. In retrospect, I’m not sure what I was worried about. The event was hosted by my good friend (and favorite extrovert) Dr J and I’m always happy to spend time with smart, funny women — especially when one of my besties refers to them as sisters.

Unfortunately, my hesitation is something these women encounter quite often, simply because of their genre: they write erotica. It’s not a genre with which I’m terribly familiar, so, of course, curiosity took over. Not only were all the Smummit participants delightful humans — they also happen to be good writers. So I decided to conduct some interviews. I hope you enjoy getting to know Ria Restrepo, Wednesday Noir, and Oleander Plume as much as I did.

Meet Some Sisters in Smut

So, ladies — sisters — let’s talk about pen names. Why do you use one and how did you come up with it? Any special significance? Let’s start with you, Oleander. (Here’s her Twitter handle.)

Before I came up with my pen name, I had a blog called Poison Pen/Dirty Mind, and, for reasons that still mystify me, I wanted a pen name that coordinated. Anyway, oleander is a poison, and plume is French for pen, so…Oleander Plume.

And what about you, Ria?

I use a pen name primarily to protect my privacy. It’s unfortunate, but a woman writing erotica tends to draw unwanted attention and I’d rather not have weirdos showing up on my doorstep. Also, most of my family is not aware that I write erotica. I’m not sure how they’d react, but to avoid any possible unpleasantness, I keep it to myself.

As for how I chose it, I wanted something that reflected my Hispanic heritage. I’ve always liked the predominantly Colombian surname Restrepo, so that was easy. To pick my first name, I used a character naming book where I learned Ria means “from the river’s mouth.” I liked its sound and no one appeared to be using it, so that’s what I chose.

But Why?

How did you come to this genre? What are some of the unique joys and challenges faced by romance/erotica writers in general? You specifically? Let’s start with Wednesday.

Writing erotica seemed natural to me. I love the genre and always have. But there’s more to erotica than sex. Maybe it’s weird, but I want to write erotica for women — to give them a mental vacation from their daily lives and a story to lose themselves in. And hopefully, once in a while, make them laugh. This genre is home to me. It’s where I feel safe, and those dirty stories are more than a collection of naughty words: they’re a symbol for empowerment, a chance to explore, a place where everyone belongs.

How about you, Oleander?

Why I started writing erotica is too complex to go into here, but I can tell you why I keep writing it, despite the challenges: the answer has a lot to do with shame.

I’m shamed for being a survivor of sexual violence. I’m shamed for being a woman who enjoys reading and writing about sex. I’m shamed for being a woman who writes gay romance. Sure, I could quit writing smut and possibly have a happier life, but I refuse.

This is my personal rebellion against the conservative right. Against patriarchy. Against the ridiculous and dangerous current political regime.

Against the shame I’ve felt about myself.

Erotica writers can do important things. We can normalize healthy sexual relationships for folks of all types. We normalize consent. We can normalize diversity. We can inspire, empower, and help survivors heal. That’s why I will never stop peddling smut.

Erotica writers can do important things. We normalize consent. We can normalize diversity. We can inspire, empower... Click To Tweet

Some Advice from the Sisters

And, sticking with Oleander for one more question, please: What advice do you have for someone just starting out as a writer?

The absolute best advice I can give is this: your words are not precious. Say it out loud with me, right now:

“My words are not precious.”

Here’s the thing, when you start out, 99% of your work is going to suck. IT’S SUPPOSED TO SUCK! No one is born a writer. We writers make ourselves, using hard work and tenacity. Staying humble is an important part of the process.

When you drop your defenses and allow your work to be edited or critiqued, you’ll grow as a writer. And as a human.

Ria, do you have any advice for our readers who write?

I’ve really stepped up my blogging game within the last year. My blog is called Ria’s Writing and is mostly erotic romance stories. Mainly, I do it to keep myself writing on a regular basis and to build an audience. I also love the challenge of writing stories for the various online writing prompts which allow me to experiment with ideas I might not have tried and gain confidence in my own writing instincts.

Sweet Adventure

Finally, ladies… do you have anything to say about your visit to Amelia Island? Let’s continue with Ria.

Amelia Island is a beautiful area I was thrilled to finally visit. The carriage ride around the historic area was definitely a highlight. I especially enjoyed the ghost stories—and I may have even come away with a picture of a possible supernatural sighting. Above all, though, I was overjoyed to meet and connect with the very talented women I’d only interacted with online. Meeting the Sisters in Smut in person reinforced everything I already knew: they are the most supportive and encouraging group of women I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

Meeting the sisters in person reinforced everything I already knew: they are the most supportive and encouraging group of women I've ever had the pleasure of working with. Click To Tweet

What about you, Wednesday Noir?

Visiting Amelia Island changed me. It wasn’t the beautiful streets, the charming houses, or even the sea breeze. But believe me, I enjoyed the scenery and still miss the breeze.

It was the company that changed me. I’m an agoraphobic introvert. When I set out to write for a living, I never expected to make friends. But oh boy, I did. I’d already met Dr. J, and chatted with the other Sisters In Smut daily, but I didn’t expect the emotional impact of being in the same room. There was so much laughter, my cheeks hurt the entire trip, and oh gosh, the happy tears. I’m surprised we didn’t flood the island.
Not only that, I didn’t expect to come away from the trip with even more writer friends. Everyone I met, was so sweet, so kind, and taught me there’s more to life than writing and Twitter: I can talk to people, and I can go places. I’ve even been getting out more while at home. The island is beautiful, but I enjoyed the Amelia Island state of mind most. I carried a bit of y’alls good humor and easy-going nature home with me. Seriously, is anyone ever grouchy there?

See what I mean? They’re lovely. Here are some sisters’ author bios for you.

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Oleander Plume plans on living until she is 100, so the fact that she didn’t start writing until the age of 50 doesn’t bother her at all. Her short stories have been featured in best-selling erotic anthologies from Cleis Press and Riverdale Ave Books. Horatio Slice: Guitar Slayer of the Universe, published by Go Deeper Press, is Oleander’s first (but hopefully not last) full-length novel. When Oleander isn’t writing, you can find her creating art, dabbling in graphic design, or hanging out with her wonderful family in Chicago, Illinois.

Ria Restrepo may appear to be a mild-mannered bookworm who drinks too much coffee and spends most days tapping away on her computer, but beneath the quiet exterior lurks a filthy-minded sex kitten with a lurid and lascivious imagination. Her work has appeared in Spy Games: Thrilling Spy Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica of the Year Volume 1, Chemical [se]X 2: Just One More, The Sexy Librarian’s Dirty 30 Volume 3, and coming soon in Best Bondage Erotica of the Year Volume 1.

When Wednesday Noir isn’t writing, she can be found with a cat on her lap, a cup of cinnamon tea in hand, watching cheesy 80s horror movies while avoiding in-person social interaction. She’s not married but considers herself in a committed relationship with Netflix. 

 

pink neon sign says, "discover, embrace, be you."

Hashtag WritingCommunity: Emma Lombard on Building an Author Platform

 

Photo of writer Emma Lombard in her post on social media and followers

When I ventured into the Twitterverse, I was terrified. Having witnessed how quickly situations could turn toxic on social media, I didn’t want to involve myself in this world. But a huge part about being an author is putting yourself out there and social media plays a big role in that these days.

I resurrected my Twitter account in 2018 (dormant since 2010) and I most fortuitously tripped across the #WritingCommunity.

Tentatively Venturing into Social Media

I spent months fumbling my way around Twitter, feeling insecure and unsure about what to do – or more importantly, what not to do. I didn’t want to step on any Twitter toes. I started posting Twitter Tip threads that garnered a lot of thanks and praise from those still learning themselves. I ended up with so many Twitter Tips threads that I decided to put them together as my first blog, TWITTER TIPS FOR NEWBIES. It has turned out to be a big hit with folks, as have my follow-up blogs in the series.

I’m no expert in social media, in human relations or in the publishing industry – I have a little more knowledge than some folks and a whole lot less knowledge than others. I share my own experiences. Sometimes, all folks need is to know they are not alone on their journey and that others are experiencing similar challenges.

Sometimes, all folks need is to know they are not alone on their journey. Click To Tweet

 

Figuring Out How Social Media Ticks

I research blogs and online marketing sites for advice. Social media is an evolving platform, so I figure that reading the most up-to-date news about its functions from those in-the-know is the way to go.

Interestingly, I found some marketing websites better and easier to understand than Twitter or Facebook’s help sites. The best sites for me are the ones with pictures or videos. Bless all those guys and gals who know how to record this info and upload it!

One thing I like to do on Twitter is to boost those who have fewer than 1,000 followers. I don’t do this to encourage folks to play the numbers game. I do it because Twitter analytics don’t seem to give any traction to the posts of those with fewer than 1,000 followers. This came from my personal experience – I found that once I tipped over the 1,000 mark, I popped up on people’s feeds and they interacted with me more.

One thing I like to do on Twitter is to boost those who have fewer than 1,000 followers. Click To Tweet

 

Taking Care Not to Be Overwhelmed by Social Media

pink neon sign says, "discover, embrace, be you."

One huge job for me is screening new followers on Twitter to decide if we’re compatible. I don’t blind follow (I made that rookie mistake in the beginning). As part of my daily Twitter housekeeping, I do a quick screen for bots – they’re easy to spot – and I block them instantly. For everyone else who’s a real person, if they interact with me on my feed and I see that they are following me, I screen them for compatibility and if we’re a good fit, I follow back.

This process keeps me supporting and following new folks while not being overwhelmed by a large number of followers. I realise I’m in a fortunate position and I can only thank the lovely peeps in Twitter’s #WritingCommunity for making this happen.

I’ve taken my time about building my author platform, only extending myself into new areas once I was comfortable with a certain niche. I began with Twitter, then branched out to blogging and my most recent endeavour is my Facebook author page.

 

Should Writers Have a Large Social Media Following?

Hoo boy! This is a loaded question with so many varying opinions, including from editors, agents and publishers! From my understanding, it is essential to have a decent social media following if you are planning to self-publish or if you are going down the traditional publishing route with non-fiction. The jury is still out in my court whether a large following is essential if you’re planning to be a traditionally published fiction author – some agents say you do, some say you don’t.

From my understanding, it is essential to have a decent social media following if you are planning to self-publish. Click To Tweet

I think folks need to do what they are happy and comfortable with. Not everyone is comfortable with having thousands of followers because they don’t feel they can connect with that many people, while others feel it’s important to have that broader base to work with when it comes to their marketing strategies.

barefoot person sitting on a big pile of books readingHowever, I will add that I’ve not yet seen a hard-sell marketing campaign on Twitter succeed in any sales; but I have seen dozens and dozens of books bought by folks who have a relationship with authors. The key factor, whether you have 100 followers or 100,000 followers, is positive engagement and interaction, which is integral for building those relationships.

 

Lift Others Up

Genuinely engaging with folks online (aka, your potential readers) takes time and energy but if you are planning on building a supportive following, you need to put the work in – it’s like anything in life really. If you are only in it for the numbers, most people will spot you from a mile away. I believe you earn your true followers through engagement. Having thousands of empty followers isn’t going to make people buy your books, read your poetry or sign up to your blog.

Genuinely engaging with folks online (aka, your potential readers) takes time and energy but if you are planning on building a supportive following, you need to put the work in. Click To Tweet

I’m not on social media to compete with other writers, I’m here to share in their journey and share mine with them. By lifting other writers up in Twitter’s #WritingCommunity, I have been lifted, supported and loved tenfold by so many wonderful folks.

 

What the Pros Have to Say

That’s my rookie two cents’ worth. Here’s what the publishing pros have to say about building your social media platform as a writer:

  1. A great Twitter thread from Megan Manzano (@Megan_Manzano), YA Editor & Book Blogger – Agent Apprentice @CorvisieroLit – 1/5 of @WriteCraftQuest and #Pitchwars Mentor: tips and tricks to help build your social media platform
  2. A one-hour-long vlog from @WriteCraftQuest – A collective of #editors supporting writers on their publishing adventure @Maria_Tureaud @SouffleLumiere @Megan_Manzano @Justine_Manzano: Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Writers

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Emma Lombard was born in Pontefract in the UK. She grew up in Africa – calling Zimbabwe and South Africa home for a few years – before settling in Brisbane, Australia nearly 20 years ago. She writes historical fiction and keeps platform-building authors on their toes as the #WritingCommunityMum

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