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