Dark Secret Love by Alison Tyler – Interview

Today, I have the supreme pleasure of hosting Alison Tyler on her month-long blog tour for her fabulous new novel Dark Secret Love. I have known Alison as a writer for a while and, last January, she accepted the first erotic short story I ever wrote for a submissions call into one of her wonderful anthologies. Since then, I’ve been in contact with her a lot for various projects and I can honestly say that it would be difficult to imagine a nicer person to interact with. She is someone who genuinely supports writers and readers alike, and it makes me really happy to see how well Dark Secret Love is doing already.

Alison was nice enough to take the time and answer a few questions below and at the bottom of the entry, I will post my own review of her latest novel Dark Secret Love.

Interview with Alison Tyler

You are one of the most respected women in the erotica market with so many publications under your belt, it’s hard to count them – but does Dark Secret Love still represent something new and different in your career?

Writing is a necessary function. Like drinking coffee. I need my fingers on a keyboard, or wrapped around a pencil, or scribbling frantically with my favorite BIC. But DSL was a unique experience. I wrote the book(s) in increments of about 1,000 words a day. Nearly every day. For almost a year and a half. Then I tied up the words for more than five years before trying to figure out how to turn the raw material into book form. For the longest time, I was seriously paralyzed by how to tackle a project so immense.

How do you feel about exposing as much about yourself as well-written and heartfelt erotica seems to demand?

My single-author short story collection for Cleis is called Exposed. I’m obsessed with the sensation of peeking out from beneath my long bangs—or over the top of my dime-store shades—at readers. In fact, I’ve been working (for several years now) on a new collection of stories called Full-Frontal Fiction. So maybe I’m a bit addicted to disrobing with my words.

Something funny, though. People often are dead sure that certain of my stories must be true. And some are/some aren’t. “How could I write something that sounds real without living through it?” Well, it’s called being a writer. I think if you are truthful with your words, honest with your emotions, your characters will live and breathe on the page. This can be more difficult than it sounds. Sometimes characters rebel. You tell them what you want them to do, and they disobey. Often, if you listen, they know more than you do!

What do you like about the erotica market and what would you say are some of the more problematic or unfortunate issues?

You might not believe this, but when I started writing, I didn’t realize I was writing erotica. I thought I was just writing stories.

So any issues I have with the erotic market is probably true for the whole system of publishing. Since I grew up in a house with a writer and a publisher, I can often see situations from both points of view. How do writers make a living? How do publishers survive?  I suppose the topic that bothers me the most right now is payment for e-books. In the past, authors made maybe 7-10% royalty. Now, I know from experience that doesn’t translate to publishers running around with 93% in their pockets. (Here is one of my posts on the topic.) But I think the numbers should change for e-books—especially for e-only publishing houses—or at least shuffle closer to the middle. When you take out the printers, the warehouses, the fulfillment from the equation, you are cutting a lot of the expenses.

Do you have any advice for young writers trying to break into it?

Don’t stop. Fill the pages. You can’t edit if you have nothing to work with. (And I’m a slut for revisions.) Write for as many calls as you can manage. When I started, I pitched to every magazine I could find: Yellow Silk, Libido, Playgirl, Penthouse, Playboy. I had a file filled with rejection slips for years until I built a small bonfire and ashed them.

Has everything really changed since 50 Shades of Grey?

Well, I don’t use the color “grey” in my work anymore. Not that I ever really did. Thank god the series wasn’t called 50 Shades of Chrome, or I’d be totally screwed. (I am dipped in chrome.)

What is more fun – writing or editing anthologies?

I can’t write all the time. But I’m a whirling dervish who needs to be kept busy. Editing lets me flex a different side of my brain. I adore editing on a theme. This fulfills the part of me that always yearned to be a gallery curator. I can choose a topic and build an entire exhibit—I mean, collection—around a solitary idea. Often my favorite stories simply dip their pearly painted toes in the water of the theme.

Curators have so much fucking fun. I loved a recent exhibit built around the light bulb.

With so much erotica in your work-life, what do you read when you are just trying to unwind?

On my nightstand right now: Electroboy by Andy Behrman, Hello Sailor by Eric Idle, Thrill Seeker by Kristina Lloyd, and Wrecking Crew by John Albert. I’m dying to read Restricted Release by Sommer Marsden, but I don’t have a copy (or a Kindle) yet.

Okay, I lied. I don’t have a nightstand. In my purse is Electroboy. In the car is Hello Sailor. And I often carry Wrecking Crew around with me, you know, for company. There are books all over my world. I dip in and out when I have a second. Some days, I can’t manage to read any more words, though. My eyes simply refuse. That’s when I give up and watch Rome or The West Wing.

How do you keep it from getting boring – what’s your secret to keeping it fresh and relevant even after your hundredth short story?

The 100th one was so long ago. I mean, like 20 years ago (say it aint’ so, Joe!). As you might imagine, I don’t tally numbers anymore.

The thing is, there is always something new you can bring to the Formica table, or polished wooden bar, or blanket stretched out on a Santa Monica Beach. I could spend my whole life writing about two characters. I know I could. I’d change the scenery, the situations, the weather, the world around them, the way they related to one another, the positions they desired, the kink in their coffee.

I’m always running into brand-new ideas. Often when I can’t possibly take a break from what I’m currently working on to focus. That’s when they usually get me.

If you don’t believe an exciting event is right around the corner (or down that shadowy alleyway), why bother opening your eyes in the morning?

Well, I guess there’s the coffee.

Alison Tyler is a shy girl with a dirty mind. Find her 24/7 at http://alisontyler.blogspot.com because she doesn’t like to sleep.


Review: Dark Secret Love

Dark Secret Love is a book I wanted to read ever since Alison posted the cover on her blog for the first time and described the project. It’s not only the most beautiful cover I’ve ever seen in the genre, the premise made me a little giddy, too. I read most of the classic bdsm novels when I was still a teenager – I stole Justine from my grandparent’s library, found the Story of O in tatters in a box of old paperbacks. I don’t know where I got the others, what secrecy was involved but I always wanted to find out about this, needed to read. That doesn’t mean I loved them all, the truth is I didn’t find what I was looking for in any of them – but each of them had a strong voice that pulled me through anyway.

It’s that voice that I often miss in contemporary erotica, why I actually read in the genre pretty rarely, especially when it comes to longer works. Dark Secret Love has that voice – a different one really, a brand new one. When I tried to sort it into my goodreads shelves I didn’t even know where to put it at first – erotica? romance? contemporary lit? It has elements of all of those and that’s what makes it so good – it breaks some rules, it emerges out of the sea of slightly stale sexy stories as something different.

Dark Secret Love, like the tag line suggests, is a story about submission, but it’s also – and I think more so, a story about submissives, about the long and difficult emotional journey of that particular sexual orientation. It’s a story about a young woman searching and trying, about her failing and trying again. And it doesn’t matter that what I personally was ultimately looking for was very different from the heroine’s – it’s the struggle that resonated.

Alison Tyler doesn’t gloss over the difficult parts, she doesn’t start the story where the heroine meets the man of her dreams – hell, even when she finds him, it’s a complicated thing. Because being sub is sometimes really complicated, and there is communication involved and a lot of contemplation and experimentation until it feels all right to be who you are. I loved how Dark Secret Love captured this.

For me, it wasn’t erotica or romance – it didn’t feel like genre, much like Alison expressed in the interview above – it just a story of a woman. And due to the nature of her story, it contained a lot of beautifully written sex and submission, but it has a lot more to offer. In fact, I thought this would have still been a great and compelling story without any adult material in it at all. That was just a  bonus, made it more real, even more tangible.

There was a beautiful authenticity to her voice, that made reading almost an act of voyeurism rather than the idea of taking the place of the heroine, like it is so often the case in erotica. This is not a shell of a character I could project myself on, it’s a very much alive and loud person of her own who tells me her story. And I loved every minute of it.

Especially as an author myself, I don’t want to finish this review without praising Cleis Press for the cover design and formatting. It’s so gorgeous, understated and sweet – it gives me exactly the right feeling to read this novel and the chapter headings, the font, everything was just perfectly designed and made the reading experience that much nicer.

You can purchase a copy pretty much anywhere where they sell books and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a deeper and more honest, unglossed view into the world of sadomasochism and bdsm in general.

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