My first book, "The Devil's Child," written under my real name Margaret Bingley, was published in 1983 when my son was seven years old. It was about a mother who senses there is something very wrong with her outwardly perfect little boy who, she is sure, possessed a dark soul. Alone, she fought to protect the world from an evil no one but she could see. Upon reflection, this wasn't a very good advertisement for my young son! The truth was that I wrote it because I enjoyed paranormal horror stories, and having had the usual first-time mother problems with doctors who, at the time, always assumed a first-time mother was a fussy mother - so untrue that it can still make my son laugh - I mixed the two things together. The book and my subsequent horror books, did well and I enjoyed them all.
However, there is a limit to how many times you can write about strange children, or children possessed by demons, and as the books progressed some erotic scenes between the heroine and the hero - who usually wasn't the shining knight he appeared to be - began to creep in. One reviewer said that one of the books "combined elements of bittersweet romance, kinky (and very erotic) sex, with horror and suspense."
I think that this helped to give me the confidence to write my first erotic novel, "Cassandra's Conflict," which was published in 1993 and really took off. Since then I've written nothing but erotica, because the response from readers has been very interesting and encouraging, and because I've been able to develop my own particular type of erotic novel.
Within all genres of books there are sub-sections, and my erotica always has a hero who is either powerful, rich or both. He is usually someone who is somewhat detached, and difficult to get close to, but also a man who is able to lead women into a world of sexual exploration that they would never have considered trying if they hadn't become involved with him. In many of the more extreme forms of sexual pleasure, particularly S&M scenes, it's important to make it clear that the heroine can always say "no." It may be that in saying this she loses the man she's in love with, but that choice is there.
In chats with many women's groups, and in discussions that have followed after-dinner speeches about my books, it's become clear to me that many women - particularly those with high-powered jobs - fantasize about being in a situation where all responsibility for what they do sexually is taken out of their hands.
I don't for one moment think that all of these women would like it in real life, but it's a very powerful fantasy for a surprising number of them, and one that I have frequently - but not always - used as a theme.
Grace, the heroine of "The Dining Club," written under the pseudonym Marina Anderson, is a very strong character, with strong opinions, but when she falls for David - a financier who represents almost everything she's always thought she dislikes - he turns her entire life upside down and even affects the relationship between her and her closest girlfriend. Most of us have experienced at least one relationship, which starts out as overwhelming lust, and it's incredibly exciting. Whether it can be sustained or not was, for me, an interesting part of this novel.
People are usually interested in the actual mechanics of the sex scenes that I write, and whether I've tried all the positions or not. I use a lot of "how to improve your sex life" type books to get new ideas for positions, adapting them to the various settings in the books. As for trying all the positions myself, all I say to people is that Agatha Christie didn't have to commit murder in order to write about ways of doing it!
Because erotic novels are always evolving, it's a very rewarding genre to work in, but it's also harder work than most readers would suspect. Sex for women involves all the senses, so I spend a great deal of time working out what clothes my heroines will wear at certain points in the story, or describing a room that is a wonderful background to a seduction scene. In "The Dining Club," food also plays an important part in the story, in more ways than one. Getting this right was quite tricky, but I like a challenge.
I know I would be expected to say this, but it's absolutely true that Grace is definitely my favorite heroine so far, coming as she does from an arts-based background. This is an area of interest for me, as my son was an actor for five years, I started my working life at the BBC in London, and I love going to the theatre.
Looking back, I have to say that it's much nicer to be writing about men and women who are consumed by desire than killing off my characters one by one, as usually happened in my horror stories. Although both genres are completely removed from real life, most women can identify with the feeling of overwhelming desire for a man, whereas none that I know have had to battle with the forces of evil.
It does amaze me that I started out writing horror stories and 20 years later I'm writing erotica, but upon reflection I realize that it was something that I enjoyed writing from the very beginning of my writing career, and I've been extremely fortunate to be able to do something that I enjoy for such a long time.