Today Leona D. Reish joins us for the very first installment of the How I Write Erotica interview series. It's a little different than your normal interview. If you're a writing geek like me, I think you'll enjoy this in depth look into how one erotica author gets the job done.
Who are you, what do you write?
I am Leona D. Reish; self-proclaimed vampire and author of attraction. A scribbler of sensuality and sin. A titillating typist of the finest fantasies known to… me.
I write a broad range of erotically charged stories from contemporary realist BDSM and not-so-contemporary 17th century romance to traditional fantasy styles bent and worked into my own design, including both demonic and monstrous races. “How vile and cruel!” You might think, but that’s where I start to do things a bit differently. My demonic races are a bit less fundamentally evil and not a singular unanimous force from hell, if still driven primarily by the ‘deadly sin’ of lust. My monstrous races are – at least currently – more the thing of myth watered down through generations to give a parallel of human empathy while being fundamentally “different”.
The point in this is, if subtly, to convey that no matter how detached from those around them someone seems, how different and even like a monster the world makes them feel, there is someone that loves every last one of those quirks. That lover alone lets the power of their character show for better and worse. Those sorts of characters full of vivid vulnerabilities and strengths, wild passions and often-literal claws are much more interesting to write and relate with for me than something more interested in wealth of property than wealth of emotion.
What hardware do you use?
As a writer, one of the biggest deals is the keyboard. Without that, you’d be in trouble. I have a Razer BlackWidow mechanical keyboard to that ends that I bought primarily to compliment large amounts of writing. Sure, it’s cool for gaming too but I justified it for improved typing.
I also wear ‘Gunnar’ computer glasses to prevent eyestrain from long sessions of working at a computer. They neutralise the harmful blue light from the computer screen, and also slightly sharpen and magnify what I’m doing. Whoever you are, if you spend a lot of time around computers, I’m not going to sales pitch expensive glasses but do take care to rest and adjust your eyes.
With a background in visual arts and reading, eyesight has always been very important to me. I worked with the local County Blind Association for a time and got to learn a good deal about partial blindness. 100% is very rare, but perfect vision can deteriorate in areas of the eye enough to cause issues and be classed as legally blind. Technology hasn’t really been developed around the sort of consumption time people put in or safety against such things, so it comes down to self-moderation.
It’s funny because if you’d told me I’d be saying things like this some ten years ago and I’d think you were crazy. Health and comfort really is important though, especially when writing. If I end up with a migraine from screen glare, all momentum and mood gets shot. The glasses also put everything in a fancy yellow tint, so I tend to feel like I’m playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution again. I know I asked for this though, because I bought them. Game reference, don’t mind me.
Literally topping this off, I have a lovely 7.1 surround headset that – for better or worse – blots out all external sound. Quite big, comfy pads, so when I crank system volume up to 50% for some heavy orchestral backing music, I’m not going to hear anything. There could be a fire and I’d just think “Damn, I’m on fire.” in a horridly ironic productivity sense. Okay, no, after my talk about safety that’s not actually a concern, but I won’t hear much else.
Notes are some of a writer’s most important and often least appreciated hardware devices. On and off I’ll make a concerted effort to fill out at least one A7 sized card with ideas I’ve gathered through the day before sleeping. It can be some interesting plot hooks or just revelations about how many ways I could go with what I have in mind and how great it feels. Confidence is something to keep hold of in whatever form.
Great ideas can come from anything and anywhere, so always have notes, and always have a sharp, active mind. That’s as true for writing as it was for graphical art. The two are so intertwined that when asked how to be a better graphic designer, Chip Kidd is quoted as saying “Two things–Learn how to do crossword puzzles, and learn how to write.” I may have gone about it a bit backward but I’ve always had a love to write alongside visual arts.
So eventually I’m good on notes, I have something solid in mind and my playlist is good to go. I probably don’t have any coffee or tea, depending on the hour, so we’re screwed. Anyone who tells you the kettle is not a holy grail is either lying, not British, or I don’t even know. I come across people that amaze me all the time.
Anyhow, spec wise my computer is pretty decent, averaging 7.5 on the Windows Experience panel. It plays Skyrim on Ultra whenever it isn’t crashing to desktop. It’s a good system for my being a gamer at heart, but also means I can run everything at once, have twenty browser tabs and 250mb photoshop files open and it doesn’t care. For internal storage I’ve a 120GB solid state boot drive and 2TB HD for all the rest.
Outside the case and on my desk I run a dual monitor setup. One 24”, other 17” for messenger programs and other background tasks. It lets me keep things separate, but if anyone says something, I can quickly glance over without having to tab and sort through which taskbar button it is. Things are backed up and saved to the external network drive connected to the router so I can access it from any system on the network and 4GB USB drive in the shape of Diablo’s soulstone with skull dock from Diablo III Collector’s Edition that keeps backups of files for when I’m out with the laptop.
Laptop itself is a pretty straightforward dual core thing that throws a fit if you try to boot anything that looks like a modern game on it. Gets the job done fine for writing, reading and fits in my laptop bag snug, so it’s okay when it has any battery life in it. That’s always the bane of a laptop, though.
What software and websites do you use? For what?
I’m very traditional and a bit no-fuss in this regard, so it gets simple here. For writing, I use Microsoft Word 2013. It’s considered pretty much the default option that everyone in the industry uses. I quite like the tools and utilities it has, which smoothly translate into properly formatted ebooks.
I gave Scrivener a look, but whether it’s my interest to just get on and write, the fact that I can keep track of notes without it fine or that it flat out told me “this isn’t an end-all manuscript writer, you’ll probably still need Word to finish” that I gave up on it straight away. I’m all for ingenuity and convenience, but it can get to a point where it’s not doing the job I want anyway, or not worth the time to get down and learn when I could be writing.
I’m saying that as someone who employs a lot of homemade language and notes, too. I tend to have those stored in a separate document pinned to the program’s recent documents list, the one you get on right-clicking the taskbar icon in Windows7. It’s quick and easy, lets me get back to writing without having to learn a new program’s similar functions.
As I use an external network drive and a USB drive, I don’t use much else like dropbox or Google Docs . If I’m out and about, I’m not going to be anywhere near a WiFi connection anyway. Personally moving files and having them accessible offline so I can boot up and write in the middle of a field isn’t a perk I’d get by putting files online. It’s like asking someone to hold onto your car keys all the time because then they won’t get lost. Sure, until that person is out of contact. I can carry them myself fine so I haven’t adopted that branch of technology.
Similarly, I’ve tried playing around with music players like foobar and iTunes but find them too fiddly and don’t give me information how I want it. Winamp’s compact design and ‘right-click enqueue in playlist’ function is just more appealing. For all people might swear by something, if it just isn’t appealing and intuitive without being obnoxious or situational, it’s not really for me. I just want to get back to reaching the finished product of publishing my writing for people already.
I do my own covers with Photoshop since that’s what I’ve always used since school days and when I was Graphical Director for a small Theatre company. Features, shortcuts and methods are very ingrained with that program.
Website wise, it can vary. Social media platforms like Google+ and Twitter I use primarily for interaction and updates, with a bit of advertising on the side to some great communities that would appreciate it. I know people who really aggressively use twitter as a completely different beast of following thousands and spamming out RT and book ads, and that’s cool, but not so much me.
I’m not an aggressive sort of people-finder. I want to come across as more of an approachable everyday person that writes enjoyable stories. Sort of author people can just come talk to. I write people, as people, for people, and love people. I’m not trying to be the wizard behind the curtain at all. The big driving force for me has always been to enrich and have an impact on people’s lives. If they could go past a poster or town banner of mine and get a smile from the design, great. There’s a much stronger potential and feeling for it with writing, especially erotica.
Point I’m making is every person I come into contact with through things like that is important and awesome for me. I really appreciate everyone that takes an interest in and enjoys what I do, even if that’s just reading this interview. This has been an awesome opportunity for me, too and I hope an entertaining read.
To get back on track; I frequent some image boards with segmented communities for any and all aspects of life from literature to Japanese culture and the wickedest of kinks. They can be quite inspirational in images, news or ideals. There is at least one example on my Google+ profile where I’ve found an image that’s really powerful and striking in the story it tells. Doesn’t necessarily inspire what I’m writing, it just feels good to have up.
You can find me on GoodReads a little, too. I’m still a touch quiet about posting there, though. It’s very big, ‘ask-for-invite’ and more geared towards readers than writers and authors I think, which is great in itself and a good way to connect but I’m cautious about posting as I run much more as a writer than reader in the field.
How does this setup help you write?
I went through a lot of things there, so I’ll try and get through this sharper.
Hardware wise, the mechanical keyboard means I can type for longer without feeling any strain, since that’s what they’re built for. They’re more responsive and need less force per keystroke than standard boards, so you can type for longer and maybe faster without fatigue. They are quite nice for gaming too but I mainly thought it’d be a great thing for writing more fluently with.
Same thing with the glasses; comfort and productivity in writing. It’s really important to stop yourself burning out or getting too tired in any line of work or leisure, which writing is privileged to fit into both of. The glasses reduce harmful blue light strain from the screen while also sharpening and slightly magnifying things. I can really feel it sometimes when I’m doing an edit pass. I’m staring at blocks of text so long that it feels like they should start blurring and turning into dancing elephants, but they don’t. It’s like the feeling of using 3D glasses in the cinema, once you’re used to it you can kind of “feel” the effect, rather than precisely see it. Maybe it’s just me.
Now, I mentioned some pretty heavy headphones and music player, and for good reason. I love having music to work with. Exactly what can vary from what mood I’m in, what I’m writing to just what radio stream I want to leave on. The only setback this has is when some powerful violin pieces come on, I’m incapable of writing for a good couple of minutes till I’m done appreciating it. I can really just zone out from all sense of time and enjoy writing for hours with good music on, it’s great.
What would be your dream writing setup?
Hm, dream setup. That’s a difficult one since, first of all, with my being pretty easy-going and with what techy stuff I already own, I’m quite happy already. I know this will queue some rolling eyes and laughter, but my dream is more to just get my stories out there and know people are reading and enjoying my writing rather than flashy hardware. Whether my mechanical keyboard is backlit or not –I think £30/$45 more expensive – the words, emotions and sexual intimacy I put out will end up the same.
If I can reach that goal and get books out there, the means to those ends are a bit secondary. It’s kind of the charm of books and writing; they’ve been done since long before and will continue to be done long after our concept of technology, and essentially nothing has changed about them on the fundamental level of what they do. They’re just lots of funny dark squiggles, but one glance at it and you’re in the mind of another person, maybe someone dead for hundreds of years. Maybe from a vampire that’s been alive for hundreds of years. It’s been said that writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic. If you recognise the partial quote, you’re a fantastic person.
Still, there are some things I’ve been considering looking into. Being able to write anywhere is one of the charms and dreams of an author, but you’re quickly reined in by your hardware, for one. I think a laptop with a mechanical keyboard and a stronger battery, maybe two batteries, would be nice. I may go and do more open-air writing with it coming into the summer, but the problem stands that the battery only lasts around four hours. If I were to travel to any of the nearby cities and make a day of it, there wouldn’t be much time spent actually writing due to the battery. Without somewhere to plug in, it’d be about half-dead on travel time alone if I took a bus.
Wait, I know. I just ran out of tea. A damn kettle on my desk. Okay, no, that’d be a really bad thing next to a big electrical hub. I might consider investing in a wider L shaped desk I can throw blank papers across two lengths of and look important behind. A better book shelf doubling as a display cabinet type thing too. There’s never enough room for books, but at least a couple make a good base for the nightstand lamp.
All in all, while my setup can get quite techy in places, at the end of the day it can still be pretty simplistic. So long as it lets me get the job done, what really counts is what I have in mind and getting those stories to an audience. Whether I’m using the mechanical keyboard of today, thoughtform scribe of tomorrow or ink-pot & quill of yesterday, the squiggly lines on pages will find their readers and do the sort of magic books have always given us.
That’s what makes the dream.
Daemonique presents a world of dark fantasy erotica, full of lust-embodying demons, - succubi, incubi and less human monsters – and the cursed Isle where they’re held prisoner. The story follows two paths through four volumes to a powerful, twisted end. On one hand there is the elven heroine Sylenna Lightstride, embodying the pure and righteous. On the other; Xianesh, a powerful and dangerously beautiful demoness who rules over a host of this underworld’s demons. Their paths intertwine throughout the course of Daemonique, dragging Sylenna deeper into sessions of sexual depravity and raising Xianesh’s attention higher into the world above.
While Daemonique ends telling the story of these two opposed figures, what it opens is a fantasy world I’ll be returning to in the future to develop from all angles. Daemonique is not the last you’ll see of them; it’s the start of something much bigger.