I’m sure the phenomenal Sommer Marsden needs no introduction around these parts. (Around this blog, that is; which “parts” did you think I meant? ) Sommer and I go all the way back to my early days in the libidinous-literature community, when I was a tiny child of 43. She always saved me a seat in homeroom, and I always tried to remember to offer her half my sandwich before I’d inadvertently sat on both halves.
I recently had the pleasure—no, the ecstasy—of reading Sommer’s new e-book in the Ellora’s Cave “Quickies” series, a novella-length bundle of erotic deliciousness called Corporeal. This book has everything I love most in erotica: fresh, evocative, joyous, and thrilling descriptions of sex; lovable, sympathetic, sassy characters; a sincere, un-sappy atmosphere of sweetness throughout; and a consistent pattern of sexy, sparkling wit in the characters’ dialogue and thoughts.
I wanted especially to talk to our Smut Girl about the last item—her masterful blending of the sexy and the funny, and the way these two elements reinforce each other in a work like Corporeal, rather than ever undermining each other. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
“Yeah, me too.” The too trailed off on a long lusty sigh of goodness as he started to move. Slippery thrusts that made us dance under the moonlight like puppets on a deserted stage. “I like that. Like that. Like that,” I said, nipping his ear as his hands clamped around my waist to hold me still.
“I take it you like that, Nix?”
See how the banter punctuates the erotic moment, without detracting from it in the slightest? Let’s try to learn a little bit about how she does it ...
JE: Much of your work incorporates the comical, but not all of it does. When you begin a given story, do you usually know what the tone will be ahead of time, including whether it will be a funny-sexy story or a straight-faced sexy story? Presumably, there are times when the subject matter determines this from the outset—if it’s intrinsically very light or very heavy—but on other occasions, can it “go either way” until you actually get into the writing?
SM: Subject matter has a huge weight in that equation. Though, I can only, off the top of my head, think of about three stories where I knew that there would most likely be no humor at all. Usually humor has some play in all my stories, it’s all about degrees with me.
I can normally tell from the onset of a story if it will have a lot of humor or just a touch. But the catch is—I’m not always right about my predictions. And I learned a long time ago to go with it. To basically shut up and take dictation!
JE: The premise of your terrific plot—a woman having a relationship with a man who is, technically, dead, but who has reclaimed his corporeal incarnation—could have been played for a lot of sitcom-style laughs. Nothing against sitcoms ... but I notice that you chose a more subtle approach to the humor in this delicate situation, and I’m glad you did. In my view, a lot of the comedy here comes from the personalities, more than the situation. Did you deliberately avoid going for Bewitched or My Favorite Martian type laughs?
SM: I can’t remember deliberately avoiding anything. As boring and non-interviewy as it sounds, I pretty much zipped my lips (no minor feat, there) and let Nix do the talking. Her character was very heavy on humor, but a lot of it dry and borderline sarcastic. But she was never over the top and seemed very genuine. As in, she was very much a person you might run into and end up having a drink with. In fact, I think a lot of the humor comes from the fact that Nix would verbalize what a great many people go around thinking. Which usually gets a laugh because if something’s in your head and then bam! it pops out of someone else’s mouth you tend to laugh. So, I ran with that. I think Nix did way better in a hot and heavy scenario with a corporeal ghost than I ever would. I’d be all freaked out and whatnot. Even if he was fierce ;)
JE: For the reader, the luscious fluidity of your erogenous exposition and the natural “rightness” of your well-turned comical remarks are seamlessly integrated. Is that how it is for you at the writing end—that is, do the sex and the humor flow in tandem as you write, with each of the two elements surging where it needs to? Or do you compartmentalize them sometimes as you work—for example, by drafting a scene as “sexy” first and then going back to sprinkle in some humor?
SM: Tandem. It’s definitely a tandem deal. Also, boring and not very interview friendly, but my characters seem to do that on their own. I tend to operate independently of my brain a lot (I know many of you are shocked, especially the ones who know me well). My brain does this thing where it plants little seeds, interweaves plotlines and needed details and then basically feeds me the story so that it is balanced. Humor and sex, danger and sex, love and sex, infidelity and sex. My only conscious goals while writing are to tell the story as it is happening in my head and turn everyone on. If I’m squirming in my seat when I’m done ... ole! I’ve done my job!
JE: Do you find yourself thinking about the balance between eros and wit as a story takes shape? Do you have moments in the process where you say to yourself, “This scene has too many funny lines in a row,” or “This long scene needs some banter to break it up”?
SM: I have never ever had that thought. I have thought things like “you used hot, pounding, bit, blushed etc. too often, Sommer,” but I’ve never had to say this is too funny, let’s tone it down or this is too heavy, let’s lighten it. If I behave myself (hahahaha!) and listen to the characters and pay attention to what’s going on, they do it right every time. And if something is too funny or too light or too whatever, it’s because it needs to be for the story to play out the right way.
JE: Any other insights into how you combine these elements so effectively?
SM: See previous answers. I have no idea. I think a lot of it is, those flighty, funny, snarky characters are very close to who I am in real life so they are a bit effortless when I sit down to write them. The me you would sit and have a drink with is very much like Nix or Quinn or a few other women characters I can call to mind. I might not say as much as they say, but I would verbalize some things that most likely should be kept in my head. I think I inherited that from my grandmother. If she thought it, more likely than not, it was coming out of her mouth. Much to the chagrin of all around her. I can recall quite a few instances where she spoke and then ... no one else could. We were all sitting there with our mouths hanging open.
Before opening the floor (and, what the heck, the ceiling) to comments, I’d like to give you one more taste of the sizzle and smiles that you’ll find in this perfect little book:
Okay, the world was swimming into focus. He was swimming into focus and the fact that he was hard and ready and pressed to the front of my cutoff jeans was definitely swimming into focus. My body had done the honors of getting hot and bothered before I was actually lucid and I hummed low in my throat at the swollen, wet and ready feel of my pussy having been in contact with a sizeable hard-on while I was out. “Who are you?” I breathed. But I didn’t really need to, I knew the answer. My fingers traveled up his stark-cut cheekbones, raking over manly and quite real stubble. I ran my finger over his bottom lip, the color of summer roses before they started to fade. A perfect dusty rose shade that made me think of kisses and watermelon and sunshine.
“My name is—”
“Grant,” I sighed. I shook my head but that hurt and I groaned. “Your name is Grant and you’re dead.”
Now he shook his head, rocking that hard cock to the split between my thighs so that without thinking I sagged my thighs open a bit for him. Better access and all that stuff. “I’m not dead. At least not anymore. Or not for the moment. See?” He slid the length of his cock along the eager seam of my nether lips. The friction of my panties and my denim shorts was enough to make my heart leap into my throat.
Thank you, Smut Girl!