“There was no choice for me but to work really hard.”
That quote comes from Henry Rollins. He talks with passion and eloquence about the life he left behind when he was asked to join his favourite band, Black Flag, as lead singer. My life changed the moment I decided to start writing erotica. It was the moment that I realised I had to start doing things that I enjoyed in order to earn a living. I’d been writing successfully for a number of years, though mainly editorial pieces in magazines, and I always felt as if I was treading water. Sure, the work wasn’t always what most people would consider hard but it was mind numbingly boring and, more importantly, I simply didn’t have a good time doing it.
When I was in university, we were friends with a guy who was studying acting. He used to get some snide comments because he was such an out-and-out thespian. I saw it differently. I used to admire his passion, and I hoped that someday I would be able to be similarly enthusiastic about getting up in the morning purely because I was doing what I loved every day. He knew he would probably never earn a fortune or have the same material things as a lot of other people. But, that was okay with him. He went on to study at a top drama school and, the last I saw him, he was as blissfully in love with his choice of career as ever.
Sometimes in this business we get lucky. We might have a breakout hit, something that propels us up the charts and enables us to earn the kind of money we never thought would be possible as writers. But, for the most part, sheer hard work will get you there. By producing good work consistently, you build up a decent following that enjoys your stories and looks forward to the next one. That’s all we could ever really wish for as writers – that not only do people want to read our work, but that we actually get to earn a living from it too. We are so lucky that consumers have so much choice – from where to buy their e-books to how they can read them, whether that’s on smart phones, tablets, e-readers or computers. The consumers have become the gatekeepers. As long as we provide the content, it is up to them and the free market to decide what to read and how to do it.
So, the one decision that changed my life forever was to stake the farm on writing sexy stories featuring characters that we can all relate to. There’s the stressed housewife who longs for a little more adventure; the self-professed “cougar” who isn’t as confident as she seems; the sexy space traveller who has a thing for tentacles. Okay, maybe that last one is a stretch. But we can all dream, right? That’s the beauty of fiction. I’ll be grateful to every one of my readers for the rest of my life for allowing me to make a living from the contents of my imagination.
This post was originally published as my fortnightly contribution at One Handed Writers.