Interview with Kathleen Warnock of the Best Lesbian Erotica Series
6th Feb 2012 in Guest Post
Kathleen Warnock wears many hats: playwright, editor of both travel and erotica, journalist, fiction writer, literary curator, Ambassador of Love. But here she has on her editor-of-Best-Lesbian-Erotica hat (not sure how that hat would look, but I know I’d like it). I’m a huge fan of the Best Lesbian Erotica series – it was my girlfriend’s gift of BLE ’09 that got me writing erotica in the first place! I’m thrilled to have stories in the ’11 and ’12 books, and so I asked Ms. Warnock a few questions:
Q. What is your process for deciding which stories should be included in Best Lesbian Erotica (BLE)?
First, I read a story entirely on its own, for a sense of its quality, style and fitting the genre; from there, it gets a “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.” As I read, I generally begin to get a sense of recurring themes, kinds of characters, and ideas that seem to be on a lot of peoples’ minds. I read the stories again, and begin to get an idea for how they might go together. I’m looking for a range of style and content: they can’t all be very dark, or very funny, or all hookups, or all long term relationships. There has to be a mix, but it’s good when one story might lead to another in style or theme. And, no matter how well written a story is, it has to fit within the genre: erotica. I’ve had some wonderful stories that could definitely be published that wouldn’t fit in this anthology for one reason or another: usually because someone ends up dead (not erotic), or there is an element of self-loathing that’s not resolved (also not erotic).
I try to get it down to a set of stories that I feel is publishable; then I hand it over to the guest judge, who makes a final selection of about 20 stories, and some alternates. Sometimes I make bets with myself on which stories the judge will choose. I’m never 100% right. The judge gets the stories back to me, I give them an order, and I submit them to Cleis (the publisher). Cleis gives feedback, and may suggest adding or dropping a story, and we go back and forth on it, and that’s how we end up with our final table of contents.
Q. What is your favourite part of editing BLE?
I like emailing authors and saying: “you’re in,” and later, I like sending them money. I love getting the books in the mail! (No, I do not have a Kindle).
Q. Do you regret letting any stories go?
There was one story I loved two years ago, and it ended up getting cut for space reasons, and I contacted the author and urged her to submit it again, and it was a finalist again (amid a crop of completely different stories), and a different guest judge chose it the following year. So “the one that got away” one year, didn’t get away the next.
Q. Are there any common themes/plots/characters that you’d like to never see again?
Well, I’ll give any trope a chance if it’s told in a new or different way, but some of them are hard to pull off. For example: teacher/student stories; badly done domme/sub relationships (usually written by people who are intrigued by the idea, but don’t have a real sense of the scene); relationships where a woman is terribly jealous of a man, and convinces her lover have sex with the man (while some of those stories are actually submitted by male authors, there are some submitted by women as well).
Q. Is there something you’d love to see in a story, but never or rarely do?
Sex with animals! No, I’m just kidding. I really don’t want to see stories that have sex with animals. Or anything coerced/non-consensual, or anything with an underage protagonist being seduced/dominated by a much-older woman. What I would like to see, and in fact, I am seeing more of since I’ve started editing this series, are stories that have some emotional heft to them (well, like yours, Kirsty). I certainly like well written stories that are pretty much just about people fucking, and there will always be a lot of them in BLE, but I also like ones where memorable, real characters go someplace that we want to go with them. I told one of the authors in BLE ’12 that I could see her story published, as is, in a literary magazine, and it fit perfectly in with our anthology. I look forward to your novels, because you’ve got a craft, a way of creating a sense of place, and a fearlessness that characterizes a good writer.
The deadline for this year’s BLE is April 1, and you can get specific guidelines at www.kathleenwarnock.com
This year’s BLE (selected by Sinclair Sexsmith) is available now, as are BLE ’11, selected by Lea DeLaria, and BLE ’10, selected by the band BETTY.