Aurora Rey interviews Raven Sky:
First things first. Date Night has just come out. Congratulations!
So, it’s a “Choose Your Own Erotic Adventure.” I think I can use context clues, but give us an idea of what to expect.
Date Night follows two women who are out for a special night, celebrating their one-year anniversary. The story begins with the couple enjoying a meal in a sensually stimulating dine-in-the-dark restaurant. Readers get to know Quinn and Riley a bit, then are faced with their first decision. Do they want Quinn, the stylish photographer, to suggest that Riley wear a remote-controlled vibrator while they sing karaoke at a piano bar? Or do they want Riley, the caregiving veterinarian, to suggest that they check out the women-only night at a local sex club? Depending on their preference, readers will be directed to follow the storyline that most piques their interest on differing pages. Each choice then leads to new sexy situations and more exciting choices.
Something tells me there’s a story behind how this particular work came about. Am I right?
I read erotica every year at a local celebration of women’s sexuality called Cliterature. I wrote this story to perform live at the event. We set up a huge screen with a Clap-O-Meter that measured audience applause. Whenever I came to a choice in the story, I’d poll the audience. For example, I might come to a moment in the story when the reader has to decide if they want the couple’s ensuing sex scene to be romantic, steamy, or intense. Audience members would clap, and holler, and generally get loud and rowdy for the option that they preferred. The Clap-O-Meter would allow us to measure what the people wanted to hear, and I’d dutifully read the appropriate next section of the story. So if the people wanted a steamy sex scene, that’s the chapter I’d give them. The options that were not chosen, I discarded with flair—tossing them away, ripping them up, shaping them into a paper airplane and directing them at the audience, etc. It was a very lively and popular performance, and I only dared to send off the script to Bold Strokes Books because numerous members of the audience that evening encouraged me to try to publish it in its entirety. They were upset not to know how other options might have turned out! Now that Date Night is available in ebook, folks can read about every single twist and turn the story takes on Quinn and Riley’s magical night.
I have to say, most of my experience with choose your own adventure stories came in middle school. I’m curious about whether you read those as a kid.
I discovered choose your own adventure books in middle school too and enjoyed how they provided a unique form of reading that was fraught with tension—what will happen if I make the wrong choice? I always had to read through every possible outcome. For this novella, I purposefully ensured that there were no wrong choices. Though some of my initial beta readers suggested that a bad outcome might provide this story with the kind of tension that is a key characteristic of the original series, I nonetheless felt strongly that I wanted Date Night to be celebratory and uplifting. Queer women face enough potentially fraught situations where choice can determine our safety or danger. I didn’t want to contribute to furthering that feeling. Date Night provides readers with a joyous abundance of sexual choice, all of which ends well, and showcases a loving connection between two women that is hot as hell!
What do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind when writing a sex scene?
The connection between the lovers is the most important thing when writing a sex scene. Bodies can only come together in so many ways, and when sex scenes focus too much on body parts and particular acts, I know that I disengage as a reader, so I expect others do too. When it comes to erotica, I want to know how two (or more) people bring various dimensions of themselves together in a powerful moment in their lives and what their sexual connection does for them. Often my characters are learning something through an erotic encounter and leave it transformed for the better. I’m interested in how sexuality can be magic and alchemical.
I might have hesitated with this last one, but your bio references doing field research for your erotica, so I’m guessing it’s fair game. Do you pull from personal experience in your writing?
I definitely pull from personal experiences. It would be difficult not to! I suppose there are perils to dating a writer, especially of erotica ;) When I turned forty, I went through what I like to term a “sexistential crisis” where I just decided that I wasn’t content anymore with settling in my sexuality, and I subsequently set about to be more open to following the meandering call of my heart and my body, no matter how other people might judge my choices. It’s important to me to live a life that is authentic and free, playful, loving, and adventurous. Sexuality is a valued part of that intention, for me.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on my first novel, a fantasy romance set in ancient Greece that follows the intertwining lives of three Amazons. It’s very much still evolving as a first draft, so I don’t want to say too much, but after accomplishing my first novella with Date Night, I feel ready to take on the challenge of a full-length novel.
Any advice for aspiring writers out there?
Just do it. Just write because you love it. Like any other skill, you will get better at it with practice, but don’t let the fear of not being good enough keep you from being as good as you could become. You don’t have to share your work with anyone until you feel ready, but don’t let the stories that could be die inside you. Sean Thomas Dougherty expresses this perfectly in his poem “Why Bother?”
I travel a lot. Many of my stories are set in far-flung locales because my wanderlust compels me to adventure abroad as frequently as I can. I’m just a curious person, and I want to see as much of this gorgeous world as I can before I die.
This is becoming a signature feature of my author interviews, so I hope you’ll indulge me. I’m going to ask the Pivot Questions (i.e., pretend I’m James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio). So here goes…
What is your favorite word?
I’ve always loved the word undulate. So many beautiful things move in that particular, mesmerizing fashion.
What is your least favorite word?
I can never repress a shiver of revulsion on the rare occasion when someone has said arse or gitch within my hearing.
What turns you on?
It’s honestly mostly intangible things like intelligence, creativity, integrity, caring, talent, or laughter. Though I do like strong hands and can never resist a topless woman. I’m pretty feminine, so I like the contrast and gender complexity of female lovers who are little more masculine than I am.
What turns you off?
Poor hygiene and meanness of spirit are both huge turnoffs.
What sound or noise do you love?
I love hearing people laugh. I used to write and direct comedic films and my favorite part of that experience was sitting at a screening and knowing that in a few seconds the entire room would resound with laughter. It feels fantastic to bring that kind of communal experience of delight to a roomful of strangers. I mean, when you think about it, laughter’s like an irrepressible orgasm of joy that you can have in public. ;)
What sound or noise do you hate?
I hate the sound of loud, oblivious, privileged men posturing and taking up too much space. Unfortunately, I hear it a lot.
What is your favorite curse word?
In English, it’s anything I can coax from a lover’s mouth in a moment of intimate passion. In French, since I’m bilingual, it’s Putain! The word is an old-fashioned term for whore, but it’s used like Fuck! in English.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Hmm…well, so far I’ve been a writer, a teacher, a filmmaker, and an activist. I think I’d be interested in being a midwife or death doula, a caring, helpful guide at the thresholds to life and death.
What profession would you not like to do?
It would be an utter nightmare to be a slaughterhouse employee, since I’m an ethical vegetarian—but I’m not obnoxious about it, I swear. Lol.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
I’d like to hear her say: Well, it’s going to be tough to beat that next time around! That, and… Your cats have been waiting for you.