This week I am fortunate to share an interview with Max Sebastian, one of the top erotic authors in the hotwife genre today, as well as other erotic fiction. Max is responsible for penning such well-received works as the Anarchy of the Heart series, What’s Mine Is Yours (A Wife-sharing Romance), and A Killer of a One Night Stand.
First, let’s start with how did you stumble into writing erotica?
I’ve always enjoyed reading stories that provoke a reaction in the reader, from the excitement of children’s stories in my youth I progressed to murder mysteries and then horror stories in my teens, and while I started trying to write my own stories, those genres I enjoyed reading just didn’t quite click with me when I was writing. It was something about the negativity in the mysteries and horror stories I was drawn to at that point that got to me — I wanted to write something exciting, but more positive, somehow. In my mind there was enough misery in the world already for me to go inventing more of it. Then at college I picked up a copy of Maxim Jakubowski’s Mammoth Book of Erotica in a book store, out of some sense of rebellion, and was just blown away by the power that erotic fiction had to provoke a response in the reader — and a positive response at that. I tried writing similar stories myself, and it simply clicked. In the late 1990s, the Internet developed and there was this website Literotica.com, which offered a ton of free erotic stories — some good, some not so good — a great place to share your own efforts, and a lively feedback system and chat forum to help writers to develop their craft, and so that website was a great platform to encourage my writing, and realize that some other people actually enjoyed what I was writing.
You’ve made a name for yourself in the hotwife genre, as well as a few others. What prompted you to begin writing hotwife tales?
In erotica, I believe you write what turns you on — anything else has a whiff of insincerity to it. I started out writing erotic stories about college students when I was a college student. I took a five-year hiatus in my twenties, which I now regret, because my focus was on my career as a journalist, but when I came back to erotic fiction I was older and married, so it was natural for me to gravitate toward stories about slightly older, married characters. But here was a problem: I was in a wonderful stable marriage, but I couldn’t find the right level of drama in writing about people settled in rock-solid marriages like mine — and I didn’t want to write about people cheating on each other, because of my desire to write about the uplifting side of sexuality, and not descend into misery. I knew about swinging, but my opinion was skewed by the mainstream media’s semi-comical depictions of it as some kind of freak show frequented by deeply unattractive people, so I discounted it as a sub-genre. Then I read stories by the likes of Charlotte Stein and some of the short story anthologies edited by Violet Blue, and it opened my eyes to the idea of married people choosing to open up their relationships. I started trying to write my own story along those lines — which became Anarchy of the Heart — and found that as long as I didn’t use the term ‘swinging’, I could find the interest in people breaking out of monogamy without worrying about the preconceived ideas I’d been given about swingers. Anarchy of the Heart was essentially a story about a couple swinging while on vacation in a beautiful location, written from the point of view of one of the men (Leo). I started writing the story believing it would focus on Leo’s sexual exploration of another woman (Sofia) without guilt, since his fiancée was allowing it and it was all out in the open. As I was writing it, though, I found the more interesting aspect was how Leo came to respond to the thought of his fiancée (Caitlyn) sleeping with another guy (Marco). I was writing my own feelings on the matter, as though Caitlyn was my wife, and rather than simply turning a blind eye to the adultery of Caitlyn so that he could happily enjoy the stunning Sofia, I discovered a strange fascination, and an even stranger excitement in Leo at the thought of his partner going off to do something so wicked as sleeping with another man. As I progressed through Anarchy of the Heart, following the journey of Leo through the nerves of first contemplating consensual infidelity with Caitlyn, to his explosive mixture of jealousy and arousal as she actually goes off with Marco, I developed my own taste for the hotwife fantasy. And that led me to reading books by the likes of Kirsten McCurran and Kenny Wright, which were so good they cemented the subgenre in my own personal fantasy world.
As you just mentioned, your first published erotic work, Anarchy of the Heart, happens to remain one of my favorite stories of all time. For some reason the two couples stick with me more than any others. Do you care to share what inspired the characters of Leo and Caitlyn, and Sofia and her rugged Spanish lover, Marco?
Locations in my stories are usually, though not always, places where I’ve spent time, but I’d say characters are only occasionally (and even then only partly) based on people I’ve known, or people in real life. In Anarchy, the characters just emerged from the ether. Leo and Caitlyn were an American couple, because personally I’ve always found the American accent most attractive, they were defined as young professionals as I was writing about them for reasons I’ve already mentioned, and they were traveling to Europe as a prompt for them to discover a whole new world that would leave their relationship forever changed. Sofia and Marco emerged as a beautiful, exotic Mediterranean couple who would offer a completely different outlook to that which Leo and Caitlyn were resigned to in the months leading up to their wedding. So as always happens with me, even if characters are partly inspired by real people, the characters as first defined then run with the storyline and come to define themselves by how they think, how they act, how they react. With that philosophy, you never entirely know how it’s all going to turn out, and the ending of Anarchy came somewhat as a surprise to me as I was writing the book.
Also in that story, without giving away the plot, Leo’s wife Caitlyn decides to spend the night alone with Marco. I’ve noted in many books in the swinger and hotwife genres, this happens, yet from many first-hand accounts it seems this is a rare occurrence in real life. Do you ever debate writing pure fantasy versus something that could happen in real life, or do you just let the story take you wherever it may lead?
Anarchy was written before I started to research the experiences of real couples engaged in wife-sharing and swinging, and it was entirely shaped by my own desires and my own curiosity at the time. At the same time, I would only ever claim that my stories share certain aspects of the experiences real couples might have in real life, because I’m not writing about real people, and I’m not trying to record a kind of communal experience, I’m looking at the experiences only of the specific couples in my stories. It is their fantasies, their tastes, their decisions, their responses that interest me, not a kind of sense that this is how non-monogamous couples should behave. Erotica is all about fantasy, even if you do need to anchor it in some kind of realistic frame to achieve believability. And when it comes to the act of wife-sharing and swinging, there’s such a huge range of tastes out there anyway. Plenty of husbands would enjoy the experience of a wife going solo with another guy, but plenty of other husbands would never agree to anything unless they were there to watch. It’s one reason why the hotwife field is so interesting to write about, there’s countless options for how to explore the fantasy in a story.
That being said, care to share if any of your books were based on real-life experiences?
Only in that stories are usually set in places I’ve visited, and that some characters display aspects of people I’ve met during my lifetime. And of course, the sexuality in the writing stems from personal experience, since you can only write what you know about. As for the whole wife-sharing thing — well, for me that’s fantasy only. My wife knows that it gets me going, particularly since often she helps beta-read the books, but there’s definitely no swapping or sharing in our pasts.
Your book What Your Husband Really Thinks paints a pretty fun picture of a couple that experiment with sex outside of marriage, yet don’t seem to have any problems they are trying to solve in their marriage. Do you find that writing about this type of couple is more difficult than writing about a couple trying to fix a broken marriage, or couples who cheat without caring about the consequences?
No, in fact I find it much harder to write about couples trying to fix broken marriages, and the thought of writing about couples cheating on each other without caring about the consequences really doesn’t get me going at all. I am generally interested in writing that allows readers to escape reality and fantasize about sizzling erotic adventures, rather than deconstruct a relationship as it fails, even if it is then somehow salvaged. The key sexy thought (for me) in the whole hotwife thing is that the husband consents to his wife’s infidelity. He has to deal with the fear and the excitement of such a decision, and the couple has to come to terms with it, because it’s such an alien concept in contemporary Western society’s approach to heterosexual relationships. So while I do enjoy writing about the hotwife lifestyle as a “fix” for problems in a marriage, I have no qualms writing about couples in a completely stable marriage who still decide wife-sharing is for them. Plenty of real people in stable relationships fantasize about consensual infidelity, after all, so I figure like me there will be a readership that wants to read about this kind of thing.
You’ve ventured off onto a slightly different take on erotica with the mystery thriller A Killer of a One Night Stand. Did you enjoy the experience, and has it been well-received by fans?
Killer was all about enjoying the experience, because as a genre-crossover it was never going to sell as well as the standard wife-sharing romance. I would say it was very well received by those who read it, which pleased me a great deal, but I don’t think all readers who are interested in reading a story about naughty wives are going to want to read a murder mystery at the same time, even if this murder mystery ultimately explores a secret world of wife-sharing among the elites of London society. For me, it started out as my attempt to write a book in one of my favorite non-erotic genres — a murder mystery — while also including aspects of erotica that make it the most appealing genre for me to write in. This was intended to be simply a sexy thriller, but as I conceived of the crime and the kind of people my protagonist would meet during the investigation, it descended more and more into the hotwife field, since that is where my key interest lies at the moment. And as my longest story by far at more than 200,000 words, with dozens of characters involved (to varying degree), Killer offered an unbelievable opportunity to explore various different wife-sharing dynamics all in one place, so it was wonderfully entertaining to write.
How long does it take you to write your average book?
It very much depends on the length of the book, and that is determined by how the story goes, not really my desire to write a book of a certain length. It also depends on how much time I’m able to devote to the writing because I split my time between being a writer and being a stay-at-home dad. My wife is the full-time worker in our household, so while I have a certain amount of time allocated to writing each week, if my children are sick or on vacation, they are the priority for me. Having said that, if I put in a full day of writing, I’ll be happy if I get 4,000 words done. The most I’ve ever written in one day was 10,000 words. On the whole, I can write a full-size novel in one month, but usually it will take two months, and quite often three or four depending on the story. And as with many writers, sometimes inspiration will hit at inopportune times, and I’ll leave a story half-finished in order to pursue another that suddenly grabs my attention. Then once you’ve got that first draft written, it takes a surprisingly long time to proof-read, edit, and complete the re-writes. With A Killer of a One Night Stand, I originally aimed to put out a 35,000-word episode once a month, and I failed to keep up with the schedule, it was quite grueling at times to meet my self-imposed deadlines, and the completed six-episode story probably ended up taking a year to write.
Do you work with a team of editors, cover designers, etc., or is it all you?
This is the wonderful world of indie publishing, so most of it is me. I have a small team of volunteer editors and beta-readers who are absolutely fantastic at looking through my stories unbelievably quickly once they are written, and provide an invaluable service to me and my readers. I am also very lucky occasionally to have my good friend and fellow hotwife erotica author Kenny Wright edit some of my stories, and the multi-talented Kenny also sometimes designs my covers. I’m always keen to find more beta-readers, but the economics of indie publishing mean that for me, hiring in an editor would probably wipe out the proceeds of my sales, and this writing actually puts food on the table for my family and I.
Changing directions for a moment, the models on your books and site are beautiful – do you know all these gorgeous women?!
Sadly I don’t know them, they’re simply professional models employed by agencies which provide images for this kind of thing, but I think if I did know them, my wife would not be so happy about it!
When you were starting out you were publishing to Literotica.com. Has the Kindle revolution and Amazon’s self-publishing platform changed your way of writing, i.e. thinking about full-length books with covers instead of online stories?
I would say that it has only changed my way of writing in that I can now devote much more time to my fiction, because the Kindle revolution and Amazon self-publishing platform mean that it now provides a proper income, allowing me to cut back on my non-fiction work and devote it to these stories. Literotica.com was wonderful in the early days in shaping my erotic writing, mainly through providing me with somewhere to put it, to share it, and see how readers responded to it. Amazon (and to a lesser amount rival ebook platforms, although at present those rivals don’t provide nearly as quality a service) also provides an unbelievable freedom with which to express my writing, even if you do have to work with its little quirks and foibles, and it is a little puritanical about what you can show on a cover. But as with my stories on Literotica.com, I don’t usually think too much about how long a story will turn out to be, because so often something that starts off as a short story will end up as a novella or a novel, and sometimes a novel-type idea will peter out after 10,000 or 20,000 words. And I don’t usually worry about an ebook cover until a story is either completed, or so far progressed that it’s merely incidental.
In your stories you often include highly descriptive writing, and clearly you spend a lot of time editing and proofing your work, something missing in many of the erotic titles that are currently being self-published. Do you feel there should be a filter on self-published works being put out right now? Or perhaps a way to better monitor the content being put out?
I don’t think there should be a filter on self-published works being put out, except to remove those (unfortunately too many) ebooks that are plagiarized or stolen stories, or the kind of ridiculous scams out there such as automated writing (apparently it exists), and cr$p designed to simply get thousands of people to part with 99c before realizing they’ve bought nothing more erotic than a recipe for potato soup. I like that all kinds of people can benefit from the ability to self-publish now, to express themselves and perhaps find their own readerships. After all, quality in fiction is so subjective. And much as I love real bookstores, I also love that the self-publishing revolution means that half the books on sale are not written by ten different authors, and that a new writer doesn’t have to put “James Patterson writing with…” on the top of their books merely to get their fiction published. Having said that, I would want the ability for readers to easily find the stories and authors they like, and for authors to be able to attract a readership appropriate to their subject matter and quality level, but that’s all about how easily searchable ebooks are made, and how lists of ebooks of a similar subgenre are listed. It’s something that Amazon does better than other ebook retailers in my view, but is still not nearly as good as it could be. So, don’t filter for quality, just allow the quality to rise to the top.
Who are some of your favorite erotica authors right now?
Within the hotwife subgenre there seems to be a growing number of quality writers now emerging from the large number of avoidable titles, and in my mind that’s a great thing. In recent years I’ve been part of a small group of writers trying to work together to improve the subgenre and how readers can engage with it, including Kirsten McCurran, Kenny Wright, Ben Boswell and Arnica Butler, and we’re still hoping to launch a project that will help elevate the subgenre within erotica as a whole. Kirsten and Kenny helped to get me firmly into this subgenre in the first place, but Ben’s often darker works and Arnica’s exciting tales have also become great favorites. I’m also finding myself discovering more and more quality writers each month in this subgenre — Sidney, you yourself, and the likes of CC Morian, Sean Geist and Lexi Archer, to name a few.
Are you writing erotic full time right now, or do you have a day job?
I’m a part-time writer, and I have other writing jobs along with my erotic fiction, but I’m also a part-time stay-at-home dad. I spend a few days each week on the writing, the rest of the time caring for my two young kids, with mom working full-time in her high-flying job, on which she thrives. Writing gives me the opportunity to be flexible with my work life, and I get to see much more of my kids than I would otherwise, so I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Finally, given the choice between being an erotic author or any other career, what would you choose?
Well, if I had the choice of any other career I’d choose to be a Formula One World Champion or perhaps an NFL quarterback, but I’m quite happy with my lot at the moment. I’m a writer, and I suppose it would be nice to be a high-earning screenwriter or a speech writer in some important or fascinating part of the political world, but I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write something I want to write, and know that there are readers out there that actively enjoy what I produce, so I wouldn’t change that.
Max’s new erotic novel, an ex-wife sharing romance, Heidi, Corrupted is out now at Amazon. Be sure to check it out!
Find more Max at maxsebastian.net.