Today I have a fascinating interview with James Wood about his excellent erotic trilogy Paula’s Place. Many thanks James!
Paula’s Place was a trilogy. Did you want to write something longer like this or did it just turn out that way?
James: Most of my stories up till now have been short scenes – a couple of days or hours in the lives of the characters. I wanted to give Paula more, to build her up, to give her a history and relatives – a past. Likewise for Max. I just felt that their attraction, their passion for each other, and ultimately the sex that they enjoy together would be deeper and more intense if they were more rounded. That was the first reason it was longer – it needed to be.
There was a second reason too. Paula goes through a conversion of sorts. Seduction. Surrender. Submission. The titles were not idly chosen. At the start of the book Paula is woman who has not yet expressed or given liberty to her most intimate desires. Each book of the trilogy deals with a stage of Paula’s… I want to say ‘conversion’ but that is not it… her awakening? She has finally met someone who ‘gets’ her, in more meanings than one. A trilogy was a natural fit.
“The Paula books are all written from her point of view. That is not a common writing structure in the erotica genre. Why did you choose to write that way, and were there any challenges?”
James: There certainly were challenges! I have been interested in varying the point of view for a while. Most books are written in 3rd party omniscient or semi-omniscient. All that means is that the reader gets to know more of what is going on than the characters do: how they feel, what they do when the other characters don’t see them. That sort of thing. That’s what most books do, and it works well most of the time.
What I found, and what interested me, was how the reader’s connection with the character alters when the point of view changes. That’s what I did in the Paula books. Those books are written by Paula – you don’t know any more than she knows. That makes it difficult. What does Max think of her? Well, what the hell does Max think of her? I can’t tell the reader. The reader, and Paula, only get to find out by what he says or does when he is with her, or from what other people say to Paula. Fortunately, Paula and Max get quite a lot of personal time together to help her resolve that dilemma.
The important part for me is that I believe the reader gets to know Paula better because of how it was written – that first person point of view. Hopefully that makes for a more intimate experience for the reader.
It is not the first time I’ve changed point of view. In one of my earlier short stories, Shower Time (you can find it free in a lot of e-book outlets), the voice in the writing is the Dom talking directly to you, as if the reader were ‘his girl’ and being personally addressed.
“In Paula’s Place, Grand Falls appears again. Are all of your books set there, and if so, why? Can you tell us if Grand Falls is a real town, and if so, how easy is it to move there?”
James: Yes. The books, all of them so far, are set in Grand Falls. I get asked about the town quite a bit. I’ve been lucky enough to travel through the provinces of Canada and a lot of the States, and I’ve found something in every one of them I love. Grand Falls is a bit of a blend, so no, it is not a town with a zip code and everything, but it is real nonetheless. Every street and bookshop and fence exists somewhere. And the characters with their prurient passions are reflective of our sexualized imaginings and desires – yours and mine. Well, I can’t really speak for you, but certainly mine!
I get questions about time period too. There are trains and cars, phones and the Internet, but I hear comments about Grand Falls feeling old-fashioned. I think this is true. There is a stylized set of dress, civility, and manners in Grand Falls that isn’t common any more – if it was ever the case. Picket fences and lemonade – men holding the door open for women. I enjoy that, and I like the apparent contrast with the depraved and erotic adventures that the residents get up to. Though, as we know, every age has had these impulses – dark passion is hardly original. Grand Falls is a bit of a Twilight Zone, but hopefully better for it. Moving there is easy enough – you just have to buy the book. 😉
“Paula is a smart girl. Do you always use smart girls as your heroines? How do you pick your girls?”
James: Of course she is! Yes, I like smart women. Smart is very sexy. I like her ‘knowing’ what it is she does. There is a part in the first book where she revisits sexual fantasies of her past. Part of what she likes she knows is ‘wrong,’ and that makes it all the more arousing for her. She may blush, but she can’t plead ignorance. Intelligent women make the most interesting characters. I’m getting excited just thinking about it!
“You are a male author in a genre dominated by women writers. Do you wonder why that should be? Does it come with its own set of challenges?”
James: I haven’t really thought about it much. I suppose that most stories are about women; we write about the heroines. And since most erotica readers are women, that connection makes sense to me. Yes, there is always a man in the book, or men, but the story is really about the women. Usually they are a lot more interesting! If I worry about anything in writing D/s as a man, it is that I’ll be taken for a sexist or a misogynist, a charge that I utterly reject. I’ve heard people say that since you write about spanking women or tying them up, or having them ‘give in’ to dominant men, then you are not a friend of women. I don’t agree at all. Paula, and all of my women characters, are strong, positive women. That they enjoy and indulge in sexual taboos I don’t believe belittles them. I feel they are treated with the greatest respect. They are empowered in their sexuality, however depraved or erotic. I care about them, and I like to think it shows.
“There is obviously a lot of hot D/s sex going on in the book, but did I detect a streak of romance? Paula and her Dom, Max Broekner, are more than a one night stand. What do you think of the ‘Fifty Shades’ phenomenon and the romance/erotica cross-over?”
James: Well, that is a big question. I’m by no means an expert, but my understanding is that Romance as a genre has become a lot more graphic recently, and bondage or discipline has become more mainstream. Is that necessarily a bad thing? And is Fifty Shades the reason, or did it just touch on a latent need? I don’t know. I’m just happy to write about passions like Paula’s and Max’s, that are hot and stir your blood. And yes, there is a streak of romance amidst the turbid sex. That is part of it too. If you feel there is a connection between them, then what they get up to becomes that bit steamier. And what is erotica without steam?
“Max had some of your other books in his library. A book within a book. What was going on there?”
James: A shameless plug – cheap advertising! No, not really. Okay, a bit. You are talking about The Doctrine of Venus. There is a philosophy to D/s relationships upon which The Doctrine expounds that observant readers might link with Paula and her lover. They wouldn’t be wrong. The goings on in that curious house on Vale Street take a page out of that book.
* * *
I am no longer the innocent girl; I am blissful, complete, and knowing.
This is Paula’s story, an erotic bdsm romance trilogy. Seduction: A steamy, explicit erotic romance of sexual fantasies come real. Fate brings Paula back to her hometown, where she meets her dark handsome neighbour. Surrender: Paula is drawn into her lover’s world of domination and submission, where sensation and lust commingle with intimacy and trust. As Paula surrenders her body to pleasure, she knows she is losing her heart. Submission: Paula struggles to reconcile her feelings with her concern that things are going too fast. As her slide towards bliss only gathers pace, how will their love affair end? Does she even have a choice, or is her submission complete?
* * *
I’m delighted to have an extract of James’ work to share with you…
Paula’s Place, Part 1: Seduction, by James Wood
I don’t know what brought it on. I hadn’t had thoughts like that in years. I suppose it was seeing the park again, and it being my first night away from the city.
I had gone to bed. I had turned out the light after reading a bit, and the house was completely quiet. I had left the window open and through it could see the moon; its light fell over my sheets.
I lay back, keenly aware of the stirring in my body. I pulled my knees up so my feet lay flat and I let my knees fall open. I stretched my arms above my head and gripped the bed rail tightly. There was an awareness in my body, a growing murmur that needed satisfaction and would not go away. I didn’t want it to. For the first time in a long time, I ached to be touched and held.
Sex had been one of the problems we’d had, I see that now. It was an unspoken thing at the end. It wasn’t that we didn’t do it, but I felt bad for wanting more. He’d always go on top. He wouldn’t kiss me; I’d have liked that. One time I talked to him about things I’d like to try, but once proved one time too many. I didn’t dare tell him of the dreams I had. He’d never have understood those. And so the years had passed.
There wasn’t much of a breeze, but the window was open and the curtain gave a stir. I pushed the blanket off me and closed my eyes. I moved one hand onto my belly. He was coming again: The Colonel. I could feel him outside the window. I arched my back a little ways and pushed my hand between my thighs. I touched myself on top of my shorts and let out a silent moan.
The dream came in many disguises, but it always started within the park. It was back in the time of the Civil War, and I was out gathering wood for the house. We knew there was a battle looming nearby. I know I’d been told to be careful. Nevertheless, I walked on alone, hidden by trees, fearful for any noise.
In the bed, my right arm stretched high above my head. My fingers wrapped themselves around the bed rail and gripped it like in a storm. My left hand found my waistband and slipped underneath my shorts. With the material against the back of my hand I parted my woman’s curls.
There was someone there. I could hear the horse whinny and the underbrush snapping. “Whoa, girl.” It was a man’s voice, deep and soothing, calming the nervous beast. “What’s got you all stirred up?” I was frozen, not knowing whether to run or hide, fearful of discovery at any time. I’d heard stories of rough men and what they did with honest women, and it paralyzed my mind. I could just make him out through the branches: an officer on a fine chestnut mare. His coat was dusty and I couldn’t make out whether it was blue or gray. He saw me. He always saw me. And that’s when I turned and ran.
I gasped as my fingers spread my lips and stroked the inside of my petals. I released the bed frame to grasp my breast and give myself a squeeze. Oh, Paula, you dirty girl, spoke my conscience. Only one night back and then this. But my mind was away with the pursuing Colonel, whose horse would soon overtake me.
I dropped my bundle and sprinted, dashing under branch and behind tree. But my skirts were long and the brush was difficult and I had little hope of escape. I could hear him now, right behind me, the beating of hooves closing in. I fell. I always fell. I started to crawl away.
“What do we have here?” He dismounted. Spurs jangling from his heels. His sword remained in the scabbard on his saddle but a pistol was at his waist. I crawled, frantic, on hand and knee. He took a sore grip of my dark curled hair just as I’d reached a fallen tree.
“Oh, sir. Please, sir, no!” I pleaded, but he put his hand on my mouth to stop me. I bit hard on his fingers only to find he’d gagged me with a leather gauntlet. He took me then, he always took me, he pushed me down on that broken tree. He threw my petticoats over my waist and held my wrists behind my back to tame me.
“You’re going to get it, girl. You’re going to enjoy this. I’m going to fill your belly with my seed and drive you rough, like you’re needing.” Then he put his bare hand between my legs and felt me wet and swollen. He was momentarily surprised, always just for a moment. “You’re no lady! Dirty girl. You’re a filthy trollop. You want it, yes, I can feel it here, I’ve got the proof on my own fingers.” And then he unbuttoned his cavalry breeches and unburdened himself into me.
Until now I had avoided my clitoris: tense and ripe and swollen. But at this point, as the Colonel mounted me, I gave it my full attention.
“Whore, that’s what you are. Wanting a real man’s attentions. I’ll give it to you, hard as you like, that you’ll be dreaming of me with your husband.” He grabbed my hair, tight as cord, and pulled it till I was screaming. But only a muffled mew did I manage through the salty leather I bit on.
He drove me, his flared root invading my belly, over and over and over. He tore at my dress and spilled my breasts and twisted them sore, quite fiercely.
I was there now, my fingers juddering, my womb in spasm, my clitoris ripened to bursting. I lifted my back, my hips clear from the bed, with my breasts pinched by my own stealthy hand. He always came too at this point. He never failed to deliver.
“God. You. Bitch.” He thrust desperately into me then, his breath in suspension; he pressed tightly inside me and trembled. It was that way for moments. Finally, he withdrew. I could feel his semen dripping out of me, running down my thighs. It was undoubtedly collecting on my wool stocking tops, where it would stain them as evidence. He took out a knife and cut my underwear from me, leaving me naked to God. He removed his glove from between my teeth and released his hand from my wrists.
“There you go. You can tell anyone you like; they’ll know what you are. And if you have a child, you bring him up well or I’ll find you and give you a whipping.”
He wiped himself on the hem of my dress and then buttoned himself up and mounted. “What’s your name, whore?” he called down.
“Paula,” I whispered. I had gathered myself up by now.
“You’ll want it again, Paula, another time. I know you will. You know where you can find me.” Then he left me standing alone; he pushed his horse into a canter.
I lay back, flat on the bed, the sheet beneath me damp with sweat. When the trembling stopped I stayed still for a while and listened to the street noise in the darkness. I felt a secret shame, but it was better for that. My secret. It felt wrong and yet right also. I changed into a clean, dry t-shirt and locked this puzzle in my mind away, and the next thing I knew it was morning…
To buy Paula’s Place:
Paula’s Place is available as a trilogy of ebooks, or combined as a paperback. Part 1: Seduction is available as a free download from many major ebook retailers for curious readers who would like to sample the series.
Bio: British-born author James Wood spins sensuous taboo tales. Themes of domination and submission predominate – of hands on legs and garter straps and ladies bound in silk.
Honourable Mention in the Best Bondage Writer category from the 2012 Bondage Awards.
Many thanks again to James for sharing his work with us today!
Happy reading everyone!