Blurring the Line

by William Holden

I’ve been writing now for fifteen years. During those early years answering the question, “What do you write?” was simple. I would reply, “I write gay erotica.” I never thought that would change. I loved writing about men having sex, but the real reason I stayed with erotica was because I didn’t think I could write anything else. Romance, horror, historical, fantasy, and science fiction all seemed so out of reach for me at that time. Over the last three or four years, that standard question (that I still get asked) has become a bit more difficult to answer. I can no longer say gay erotica because my writing has evolved, and my genres have become, shall I say, a little bent. So now when someone asks me that question, my answer is something like, “I write gay erotic, horror, and historical fiction, and sometimes all three simultaneously.”

Blending genres is a challenge, but one I have fully embraced. It has not only allow me to grow as a writer, but also helps me to put a fresh perspective, and outlook on what can sometimes be considered a tired theme or story idea. The crucial thing is that I allowed myself to do it. A few weeks ago I attended the Horror Writers Association/World Horror Convention in New Orleans. During one of my many conversations with the lovely and talented Amber Benson who played Tara in the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she mentioned that she never says ‘no’ to anything. She said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that if you say no, you are closing doors before they ever open up to you. That one little word has the power to limit your creativity, and your potential. That was an eye opening moment for me. Too many times I hear fellow writers and artists say “but I’ve never done that before” or “I don’t think I can write that.” I’ve been known to say it to myself over the years, and while I’ve always tried to do something new, it was nice to hear it put in such simple terms.

With or without the “never say no” attitude, I like to think that this blurring of genres happened more organically for me. My contemporary gay erotic short stories began to take on a darker, more sinister feel, and without much effort on my part. It was during one of those darker moments that I created Nate the Midnight Barker. He’s one of my favorite characters and the narrator of four or five short stories.  For those of you out there who have not met Nate, he’s dying to meet you. Pick up any number of anthologies edited by my good friend Jerry Wheeler, and read one of his dark and seductive tales. You can also read a few of his stories in my collection, “Words to Die By” Words to Die By 300 DPIreleased in March 2012. This collection was my first attempt at writing nothing but horror. Of course, I couldn’t leave out the sex all together, so I compromised with my dark half, Christopher. We shared the stories equally; some are erotic horror while other stories focus on the horror without any erotic elements.

Since that collection has come out, I get a new question thrown at me. “How can you write erotic horror, the two are not compatible? How can one be sexually aroused or turned on by fear, or a bloody mess? My answer was always something like, “I think the two make a perfect couple. It works for me.” I think that I scared some people away. I honestly don’t blame them, but for me it did seem a natural combination, like, do I dare say this…peanut butter and jelly.  Another one of those moments at The World Horror Convention was when I learned that fear and sexual desire come from the same part of the brain – who knew? So now when someone asked me that question, I’ll have a definitive answer as my reply. I’m not a total freak after all. Yay me!

So what does all this have to do with historical fiction? Well while writing “Words to Die By” I wrote my first historical piece. It was set in 18th Century London, “From Within the Alehouse He Came.” I was hooked the minute I started that story. I had been doing research on the sodomy trials for about four years by that time, so I just expanded my research to life inside the notorious Newgate Prison, and well that place was enough horror without my having to exaggerate or embellish anything.  When I saw how well that short story worked, I knew I was ready to write my first novel, and that is when I sat down and wrote, Secret Societies, which is set during the sodomy trials of 18th century London. While there were some horrific events during that time, the novel is not horror. It is, however, very erotic and rather nasty as life was during that period. I’ve heard from many readers that they felt the story of Thomas Newton had a romantic quality to it, so there’s another genre to add to the growing list. For those who are wondering, yes, there is a sequel due out spring 2014 from Bold Strokes Books, entitled, “The Thief Taker: A Thomas Newton Erotic Adventure.”

Once I had finished the novel, I knew that I was going to be ruined from doing contemporary stuff for some time. I love the 18th century. It is such a corrupt, yet vibrant and totally rotten place in time, so when I sat down and thought about my next project, I knew it had to be 18th Century Horror, “Clothed in Flesh”Clothed in Flesh cover was born. I might add that there is no sex within the pages of this collection of three novellas, but it’s sure to at least scare the pants off you, anything after that…well you are on your own.

What’s next for me? Not a clue as of yet. I’m busy writing short horror stories, perhaps for another collection, or not. I have two or three ideas for novels, but nothing set in stone. That’s the fun part of all this for me. There is nothing out of bounds, nothing that I can’t do or can’t explore. Having numerous writing projects piling up around me is what give me the greatest joy, and you better believe all of these projects are blurring as many lines and genres as they can.

4 Responses to “Blurring the Line”

  1. 1 Erin Saluta August 6, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    I like that message of never saying no- that is something to think about in all aspects of life. Very cool progression into melding your genres’ but I think you underplay how difficult it is to write erotica as well. That isn’t something everyone has a talent for or a comfort level for so good for you on starting with something challenging and moving forward from there!


  2. 2 jo victor August 6, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    Erotica & horror not compatible? Not possible to be turned on by fear/blood? Hello–vampire fiction? [May not be your personal cup of whatever, but clearly works for plenty of people.] I must be missing something here.


  3. 3 Stevie Carroll August 6, 2013 at 6:36 PM

    Those all sound like fascinating stories, and I agree completely that erotica and horror can mix.


  4. 4 Sheri Campbell August 6, 2013 at 10:39 PM

    Mr. Holden, I admit that I have never read gay erotica or any gay novels. I do read all the BSB authors blogs. I do read lesbian erotics, and most of the other lesbian genres. Your blog caught my attention in the fact you embraced something you had believed impossible and over come your preconceived beliefs. I am stretching this idea of comparing myself in that I did not believe I could ever walk again after 13 years in a wheelchair. I just had to wait on medical tech. to catch up with my needs and bingo. I am walking and playing volleyball again. I had a doctor who believed in himself and me and I believed in myself. Happy for you.


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