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C.J. Asher Interviews Emerald, Erotic Author and Human Sexuality Advocate

EmeraldEmerald, one of my favorite authors in the genre of erotic fiction, is an advocate for reproductive rights, sex worker rights and sex education. Her website, The Green Light District, provides a number of resources and links towards these advocacy efforts as well as a collection of her short stories and other writing projects. After reviewing her debut single-author collection If… Then: a collection of erotic romance stories, I was thrilled to speak with Emerald about her writing and exploration of human sexuality.

C.J. Asher – Tell me a little bit about yourself… your age, education, where youre from and so on…

Emerald – I’m 38 and originally from Iowa. My bachelor’s and master’s degrees are both in politics, and I’ve worked in the nonprofit industry in the DC metro area as a fundraiser, researcher, and writer. Currently, I write erotica, of course, and do freelance work as a copy writer and proofreader.

C.J. Asher – What prompted your pen name “Emerald”?

Emerald – It is my birthstone (May), and I can recall falling instantly in love with emeralds when I learned that as a child. When I was a young teenager, I wanted to legally change my first name to “Emerald.” That somehow didn’t seem to go over well with my parents and thus did not happen. Somewhat ironically, when I started submitting erotica for publication consideration, I didn’t feel compelled to have a pen name for anonymity or confidentiality or for what had seemed some other of the common reasons. Rather, I simply recognized it as an opportunity to go by a name I had long wanted to—so I took it!

C.J. Asher – What first got you introduced to becoming an erotic fiction author?

Emerald – When I was in my early twenties, I procured a subscription to Playgirl magazine. I remember reading and sometimes enjoying the erotic fiction stories. At one point I found myself wondering who wrote these stories—I realized someone had to, and I wondered who they were and what motivated them. Around that time, I also underwent a personal evolution in my own sexual experience…and since writing was something I’d been doing since I was a kid, all those circumstances seemed to converge in my feeling like maybe I could write those kinds of stories.

Emerald_IfThenC.J. Asher – Youve published two books, “If…Then” and “Safe.” What was your inspiration behind these books?

Emerald – I compiled those two short story collections as a single collection, and the publisher recommended dividing them into two (one erotic romance and one erotica), which in hindsight has struck me as a wise choice. Since they’re both short story collections, encompassing ten stories each, there were multiple inspirations, with each story having its own, of course. That said, there was indeed unique inspiration behind wanting to put them together as a collection/collections. The kind of stories I wanted to put in those collections felt very specific to me, and there was rarely a question about whether I wanted to include a particular story or not. By the time I was considering and beginning to compile a collection of my own work for publication, I was feeling very drawn to self-exploration and self-awareness as areas about which I felt moved to write. So, in some way, it feels to me like all the stories in If… Then and Safe touch on this in some way. While it may seem quite a subtle “theme,” if you will, it is what, to me, connects all the stories in those collections.

C.J. Asher – Who are your favorite authors, both inside and outside of the erotic genre?

Emerald – In the erotica genre, Donna George Storey is at the top of my list… her novel , Amorous Woman, is one of my all-time favorite novels—of any genre, as are Alana Noel Voth, who actually writes much outside the erotica genre,, Justine Elyot, Charlotte Stein, Craig Sorensen, Saskia Walker…and numerous others, really, that could take a whole page to list! Outside the erotica genre, I’ve tended for some reason to have more favorite books than actual favorite authors. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is my all-time favorite novel, followed by Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.

C.J. Asher – What are you currently reading?

Emerald – Actually, that question reminds me that I certainly could name some favorite authors in the nonfiction realm…I do happen to be between books for pleasure at the moment and am reading nonfiction. Specifically, I’m in the midst of The Pearl Beyond Price by A. H. Almaas. I do a lot of psycho-spiritual inner work, so much of what I read tends to relate to that. But your question is a great reminder to pick up a book for pleasure soon!

C.J. Asher – How does erotic writing differ from romance writing?

Emerald – As I perceive it, romance as a genre focuses on a developing intimate relationship between two, or sometimes more, people. Sexuality is likely a part of this, but it may or may not be explicitly addressed depending on the heat level of the story. Erotica, as I see it, is a narrative with an orientation to or told through a lens of sexuality—the sensual, erotic, or sexual elements are fundamental to the story and/or characters’ experience. Practically speaking, one of the most straightforward differences I perceive between the two is that romance generally requires a happy ending between or involving the characters in question, while erotica does not encapsulate that requirement. That’s not to say erotica doesn’t ever have a happy ending, of course. But consider these two story endings: in one, two people just had (great!) sex and are continuing on their merry ways without plans to be in contact with each other again, while in the other, the story developed around two characters meeting and developing a mutual attraction and affection and end up planning to spend their lives, or some considerable amount of time, together. Both could be perceived as “happy” endings, but the prior would fall into the category of erotica, while the latter fits the romance classification.

C.J. Asher – What has been the biggest influence on your erotic writing?

Emerald – What an interesting question. One of the first motivators for my first starting to write erotica was that I was experiencing a profound sexual revolution, if you will, within my personal experience and perception. In addition to motivating me to actually write in the genre, I don’t doubt that also influenced what I actually wrote. I would say that’s not only still true, but even more true at this point. As I’ve done more inner work on myself and the development of consciousness and awareness has become more important to me, I have experienced an even deeper resonance with writing about self-awareness, the expansion of perspective, and personal growth—and since I’m writing erotica, that has been within the context of sexuality or sexual experience. So, as esoteric as it may seem, I would say the deep drive in me to know and learn about myself and understand the inherent connection among all of us is probably the foremost influence on what I write.

C.J. Asher – What has been your favorite story to write so far?

Emerald – That’s tough for me to answer…and another question that strikes me as interesting, since it’s different from the question, “What’s your favorite story you’ve written?,” which I have been asked before. Funnily enough, I think the answer is the same: “More” (originally published as “With Random Precision” and now found in Safe ) was for quite some time and might still be my favorite story I’ve written, and I would say it has been my favorite story to write, too. I attribute this to how deeply it seemed to be in me and how, correlatively, seamlessly and completely it seemed to come through me. I did work on it for a while and did perform a fair amount of editing on it, but what ended up happening was that I generally seemed to go back to what had come out in the first place. This story really seemed to communicate with me and let me know clearly how it wanted to be expressed. I appreciate that! For example, the main scene in it deals with bondage, and the practical part of that is autobiographical—I was indeed tied up (with purple rope!) by a friend who was rather accomplished at that type of tying. I remember as I was experiencing it knowing I would write about it. The description in the story simply came out as almost a direct reflection of my recollection of experiencing it.

C.J. Asher – On your website, it states that you are an advocate of, amongst other things, the rights of sex workers. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing sex workers today?

Emerald – I see that as a two-pronged answer, and the two prongs feed each other. Simply put, I would say the answer includes both the legal obstacles in sex work, such as the criminalization of prostitution, and the profound and pernicious stigma associated with it. Criminalization is, as I see it, deeply misplaced and, on a practical level, does virtually nothing to help anyone in the industry. On the contrary, it subverts the field to an underground status where nefarious behavior has tended to abound due to the law-breaking environment in which it takes place. Specifically, for example, it makes it rather difficult for sex workers to seek help from law enforcement to report on-duty assaults against their persons or property given that they themselves are in a position of breaking the law by virtue of performing their livelihood. That criminalization seems appropriate to some perspectives seems to me a direct result of the stigma that is attached to sexual labor. For some reason, we tend to see selling sexual services as some kind of inherent abomination despite our general acceptance of selling literally almost any other kind of product or service one can think of. Criminalization seems to allow the masses to keep seeing it this way without, I would argue, really questioning it, and the stigma of sexual labor makes the idea of decriminalization seem anathema to some people. Thus, the two forces seem to reinforce each other, all while presenting serious challenges to those who work in the sex industry as well as, arguably, the philosophical concepts of sexual and economic autonomy.

Emerald_SafeC.J. Asher – Tell me about how you came up with the title of your blog, The Green Light District.

Emerald – I smile when I recall that! My former partner and I happened to be driving around one night, and we came to an intersection near where I lived where brand new stoplights had just been put up. I commented on how beautifully green the green lights were. He quipped, “Yeah…it’s like a green light district!” I immediately knew I wanted that to be the name of my website, which I was in the process of conceiving at the time. Green goes with emerald, of course, and I also liked the play on the “red light district” phrase since I knew my website/blog would actively express support of the rights of sex workers.

C.J. Asher – How has your own personal sexuality influenced your blog and writing?

Emerald – I suppose that depends on how autobiographical a story is! Ah, just kidding, of course… In all seriousness, on my blog I have historically spoken quite openly and extensively about my personal perspectives and experiences…so in that way it’s influenced it directly. I’ve been quite a slacker in the blog realm the last year or so, but when I first started blogging, I really appreciated the opportunity to express these findings in myself in an environment I had set up as supportive to such exploration. If I would take that opportunity again, I don’t doubt I would still appreciate it! As far as fiction goes, the answer harkens back to my earlier answer about the biggest influence in my writing. At this point, the actual sex acts or circumstances I write about may not be directly influenced by my experience or preferences, but the process of self-discovery and expanding awareness almost always feels resonant to me. It actually feels like that’s what I’m writing about at this point; I’m just doing it from the perspective of sexuality, which I see as both fascinating and also rife with potential for that process. Again, the circumstances of any given story may not be literally autobiographical, but my own process of inner exploration has greatly influenced my writing that way.

C.J. Asher – What types of sex work do you do or have you done?

Emerald – I started working as a stripper a number of years ago, though later in life than many dancers have seemed to, as I was 29. I later worked as an amatuer porn performer, mostly for websites in the geographical area local to me (Baltimore/Washington/Philadelphia, etc.), and both during and for some time after that I worked as a webcam model.

C.J. Asher – Do you find sex work to be empowering or exploiting of women?

Emerald – The very fact that we tend to append “of women” to that question elicits skepticism in me. It indicates to me that we are considering women uniquely different from men and other genders in relation to sex and/or sex work. And I don’t see why that should be. Why do I not see people asking if sex work is empowering or exploiting of men? Some people might answer, “Because men don’t do sex work.” This is inaccurate. In addition, consider porn, a field in which men and women clearly both work prominently—I have still seen the “of women” appended to questions about that field. As to your question, I don’t see it as inherently either one, any more than I see almost any field of work as empowering or exploiting. The circumstances of almost any field of employment could encompass a spectrum from empowering to exploitative, and it seems to me these nearly limitless combinations of circumstances would determine more whether someone finds something empowering or exploitative than the actual field of work itself.

C.J. Asher – What literary projects are you working on and when can we expect to see them?

Emerald – The next thing I have coming out is a novella included in the anthology Athletic Aesthetic, which is slated for release in September from Sweetmeats Press. The collection is sports-themed and has five long-form stories in it. My story “Doubleheader” will not only be included in the anthology, which will be available in print and e-book formats, but will also be sold as a standalone e-book.  I loved writing “Doubleheader,” in no small part because it’s about baseball, which is one of my favorite things! I also found writing it interesting since it’s more than twice as long as almost everything else I’ve had published. On that note, I would love to write more long-form work…but I’m nowhere near close enough to having done so to answer to when one might expect to see a novel from me!

For more information about Emerald, please visit http://www.TheGreenLightDistrict.org.

About cjasher (781 Articles)
C.J. Asher is a blogger on various subject matters and trending topics related to sexuality, such as prostitution, women's rights, sex trafficking and LGBT issues as well as the adult entertainment industry, having interviewed celebrities such as Dennis Hof and Joanna Angel. C.J. currently resides in Philadelphia, PA and his blog can be found at CJAsher.com.

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