Ask @jmkeep:

I have been writing short, dark erotic stories for "friends" for quite a few years. Recently these decided to turn into a series of books that I am currently working on. Other than anonymity and writing the stories, where do you suggest I/any aspiring dark erotic writer start?

First of all, goodluck! Second, I'd recommend trying to build something of a fan following before publishing. Post some of your stories on applicable forums, garner attention, so that you're not shooting a book out into storm alone. What's given us a bit of an edge over so many others in the beginning was that we had fans even before publishing. Oh, and learn how to do the formatting yourself. It's worth the effort. ~J
Right now, competition is incredible for selling books, especially on Amazon, but the most important things for selling is cover, title, blurb, keywords. Those are the things that will help people find you, entice them in, and convince them to click. There's also a lot of words and topics you have to be careful of on Amazon, including dark erotica (though dark romances are able to get away with more). Maybe I'll blog about it soon! ~M

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Hopefully this isn't too terribly private... any plans on children down the road, or not interested?

Michelle was just going to scream "NO!" a bunch so I'll field this question.
No, we have no plans for children. Unless you include the elaborate plans for preventing children that are necessary when you have a whole bunch of sex like we do.
For those who might be wondering (since it seems to play a big role in a number of our stories) impregnation/pregnancy is a favourite topic of mine. But y'know, while it can make a great plot point (or a kinky sex scene!) the reality of it's pretty daunting, and neither of us had great childhoods ourselves to inspire us.
Plus, unless we start sellin' a lot more books or go back to day jobs, it's just not realistic to have a kid!
And don't worry about getting personal with questions!
~J

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what makes a good villain? I think your stuff tends to do the bad guys right. they're harsh and brutal, very real. what's your trick?

I think mostly it's because we're unwilling to let people feel proud to cheer for the villain. We have a lot of shades-of-grey characters, but we do have many who do outright heinous things without pity or remorse. We've read a lot of novels where the reader is expected to empathize with the villain simply due to a tragic backstory, but we want to give readers more credit than that. We try to make you sympathize with the character despite the logic screaming 'no!'
We can empathize with people doing bad things, even if they have no reason for it, if the characters have enough depth and intrigue about them. Everyone has some good traits, even if they're just surface traits, so we just do our best to showcase people as we see them, and as honestly as we can.
Both of us take a small issue with showing abusive or violent men as being the hero of the stories because we don't want to glamorize that type of relationship as being admirable or something to desire.
~M

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Do you think the stigma with erotica in society is beneficial to erotica, or hurting the genre as a whole? What do you say to authors who want to write it but afraid of being discriminated against for their other works?

Is the stigma beneficial? I would say no, not for the general field of erotica. I think it holds back not only erotica but all writers, of all genres. It makes sex this sort of "no in my story!" phenomenon, where one of the most common attributes of all our lives is shunted to the side, talked about in passing references and obfuscated phrases in stories.
As for taboo erotica, the kinkiest of the kinky? It's a double-edged sword. The taboo nature of it will mean your audience is more limited, but it might also mean a more dedicated readership of people who are willing to track down what they want, and make it worth your while. I can lead to tight little communities of people sharing the same or similar interests.
What do we say to those who wish to write erotica but want to avoid the stigma that comes with it? You're very wise. Wiser than we are.
For a long time we've very naively stuck to our desire of being open and honest about who we are, though in recent years we had to clam up for the sake of real world jobs being at stake.
Always hide your interests behind pseudonyms is my main advice. Do what you can to have nothing linking your erotica work with your real name, or your other pen names. The stigma is real, and it will hurt you. Not only are readers likely to hold it against you if they find out your 'serious' works are attached to the same name as some naughty stuff, but publishers will look at you differently, and much of the software tools of the internet are outright barred from those who deal in sex-related areas.
Heck, more and more even banks are cracking down on sex workers, treating them like criminals, charging them extortionist fees if they allow them to have credit or even accounts at all even.
Keep it separate, be very careful. Be smarter than we were!
~J
I think that will definitely dissuade many people from writing, especially taboo material, for fear of being found out by loved ones, employees, family, and friends.
At the same time, I think things that have a stigma against them inherently raise their value, in some regards. That is, by making something taboo and forbidden, we're actually driving demand instead of decreasing it. If erotica was accepted, I think it wouldn't have such a hungry market, perhaps, at least in the current format of erotic shorts being so popular.
Though, because of the crackdowns by the vendors, I think that's also changing customer's expectations and demands, so it's kind of a strange thing. It's not that customers don't still want the erotic stories, but that now they're used to getting longer and plottier stories, so that's shifting demand.
We're in a state of flux - in fact, all of the porn industry is - as we try to cope with the changing expectations of consumers who want more for less, and payment processors who are increasingly approaching us with a 'hands off' attitude.
~M

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Do you think representing PoC in romance is as important for romance writing as it is for other forms of fiction, or do you think the romance genre tends to be appropriative (or at worst, fetishizing) of PoC on principle?

We don't like to act as experts on this sorta thing, because I'm sure we've got our own flaws in issues of representation.
Whenever dealing with sex and titillation, fetishization is always a big risk. Even when you try to subvert 'tropes' (i.e. common themes) you run the risk of just reinforcing and repeating them in the process.
Once again, I don't know that we're the best people to provide an answer. We try our best to be conscious of these matters, but having grown up in isolated communities in the Great (Extremely) White North, racial politics is something we know of only in a detached academic sense.
To top it off there's issues of appropriation as you pointed out, and in discussions with other authors, we've been told before that it's not our place to bring representation of other groups to media and it's offensive of us to try. Though that's not a point of view I'd share, it's a complicated issue and not something I care to argue too hard about against people who'd know better than us.
~J

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About J.E. and M. Keep:

A dark fantasy romance writing team.

St. John's, NL