Alison Tyler


Alison Tyler is the author of more than 20 erotic novels, including Strictly Confidential and Sweet Thing, and she is the editor of Three-Way, Heat Wave, Best Bondage Erotica, and The Merry XXXmas Book of Erotica. She lives in San Francisco.

Best Bondage Erotica

"The only thing better than curling up with an Alison Tyler work of erotica might be curling up with Alison Tyler herself." Playboy Magazine

"Alison Tyler's words evoke a world of heady sensuality where fantasies are fearlessly explored and dreams gloriously realized." Penthouse Variations

"Sensually, sexually, and erotically charged, Alison Tyler's words satisfy every woman's fantasy." Playgirl


Sex & Music

An Interview with Alison Tyler

Alison Tyler describes herself as a "shy girl," but on the page she is anything but demure. Over the last two decades she has penned over 400 delightfully playful and dangerously explicit erotic stories. She has also written 20 smutty novels and edited several erotica anthologies, including the readers' favorite Best Bondage Erotica. Slave to Love, a collection of steamy tales about erotic restraint, is the latest book to showcase Tyler's talent as an editor and writer. Cleis's Chris Fox spoke with her about Slave, music, and writing about sex.

Chris Fox: Most erotica writers have a story about how they started writing erotica—for example, they needed to break a spell of writer’s block, they penned their first story for a lover, or maybe they answered a "call for submissions" ad in the sex classifieds. How did you start writing erotica?

Alison Tyler: I've been writing romantic stories since high school. For no sane reason, I took three years of Latin. And I spent those years in class writing stories about my friends with their favorite rock stars. I'd ask a few key questions (who? what? where?) and go from there. So I'd write about Sting taking my friend Carrie on a drive to the beach. And for Sharon, I’d create a naughty encounter with Roger from Duran Duran. For Katherine, I wrote about Bon Jovi… It passed the time, and my friends got a thrill reading about themselves in star-fucker situations. (I'd often tuck the stories into their lockers.) I never had a clue I'd be writing in the genre for a living.

CF: When did you start publishing your stories?

AT: I went to college in L.A. and studied art history (a very useful major!), worked on a radio station and at a newspaper, and I began a long-distance relationship with a musician who happened to have a huge appetite for porn. When my letters veered that way, he claimed I wrote better than the stories he was reading in his magazines. So I started submitting pieces and sold my second story to Playgirl.

But, really, I'd write these stories even if nobody read them.

CF: You're hugely prolific. After writing dozens and dozens of erotic stories, how do you keep the sex in your writing fresh?

AT: Sex can always be new. Even in a long-term relationship. I've been with Sam for more than a decade, and we are still finding untried activities that we like. I try to bring the same openness to my writing. And as I've gotten older, I have different ideas of what’s sexy. Yes, I've written about fucking for 20 years, but my tastes have changed somewhat. My ultimate goal is to write like the Rolling Stones. You always know you’re listening to a Stones' song, but each one has a unique sound.

CF: Do you stick exclusively to erotica—or do you ever write in other genres?

AT: I've written nonfiction articles for travel websites, regular magazines, software companies, weekly newspapers… I started out writing restaurant, movie, and concert reviews. But my favorite game is erotica. I bring sex to almost all of my work. In fact, one of my first published pieces was a review of a Scorpions concert. My editor loved it because I hardly mentioned the band at all. Instead, I focused on the fact that the people behind us in the crowd were having sex. Really.

CF: How would you describe your new erotica anthology, Slave to Love?

AT: Kinky and sexy and impossible to put down. From Marilyn Jaye Lewis's darkly erotic "Daddy’s Girl" to the more bubbly and high-spirited "The Discovery" by Rachel Kramer Bussel, the collection covers a range of provocative and sexually-charged pieces.

CF: When you set out to compile the book, what kind of stories were you looking for?

AT: Surprise me—that's what I want authors to do. Give me something I haven’t seen before. Or take me on an unexpected trip. The authors in this book definitely met the challenge. Saskia Walker turned in a lovely piece called "Watching Lois Perform." I have to say, she is one of my all-time favorite writers. Shanna Germain is another contributor who makes an editor’s job dreamy. I know when I see her stories in my "in box" that I am going to be pleased. R. Gay's "Ordinary Love" is delightful. Thomas S. Roche's "Under My Thumb" is one of my all-time favorite bondage stories. The fact that it's named for a Stones song and features a rock star makes me that much happier.

CF: Slave to Love follows two volumes of Best Bondage Erotica, which you also edited. How is Slave different?

AT: The concept of playing with power and rules runs through the stores in this book, but this isn't a collection of solely down-in-the-dungeon tales. (Although, there are several dungeon stories, such as Michelle Houston's alluring "Cowboy’s Dungeon.") The title is from that delicious Roxy Music song, and I wanted to have a similar element of desire in the book. The urgency. The longing.

CF: Are the stories in Slave pure fantasy, or do you think they’re something people can act out at home?

AT: Definitely, people might "try this at home." I think Slave to Love would be the perfect way to invite a partner to play in a more creative manner. I know that when I first wanted a boyfriend to spank me—or first admitted it, anyway—I handed over one of Anne Rice's Beauty books with the specific pages folded over. Sometimes erotica is fine staying safe on the page and in one's fantasies. And sometimes the genre can be effectively used to push a person’s personal barriers.

CF: Like the story with the butt plug carved out of a piece of ginger root—ouch!

AT: As far as the ginger goes, check out I am always reading about figging on that site!

CF: Back to music. It seems clear that, for you, sex and music are closely tied together. Does music influence your writing?

AT: Music puts me in the mood to write, and it also takes me back to important times in my life. Music is often featured in my stories, like in "Ten Minutes in the 80s." But even if I don’t mention songs by name, I feel a rhythm running through my books that echoes the music I listened to while writing a story or novel or compiling a collection.

CF: So, do you have a favorite sexy song?

AT: No. Not just one:

The Cure's "Lullaby"
Led Zeppelin's "D'yer Mak'er"
Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond"
The Rolling Stones' "Miss You"
Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street"
Tom Waits's "A Sweet Little Bullets from a Pretty Blue Gun"
Nick Cave's "Up Jumped the Devil"
David Bowie's "Oh You Pretty Things" (Which is where the name for my press, Pretty Things Press, comes from.)
Prince's "Kiss" and Parliament's "Flashlight"

CF: What can you say about your erotic fiction collection, Exposed?

AT: That I'm truly honored Cleis allowed me to put together a collection of my short stories! This book features stories I've penned over the past two decades, and I think the book shows a range of my writing styles.

CF: Do you think you have two more decades of sexy stories inside of you?

AT: As the Magic 8 Ball says, "Without a doubt."

On Temptation and Writing with Alison Tyler

Alison Tyler began writing erotic tales for an eager audience when she was in college. In the twenty years since, she has written over 450 stories and 25 novels. The editor of over 30 anthologies, her most notable titles are The Happy Birthday Book of Erotica, Slave to Love, and Luscious. With Rachel Kramer Bussel, she is coeditor of Hide and Seek and Caught Looking. The recent additions to her Erotic Alphabet series have all the wit and playfulness she is known for.

Alison spoke with Kara Wuest about temptation, writing, and romance.

KW: I is for Indecent, J is for Jealousy, K is for Kinky, and L is for Leather are the newest titles in your Erotic Alphabet series. This is a really naughty round of books! How do you figure out the boundaries for your anthologies? You work the tension between titillation and transgression with cheeky skill.

AT: See the girl at the bar running her fingers through the candle flame? That's me. I like the feel of hot wax hardening on my fingertips, and I search for stories echoing that same level of desire. The tight-rope walking dance between pain and pleasure is what I crave.

KW: In I is for Indecent, the narrator in your story "Milk and Honey" is a shy young woman easily tempted by an older, more experienced lover. Good girls who are easily tempted by bad boys (and bad girls) show up a lot in your stories. Why do you think it's so compelling to watch a character grow from innocence to experience?

AT: "Milk and Honey" was one of my truth-based stories. I haven't had a sip of coffee with honey ever since. Although that wasn't the last time I played with duct tape. But now that I think of it, maybe I should have the words "easily tempted" tattooed on me somewhere, as a little reminder. You know, the next time an older, rebellious bad boy offers me a sip of his java.

KW: J is for Jealousy dives into a difficult side of eroticism and acknowledges that riding the green-eyed monster is its own kind of fun. What do think readers will enjoy about this book?

AT: Show me a person who claims never to get jealous, and I'll show you a dead body. I think jealousy is one of our most primal emotions. The best art often comes from this overwhelming sensation. Check out Othello if you don't believe me:

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey'd monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.

Or listen to jealousy-themed songs by the Killers ("Mr. Brightside"), Maroon 5 ("Wake Up Call"), Natalie Merchant ("Jealousy"), John Lennon ("Jealous Guy"), and Marianne Faithfull ("Why d'Ya Do It?").

Jealousy creates that ache that runs from your heart to your groin, and then pulses so powerfully, hypnotically, that you can't sleep, eat, think, breathe. I find any emotion that powerful to be an amazing turn-on. But I already confessed-I'm the girl who likes to play with hot wax.

KW: K is for Kinky has stories that made me laugh in their inventiveness. When you pick stories, how do you balance material that readers want and expect with the delight of surprise?

AT: The best part about the topic kinky is that each author had his or her own definition. The stories run from Saskia Walker's brilliant "Sign Your Name," in which the character likes being drawn on with a ball-point pen, to Shanna Germain's extremely deviant "Good Kitty," which honestly reads from the POV of a naughty pussycat. Forget "Pretty is as pretty does." I believe that "Kinky is as kinky does."

KW: The selections for L is for Leather appeal to all five senses. What stories demonstrate leather's allure the best?

AT: The book is meant to surround the reader with the scent, feel, sight, taste, and even sound of leather. I'd be hard pressed to pick favorites. But if you were to threaten me, say, with that well-worn leather belt around your waist, I'd choose Kate Pearce's "Sunday Service," Ashley Lister's "Truman Capote Was Wrong," and Sommer Marsden's "How He Likes Me."

KW: Which is your favorite Erotic Alphabet book so far?

AT: I love them all! In fact, late at night, I surround myself in the ABC books and lick each cover one by one. (Oh, god, did I say that out loud?) I can't wait until we have a few more choice letters, so we can get really dirty with the spines. Right now, we can spell:
That's pretty cool.

KW: Have you written any erotica that you think is especially romantic?

AT: As rough or raw as I tend to like stories, I am a romantic at heart. Sue me, I love Valentine's Day. I'm not cynical about love in general. But the story that springs to mind is in A is for Amour. Again, based on a lot of truth. A man I knew said he loved me right away, and then he vanished. For years, my friends and I joked that he hadn't said those three little words at all. He'd said, "I'd wear gloves for you." Or "I want to shove you." I immortalized him in "Above You." Be careful around me. You might wind up in permanently ensconced in porn.

KW: You've been writing erotica since college. How have your subjects or themes changed since you started?

AT: They carry cell phones. Seriously. When I started writing, a character could use a payphone. One of my favorite stories ever is called "Too Dirty to Clean" (which appears in Exposed), and the girl must call her lover from the nearest phone booth. How obscene-I mean obsolete!

My first silver-haired heroine appears in "The Art of Darkness," published in Rachel Kramer Bussel's Yes, Sir. I'm a bit embarrassed, but when you string all of my stories together, you'll find that so many of the females look like me-dark hair, dark eyes, pale skin, full cherry lips. Now that I'm playing up the fact that I have gone silver early, my characters are starting to reflect that change. Aside from that, I'm a fan of finding new sensations even in the most mundane routines, so I'm always looking for new ways to cover familiar territories. I don't believe life, or sex, should ever be boring.

KW: You have worked with so many erotica writers. Who do you wish more people knew about?

AT: Ha! I'm the nosiest motherfucker you'll ever find. I want to know more about everyone. What type of sheets do they use? Do they make their partners sleep in puppy baskets? Do they drink tea or coffee? Kristina Lloyd (who wrote the darkly lovely "Such a Special Couple" for J is for Jealousy) is an extremely private individual. I'd love to snoop through her underwear drawer, searching to find photos of what she looked like in high school. I guess that's why she has the restraining order against me.

KW: Are there any words that you would never use in an erotic story?

AT: Oooh, yes. Thank you for asking. I just wrote a post that mentioned words I avoid, like jizm, man-meat, and bulbous.

I also try to avoid certain words or descriptions. I don't like long strands of drool. Or ooze. If your characters are oozing anything, please give them a shower. (Invite Kristina Lloyd to watch. She likes showers.)

These are the sorts of concepts I often forget to mention in my calls for submissions. I put out the standard no-nos, but don't often delve into specifics. A really fine writer recently turned in several pieces in which snails were the main characters. I am horrified to the nth degree by snails, slime, and slugtrails, but I never thought to put that in my call. So I'll say it here: stay away from those themes if you want to turn me on and not make me run screaming from the computer. (If that's your goal, then go ahead. Give me slime.)

KW: What are you working on now?

AT: Open for Business. Psst, do you have any sexy office stories from Cleis that you'd care to share? [Editor's note- Not until we publish True Anonymous Tales of Office Sex at an Independent Press.],

KW: What is your favorite pick-up line?

AT: "Naughty boy. Go to my room."

Books by: Alison Tyler